Series Summary (because FFN does not have a system in place for handling series): When Sirius Black ran away from home, it was the result of five years of being tugged between his Dark family and Light friends. Contrary to what he told Harry, nothing about choosing sides had been easy. He was just an excellent liar, especially about his mixed loyalties, his Dark past, and his role as the Dark's most successful spy.
Author's Note: This story is the first in a series that will eventually be rated M+, but this story won't have anything too dark or explicit because the characters start out at age eleven. The series/story will include both homosexual and heterosexual relationships. I do plan on following the events of canon as Harry sees them, so this is perhaps not a proper AU. It will just be that Sirius's perspective is very different from what Harry knows.
The titles in the series are taken from songs by the band Avenged Sevenfold, which provided a lot of inspiration for certain elements of the story.
Walburga Black despised many things. Chief among them, of course, were Muggles, Mudbloods, and blood traitors, but her personality was such that she treated less hated things scarcely any better than she would treat a Mudblood. Her family had long since accepted her ornery nature as a part of life, and her husband and sons usually did their best to abide her many rules. Usually. Her husband she had quite well in hand, but she had found in her nearly twelve years of motherhood that little boys were much harder to control than married men.
Thus, when she heard a horrible racket from somewhere above and thunderous stomping coming down the stairs, she did not mistake it for a sudden infestation of hippogriffs, no matter how much the noise resembled one. She pursed her lips into a thin, displeased line and promised herself that her oldest son wouldn't be allowed to have any of the cherry tart she had ordered for dessert, even though she had ordered it specially for him, because cherry tart was his favorite. Sirius must be the source of the awful noise, of course. Regulus was far too obedient and refined to cause such a commotion.
Sure enough, he burst through the door of the drawing room, sending it crashing into the expensive silk wall covering with a bang. His glossy black hair was in disarray, a pink glow covering his thin cheeks and a grin spread over his whole face. If somewhere in the darkest corner of her mind Walburga quite admired her older son's spirit and secretly thought her youngest too timid, she would never admit it to anyone, least of all to herself.
"MUM!" he burst out as soon as the door opened. She glared.
"SIRIUS ORION BLACK!" she exclaimed at the same moment he cried out, "IT'S HERE!"
"Well, I never…" came from somewhere to her left.
She knew that it was Adolpha Lestrange, as her other visitors were far too used to Sirius's antics to be surprised. It was only sheer willpower and her great desire not to lose face in front of the other woman that allowed Walburga to forcefully calm herself, so her next words came out much calmer than she actually felt.
"You have been told time and time again not to run in the house, Sirius Black! And you know better than to interrupt me when I have guests! You've embarrassed me." She watched in satisfaction as his expression froze. "You have also embarrassed your cousin," she added, tilting her head slightly to indicate Bellatrix, who was glaring at Sirius from her place next to her future mother-in-law. She was Sirius's favorite cousin, and the effect of his actions on her might have a greater impact on the young boy than the effect of his actions on his mother.
Sirius Black had the good sense to look abashed, even though he was so filled with excitement that he couldn't have felt sorry even if he'd tried. He knew from experience that he would get what he wanted much faster if his mother wasn't angry with him. Luckily he was an expert at getting out of trouble. He looked down as he worried his toe into the thick green carpet, the perfect picture of contrition, and let a few seconds pass in heavy silence.
"I'm sorry, Mummy," he said miserably, laying it on as thick as he dared, "Aunty, Belley." He looked at each woman as he spoke, then noticed the stranger next to his cousin. "Er… Madam."
None of them responded, and this time the silence actually felt uncomfortable to Sirius. He looked down again.
"Only I was so excited, and I forgot you had company."
It was Aunt Druella who spoke first. She quite doted on him, as she had only daughters and he was her oldest and handsomest nephew. "What has you so excited, dear?"
His excitement rushed back all at once, along with the color in his cheeks. "My Hogwarts letter came!"
The women reacted immediately, their lingering annoyance disappearing. Sirius had been displaying magic for so long that it had never been in question that he would be accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy, but regardless the acceptance letter was still considered one of the most important moments in a young wizard's life.
There were exclamations of delight all around, even from Bellatrix, who had been unreasonably angry just moments before, and Madam Lestrange, who didn't know him at all as they were only briefly introduced amidst the chaos. Even though the letters were standardized and hadn't changed at all in decades, Sirius's was passed around and perused as if the ladies had never read one before.
Finally, Druella turned to her eldest daughter. "It seems like only last year when you received your Hogwarts letter, Bella," she said, a gentle smile gracing her features, "but here you are two years out of school and ready to be married."
Both Bellatrix and Madam Lestrange looked like they might respond, but Sirius spoke up first. "What's Hogwarts like, Belley?"
His cousin gave him an amused look, her dark, hooded eyes full of laughter under one perfectly arched eyebrow. "Andy, Cissy, and I have each told you a dozen times if we've told you once, as many times as you've asked us in the past few months."
Sirius was less than pleased with her answer. In the first place, he never tired of hearing about the school. More importantly, his mother and aunt and even the new visitor were chuckling as his expense.
At her son's suddenly dark expression, Walburga intervened gracefully. "Now, Bella, I seem to recall how you couldn't find anything you'd rather have talked about when you were eleven."
"I dare say all of us were the same. It is so exciting to finally get a wand and begin learning magic," said Madam Lestrange.
Walburga's agreement of "Quite right, Adolpha" was drowned out by her son's sudden exclamation of "Let's go to Ollivanders today!"
His mother didn't seem to mind the indecorous exclamation this time, and Sirius was too excited to mind when the ladies laughed at him again. However, he quickly deflated at his mother's response.
"Not today, Sirius. I'm quite busy, and your father won't be home until just before dinner."
Sirius would not be put off. "Can't Grandfather take me?"
"There are trials today, Sirius." His grandfather, Arcturus, was a member of the Wizengamot.
"Can you take me, Aunt Druella?" he asked desperately. The wide-eyed, pleading expression on his face was completely genuine this time.
Walburga would not have allowed anyone other than herself to accompany her first child on such a momentous shopping trip. Fortunately, she was spared having to disappoint him when her sister-in-law had the good sense to answer in the negative. That was quickly followed by Bellatrix laughingly preempting Sirius's next request by saying that she and Adolpha would be leaving soon to have lunch with her fiancé, Rodolphus, and the rest of the Lestrange family. Sirius sulked next to his mother, visibly displeased, and she decided that she had better distract him before he was uncontrollable for the rest of the day. The boy did have a temper quite as bad as his father's.
If everyone else would have remarked that Orion Black was actually a relatively calm person and it was her temper that Sirius had inherited, Walburga remained willfully ignorant of it.
"We'll go soon, I promise. For now, why don't you go upstairs and begin sorting through your things?" He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, trying not to show his curiosity at what she meant. Pretending not to notice, she continued, "After all, a wand isn't the only thing you'll need. You'll need warmer clothes for the Scottish winter, and to see what other things you'll need to fill in your wardrobe. You'll also want to decide if you want to take any of your other things with you."
Sirius's cross expression clearly showed what he thought of that chore.
Walburga smoothed his mussed hair. "We'll go on Thursday. If you have it finished by Wednesday, you shall have an owl."
"An owl!" He could no longer sulk at that information.
His mother smiled. "Yes, my darling. You had better get started, though, if you want to finish in two days."
He sprang up from the settee immediately. The older ladies managed to show no more than the slightest smiles at his rushed farewells, all of them more amused than insulted, but Bellatrix laughed outright. Despite the eight-year difference in their ages, they had always been the closest to each other of any of the cousins. They shared passionate thoughts, impatient dispositions, and explosive tempers, and were much better suited to one another than either of them were suited to Andromeda's levelheadedness, Narcissa's complacency, or Regulus's timidity.
"Siri," she caught his attention just as he was rising from kissing her mother on the cheek, "if you send me a letter with your new owl, I'll take you to Diagon Alley sometime before the start of term, since I won't see you again until Christmas. If it's okay with you, Aunt Walburga."
Where Bellatrix had only asked permission as an afterthought, Sirius completely ignored his mother's reaction as he leapt across the room towards his cousin. She had just enough time to throw her arms out to catch him as he crashed into her, both of them laughing as his lips collided with her cheek. He was gone just as quickly as he had come, heading for the door.
As he all but ran back out the way he had come in, Walburga called after him, "We'll have cherry tart to celebrate!"
Conversation resumed as soon as the door closed behind him, much more decorously this time than with his explosive entrance.
"You will have to excuse my son's behavior, Adolpha," Walburga told the other woman out of politeness, though those closest to her would have recognized in the tone of her voice that she didn't really believe that a Black owed any such apology to a Lestrange. Or to anyone else, for that matter.
Madam Lestrange offered a thin smile in return, as there was nothing else she could have done politely except to deny the need for an apology. "Not at all. My boys were just as excited when their Hogwarts letters came. I do sometimes miss my young boys, now that they've grown into young men." Although her boys wouldn't have acted in any such way in front of company, she thought to herself.
"And such fine young men," declared Bellatrix, her perfectly serious tone a striking contrast to her demeanor only moments before. Her mother and aunt exchanged an amused look at Bellatrix's attempts to ingratiate herself with her fiancé's mother.
"I wish I had boys," interjected Druella. "I wouldn't trade my three daughters for the world"—she leaned over and patted Bellatrix's hand—"but I am quite jealous of Walburga and her two sons."
Adolpha seemed content to continue in that vein. "Sirius is such a handsome, lively child." Truthfully she thought uncontrollable would have been a better description than lively. "Is your youngest very much like him?" She hoped not.
As the conversation revolved around their children, Walburga accepted the praise heaped upon her sons by their aunt and cousin, and bragged no little amount herself. Walburga Black detested many things, noise and disruption included, but she loved to flaunt the superiority of her family, her offspring in particular.
The next two days passed by dreadfully slowly for Sirius. It had only taken him until Tuesday morning to sort through his things. When his mother asked him to make a list of everything he had decided to take so that they could purchase everything else he needed in Diagon Alley, it only took him until Tuesday afternoon to complete that. He might have stretched it out longer had he not conscripted the family's house-elf to help, but he hadn't thought of that until after it was done. He had tried to fill the rest of his time by playing chess and Exploding Snap with his younger brother and by writing letters to every friend he had, but he was easily distracted. Thoughts of his new wand, his new owl, and his new school invaded his mind no matter how much he tried not to think about them. Even his lessons with his grandfather, which he usually enjoyed more than anything, were tedious.
Arcturus observed the transformation with a critical eye as the toad's legs shrunk into its body, which was rapidly molding itself into a square shape. Sirius had already turned his eyes back to the garish gold clock on the shelf behind his grandfather's head.
"Sirius." Arcturus was using his sternest tone, the one that caused nearly everyone to wilt.
Sirius let out a breath that was somewhere between a huff and a sigh. It had only been a few minutes since the last time he'd checked the time.
When he turned his attention back to the man in front of him, Arcturus's expression was implacable. "If you had done any worse, this snuffbox would be hopping away."
Indeed, the back legs had failed to completely disappear, and the small box was balancing precariously on its remaining feet. The shape was still too froggy in nature to be called a square, and although the color and pattern were what he had envisioned, the texture still looked like toad's skin. Sirius couldn't fully repress a grin, although he managed not to laugh.
Arcturus's expression never faltered. "Perhaps if you don't want to pay attention," he said, "then you should remain at home so you can practice, and you can put this shopping trip off to a later date."
"What!" Sirius sat up straighter in alarm. "No, you know I can do it!"
"What have I told you, son?"
Sirius let out another breath. "Power is built through consistency," he repeated the lesson. "But Grandfather, I hardly ever mess it up! I'm just so excited!"
The older man's expression softened just a bit, the skin around his stern mouth relaxing a fraction. It was not enough for most people to notice, but it was obvious to Sirius, who had spent time with his grandfather nearly every day for as long as he could remember, as they lived together in the ancestral Black home.
Pushing his luck, Sirius grumbled, "I'd never mess up if I could use my own wand. Yours doesn't fit me."
Arcturus raised one imperious eyebrow. "Things will be easier with your own wand," he explained, "but that will not replace the importance of concentration."
"Well, we'll never know if Mother doesn't—"
"Sirius Orion Black," Arcturus interrupted, "you know perfectly well that I will not tolerate this whining!" His tone was as cold as ever, but his face had not hardened again.
Sirius schooled his face into as serious a mask as he could manage. They glared at one another over the desk, Arcturus sitting perfectly straight in his chair and Sirius slouched back in his. The older man's icy gray eyes bore into Sirius's matching pair. Though Sirius struggled to maintain his composure, he couldn't. He cracked first, and a chuckle escaped unbidden from his throat. His grandfather did not laugh, but the corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly. Sirius knew that it was as close to a laugh as he'd get from the Black patriarch, and he laughed freely in return.
"A watched cauldron never boils, Sirius," his grandfather told him once his grandson had calmed down, and Sirius sighed in return. Arcturus gave a long-suffering sigh of his own, but his eyes remained warm with amusement. "Well, go on then."
Sirius refocused on the toad, which Arcturus had untransfigured, and quickly transfigured it back into a snuffbox. This time the legs disappeared and the shape and texture looked like they were supposed to. Sirius had concentrated extra hard and managed to add a few details. It was just some ridges on the surface, but it was more than he had ever accomplished before. He grinned.
This time Arcturus's critical eyes retained their warmth. "That was very well done, Sirius," he praised. "You'll need more practice before you are able to really manage the details you attempted, but you're further along than your father was at your age."
"Really?" Sirius asked.
"Certainly," his grandfather replied. "Orion had barely managed to transfigure a match into a needle before he went to Hogwarts."
Sirius beamed at that knowledge. His grandfather had been tutoring him since he had turned eleven last November, as he had tutored his own son before that and had been tutored by his own father before that. It was technically illegal for Sirius to perform magic outside of Hogwarts, as Arcturus knew full well as a member of the Wizengamot. However, the Trace could only detect the presence of magic and not the specific caster, so there was no way for anyone to know that it was Sirius casting spells instead of one of the adults or a house elf. And Arcturus Black had never followed a rule he didn't have to follow, despite his chosen profession.
The only person in the house who minded was Regulus, who thought it was unfair that he had to wait until his own eleventh birthday to be allowed to leave his regular tutor behind and start magic lessons for himself.
Arcturus, never one to mollycoddle anyone, declared, "Your father was much further along in potions than you are, though. He had more patience."
Sirius scoffed, "Who cares about brewing boring potions, anyway?"
"You had better care, because you know that your parents and I will not accept school marks lower than we know you're capable of receiving," his grandfather told him. He examined his grandson's expression closely. "You're probably correct that your own wand will work much better than mine. I think that mine is too short for you. You require a longer wand, one much more suited to your flourish for the dramatic. Your father and I are much more subdued."
"Does wand length really have anything to do with that?" Sirius asked, not bothering to be insulted at his grandfather's entirely truthful assessment of him.
Arcturus nodded once. Sirius mulled that over for a few moments, but he was never one to spend time thinking about things far off in the future, so his thoughts quickly turned back to the clock. All the talk of wands had only made Sirius more aware that he would have his own later that very day. If his mother ever decided that her son's trip to Diagon Alley was more important than gossiping with a bunch of silly women, that is, and she ever decided to throw out her visitors and take him shopping.
The rest of his lesson passed by as slowly as ever. Arcturus was so frustrated at Sirius's lack of attention that the two were glaring at each other across the desk, for real when the family's house-elf popped into the room.
"Mistress has sent Kreacher to summon Master Sirius downstairs," he announced.
Sirius didn't wait for his grandfather to dismiss him, but had leapt from his chair and made it halfway out the door before the man called after him sarcastically, "By all means, take my wand with you!"
Sirius barely took the time to turn back around and all but throw his grandfather's wand back to him before he raced down the corridor towards the landing leading to the ground floor below. He thundered down stairs, the indignant shouts of all of the Noble and Most Ancient Blacks trailing behind him as he disturbed the portraits, and skidded to a halt in front of his parents. His mother began to reprimand him for his behavior, but Orion took his wife's arm to forestall her.
"Now, dear," he said, his authoritative voice brooking no opposition, "I think we can forgive Sirius for being so excited. It isn't every day a boy gets his wand, now is it?"
Orion Black was a tall man, at least a couple of inches taller than his imposing father, with the characteristic aristocratic Black features. He had high, sharp cheekbones and thin cheeks. His nose was straight and proportionate, set over thin lips and a strong chin. He was dressed in impeccable velvet robes—green, of course—and his neat black hair was perfectly parted. His wife looked resplendent on his arm in robes of silver silk, her jet-black hair pulled up into an elegant, intricate chignon. She was tall for a woman, though nowhere near as tall as her husband, and the top of Sirius's head already almost reached her shoulder. His family saw it as a sure sign that he would be tall like his father and grandfather.
Sirius grinned up at his father, grateful that he had been spared his mother's wrath at least on this occasion, though he knew that he would have to be on good behavior for the rest of the day if he was to have a peaceful shopping trip. And if he wanted to maybe get some treats beyond what was on his school list. He had taken special care in dressing and arranging his hair that morning because he'd had an eye for pleasing his mother and therefore increasing his chances of an ice cream sundae at Fortescue's or maybe a quick stop by Gambol and Japes for some pranking supplies.
Walburga looked her son over, and Sirius straightened even further than he had been previously, remembering the constant reminders about posture he'd received for as long a he could remember. After a few long moments, Walburga nodded, and Sirius was glad that he had thought far enough ahead to please her with his appearance.
"Yes, Orion, I suppose we can forgive his behavior just this once," she said. Then she turned her sharp black eyes back to her son. "Do you have your school list, Sirius?"
After Sirius had dutifully handed it over, he took his father's other arm opposite his mother and the family Apparated away. Fortunately, the Leaky Cauldron was relatively near to Grimmauld Place, and Sirius only had to take one deep breath and blink the moisture from his eyes to recover. He hated the sensation of Apparition, as he suspected anyone who wasn't completely mad must, even though he was used to traveling Side-Along with his various family members. Flooing was considered by his mother to be much too filthy, and he could remember his Grandmother Irma insisting on many occasions when her many grandchildren had Flooed over that no amount of cleaning charms could completely get the Floo powder out of one's clothing and carpet.
Orion released his arm and clapped him on the shoulder. "All right, son?"
Sirius was about to answer in the affirmative when his mother broke in.
"Of course he's all right!" she said, her tone conveying just how ridiculous she thought her husband must be for asking if their son could handle a bit of Apparition. "Now, we had better hurry if we want to miss the crowds. I don't suppose the common people will be about until the weekend, but all the same we only have a few hours before any of them who want to come today start to show up."
She set off across the pub, dragging her husband along by the arm for a moment until he wisely fell in step with her stride. Sirius fell in beside him, father and son sharing partly amused, partly exasperated looks at Walburga's behavior. Walburga Black, like most other members of her family, had very decided opinions about anyone who held a usual nine-to-five job. Or any low-level Ministry job. Though perhaps her opinions were a bit harsher than most others'. Sirius stamped down the urge to point out that they would have had longer until the end of the workday if she hadn't insisted on spending all morning socializing with her friends. Saying such a thing was not the way to go about getting treats.
Instead he asked, "Mother, may we start at Ollivanders?"
Walburga took out her own wand to tap the bricks leading to the alley, as her husband's wand arm was engaged by her. "We'll have to start at Gringotts, Sirius," she replied as the wall began to open, "but yes, it does make sense to walk to the end of the alley first instead of doubling back several times."
Sirius didn't particularly care what was practicable; he just wanted his wand. However, as his mother's opinion coincided with his wishes, he gave her a pleased smile as they stepped into Diagon Alley.
The street wasn't particularly crowded, but Walburga's expression still took on the look of someone who had smelled something unpleasant as witches and wizards brushed close by the family on their way past the shops and vendors. A group of teenagers rushed by them as they were going by Quality Quidditch Supplies, obviously forgetting their manners in their haste to reach the store. Sirius was quite annoyed when one of them knocked into his shoulder, sending him crashing into his father's side, until he heard the group's chatter and ascertained that one of them had been given permission to pick out a broomstick for his birthday. Sirius couldn't begrudge someone's excitement at getting a broom, though he decided that he'd better hold off on mentioning it on this trip, since he wasn't allowed to have one as a first year anyway.
He'd better mention something he wanted that he could actually take with him, he thought, and then next summer he'd ask for a broom.
Finally they reached the tall, white edifice of Gringotts, and the goblins waved them through the bronze outer doors and the inner silver without any fuss. Orion's face had transformed by now so that his haughty expression perfectly matched his wife's, and he stepped up to the first goblin without a care for the wizard who was currently being helped by the creature.
"You'll have to wait your turn like—" the goblin began, then stopped abruptly when his gaze finally landed on Orion. "Ah, Mr. Black, of course!" he said, his tone now much friendlier, though he offered no apology.
The man he had been being waiting on previously protested, "Excuse me!" but Orion ignored him as he said, "I will make a withdrawal from my family vault."
Walburga spared the wizard a disgusted glance before muttering something to her husband, of which Sirius only caught the words "filth" and "such gall."
The goblin waved over one of his colleagues. "Bogrod will take you," he told the family before turning to the other goblin. "Vault eight hundred and eighty-eight. You'll need the Clankers."
As the family walked away, Sirius heard the first goblin explaining to the other wizard about how they were "very old customers," which was probably a bit unnecessary given the number of their vault.
The ride down was as twisty and turny as ever, and though Sirius loved every moment of it he could tell that his mother was fighting to maintain her arrogant expression over her slightly green pallor. When they stopped, Sirius only shook his Clankor halfheartedly, because he was too fascinated watching the dragon as it cowered against the wall farthest from them. Soon enough he was being ushered into the vault by his father's hand on his shoulder and the great beast was out of sight.
Walburga was already scooping gold into the small purse she kept for that purpose, which had an Undetectable Extension Charm on it so that it could hold much greater quantities of money than seemed possible from looking at it. Orion dug around in his robes for a moment before pulling out a handsome black leather bag Sirius recognized as his father's own moneybag. However, his father offered it to him instead of beginning to fill it with money, and Sirius took it, confused.
"Since you're going off to Hogwarts, it's time you begin to manage your own money," Orion explained. "You grandfather allowed me to have forty Galleons per term when I first started Hogwarts, but as you've excelled so well in your studies this year, I think you may have fifty."
Sirius grinned and, without questioning his father further lest he change his mind, began carefully counting out Galleons from the pile of gold nearest him. Orion pulled a matching bag from the same pocket in his robes and moved further into the vault to gather what he needed.
"If you don't mind some advice, sir," said Bogrod, who was standing near him by the door as his parents examined various items deeper inside the vault, "you would do best to get some Sickles and Knuts as well as Galleons. Not everything you buy will be worth a Galleon, and sometimes it's easier if you have exact change."
Sirius thought that this was very good advice and thanked the goblin before turning back to the pile of gold. He counted out three more Galleons so he had an even thirty, then moved further into the vault to join his father again. As there were seventeen Sickles to a Galleon and twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle, it just wasn't practicable to count out twenty Galleons worth of them by hand. Orion helped him by sorting the appropriate amount of money into a separate pile using a charm, and Sirius scooped the pile into his bag.
No sooner had he finished than his mother caught his attention and waved him over to some shelves along the right side of the vault.
The shelf was full with gems of various types and sizes, some resting loosely in boxes and some set into jewelry, but Walburga was gesturing towards a handsome silver-colored ring with a large black stone. The stone had the Black coat of arms engraved on its surface, and there were two of the greyhounds carved into the metal on either side in a perfect reproduction of the ones on the crest. Sirius recognized the ring as identical to the ones his father and grandfather wore constantly on their right hands. He had never given a thought to receiving his own, but now that he was faced with it he felt his chest filled to bursting with pride. He reached out decisively to take it, removing the box from the shelf and the ring from the box quickly so he could examine it up close.
"Put it on, dear," his mother urged, clearly pleased with his reaction.
Sirius obliged and felt the ring magically size itself to fit his finger perfectly. It looked regal and, he thought, perfectly in place on his hand.
"I received my ring just before I went to Hogwarts," Orion told him as he looked over his son's shoulder to admire the new ring, "and your grandfather received his then, and my grandfather received his, stretching back for nearly thirty generations beginning with your first namesake."
"I had it commissioned as soon as I found out that I was having a son. I was so proud to know that the Black name would continue," his mother nearly whispered.
Walburga's expression was as soft as Sirius had ever seen it, and she didn't seem able to tear her eyes away from the ring on his hand. He knew that her children's status within the family was almost as important to her as the family's status in the wizarding world in general. Walburga herself was a Black by birth as well by marriage, as she and her husband shared a great-grandfather, but Orion's grandfather had been the eldest son and Walburga's grandfather the third eldest.
If she was also beyond pleased that she—and her husband, of course, though what credit he deserved since he hadn't been the one to suffer through pregnancy and childbirth, she couldn't say—had managed to have sons when her siblings had only girls or no children at all, she certainly never openly gloated about it.
Suddenly his father's much larger hand was beside his, and Sirius couldn't help another grin at the sight of their matching rings.
"And she's been waiting to give it to you ever since," Orion declared. "Don't we look like even more of a matching pair than ever?"
"Don't be absurd," huffed his wife, more in amusement than any real annoyance. "You know very well that he looks much more like Arcturus than like you."
There was nothing else to do in the vault, so the family headed back to the surface, Orion and Walburga's good-natured argument pausing only as long as it took for the cart to reach the surface. It was a longstanding debate that Sirius had heard more times than he could count, so he tuned out his parents' voices as they emerged back into the sunlight and headed towards the end of the alley. He was fairly certain that Orion only insisted that his son favored him because he enjoyed arguing with his wife, anyway.
A few minutes later, Sirius all but burst through the door of Ollivanders in his excitement. Wand boxes were stacked floor to ceiling in neat rows, and he looked around, nearly bouncing with energy. There was only a single spindly chair in the narrow confines of the shop, and Orion helped his wife into it before conjuring another, much sturdier looking chair for himself.
"Ah, Mr. Black," came a voice from his left, and Sirius spun around from where he had been examining wand boxes to find himself nearly nose to nose with a white-haired man with startling blue eyes.
"Er, hello," he managed to say, but Mr. Ollivander was already speaking over him, exclaiming, "I've had a veritable stream of Blacks coming through lately, with all of your cousins!" Sirius wasn't sure if he was meant to respond, but fortunately the man spoke again before he had to think of anything to say. "Orion and Walburga Black! Ten and three-quarter inches, cherry and dragon heartstring for you, Mr. Black. A very tricky wand, takes exceptional self-control to wield. And Mrs. Black, yours is nine and a half inches, cedar with unicorn hair. Particularly good for curses."
Both of his parents opened their mouths to confirm that Ollivander's memory was correct, but the man was already working around Sirius with his tape measure, which was currently measuring the length of his ears. It continued to measure various parts of his body, some of which Sirius couldn't understand as useful to using a wand, as the wandmaker himself bustled back and forth in the rows of neatly stacked boxes.
Soon enough Ollivander had waved away the tape measure and thrust a wand into Sirius's hand. The wand—eleven inches, elm, dragon heartstring—was snatched away almost as soon as he'd gripped it.
This continued for several minutes, with Mr. Ollivander occasionally muttering things such as "Well, definitely not unicorn hair" and "Very tricky indeed" as he pulled box after box from the stacks.
Finally, Sirius ventured to ask, "My grandfather told me that I might get a longer wand because they're better for people with more passion. Is that true?"
"Longer wands are usually best suited for wizards with large personalities, yes." The wandmaker eyed him up and down curiously. "This was your Grandfather Arcturus?"
"Yes, sir," confirmed Sirius.
Mr. Ollivander's misty stare seemed to bore into him. "Well," he finally said, "I suppose he knows you best."
Suddenly Sirius found another wand thrust into his hand, and when he gave it a wave a brilliant light shot from the end without causing any destruction at all. Ollivander took it back again, but this time he commented that they were getting much closer, indeed.
Sirius took the next wand without expecting much to happen, but this time warmth began in his fingers and traveled up his hand into his arm. Already knowing in his gut that this was his wand, he waved it through the air decisively. Silver ribbons of light shot through the air, and Mr. Ollivander exclaimed, "Oh, that's the one!" while his mother said, "That's just what happened when my wand chose me," and his father rushed forward to examine the wand.
It was dark gray with an elaborately carved square handle, which continued straight into a rounded end. It was quite a handsome wand, and the shape was quite unusual to Sirius, who had only ever seen round wands, though he had seen various forms of straight and bent and everything in between.
"Blackthorn with dragon heartstring," said Mr. Ollivander, "and thirteen and a quarter inches, pliable. Mr. Black, your grandfather was quite right about the length. Quite surprising indeed given that most of your family favors neat wands, although your cousin Bellatrix's is twelve and three-quarter inches so maybe it isn't too shocking. It's a powerful wand, indeed, quite suited to powerful feats of magic and well-suited for a warrior. Let me warn you, though, that you might find that it will only perform at its very best after you've been through some trials together."
Sirius was quite pleased with this, though he didn't know what to make of the bit about going through trials.
His father paid nine Galleons and seven Sickles for the wand, which Mr. Ollivander said was made of a particularly rare type of wood and had come from a Norwegian Ridgeback notorious for burning down entire villages, but Sirius was unwilling to have his wand wrapped. Walburga assured Mr. Ollivander, not exactly impolitely, that since Sirius came from a pure-blood family there was little chance of him accidentally revealing his wand to Muggles or accidentally getting into trouble under the watchful eye of his parents and grandfather, and the man desisted trying to re-box it.
The family walked back onto the cobbled street, Sirius with his hand in his pocket since he was unwilling to let go of his new wand just yet. Orion, noticing this, insisted that they should stop at the magical accessory shop before going on to Twilfitt and Tattings to purchase Sirius's robes. They headed a few more doors down from Ollivanders until the alley made a ninety-degree turn into the more upscale section of the wizards' shopping district, then into the accessory shop. There were all kinds of interesting and downright odd items in the store, but Walburga was rushing her husband and son along, so Sirius was only able to look at the selection of dragon hide gloves, which were on his school list, and wand holsters, which his father insisted he should have. He chose an arm holster that fitted snugly between wrist and elbow and which released his wand into his hand with a certain flick of his first and second fingers.
Getting fitted for robes was particularly boring, as Sirius always found shopping for clothes to be, and then Walburga insisted on stopping by the home goods shop. The linens at Hogwarts were simply too rough to fathom, she insisted, and so Sirius found himself bored out of his mind while his mother chose silk bedding with built-in cooling, heating, and cushioning charms.
Then they were heading into the shop that carried rare breeds of owls, and he was nearly as excited as he had been to get his wand. The shop was dark in deference to its inhabitants' nocturnal natures, and big, glowing eyes shone through the darkness. His mother told the shopkeeper that they would need an eagle owl, and Sirius was perfectly happy to browse the rows of cages and perches to find the perfect one. The store was dark enough that browsing required the use of lighting spells, and Sirius and Orion walked along beside each other illuminating the birds one by one since Sirius was not yet allowed to use magic outside of school. Or rather, he wasn't allowed to use magic outside the confines of his own home, as it happened.
The eagle owls were beautiful and imposing creatures, but none of them caught Sirius's eye as he looked at one after another. Then suddenly, as he was admiring another eagle owl, a bird higher up in the darkness caught his eye, and Sirius grabbed his father's wrist and jerked his arm upwards so he could get a better look. The owl was not an eagle owl, though Sirius couldn't have said what kind it was, as he had never seen one before. It had feathers that Sirius could only describe as fluffy, which were brownish-gray with white ones shot through. The face was huge and round, with gray feathers and big, round yellow eyes. It was much more attractive and fearsome-looking than any of the eagle owls, in Sirius's opinion.
"The eagle owls grow the largest by weight of any of the species," the shopkeeper was telling his mother.
"I want this one," Sirius cut into the conversation, pointing at the unusual owl, which was still illuminated by his father's wand.
Walburga stared for a moment, pursing her already thin lips into an even thinner line. "Sirius, dear, an eagle owl is really what's expected of someone with your status."
Sirius didn't care, and he said so. Walburga looked about to argue the point further. The shopkeeper, sensing a sale falling away from her, explained, "She's a spectral owl. They're larger than eagle owls in terms of length, and as you can see, they really have quite a distinctive appearance. You'll certainly be noticed if you choose her."
Sirius smiled at the woman in thanks, and Orion commented that the owl was really quite handsome. Walburga, however, was not convinced. "I would prefer you to get an eagle owl," she told him, her tone brooking no argument.
"Fine then," Sirius said, not particularly minding arguing with his mother, "if you won't buy her for me, I'll just use my own money to get her!"
Orion had to stifle a chuckle, which he dared not let his wife hear. Walburga, for her part, glared hard at her son, though the impact was lessened somewhat by the fact that the shop was too dark for him to properly see her face. Finally, after many long seconds of this stalemate, she reached for the moneybag in her robes.
"No, I said that I would buy your owl as a reward," she said tightly, clearly displeased. "If this is the one you want, then this is the one you shall have…. Are you absolutely certain that there aren't any eagle owls you would prefer?"
But Sirius had stopped listening after hearing that he could have his owl, and had turned and held his arm out to it. It stared at him for a moment, head tilted and disconcerting yellow eyes gazing at him hard, and Sirius thought that it would be very humiliating if the animal rejected him after he had argued so hard to have it. Then it finally gave a little trill and flew down to land on his proffered arm. He spent several minutes getting to know the bird as his parents chose everything he would need, including a cage and owl treats, and completed the transaction.
Finally, it was time to leave the shop, and Orion opened the cage to allow the owl to enter. She stared at him reproachfully and turned on Sirius's arm so that her back was facing his father and the cage.
Sirius let out a bark-like laugh. "Well, you know where Grimmauld Place is, don't you?" he asked the bird, and she hooted softly, nibbling his finger softly for a moment as he tried to pet her.
That decided, the family excited the shop and the owl took flight as Orion shrunk the cage so that it could be carried more easily. They headed back out to the main street in Diagon Alley, as all they had left to visit at this point was Flourish and Blotts, the apothecary, and the cauldron shop. As they passed Gringotts on their way back up the alley, Orion paused at the entrance to Knockturn Alley.
"I should really pay a call into Great Uncle Herbert," he said to Walburga. "There's really no need for you and Sirius to come along. Why don't you stop at Fortescue's and enjoy some ice cream, and I'll meet you there in a few minutes?"
Sirius knew very well that his father simply didn't want him to know about whatever it was he was getting at Borgin and Burkes, the store his great-great uncle owned, but as one of his goals for the day had been getting an ice cream sundae, he wasn't likely to complain. If his mother's cross expression was anything to judge by, his father's detour might also have the benefit of transferring her ire from Sirius to Orion.
Sirius gave his mother his most endearing smile, the one he always used when he wanted to be allowed a treat or when he needed to get out of trouble, and took her arm as they walked to the ice cream parlor. If he played his a cards right, he might just be able to go to Gambol and Japes after all.
After quite a bit of fuss when Walburga insisted that she had to perform thorough cleaning charms on every surface before they could sit at one of the outdoor tables, Sirius and his mother had settled outside of Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor with their sundaes. They were enjoying a silence the nature of which Sirius wasn't entirely sure. Waburga was capable of enjoying comfortable, companionable silences with her son, but they were few and far between. It was much more likely that she was quite cross with him about the owl and giving him the silent treatment in public so she wouldn't draw attention to their disagreement.
He transferred his spoon to his left hand and placed his right on his mother's arm where she would see the family crest on his finger. "Mother," he said, "I'm really glad that Father had to do an errand for Grandfather, because I like it when we can spend time together just us."
The softening of her face, a slight lessening of the frown lines that were just beginning to appear between her eyebrows, was much subtler even than Arcturus's expressions, but Sirius noticed it nonetheless.
"I'm going to miss you when you're at school." She patted his hand. Sirius thought that he was successfully out of the woods, but then the lines reappeared suddenly on her brow. "How do you know that your father is doing an errand for Arcturus?"
Sirius stared at her for a moment, taken off guard. He had thought it was obvious, but then again he knew that his parents liked to keep him sheltered from their goings on that weren't quite socially acceptable except among other pure-blood families who practiced the Dark Arts. Arcturus, Orion, and his uncles thought that he should be involved in their dealings, but his mother, for all that she was probably more devoted to the traditional ways than even the men in the family, thought he was too young to be dragged through Knockturn Alley or to take part in shady business deals.
Sirius was saved from responding by a sudden yelp of his name from somewhere on the increasingly crowded street.
Two heads of glossy black hair spun around to find the source of the disturbance. There was a young boy approaching through the crowd, his unkempt dark hair becoming even more tousled by the jostling of adults much larger than he was. Sirius smiled genuinely at the other boy. Walburga's face was suddenly a perfect mask of politeness, with the exception of her thin lips, which she couldn't help but press together reflexively in displeasure.
Sirius waited until the boy was closer to the table, as his mother wouldn't be very happy at all if he shouted across Diagon Alley, then addressed his friend, "Hello, Evan! Shopping for Hogwarts?"
The boy showed his white, slightly crooked teeth. "Yes, I was just coming out of Madam Malkin's and saw you here across the street. That shop girl was perfectly horrid, wasn't she?"
"I didn't go into Madam Malkin's, so I wouldn't know," Sirius told him.
"We went to Twilfitt and Tatting's," broke in Walburga. "Their robes are of much better quality."
Evan smiled pleasantly and greeted Walburga, as he had neglected to do it earlier. Apparently he didn't catch onto Walburga's jibe about the quality of his robes, but the woman who had just stopped beside him did. Mrs. Rosier had walked across the street at a much more respectable pace than her son and had just reached the group in time to hear Walburga's remark. Her olive complexion was suffused with color, though whether from embarrassment, anger, or both Sirius couldn't have said. He knew that his own cheeks were probably red with anger at his mother, and he made sure she caught his angry glance.
Mrs. Rosier gave the other woman a tight smile. "Hello, Mrs. Black. We'll stop in at Twilfitt and Tatting's later this afternoon. It's much more sensible to use Madam Malkin's for everyday robes so your nicer robes aren't splattered with potions ingredients or covered in dirt from Herbology class, don't you agree?"
"Indeed," replied Walburga, her lips pursing together just a bit more, "very sensible."
Sirius knew that she was thinking it was only sensible for people who couldn't afford a full wardrobe of high quality robes, or to replace ones that were ruined in potions mishaps or Care of Magical Creature accidents. Fortunately she wouldn't say such a direct insult out loud. At least not when the target of her criticism was her sister-in-law's family and Aunt Druella would probably hear about it if she insulted the woman.
Sirius gave his friend a grin that was a bit more forced than it had been earlier and tried to change the subject. "So you started at the Leaky Cauldron? I started on the other end, so I haven't been to the apothecary or the bookstore yet."
"No, Madam Malkin's is the first place we've been." Evan returned Sirius's smile and they shared a look of understanding about their embarrassing mothers.
"Oh," cut in Sirius's half of the embarrassing pair, "then did you just arrive? I must say that I'm quite surprised to see you here at all at this time of day. I thought that Evan stays with Druella while you go to your job." She said job in the same tone Sirius had heard her use to describe a Muggle establishment.
Mrs. Rosier's eyes narrowed, though her polite smile remained plastered to her face. "This time of year is quite slow at the Department of International Magical Cooperation. It was no trouble at all to take a half day, and my Evan has been desperate to come shopping since he received his letter on Monday."
"I've been begging Mother and Father to bring me since Monday, too," Sirius said rather loudly, desperate to interrupt before his mother could open her mouth again.
"I just want my wand!" Evan replied with equal energy. "Have you got yours yet?"
Sirius immediately released his new wand from the holster on his arm. The movement was still novel and he didn't catch it perfectly in his hand, but it was smoother than it had been when he'd first tried it. He'd only had his wand for a couple of hours, after all. He smiled in contentment as he gripped the wood. It had been worth the wait. The grooves in the handle and even its square shape seemed to have been carved especially to fit his hand. It was absolutely perfect. It just felt right to hold it, and he couldn't wait to perform magic with it. He hoped that neither Evan nor his mother asked to hold it, because he couldn't imagine letting anyone else handle his wand.
Fortunately neither asked him to relinquish it, though Evan did come around the table to get a better look, much to Walburga's well-masked consternation. The conversation carried on in this vein for several more minutes, with the ladies carrying on with a thin veil of civility and the boys trying to redirect them, until Walburga stood suddenly.
"There's Orion. We really must be going so we can finish shopping before this place is overrun," she declared. Sirius knew she meant overrun with low-class people, and she included Mrs. Rosier and her son in that group.
"Well, it was lovely running into you." If it had been anyone other than Walburga Black, Mrs. Rosier's tone would have served as a rebuke for the incivility of not taking her leave entirely politely. As it was, in fact, Walburga Black, she simply nodded and motioned Sirius to come along.
Sirius offered his friend an apologetic smile. "Bye, Evan! I guess I'll see you on the Hogwarts Express."
"You'll see me before then," his friend informed him. "Uncle Cygnus and Aunt Druella are taking me to the station since Mother and Father have to work, so I'll be at your family's breakfast that morning."
Sirius was very happy to hear that, because he had not been looking forward to arriving with his older cousins and having to seek out people his own age to sit with on the train. This way he could just stay with Evan the whole time.
Sirius took his own mother's arm and led her away before the situation could get any worse, waving back at his friend as they left. They were barely far enough away that the pair couldn't hear them before Walburga spoke.
"You know I don't like you associating with that Rosier boy."
"Mother," Sirius's voice came out on almost a whine, "he's my friend. And he's Aunt Druella's nephew."
They met Orion in time for him to hear the beginning of his wife's well-rehearsed tirade about how her brother never should have married that Rosier girl to begin with.
"Oh, poor Druella isn't to blame for the circumstances of her birth, of course," she was sure to repeat, though they had heard her say so countless times in the past already. "Just the same, I told Cygnus that he ought to make sure she would break ties with her family or else he ought not to marry her. And now look at how they have to take that dreadful boy of her brother's into their home every day, because his parents are impoverished and have to work." Free of the company she was criticizing, when she said the word work Walburga's she made a face as if she was discussing inviting a Mudblood to dinner. "And the wife! Greek, can you imagine? What on earth was wrong with the perfectly pure-blooded girls here in our own country, or even France if he didn't like anyone while he was at Hogwarts?"
Sirius didn't think that Evan was dreadful at all, though he was certainly not as refined as Walburga would have liked, and he thought that the olive complexion he had inherited from his beautiful mother was quite nice looking. And his friend had enough toys and new things that he didn't think the Rosiers could be impoverished, though he had never spent time with anyone who was so he wasn't sure what it would be like. However, to Walburga, anyone who did not have a high security vault at Gringotts and could not afford brand new custom robes for every occasion must be poor.
As they always did, Sirius and Orion exchanged looks halfway between amusement and exasperation.
"Though the elder Mr. Rosier's connections certainly make up for some of the family's lack of wealth and sophistication," finished Walburga. There was an inflection on the word connections that Sirius couldn't quite understand.
He glanced up at her, confused. "What connections?"
His mother and father shared a look that he recognized as the one they used when they agreed that he wasn't old enough to know something.
"Nothing at all, son. Nothing important," Orion deflected, his large hand coming to rest on Sirius's shoulder. "How about we head to Gambol and Japes now, before we start back up the alley to finish your school list? I'll buy you anything you want today, but tomorrow you must start managing your own money."
Sirius didn't intend to forget his question or to let it go indefinitely, but he wasn't about to argue his way out of carte blanche at the joke shop. He agreed happily and the family moved towards the shop that had been his ultimate goal since that morning, besides Ollivanders and the owl shop of course. Now that he was guaranteed a trip to Gambol and Japes by his father, Sirius felt that it was safe to bring up possible names for his new owl despite his mother's ire over his choice. The three chatted about it with varying degrees of enthusiasm as they walked across the alley.