Being a Black
Sirius was a Black, and when he was small that meant prestige and honor and the best of behavior. It meant knowing your family, memorizing the family tree and realizing which people were actually family and which were meant to be scorned. Being a Black meant being a proud Slytherin who knew the darkest of spells and possessed the highest of powers. Being a Black meant being everything Sirius was not.
For the first eleven or so years of his life, he tried as hard as he could to fit in with his family. He did everything his father demanded, and practically begged for his mother's approval. But he was always different from the rest of them. He would question the ethics of what happened around him.
He always wanted to know why they had to sink to this level, why they had to hurt others or darken their souls in order to get what they wanted. And then he went to Hogwarts, and learned so much more about the world around him. He learned about consequences to dark deeds and about the way other families worked.
Most importantly, Sirius learned the true meaning of right and wrong. He learned that his family dabbled in wrong regularly, and that broke his heart more than anything. He spent a lot of time trying to explain away his mother's insanity, his father's darkness, but eventually it came down to the simple, undeniable truth: he was a Black, and being a Black meant living a life of darkness.
It took him a long time to accept that. He would pour over every history book he could find that referenced his family, study the family tree religiously. Sirius was adamant with James that not everybody that he was related to was bad (and not all of them were; there was Andromeda, for example—and him).
One night, he even dared to use a highly spell that was definitely not found in a book in the Restricted Section in order to connect to his family history. He just wanted to understand. If he understood what they were looking for, why they fell to the dark side, he would be able to let it go. He could leave his family for good and never think about them again.
But he still didn't know. He had no idea why anyone would ever purposefully hurt an innocent human being, or sink to such low levels for their own success. He'd rather live in the gutters—he did live in the gutters, for a while. His mother and father, who he grew to hate (and young Sirius would be ashamed of him, wouldn't he?) for their vindictive and soulless ways, had even burned his face off the family tree—like he'd never existed, like he wasn't truly a Black.
And that final act of cruelty was what fueled him to take a peek into his ancestry. They refused to speak to their own son, would rather he be wiped out of existence than choose a different life path.
Sirius had gathered James and Lupin (he had tried to cajole Peter into helping him, but the mousy boy had outright refused when James let it slip that some bloodletting might be involved) and they'd snuck into an empty classroom. Lupin was keenly keeping an eye on the Marauder's Map—which Sirius usually referred to as Moony's Baby—while James helped Sirius set up the things he would need.
The whole way through, the two were dogging Sirius about doing the ritual. They weren't sure what would happen, and what if something went wrong? Sirius tried to assure them, but could tell they were still tense as he prepared to begin the enchantment.
It seemed pretty straightforward—he was to drink a potion (carefully brewed by Lupin after much bargaining), cut his hand into a bowl full of the rest of the potion, and chant a spell that would let him experience the history of his blood—or something like that. He wasn't quite clear on what would happen exactly.
Of course, as things usually do, Sirius' plans went very wrong.
It wasn't that he did the ritual incorrectly. Actually, he did it perfectly. It was just that the results were much more painful than he could have ever imagined, because suddenly Sirius was his own father, and it was his wedding day and he was being married to a woman he absolutely hated. He needed to produce children—he knew that—and when he did he couldn't help but despise them a little, because this isn't what he'd envisioned a life of politics and wealth to be.
And then Sirius was his mother. She was shoved and hit and beat into submission and then given money and beauty to ensure she shut up. Her brothers looked down upon her for being a woman, and then having a son who was so blatantly Gryffindor, bringing so much shame upon her name, because Regulus was proud to be a Black, proud to be a Slytherin, but there was a sort of feebleness in him that Walburga would never forgive (or maybe it was that he would always be her little boy, her one weakness, and she couldn't forgive that either).
And then Sirius flashed backward again, and he was in the shoes of his grandfather Pollux, as he mercilessly tore into an innocent Mudblood in his Hogwarts days. He reveled in the wiry girl's shrieks of embarrassment and hurt while the other Slytherins pointed and laughed.
Sirius felt dirty—he wanted out of this spell, wanted to forget these emotions. He had never liked an innocent's misery before, and doing so felt like a betrayal to James, Lupin, McGonagall, Peter… himself. He had promised to never become like his family, but this spell… it was turning him into something he didn't like, something he despised.
He struggled to break free of the spell—curse, he corrected himself—but it was bound tightly, and Sirius found himself sitting behind the Headmaster's desk at Hogwarts as Phineas Nigellus Black, plotting to get Slytherin to win the House Cup without showing too much favoritism.
And then, some years later, he was standing over a dead body, and even Phineas knew that this person—this person who he had murdered—had meant something to someone, and this meant that he was a monster. He was a monster, and he'd tarnished the Black name with this unspeakable deed. Monster, he had thought viciously, wishing in that moment he could jump out of his own skin, become someone else, someone entirely different…
Sirius only broke out of the curse because he became ill, violently throwing up whatever he had eaten for supper that evening. James and Lupin had rushed over to him, concerned and asking if he should be taken to the Nurse. Sirius had taken a few seconds to recover, and eventually waved them off.
He claimed it didn't work. Sirius had not seen anything. He had not felt anything. There was nothing—nothing happened.
Normally, Lupin called him out if he was lying, but this time he seemed willing to let it go, and Sirius was all too thankful when he pulled James out of the room to leave Sirius to clean up his things. Moony was known as the smart one for a reason.
He would never, he resolved, tell anyone what he experienced in this room, on this night. Because he had realized in one truly terrifying moment he wasn't ashamed to be a Black.
Sirius was terrified to be a Black.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
This was written for the FanFiction School of Imagination and Creativity, Dance Assessment 3 over at the HPFC forums! xD
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