The Heir and a Spare – 2/6 – SASundance

Title: The Heir and a Spare
Author: SASundance
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Family, Hurt/Comfort, Tragedy
Relationship(s): Gen
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Incest, Torture, Violence – Graphic, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, Cousin Incest, Discussion of canon related under-aged sex and pregnancies, Suicidality of a character, Insanity, Infertility issues, Linebreeding, Very dark themes, Rape and torture of victims, Child abuse, Bigotry and ignorance, War and cults, misogyny, dubcon, misunderstanding of genetics
Author Notes: If you are likely to be triggered, please take warnings seriously. There is a lot of dark content in this one. It is a story of war, hate and vengeance. Please see main story page or post 1 for additional information. Author uses British spelling.
Word Count: 177,000
Summary: It was clear to Lord Arcturus Black, Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black that the most powerful pureblood family in Britain faced the prospect of line extinction within the next few generation. Unless the decline in birth rates, fertility, magic, and longevity wasn’t arrested soon, it would be too late. He came up with a unique solution to his problem, never realising that it would make it possible for the House of Black to defeat an existential threat to the magical and muggle world. But that victory would come at considerable cost to the family, in particular to his heir and the spare.
Artist: librarycat9



Part Two: Marauders Meet Ankle Biters

Chapter 9

Arcturus had reached a decision. He would call Orion and Walburga back home from Bulgaria immediately.

Lately, he’d been hearing lots of disturbing stories about the family and it was concerning him greatly, although his primary source of worry was that 6-year-old Sirius was committing a lot of accidental acts of magic. Most accidental bursts of magic by underage children could threaten the security and secrecy of magic should it occur in front of muggles and therefore, not taken lightly. In this case, it wasn’t a problem in terms of the Statute of Secrets with muggles needing to have their memories obliviated because it was all taking place on Zornita Ruzha (Morningstar Rose) the Black farm at Kazanlak in Bulgaria.

Fortunately, all the staff and farm workers were either magical, squibs or house elves, even if their primary customers were muggle perfume and cosmetic markets. Therefore, displays of accidental magic by the six-year-old wizard wasn’t a big deal but the fact that it was happening so frequently was a cause for concern. Many youngsters could perform simple charms such as summoning a toy or a treat that they were told they couldn’t have. Sirius had started doing that when he was less than a year old.

However, it seemed that Sirius was routinely going missing from his nursery, usually according to reports from his housed elves, it occurred when Walburga came in to play with his little brother, Regulus. Apparently, she was making the older child feel like he was getting in the way of her time with the younger child, so he would Apparate to get away from her. And Merlin’s beard, Arcturus couldn’t help freaking out about it! There was a huge difference between a summoning charm and routinely Apparating to get away from a bad situation when you were six!

From the reports from the staff, it seemed that his daughter-in-law absolutely doted on Regulus but frequently lost her temper with Sirius. Seemingly, Regulus was a quiet, introverted child. He was also very obedient while Sirius was inquisitive and mischievous, prone to shouting, laughing, and running inside. Walburga considered him to be disobedient and wilful, although Arcturus’ spies said that he was a normal exuberant little six-year-old wizard. He was very protective of his little brother, spending hours every day playing games with him and taking the blame if Regulus accidentally broke anything or invoked their mother’s fury, like slamming doors or making a noise.

His sources had reported that in their opinion Sirius’ punishments were much more severe than the crimes warranted, (even if he had committed them, which often he didn’t) and that they frequently involved harsh physical discipline. Usually, it was a whipping by her elf, Kreacher or withholding of food. Another favoured punishment involved locking him up in his room with Cornish Pixies to torture him. It certainly explained the bouts of accidental magic that had become increasingly common over the last year. Arcturus felt quite ill when he heard that insane bitch would have her house-elf Kreacher lock him up in a dark cupboard so he could contemplate his evilness for hours at a time.

Sirius would end up disappearing into thin air and the staff would find him, chatting to the staff in their cottages or in the drying rooms where the roses were preserved before being sent off to the buyers. A few times they discovered him several miles away from the manor amongst the acres of rose bushes being guarded by an enormous black shepherd dog playing in a field. He’d gravely informed the wizard who had found them that the dog’s name was черно. According to the staff, черно was Bulgarian for black and it was clear that the lad had picked up more than a smattering of Bulgarian from spending time with the locals.

Not that it was a bad thing that he was getting acquainted with the workers. Being the heir to the House of Black he needed to be able to converse with the people who they employed to do menial work for them. Arcturus thought that it boded well for his heir that he could chat to their staff regardless of class, as did the unintentional escaping from his imprisonment and acquiring of a canine protector. It suggested he was very resourceful.

Arcturus knew that treating staff as if they had dragon pox, calling them filthy scum and by-products of dirt and vileness was no way to engender loyalty and fidelity in their employers be they squib, half-bloods or muggle-borns, which was reportedly what Walburga did if she ever interacted with the farmworkers, poor sods. No one deserved to have to put up with her shit and it wouldn’t shock him that the high turnover of staff since they arrived was due to verbal abuse from his daughter-in-law.

However, if Walburga found out Sirius was hanging around then she would throw a massive fit since she considered the Bulgarian staff and farm workers to be pheasants and had wanted to fire the squibs, accusing them of trying to steal her magic but Arcturus had overruled her. The farmhands had all been with the family for years and it wasn’t easy to find magical workers or squibs who could also deal with the odd muggle who needed to come to the farm on business. The farm was situated in one of the most optimal rose-growing conditions in the world for the perfumery and cosmetics trade and was a highly profitable concern. Arcturus was not going to let his daughter-in-law’s insanity and the Crabbe blind bigoty endanger the family business.

The Crabbes weren’t even members of the Secret Twenty-Eight families, although they were pure blood. Being an Ancient and Noble pureblood family didn’t mean that Arcturus wanted to wipe out half-bloods, muggles-born and squibs. If there were only purebloods in their world there would be no one to work on their farms and business doing the menial jobs and then purebloods would be forced to do the work. Plus, if squibs, half-bloods and muggles-born were wiped off the earth, then all the pureblood owned businesses, services and companies would suffer drastic drops in their profits, many would go bankrupt and even wealthy families such as the Blacks would struggle to survive financially. One needed to be pragmatic.

If you factored in the declining birth rate – a phenomenon that Arcturus had belatedly realised wasn’t only confined to the House of Black but pretty much every pureblood family in Britain, then they were fighting to remain viable. It wasn’t only the birth rate either; average life expectancy has dropped from 140 years, sometimes by forty percent which was scary. He was also wondering if he needed to name Sirius as his heir now since he was already sixty-five. His own father Sirius was seventy-five and Uncle Cygnus was only fifty-four when he passed away and yet half-bloods like Albus Dumbledore were well past one hundred. Sure, there were some pureblood witches and wizards who were doing okay for instance: Tiberius Ogden, Madame Marchbanks, Saul Croaker were nudging towards a century, but they were the exception rather than the rule.

As he pondered if he should inform Orion that he was going to appoint his “grandson”, Sirius as his heir after his death. Advise him that should he die before Sirius was to come of age, Orion would not take up the lordship of the House of Black, merely stand as the Regent until Sirius came of age at seventeen to take up his title. He hesitated though. It was not going to go down well with either Orion or Walburga when they learnt that the Lord and Ladyship had skipped a generation…about as well as it would if they were expecting pheasant for dinner and instead were served hogget. And yet, surely, he mused, they couldn’t be all that surprised.

Orion getting caught by not just the Bulgaria press but their equivalent of Dita and Peta Skeeter (Britain’s sleazy twin gossip columnists for the Daily Prophet) riding on the Bulgarian Minister of Magic’s young nephew’s broomstick at a seedy gentleman’s club in the magical quarter in Sofia would be a scandal in any wizard’s country. The fact that Orion was a foreigner who was married and had two young sons hardly helped but when the nephew of the head of Bulgaria’s magical government was only seventeen was always going to be a shitstorm. A hugely damaging one at! Pleading that you didn’t know that seventeen wasn’t considered to an adult in magical Bulgaria didn’t exactly soothe the outraged bastions of society… or the savage press for that matter.

No, it had most definitely damaged the good name and standing of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. Arcturus was still working hard months later to rehabilitate their reputation and probably would for some time to come. So, his son and daughter-in-law should by any standards anticipate that as the head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, he would be negligent in his duty to allow Orion to take up the leadership of the House of Black after that debacle. What his daughter in law and his son failed to appreciate that in leading the most powerful pureblood house in Britain, Lord Black couldn’t be lenient. Lesser heads of minor houses could afford to be more forgiving in how they reacted because they didn’t wield the enormous political and financial power of the Blacks. They also had far less to lose, hence fewer constraints on how they comported themselves than he did.

However, his son and daughter-in-law were Slytherin to their core and extremely ambitious. They wanted to be the next Lord and Lady Black so badly that they’d married to produce a Black heir with Black ancestors on both his maternal and paternal line, for Merlin’s sake. It had become apparent to him that theirs was little more than a marriage of convenience and so he was rightly concerned about how they may react, especially his batshit crazy daughter in law when they learnt that he was planning on skipping over them entirely. He wouldn’t put it past the sick bitch to get rid of Sirius and Regulus (particularly Sirius) if she saw him as standing in her way of becoming the next Lady Black like some people drowned unwanted kneazle kittens.

He was not about to let that happen to two innocent children, even if they were only his grandsons. But Regulus and Sirius weren’t his grandsons, they were his sons, wizards both, although Regulus had only just started committing accidental magic (at three years of age). He was not going to set them up to become the wizarding equivalents of those poor young muggle Princes in the Tower.   After thinking about the problem, Arcturus decided not to inform his son and daughter in law about the change of heir. Especially considering this new and damning information about Walburga’s relationship with Sirius.

No, in the event of his own untimely death, if Sirius remained a minor, they would be duly informed in the will of his decision to bypass Orion in favour of Sirius as the new Lord Black. Naturally, a cautious wizard, Arcturus had lodged his new will with not only the Goblins at Gringotts but with his personal and family solicitors, Mena, Barr, Sted and Associates, as well. His brother was the obvious candidate, but he’d died, so perhaps he would appoint his cousin Alphard as Regent.

He feared from the outset that Orion and Walburga’s marriage was destined to be a disaster for their family, and it seemed he was right. The only comfort was that he and Dorea had ensured that they didn’t sully the line with their descendants, particularly from the Crabbe line. He’d also made sure that Walburga was rendered infertile thanks to a spell he’d found one day quite by accident in one of their vast collection of books on Dark Magic. He’d hesitated at first, spending the last couple of years having the house-elves on watch to administer anti-conception charms should Orion and Walburga engage in marital relations but it seemed that with the birth of Regulus, his son’s desire to spend any time in Walburga’s bed had evaporated. Despite her stated desire to have a daughter, their marriage had quickly morphed into a political marriage, with Orion spending more time with wizards at so-called gentlemen’s clubs.

Still, with her current level of irrationality, he wouldn’t put it past his niece to try to potion Orion into giving her a daughter. When he’d discovered an archaic, albeit little know but still legal wizarding law from the 1700s that decreed that the Heads of Ancient and Noble Houses had the right to control the breeding performance of daughters of their houses by any means they considered necessary, he had leapt at the chance to make sure she couldn’t conceive any offspring. He didn’t have any regrets and he would do the same thing again. His sworn oath to magic as Lord Black was to protect the sons and daughters of his house and that surely gave him a moral authority to prevent the birth of more demented issue.

So, with the decision made, he felt relief that Sirius and Regulus would soon be home in London, back living at 12 Grimmauld Place. Everyone would be able to keep a close eye on Walburga and the two little boys. Hopefully, Orion might be more discreet in his broom riding activities too.

He had to admit that the main reason he’d kept them in Bulgaria since Regulus was born was due to being a coward and not wanting to have to see his small sons and not be able to acknowledge them. It hurt… and he’d never expected that, so having them out of sight out of mind was for his benefit. Plus, he was trying to allow his older son and his wife to parent Sirius and Regulus, free from his interference and his judgement. After all, he hadn’t done such an exemplary job of raising Orion it appeared.

However, it was clear that leaving them to their own devices hadn’t worked all that well either. Time to stop feeling sorry for himself, think of the boys’ best interests and bring them home to see what could be salvaged.

Meanwhile, he needed to figure out who should take up the management of the Black rose farm if his son and his family were returning. Considering the diplomatic mess caused by Orion’s stupidity, plus the importance of the business to the House of Black financial portfolio, he needed to send someone who was politically and socially adroit, who would help mend fences with the Bulgarian government and keep the business running. It seemed that Walburga had pissed off a lot of their farmworkers and their business associates so it would be necessary to rebuild relationships there too. Plus, it needed to be a member of the family.

Arcturus briefly considered sending one of Walburga’s siblings to represent the family but quickly discounted them both. Cygnus and Druella would likely do a fine job but he wasn’t prepared to send them, basically because of Bellatrix, who at fourteen was becoming increasingly unstable. The problem was that neither of them was prepared to acknowledge that there was something seriously wrong with her.

‘High strung, going through a phase,’ they said. No, he couldn’t risk her causing any more offence. Walburga had succeeded in insulting too many as it was. As for Alphard, he wasn’t married but that alone didn’t preclude him from going. It was just that Arcturus had other plans for the lovable scoundrel.

He also had no desire to ask Lycoris or Lucretia to go to Bulgaria with their wizards because their children were still small, and Lucretia had a third child, a girl who she’d named Gemini, who was coming up for two. Selfishly, he also wanted to enjoy his grandchildren and young nephew Phineas and he also wanted to give Sirius and Regulus some playmates. He suspected they had been lonely over in Bulgaria. Arcturus really wished he could send his brother to Bulgaria – it would be right up his alley, but Regulus had passed away not long before Sirius was born in 1959. He still missed Reg so much.

That left the Burkes whose mother, Belvina Burke nee Black, was his father’s sister. She had two sons who might be candidates for the management job. Pollux and Phineas Burke were married with older offspring who might enjoy living in Bulgaria. In addition to the Burkes, there was Arcturus and Lysandra Blacks’ girls, Charis Crouch nee Black and her husband Caspar. Crouch was a bit of pompous git, Arcturus reflected sardonically, but Charis was a typical Slytherin, an excellent manipulator but wonderfully charming to boot and would make a wonderful hostess.

And finally, Charis older sister, Callidora Longbottom nee Black and her husband Harfing who had a son and daughter. Calli was smart and a true Black. She excelled at entertaining and society schmoozing. His brother Reg had once said that Cousin Calli could show Niccolo Machiavelli (the political philosopher and statesman) a thing or two about how to get things done and he was right. Admittedly Longbottom was not the most outgoing of wizards, but he was hardworking and loyal like the Hufflepuff he’d been at Hogwarts. Harfing certainly wouldn’t offend anyone, unlike Walburga who the staff and buyers all despised. Many people did, apart from that snivelling little house-elf Kreacher who he was sure worshipped her shit. He made Arcturus’ skin crawl with his obsequious deference to her and surly arrogance to everyone else.

Now with several possibilities identified to replace Orion and Walburga at Zornita Ruzha in Kazanlak, Arcturus decided it was time to break for lunch. Today he’d been invited to eat at his daughter’s home with her rather rowdy twins, Ares and Aaron and Gemini. Meals were chaotic with the trio and he loved every minute of the lunch. As a bonus, he could talk to Lucretia, get her opinion on the candidates he’d identified as options to send to Bulgaria to manage the rose farm. While she didn’t know about Operation Heir and a Spare, his daughter did know all about her brother’s transgression in Bulgaria and was disgusted with his less than Slytherin attempts to be discreet.

Lucretia was a good judge of character – she’d had her brother’s broomstick riding exploits identified long before Arcturus had, which showed she was good at sizing up people. That said though, he refused to even entertain the possibility that she might be right about Walburga’s relationship with her toadying elf. It was too sickening to contemplate; she was too much of a pure-blood supremacist to let a magical beast anywhere near her lady bits.

He reckoned their relationship entailed a nonsexual dominant-submissive one. Even that was far too nauseating for him to contemplate, so he hurriedly turned his thoughts back to his personnel issues at Zornita Ruzha Farm. He couldn’t wait to see who Lucretia thought should go there.

As he prepared to Apparate to Cornwall for lunch, he felt his heart speed up with excitement at the thought that soon he would get to see Sirius and Regulus again, right before he experienced a glacial chill at the thought that he had to play his cards close to his chest. The boys’ parents could never suspect that he planned to overlook them in the line of succession. He should formalise the appointment of a Regent immediately to protect Sirius should he die in the next eleven years due to natural or unnatural causes.

He would get his Steward to make an appointment later this week. It was also high time to have a long talk with his cousin, Alphard Black about the huge favour he was going to ask him to undertake for him and the House of Black.

He would owe his cousin a massive debt.

Chapter 10

Alphard Black was getting frantic. He’d tracked Sirius’ apparition trail without too much trouble to High Street in Islington and he figured that it should be easy enough to track his sister’s boy. After all, the place was filled with muggles, since it was a muggle precinct and a six-year-old wizard wearing a set of wizard robes would stand out like a sore thumb. Yet one hour later, despite searching everywhere he couldn’t find him. The wizard who had transfigured a set of muggle clothes instead of his own robes after he’d gotten so frantic, he had started asking muggles if they’d seen him.

Even without his deep green set of robes, his nephew was quite a distinctive child. He had weird eyes – pale grey that in certain lights seemed almost silver. He figured it was a Black family trait since his Aunt Dorea had the same colour eyes too but on a small child, it was…noticeable. Plus, his dark shoulder-length hair that he wore tied back in a length of leather, like his father and grandfather made him memorable. So, his uncle was surprised that no one had noticed him, except a muggle mother with twin girls who said she saw him chasing after a big black Alsatian dog that was being walked on a leash by a young man and woman which he discounted.

Really beginning to panic now, he tried to think about where Sirius could be. Had he been kidnapped by muggles? Alphard remembered when Arcturus, his cousin and Head of the House of Black had asked him to undertake a mission on his behalf and keep a close eye on his sister’s boys, but particularly Sirius. He had been puzzled and asked Arcturus why he wanted them watched.

His cousin…well to be accurate his second cousin had frowned.

“My staff told me that he had a scary habit of Apparating and ending up in places where he wasn’t supposed to be when they were in Bulgaria. Once, he found a giant black sheepdog in the rose groves who’d appeared out of nowhere and he and the dog became inseparable, despite Walburga loathing the poor beast. Sirius was very distressed when he learnt that he couldn’t bring the dog back to London.

“Anyway, it is one thing to be Apparating around Zornita Ruzha where everyone is magical but as you know, 12 Grimmauld Place is right in the heart of the London borough of Islington, bang in the middle of muggle London. I’m concerned that he might be able to Apparate through the wards, even if he’s only six and then end up getting hopelessly lost.” Arcturus frowned, choosing his words with care.

“On the farm, there were magical folk and squibs who would happily keep an eye out for him, so he didn’t get into too much trouble, because believe me, Sirius is a magnet for trouble,” he said with fond exasperation. “But muggle London is quite dangerous, even for adult witches and wizards who don’t know their way around or know how to blend in.”

“Does my sister and your son know that you want me to follow him around and spy on him,” Alphard asked?

“Not spy, keep watch over him,” Arcturus has instantly corrected him. “Be his friend and as he gets older, his mentor. You have similar outgoing friendly personalities. Regulus, on the other hand, is much shyer and needs encouragement to mix with other children. A friendly uncle to urge him to come out of his shell would do wonders for his confidence.”

“Fine, do they wish for me to keep watch over him and Regulus?” Alphard had pressed him.

“To be honest, Cousin, I would prefer not to worry either of them at this time. They are all trying to settle back in, and Sirius’ accidental magic may have something to do with not having enough contact with other children his own age. With Lucretia’s twins, Ares and Aaron, Gemini, and my sister Lycoris’ son Phineas, plus Cygnus’s girls to fuss over Sirius and Regulus, maybe his accidental magic will settle down on its own. Let’s just wait and see but also be prepared in case.”

“Plus, Aunt Dorea has two cheeky little tykes,” Alphard suggested helpfully. “Young Pip is close in age to Sirius and Regulus. Archer is still only a toddler but he’s pretty damn cute.”

Arcturus looked momentarily like he’d been made to swallow poison but quickly recovered and nodded. Alphard figured it was either because of his sentimental comment about his cousin or because he disapproved of her husband, Charlus Potter. Everyone knew that Arcturus wasn’t keen on Potter because of his attitudes about muggle-born witches and wizards but then to be fair, Uncle Charlus was also a healer and he helped Lycoris and Lucretia to have children when everyone said they were barren.

“And Callisto Abbott also has a daughter around the same age as Pegasus who would be a suitable playmate for my grandsons,” Arcturus mused momentarily. “Hopefully, with so many children his own age to socialise with he’ll settle down. And I thought you could take them horse riding at Blackwood Park, Cassiopeia has acquired some Shetland ponies.”

Apparently seeing Alphard’s befuddled look, he explained briefly. “It is a muggle breed of exceedingly small terrestrial horse which are used to teach small children to ride, as they’re usually very patient with youngsters. Anyway, Cassiopeia managed to find half a dozen of them so that Aaron, Ares, and Phineas can learn to ride. She’s already begun teaching her niece, Pegasus to ride I believe. I would feel better if you were able to escort Sirius and Regulus to the farm for a biweekly lesson since I know how busy your sister is and I don’t want to bother her,” he said smoothly.

Walburga’s brother had snorted rudely, “You don’t want to set her off, don’t you mean? It’s okay, you can say it, Cousin; I know Wally is crazy mad. She’s gotten even worse since I saw her last year, so I’ll happily play doting uncle to those two sweet boys and Apparate them around.”

Alphard noted that unusually, he’d seemed to have caught Lord Black off guard. His face registered a flicker of surprise before he swiftly became his usual cool self.

“Thank you, Alphard that is most kind of you.”

Alphard had shrugged, “No problem, my Lord. It’s not as if I’ll ever have youngsters of my own, so I’m more than happy to spend time with Siri and Reg.”

Once again Arcturus looked surprised. “I didn’t know. Have you spoken to your Aunt Dorea’s husband? He’s a healer who specialises in fertility issues. He’s helped Lucretia and my sister to have offspring,” he said, looking embarrassed to be talking about such topics.

Alphard chuckled cynically. “No, you misunderstood. I’m not sterile. I can reproduce but I’ve made the choice not to have youngsters. I refuse to run the risk of passing on this craziness that has dogged the Crabbe line, which is getting steadily getting worse,” he said sadly. “I think that Bella is probably going to become a horrible monster.”

His cousin looked distressed. “I see your point. I am sorry Cousin.”

Alphard had dropped into 12 Grimmauld Place a few times since the family had returned from Bulgaria and taken his nephews to the magical park to run around and play. Everything seemed fine, and he assumed that Arcturus’ fears were unfounded. At least until one of the house-elves who served his family when he was a child had appeared in his home, panicking because Master Sirius wasn’t in his room where Walburga had left him. He’d deduced that Bitty didn’t want to inform Walburga because she was throwing a major fit about something or other. He also suspected that the caring elf didn’t want to get the young wizard into trouble, so she came to him for help instead.

At the end of his tether, he recalled Arcturus talking about Sirius and a dog and remembered the muggle mother. After fruitlessly trying to find the muggle couple with the big black dog he was about ready to tear his hair out when he saw them. Racing after the couple he called out and they stopped. Normally he would be extremely nervous talking to muggles. Not because he believed that stupid pureblood supremacist shit being promulgated by purebloods belonging to that secret society called the Knights of Walpurgis. Unsettlingly, the Knights seemed ready to emerge out of hiding once more and throw their lot in with that crazy Voldemort character. Alphard’s nervousness talking to them was because of the Statute of Secrecy.

Alphard had transfigured muggle clothes before he started talking to muggles so he wouldn’t stick out but judging by the odd looks he’d been attracting perhaps he’d goofed somehow. But right now, he didn’t care – all he wanted was to find young Sirius who was second in line and would be Lord Black one day.

So, he took his courage in both hands and asked if they’d seen a small boy dressed in dark green robes with dark, almost black shoulder-length hair and pale silver-grey eyes.

They looked confused at first. The woman said, “Robes? Like the peerage in the House of Lords?”

Alphard didn’t answer because he did know what a peerage was. See this was why he was reluctant to interact with muggles because he was clueless. Fortunately, when he’d mentioned Siri’s shoulder-length hair and pale grey-silver eye colour the young man responded, “Saw a kid that looked like that, but he was dressed in blue jeans and a blue jersey, mate. He played fetch in the park with Rex, our dog. He belongs to you?”

“He’s my nephew and he wandered away from home.”

The woman looked at him suspiciously and muttered something to her companion about looking like a spy, a war which was cold and a curtain that needed to be ironed, which didn’t make a lot of sense to Alphard. Still, they were muggles and sometimes they seemed to be from a different planet.

Oh, dear Merlin, what if she thought he was a wizard? Would they need to be obliviated by the Ministry of Magic?

“Are you Russian?” she demanded. “The kid was talking Russian to Rex.”

Alphard looked confused at first. “No, I’m not Russian, I’m English and he is too. Oh, wait… his family just got back from Bulgaria where his father was working. He was born over there so Sirius probably picked up a bit of Bulgarian as well as English,” he explained. “Which is why I really do need to find him as soon as possible. He doesn’t know his way around here yet and anyway, he’s too young to wander around London alone.”

The woman smiled and nodded at him approvingly. They both looked less suspicious – of what he didn’t know. He just hoped that they would put any strangeness of Sirius down to him being born in Bulgaria and not because he was a wizard.

They explained the quickest way to get to the park and he took off at a run. By the time he reached it, he was thinking that perhaps a grey wool greatcoat, bright purple velvet bell-bottom trousers and a lime green turtle-neck jersey wasn’t the best thing to be wearing on such a hot humid day. He was sweating like a pig but honestly, there were so many different items of muggle clothing it was difficult to know what to wear. However, all thoughts of being hot and sweaty disappeared when he entered the park and spied Sirius enjoying himself, playing with a black and tan spaniel that was slobbering all over him.

Alphard was so relieved to have found him safe that he resisted yelling at him, especially when Sirius looked up at him with a look that told him that he was expecting to be punished. Instead, he’d hugged the lad tight, and Sirius had reacted by going stiff as a board. Alphard decided it was because he barely knew his uncle and so he wasn’t comfortable with a stranger hugging him. He took him by the hand, so he didn’t lose him and found a quiet spot where he cast a discreet Notice Me Not Charm and then apparated them back to Grimmauld Place.

Once there, he gave him a lecture on how it wasn’t safe for him to Apparate alone, especially with muggles who would fear him.

Sirius’ eyes had filled up with tears. “I’m sorry, Uncle Alphard. I didn’t mean it. One minute I was at the grim [lace and I was thinking about черно and then I was in that noisy scary street and I saw Rex. I know I’m bad but I…” and he started sobbing.

His uncle knew that accidental magic could be scary to a young witch or wizard even if it wasn’t uncommon. However underage Apparating, while it wasn’t completely unheard of, just extremely uncommon, was more disturbing. It also hinted that Sirius could well be a powerful wizard, worthy of his future leadership of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. Lord Black traditionally was the single most powerful and influential wizard of all the wizarding families, so it made perfect sense that Sirius would someday take his place as Lord Black. But for now, he was just a scared little six-year-old who didn’t understand how he was suddenly turning up in odd places and his uncle swept the boy up into his arms to attempt to comfort him.

Once again, the lad became stiff, and his face was ashen. It was almost as if he was frightened. But then again, his nephew barely knew him, and he was overwrought. Maybe if he called one of the elves to take him inside, his nephew would feel more at home with them. Deciding that Bitty would be his best bet since he already knew he was missing, he called the elf who appeared with a pop.”

“Oh, good Master Alphard, youse found Little Master Siri. What took so long? Bitty was losing his mind.”

Alphard rolled his eyes. “As was I, Bitty. This young man can really move. He led me a merry chase before I finally tracked him down,” he said jokingly. Seeing Sirius’ look of fear, he hastened to add, “But we’re home now and everything is okay, so how about you pop Master Sirius back to where he was supposed to be before his little escapade is discovered, please Bitty.”

“Yes, Master Alphard,” the house-elf nodded before popping his nephew right out of his arms and back into the Grim Place, as Sirius had called it. He snorted; he could sympathise with the lad. He’d much preferred living in their Manor house out in Sussex when he was a boy.

Feeling unnerved, he decided to make an appointment as soon as practical to speak to Arcturus about Sirius’ adventure. He’d also ask Bitty to let him know if Sirius Apparated again. He was tempted to put a tracking charm on his nephew but felt that it was a decision that his parents should make or the Head of The House, not a lowly uncle.

They did decide to stick a whole bunch of tracking charms on the youngster after Arcturus heard about his exploits wandering around muggle London on his own. This was extremely fortunate because Sirius kept Alphard busy chasing the youngster around Islington. He was intrigued by dogs, big dog, little dogs and every size, shape, and colour in between, but especially black dogs. It was obvious to Alphard that the lad was really missing the big black shepherd dog he’d named Черно who’d left behind when they came back from Kazanlak. He was working on a solution, but they had another problem too.

While Sirius had been wandering around Islington stalking canines to play with, he’d also become complete fascinated by, muggle transport: motorbikes, double-decker buses and the trains at Kings Cross Station. Although most of the time, thanks to the tracking charms that they’d stuck to his clothes, Alphard managed to find him swiftly and without drama. One day the slippery little scamp was too quick for him though, sneaking onto a double-decker bus and was riding around on the top storey of the bus. Alphard had to chase around in a London cab after him (with a muggle driver bending his ear) as he prayed that Sirius didn’t do any more accidental magic that would necessitate the Ministry of Magic obliviating the crap out of everyone.

After that particularly hair-raising stunt on the bus, Arcturus had agreed with Alphard that it was a sensible solution to take Sirius and Regulus into Islington regularly to ride around in muggle buses, trains, and cabs. They hoped that it might curb Sirius’ Apparition habit, which it did to some extent. Plus, the trips to his Aunt Cassie’s farm where the two boys got to play with other family members who were similar ages seemed to settle him down somewhat, so that the accidental Apparition decreased. Not that they cease entirely.

Riding the ponies was a hit with the Ankle Biters as he’d taken to calling the five young boys although Phineas could be a bit of a git sometimes. He usually tried to lord it over the other lads that he was Lord Black’s nephew, and they were just Lord Black’s grandsons. Even though Sirius was older than all of them, Phineas argued that technically he was their elder, based on the family tree. Of course, he was not impressed when Aunt Cassie let her niece Pegasus Potter, whom every called Pip, go riding with them. He suspected it was because she was younger than he was but could already ride better than Phineas. After all, Cassie had been giving her extra lessons.

It turned out that Sirius was not so keen on her, either. Not because she was a better rider than him (than all the boys) but because she was quite obsessed with Sirius and to a lesser extent with Regulus too. He remembered the first time she’d met Siri and Reg she seemed drawn to them. Probably because they were something of a novelty Alphard had decided, growing up in a country far from England. When it was time for him to take the boys home, she’d thrown her arms around Reg and pronounced he was adorable, and he smiled shyly at her. When she hugged Siri goodbye, his uncle thought he was going to die in fright judging by the expression on his face. Alphard put it down to him not being used to other children and Pip could be quite full-on at times.

However, that wasn’t the worst of it as far as Siri was concerned. After enveloping him in a crushing hug she gave him a big wet sloppy kiss on the cheek and announced in front of the rest of the Ankle Biters, “When I’m grown-up next year, I’m going to marry you, Siri.”

Siri looked furious. “I hate kisses,” he said pulling up his jersey, scrubbing away at his cheek, his face bright red, before stomping off in a huff.

Pip just giggled. “I like a wizard that is plucky,” she told the others approvingly.

Phineas gave her a disgusted look. “You can’t marry Siri, you dumbhead. He’s your cousin.”

Pip looked furious. “Hey, watch who you’re calling dumbhead, stupid face! You don’t know what you’re talking about. Reg and Siri’s mummy and daddy are married and they’re cousins. I know because I heard Andi and Bella talking about it.”

Phineas looked at Alphard crossly. “She’s a dumb girl. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about, does she Cousin Alphard?”

He knew he shouldn’t take pleasure in setting a five-year-old straight but good Merlin’s ghost, Phineas could be such a prat sometimes. Alphard looked pained because how did you explain this stuff to youngsters when he didn’t totally understand the different types of cousins and he was an adult wizard.

Calmly he nodded at the pouting girl. “Pip is correct, you can marry cousins – not siblings or your father or mother and it’s also true that my sister and Orion are cousins,” he said noting that Pip pulled a face at Phineas. It was a scrunched-up nose with a sort of sneering grimace which clearly riled the lad up.

The boy shrugged like he didn’t care, “Well I think it’s dumb. Who wants to marry a dumbhead girl, anyway?” before he stormed off.

Alphard was mildly amused by the childish interactions, but a bit worried about how Sirius had reacted when Pip hugged him. He couldn’t help but think about how he went rigid when he’d hugged him after he’d found him that time. Perhaps Orion and Wally weren’t the sort of parents to hug their little wizards, except he reminded himself that Reg never looked like he was going to leap out of his skin when he picked him up and gave him a hug. In fact, the little boy would climb onto his knee and request that Uncle Alphard read him a story. Siri would listen but stay at arm’s length.

Alphard knew that all youngsters were different, perhaps Sirius was just shy, except Reg seemed to be the quiet, shy one. Siri would talk your ear off, talk anyone’s ear off if he had half a chance. He was the more outgoing one of the two brothers. Perhaps it was just that some people weren’t comfortable with physical contact. He wished he knew someone who he could talk to about the boys, but it was awkward because he didn’t want his sister or brother-in-law to find out and think he was criticising them.

Nevertheless, he began watching the two boys even more closely and he realised that Siri constantly looked out for his little brother. He made sure that the other Ankle Biters didn’t frighten him or bully him. Aaron and Ares were very exuberant little boys who sometimes got a bit rough and needed to be reminded that they needed to play more gently.

One of the Ankle Biters favourite games was playing Hit Wizards and Aurors who chased down and arrested baddies such as trolls, hags, giants, and robbers. But it was one antagonist that simultaneously tickled Alphard’s funny bone and made him intensely curious about who’d thought up the baddie that they called the Mites of Walbergis who went around yelling about muggle thieves who took their blood. It seemed rather a gruesome game and he noted the similarity between his sister’s name and the children’s baddie but having seen his sister in the middle of her insane rants…well she could be scary.

Still, while he could sympathise with the boys wanting to be Aurors and Hit Wizards to capture Walburga and lock her up, he didn’t think she’d be amused by their game. Although she was besotted by Regulus and coddled him excessively, she seemed uninterested in spending any time with the rest of the Ankle Biters, not even Sirius, who more often than just not seemed to irritate her. So hopefully she would never discover their childish game.

It would not be pretty if she did!

Chapter 11

1st September 1971 (Marauder’s first year at Hogwarts)

Sirius was at Kings Cross Station early to board the Hogwarts Express on Platform nine and three quarters. He was feeling nervous as he looked around at his family. He was surprised that his mother and father had come along. He’d expected that Regulus would come to see him off and that his Uncle Alphard would bring him to the station, but he had not expected his parents as well.

Truthfully, he was hoping that his mother wouldn’t make a scene since he knew that there were lot of half-blood parents and their offspring which she sneered at, but he was more concerned about the muggle-born students. While Slytherin Salazar didn’t think that they should be allowed to attend his school, the other founders had disagreed, and the majority had won that battle. He knew they would be there at the station.

Sirius knew that his mother agreed with old Sal, she absolutely abhorred muggles and did not approve of witches and wizards who were muggle-born. She believed that they should not go to Hogwarts or any other magical school – that they should have their magic bound as soon as it became apparent that they were magical. She felt that they defiled their world and was not at all coy about expressing her views. He was really hoping that she didn’t start foaming at the mouth if she encountered one which would be almost impossible to avoid.

Even to his young eyes, he could see all the first years who were muggle-born. They landed on the secret platform looking dazed and amazed by such a solid demonstration of magic. They were so busy looking to and fro, trying to take in the sights that the pureblood and half-blood children took for granted. It wasn’t surprising that they tended to bump into others, even though the platform wasn’t all that crowded. If one of them or their parents should accidentally touch his mother… well Sirius cringed at the thought.

She would make a scene; he just knew she would; or maybe not!

The crowd part respectfully as a tall, distinguished-looking older wizard with silver hair tied back with a strip of leather, strode authoritatively down Platform nine and three quarters toward the Black family standing together beside the bright red Hogwarts Express. Sirius nearly swallowed his tongue – if that was physically possible – at the unexpected appearance of his grandfather, Lord Arcturus Black, head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. He wasn’t sure what his grandfather was doing here at Kings Cross Station, but he was willing to bet that his mother wasn’t going to throw a fit with him standing beside her.

Sirius was a keen observer of people; it was one way he avoided getting into more trouble with his mother than was necessary. He was certain that except for his uncle, his mother and father were as shocked that Arcturus had turned out to see him off on the Express as he was. Not just the Black family but the other pureblood families who were there to see their own children off on the train looked amazed to see Lord Arcturus Black on the station. When his Uncle Cygnus and Aunt Druella turned up to see his 16-year-old cousin Narcissa onto the train, they looked like they’d swallowed a fly. Sirius figured that he didn’t usually turn up to see other members of the family off to Hogwarts, although Sirius was his first grandchild.

Maybe when Ares and Aaron started next year, and Reg in a couple of years he would come down to the station to see them off too. Whatever had possessed him come down, his mother was behaving herself, thank Merlin. The last thing Sirius wanted was for the other Hogwarts students to see his mother at her worst, he didn’t want anyone to know what went on behind closed doors at Grimmauld Place. Even Uncle Alphard didn’t know the reason why he was always accidentally Apparating so much was that he was trying to get away from his mother’s rages and her equally crazy house-elf Kreacher who hated Sirius as much as he worshipped his Mistress and Regulus.

Everyone loved his brother, including Sirius but then why wouldn’t they? He was quiet and respectful, obedient, and loving, even to their mother and Kreacher. His father Orion never became impatient with his younger son and would spend time showing him simple magical spells and charms, but he got impatient with Sirius and his constant asking questions about everything.

Sirius knew he was too curious about anything and everything and that often got him into trouble.  He immediately thought of a game that he and Reg used to play when they were small which he’d come up with after eavesdropping on a conversation between his mother and father. The game was about Hit Wizards and Aurors capturing the Mites of Walbergis and then throwing them into the infamous Azkaban prisoners where dementors guarded the worst of the worst criminals, sucking out their souls.

Uncle Alphard had a good chuckle when he heard about it, thinking the Mites of Walbergis was based on his mother, Walburga but when his father caught them playing the game one day, he knew better. Sirius got a beating for eavesdropping on a conversation his mother and father had about a group that he realised years later were Knights as in Merlin, King Arthur, and his knights, not Mites. Except that these were Knights of Walpurgis, whoever or whatever that may be, and his father wanted to join them because they hated muggles and muggle-borns and wanted to kill them.

At the time, 6-year-old Sirius thought these Mites of Walbergis (as he’d mistakenly called them) sounded dreadful. He’d thought if his father knew that the hit wizards locked them all away in Azkaban Prison, his father would realise they were bad and not want to join them.

So, okay it was a dumb stupid plan, but Sirius was just a little kid back then. He couldn’t understand why his mum and dad hated anyone who wasn’t pureblood. He’d had lots of friends at Zornita Ruzha; none of them had been pureblood but Sirius had loved all of them. He didn’t see why his parents hated them so much. Even Muggles were okay. No, they were better than okay, they had motorbikes and one day he was going to get one of his own and ride it everywhere in Islington and London – it would be awesome.

And he was going to own his own dog too. Even though his Uncle Alphard had found a dog no one else wanted at the muggle dogs’ home called Paddy, a silver-grey Wicklow Terrier. He said he was an Irish breed which accounted for his name. His uncle took Paddy to his home because Alphard knew that his mother wouldn’t let Sirius and Regulus keep him…well if she did, he’d probably end up with his head nailed to the wall like all the family elves who were too old to serve anymore. It was a family tradition that was supposedly started by Aunt Eliadora who beheaded house-elves when they were too old to carry tea trays. The seven-year-old Sirius had figured since Paddy couldn’t ever carry a tea tray, Paddy wouldn’t last long before Walburga took his head off, so he made good and sure that Reg never tried to smuggle the terrier into the house.

Instead, their caring Uncle Alphard would bring him over nearly every day so Sirius and Regulus could play with him in their yard and take him to the park and go for walks. But it wasn’t the same as having a dog curled up at the foot of his bed at night, keeping him safe, even if he knew that Walburga would have a fit if she found Paddy inside Grimmauld Place. Черно was never allowed inside their home in Bulgaria, either.

To be honest, as he looked across at his family on the platform, he would miss his Uncle Alphard, Reg, and Paddy but he was just relieved to be able to get away from his father and his obsession with his Knights of Walpurgis. Maybe they were smarter than they sounded as they didn’t want to let him join their dumb secret society. He’d heard him talking to the Portrait of Great Grandfather Phineas Nigellus Black in his study one night, asking him to tell him everything he knew about them. His dad told him that he believed that one of the men whose broomstick he liked to ride on was probably a Knight, but they were very secretive about the order.

The young wizard did wonder why Orion was borrowing other wizards’ brooms when he had several perfectly good ones of his own. He got super mad when Sirius had tried to sneak one outside to fly on. But if his dad was riding around on other wizards’ brooms then Sirius didn’t see why he couldn’t use them when his father wasn’t. At least his uncle let him learn to ride on his one when he was at his Great Aunt Cassie’s farm. He loved his uncle!

Yet as much as he hated his dad for his beliefs, Sirius was practically ecstatic about leaving his mother behind when he went to school. He hated her so much, he couldn’t wait to leave. He worried about Reg though, he didn’t want to leave him alone with his mother, but Uncle Alphard promised to keep his eye on his brother. And he still had the other Ankle Biters (the name his uncle called the cousins, Regulus, Aaron, Anson, Phineas, Pip and Archer and Gemini) to play with. Sirius wished some of them were coming to Hogwarts with him this year because then he would at least know someone, but most wouldn’t start until next year. The twins, Phineas, Pip, and her friend Pandora Abbott would all be in their first year together and just Regulus and Pip’s little brother Archer and the twins’ little sister, Gemini Prewitt would have to remain at home.

Saying goodbye to his brother and Alphard with a somewhat awkward hug; he shook hands with his father, grandfather, Uncle Cygnus and gave his Aunt Druella and his mother a quick kiss on the cheek, trying not to puke. Druella was okay but he hated his mother and she hated him even more because he was too… too much. Taking a deep breath because he wouldn’t have to think about her all term, he began pulling his enormous trunk behind him as he made his way to the train. His grandfather called out for him to wait, used his wand to cast a feather-light charm on it so he could carry it easily and after looking shocked at his gesture, remembered to thank him with a slight bow and a, “Thank you, Lord Black.”

He was even more surprised when his grandfather placed his hand on his shoulder and told him, “Call me Grandfather, Sirius. And good luck at Hogwarts. Your cousin Narcissa will keep her eye on you, I’m sure,” he said, glancing over at her compellingly as Siri’s almost grown-up cousin nodded.

“Of course, Lord Black she acknowledged dutifully. “I’m a Slytherin prefect this year, so even if we weren’t family, Sirius can come and ask me if he needs help.”

Sirius knew that because he was a member of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, everyone in the family expected that he’d automatically be sorted into Salazar Slytherin’s house – it was not up for discussion – it was just the way it was. The problem was though that he had no intention of ending up there if he could help it, spending seven more years with a bunch of mad muggle haters and thugs who wanted to kill muggles and their magical offspring. No, he couldn’t deal with them or the rest of those pureblood snobs who thought they were better than other magical people just because of their blood.

The truth was that Sirius wanted to be admired for what he could do and who he was, not because of his relative’s or their blood. From what he’d seen, blood didn’t make you a better or worse wizard or witch, but your thoughts did. He was smart enough to know the family was going to explode if he didn’t get sorted into Slytherin, particularly his mother and father. His older cousins Bella, Andi and Cissy had all been sorted there too, as had his mother, father, both of his grandfathers and aunts. But he’d already made up his mind to try to get the Sorting Hat to sort him into Ravenclaw.

Oh, he just knew that he was going to be in so much trouble if he didn’t go into Slytherin, but he thought he would be sick if the Sorting Hat put him in with a bunch of snakes. Of the other three houses, he reckoned Ravenclaw was probably the least objectionable of the other three houses to his family. There was a slim chance (okay slimmer than those yummy wafer-thin biscotti biscuits that he tried at his Great Aunt Cassie’s) that if he went to the House of the smart, they might just decide not to send him through the Veil of Death.

He smiled as he realised that his mother was harrying her husband into leaving but Regulus was staying with Uncle Alphard to see the train off and wave him goodbye. As he made his way onto the train and found himself an empty carriage, he leaned out to wave at his favourite people, shocked when he saw his Grandfather Arcturus standing beside Uncle Alphard chatting and waiting. Surely, he wasn’t going to see the Hogwarts Express off, was he? As he was pondering this extraordinary possibility, Sirius discounting it immediately. Arcturus must have had something to discuss with Alphard or else he wanted to spend some time with Reg, who would be sad to be left at home. Just then, the carriage door was flung open by a young boy Sirius reckoned was a first year like himself.

He had very dark brown messy hair and light brown eyes. He wore a pair of spectacles and he was accompanied by an elderly couple. The wizard looked oddly familiar or reminded him of someone while the witch had a proud and indulgent expression on her face as she gazed at the boy in his brand-new Hogwarts uniform.

“Now remember, James, that Frank Longbottom is in Gryffindor and will be happy to help you if you don’t know what to do.”

The wizard smiled at his wife. “Now Euphemia, you’ve told the lad that one hundred times already. He’s going to be fine, and we’ll see him back home at Yule.” He looked over at Sirius who was watching wide-eyed. “And you’re embarrassing him in front of his friends,” he scolded as James grinned.

Sirius didn’t think James looked at all embarrassed. He glanced across at him, his mouth seemed made for grinning. “I’m James Potter.”

Sirius stuck out his hand for them to shake like he’d seen some of the older boys doing as they met up on the platform. It made him feel quite grown up. “I’m Sirius Black.”

“Seriously, your parents called you, Serious. What a bummer, man.” James chuckled.

The older wizard held out his hand to Sirius. “Pleased to finally meet you, Sirius. I’m Fleamont Potter, my wife Euphemia and you’ve already met our son, James.” He hoped he didn’t display his shock at such an elderly couple having a son the same age as he was because there was one thing that the Blacks prided themselves on was their ability to not reveal their thoughts or feelings in public. He often thought it was dumb but, in this instance, he knew it would just be plain rude of him and he didn’t want to offend them. They seemed like nice folk.

Fleamont continued, and really, James honestly thought that Sirius was a dumb name when his grandparents called his dad Fleamont, talk about the cauldron calling the pot black. “My cousin Charlus Potter married you great Aunt Dorea, which makes us distantly related to you. It also makes you and James, cousins too,” he said as James bowed dramatically and said, “Seriously?”

His father ignored James. “In fact, our family owes Charlus and Dorea a huge debt. If it weren’t for them, we’d never have had James. Dorea and Charlus gave us potions and such that resulted in our little miracle,” he indicated at James who didn’t look at all put out at being called a little miracle; he bowed and looked as if he was a prince, and these were his adoring subjects, before flashing a cheeky grin at Sirius.

He couldn’t make up his mind if James was pompous or a git, he also wondered if he was going to be his very first school friend. Probably he was a bit of a pompous git but good fun too, he decided. It was obvious to him that the Potters were also purebloods, they had the same proud bearing and manners that the Blacks all had. Sirius had many hours of etiquette and culture lessons that beat into them how special they were because they had pure blood. But Fleamont seemed less stuffy than most of his Black relatives, apart from Uncle Alphard and his great uncle Marius who Aunt Cassie had introduced him to a while ago. He was great, born a squib, he’d been disowned by the family, which seemed totally unfair to Sirius since it wasn’t his fault that he wasn’t a wizard, just like it wasn’t his fault that two of his three kids were magical, either. He said that just because little Darius was a squib, he would never disown him, either.

He wasn’t all that surprised that his Great Aunt Dorea and his Uncle Charlus had helped this elder pair have James because he knew that they had helped Cousin Lucretia have the twins and little Gemini and he’d also helped his Great Aunt Lycoris who was Arcturus’ sister to have Phineas too. He liked Pip’s mum and dad, not that he knew them all that well, but Charlus had healed Reg once when they were riding at Aunt Cassie’s and he’d fallen off his pony and cut his head open. Sirius who had leapt off his welsh mountain pony which he’d graduated to when the Shetlands had gotten too small for him to ride, had run straight to where Reg lay and pulled him out of the way of the other ponies, so he didn’t get trod on. He’d been beside himself, thinking that his little brother was dying. Charlus had calmed him down and healed his brother so he didn’t even have a scratch.

So, he reckoned that if Charlus was Fleamont’s cousin then they had to be okay folk and even if James was just a tiny weeny bit spoilt by his adoring mum and dad, they obviously loved him. He’d seen the same sappy expression on his own mother’s face when she was talking to Reg. However, Sirius expected that living in a dorm with three or four other boys would soon fix that for James and for Reg too when he came to Hogwarts in a couple of years-time since other wizards and witches probably wouldn’t be willing to fawn all over them if what he’d heard about school was correct.

His Uncle Alphard had told him lots of stories about how much fun he had boarding ten months of the year at Hogwarts when he was trying to reassure Siri that he wouldn’t be homesick. Sirius didn’t tell his uncle that he was relieved not to have to live in Grimmauld Place for most of the year and the only person he would miss in that hideous house was his little brother Reg who he adored. He didn’t mind if Regulus was adored by their mother and father.

As they were leaving, James’ mum and dad hugged and kissed him goodbye, and James didn’t look the slightest bit embarrassed. Sirius admired him for that. Plenty of wizards would be self-conscious about having a mum and dad who looked more like his grandparents than his parent. He was quite sure that Fleamont was a lot older than Pip and Archer’s dad, Charlus and somehow the fact that James Potter didn’t care about what anyone else thought made Sirius like him more.

As Euphemia left the carriage she paused to say, “Oh and Sirius dear, don’t forget that you are always welcome to come for a visit when you and James are on holidays. You’re family!”

After James’ parents had left them, he sensed that James was feeling sad, so he left him sitting quietly and stared out the window. Regulus, Uncle Alphard, and his grandfather were still waiting for the train to pull out of the station, and he felt a warm gooey feeling that they hadn’t left him alone.

He heard the conductor call out, “Two minutes,” and everyone started to hurry. A red-haired girl who he was certain was a first year was tearing down the platform accompanied by her muggle parents who were wearing muggle clothes that made them all stick out and she had an older sibling who was tall and thin. The older girl looked around her with a sour look on her face, like there was a bad smell. Right behind them regarding the muggles with a frowny expression was an obviously pureblood witch. She had a haughty look and body language that screamed out her blood status. Stalking down the platform beside her was a small black-haired wizard hurrying to keep up with her. He had greasy black shoulder-length hair with a sharp beak-like nose and dark piercing eyes that watched the muggle red-haired girl intently.

As the train prepared to leave the platform with a final sharp blow of the whistle, there was a scramble for the Hogwarts students to get on board. James and Sirius leaned out the windows of the Express waving like crazy to their family below. He could see Reg staring up at his window with sad pleading eyes and he kept saying the same thing, over and over.

Sirius didn’t need to be a mind reader to know what Reg was saying. It was the same thing he’d been saying to him all week long, “Please Siri, don’t go to Hogwarts. Stay with me and then we can go together.”

All at once he just knew that if he left Reg behind, that something really bad, really awful would happen to him. He had to get back to his little brother, no matter what. Reg wasn’t strong like he was – he’d never take the beatings Sirius had learned to endure. But even worse, he knew his baby brother would never endure all the vile abuse that his mother had thrown at him for years.

Regulus was a lot more sensitive; she would destroy him if she went off on one of her crazy Gorgon trips. He always took the blame for stuff that his little brother did because Siri knew Reg would crack like an egg the moment she began to shriek and foam at the mouth. Being almost three years older, of course he had to be heaps tougher. It was what big brothers did – they stood up for the smaller weaker ones. He knew with a degree of certainty he’d never felt before that he had to get back and protect him or something terrible would happen.

It was life or death!

Chapter 12

Desperate to get back to his brother Sirius flung the train window all the way open and started to crawl out, but his brand-new set of Hogwarts robes caught on the latch and he started struggling like a rat in a trap, trying to tear free so he could get to his brother.

After several shocking moments, James jumped onto his back trying to stop him and desperately yelling out for help. Two young wizards without house colours on their robes came to the door of the carriage in response to his shouting. One was short, with fair hair, a bit rotund with small darting eyes who took in the scene and froze. The other young wizard was smallish, had sandy blonde hair and a nervous air about him. He took one look at the situation and immediately sprang into action, helping James to prevent the crazy lunatic from crawling out the window but it was like trying to hold back a storm.

The sandy-haired wizard added his screams for help to the mix and an older pair of students, a witch and a wizard rushed into the carriage wearing the red and gold house colours of Gryffindor and prefect badges. Immediately they sized up the dire situation and flung themselves on top of Sirius too. Even with the two older students, now assisting James and the other sandy-haired first year, Sirius’ strength to get away was borne out of desperation and fear for the person he loved most in the world. He was determined to get to Regulus or die trying.

The female prefect, Alice Wellborn was struggling hard as she tried to hold onto Sirius, who despite his size, was fighting like a wild animal. She shot a look of sheer panic at her companion. “He’s too strong, Frank.”

Frank Longbottom looked at her. “Stunning spell?”

She nodded breathlessly. “You read my mind. You or me?”

Frank thought for a split second. “You do it, I can’t let go of him, Alice. But hurry up, please.”

Letting go of the struggling first year, she quickly retrieved her wand and pointed at the squirming mass. She was very mindful of not hitting any of the students who were trying to prevent the crazy boy from flinging himself out of the train window as it picked up speed.

“Stupefy!” she yelled clearly, waving her wand in the approved movements as a bolt of red light erupted from her wand and connected with Sirius, who instantly went stiff as a plank as they hauled him back into the carriage. He’d managed to get all the way out to his knees, so it was lucky that the two prefects had arrived when they did.

Hauling him back inside the carriage, the four conscious Hogwarts students and a stupefied one collapsed on the floor of the carriage, trying to regain their breath. Alice heaved a huge sigh of relief. The short stoutish first-year wizard who’d stood frozen in the doorway until he’d been flung into the corner seat of the carriage when the prefects entered hastily, stared at the others with frightened eyes.

Then the prefect took charge. “Okay, anyone wants to tell me what was going on? Were you fighting?” Frank asked them sternly in his brand-new prefect voice he’d been practising all through the holidays.

The blonde wizard was first to reply. “I wasn’t doing anything. I was just minding my business. I was walking along the corridor with Remus looking for a seat, we met on the platform, then we heard someone yelling for help and when we got here, HE,” he said, pointing at James, “Was trying to push that kid through the window.”

The older witch looked at Remus, smiling at him kindly, seeing how nervous he looked. “My name is Alice, is that what happened, Remus?

The sandy-haired wizard looked scared but said. “Kind of, but I think he was trying to climb out of the window.” Remus pointed at Sirius lying on the floor. “That boy was trying to stop him and yelled for help,” he said looking at James, “So I came running in to help and started yelling too. He was really strong!” he said indicating the stupefied boy on the floor.

Alice nodded since it fitted in with what she’d already observed. “Thanks for your help, Remus.”

Frank looked over at James, eyebrow raised, (he’d been practising that one too over the holidays, ever since he found out he was going to be a prefect) and looked at James. “Well, Mr Potter, is that what happened?”

James grinned at him, “Hi Frank, how was your holiday? Yeah, what he said,” he nodded at Remus, giving him a friendly wave. “Thanks for your help, mate. He started going crazy just as the train was pulling out of the station,” he shrugged.

Alice asked, “Any idea what made him do it?”

James shook his head. “Not a clue. He was talking to my parents and me and then he just went crazy when we were waving goodbye to our people on the station.”

Frank stood up, realising that it wasn’t terribly dignified for prefects to be sprawled on the floor of the train with a bunch of first years. Besides, they had managed to catch their breath now. The fifth-year prefects looked at each other and held a silent conversation. Both were wondering if someone on the platform has cast some sort of charm or spell on the first-year wizard they’d had to stupefy.

Whatever had happened, this was too difficult for a couple of brand-new prefects to deal with. They would report what happened to Professor McGonagall, their Transfiguration teacher, who in recent years had promoted to the head of Gryffindor after Professor Dumbledore took over for former Headmaster Dippet who’d retired due to a bad dose of dragon pox.

Longbottom wondered what they should do with their stupefied wizard. He looked at Potter hopefully, “Don’t suppose our crazy young wizard happened to introduce himself to you mum and dad did he, Jamie?”

“James,” he corrected crossly. “Yeah, he did. Said his name was Seriously Black,” he said, ignoring the loud gasp from Longbottom and the look of fear and dismay on Alice.

She clutched her fellow prefect’s hand. “Oh, Merlin’s Mother…” she exclaimed, as the carriage was invaded by a student wearing Ravenclaw colours and sporting the Head Boy badge with a suitable degree of self-importance.

“I say, what is going on in here? I’ve had some reports of screaming and shouting and why is that first-year wizard lying there on the floor? Is he ill?” Landry Littleproud demanded testily, looking at the three first years and the two Gryffindor prefects, hoping whatever it was this wouldn’t reflect badly on him.

“Not ill. Stupefied!” Frank told him tersely. “I had no choice; he was trying to climb out the window when the train started pulling out of Kings Cross Station.” He glared at Alice and the boys, daring them to contradict his account of what had happened. Peter made a sound like a mouse and Potter put his hand over his mouth and whispered in his ear as Pettigrew nodded furiously and he took his hand away.

Landry went to ask why James had done that, but Frank interrupted. “We don’t know why, but even with these two boys, Alice and me, trying to stop him, it was like wrestling a young dragon. He was just too strong for us to hold.” The others nodded their head forcefully, supporting his assertion.

The head boy looked flummoxed. No one had tried to jump out of the Hogwarts Express when it was leaving Platform nine and three quarters, so he wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. Nor had a prefect taken it upon themselves to go around stupefying a student before. Goodness knows he wanted to when they were so annoying, but he always managed to restrain himself.

Alice, looking pale suggested nervously, “Shouldn’t we see if he has an older sibling on the train, Landry? Then they can be here to help comfort him when we re-enervate him?”

Landry nodded, a little frustrated that he hadn’t thought of it first. “Fine. Anyone know who he is?”

Frank nodded. “He doesn’t have any siblings on the train. He’s the eldest grandson of Lord Black.”

Everyone inhaled sharply because Arcturus Black was feared or admired by the entire wizarding world in Great Britain. No one wanted to get on the wrong side of the extremely powerful wizard.

Continuing with admirable sangfroid, Frank told the head boy, “Send for Narcissa Black, she is his cousin.”

James said, “Dad said that Seriously and I are cousins.”

Frank nodded. “You are cousins but distant ones by marriage. Your cousins, Pegasus and Archer are also cousins, a couple of times removed to Sirius and his little brother, Regulus.

Littleproud looked at Alice, “Okay, Alice can you send a Slytherin to fetch Narcissa Black and bring her back here? We’ll re-enervate her cousin when she arrives.”

Frank looked at the head boy, “You want to give me a hand to set him on the seat, Landry? I think Narcissa will take a pretty dim view of the second in line to the Black lordship lying stupefied on the floor of the Hogwarts’ Express.”

“You’re quite right, Longbottom. I hope that Lord Black won’t consider you casting against his grandson as an attack on their house. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes.”

They picked up the stiff figure of the first-year wizard and put him down gently on the spare seat in the carriage. He shrugged, “Well it’s true that Lord Black might ordinarily consider it an attack on their line but I’m not too worried about it.”

Littleproud sniffed suspiciously at that. “And why would that be, Longbottom?”

Chuckling, he said lightly, “Because like little Jamie here, we’re cousins. Distant cousins but still family. My cousin Harfang Longbottom married Callidora Black and had two children which make us family. There are a lot of the Sacred Twenty-Eight who are married into the Ancient and Noble House of Black: Bulstrode, Potter, McMillian, Burke, Flint, Crouch, Prewitt, Rozier and Longbottom,” he listed.

Littleproud looked impressed. “How come you know so much about the Black genealogy, Frank?”

As Alice and Narcissa stepped into the carriage he shrugged nonchalantly, “I’m the Longbottom heir.”

~o0o~

Several hours later, Sirius was sitting in the carriage feeling like a piece of dragon dung. Apparently, according to Frank and a very guilty Alice, that was to be expected after getting hit with a Stupefy spell. Especially one that was cast in an emergency by a nervous prefect who was scared that a first year was going to climb out of the window of the Hogwarts Express and accidentally fall under the wheels of the steam train to die an unpleasant and gory death. Which probably explained why he was feeling so bad, but not completely. He remembered how as they were leaving Kings Cross; Reg had called out and pleaded with him to come back.  Sirius knew that he really should feel grateful for Alice’s spell since it probably saved him, but right now he was too distraught. He would thank the pretty Gryffindor prefect later.

Regulus had been saying the same thing he’d been saying all week and Sirius had explained patiently that he didn’t have a choice, that every wizard and witch his age had to go away to school. He knew Reg was scared to be left at home and he didn’t blame him, but he didn’t know what he should do. He talked to his uncle who had promised he’d keep a close eye on his little brother and make sure he got time to hang out with their cousins, Phineas, Aaron, Ares, Pip, Gemini, and Archer. It made Sirius feel better although somehow, he knew it wasn’t the same as him being able to watch out for Regulus all the time.

He’d tried to explain that that to Uncle Alphard, but he didn’t know how to tell him that his mother was a monster who enjoyed getting her house-elf to beat and torture him. He was used to it but what really terrified him was the thought that with him off at Hogwarts it might be happening to Reg. Should he tell his uncle? Would he believe him? Besides, both Kreacher and his mother adored his little brother – it was him they hated so with him at Hogwarts, Reg should be fine. At least that was what he’d been telling himself.

But suddenly when the train started to pull out of the station, he was overcome with a fear that made him feel like a hippogriff was sitting on his chest and he couldn’t catch his breath. He was convinced if he didn’t get off the train and return to Grimmauld Place to watch out for Reg, something really bad would happen. Not like breaking something and getting into trouble bad, much much worse than that. Like someone might hurt and die trouble and Sirius knew he needed to get off the Hogwarts Express right that instant.

At first, he’d tried Apparition to get off because he’d been doing it accidentally for so long that now he was able to do it with intent. Although he hadn’t told anyone that he was learning to control it since it was illegal to Apparate unless you had a license. To get a license you had to be seventeen and Sirius was still only eleven. He had no intention of confiding in anyone about his ability to Apparate.

Unfortunately, for some reason, it didn’t work. He intended to find out why but when he couldn’t Apparate, the urge Sirius felt to go back was too strong for him to resist. He remembered trying to climb out the window and James grabbing hold of him, not letting him go, lots of shouting, more people trying to drag him back inside and then pain and nothing.

When he woke up, the first face he saw was his cousin Narcissa giving him a disappointed look like he’d embarrassed and disgraced her. Okay, knowing Cousin Cissy who was terrible proper, he probably had done both, and he was sorry as it hadn’t been his intention. But really did she have to bring that smarmy stuck up blonde git, Lucius Malfoy with her. He was glaring at Sirius like he was a muggle covered in dragon dung who had vomited up all over him. It made him wish that he had hurled all over the pompous pureblood wizard.

So, when the head boy, Landry Littleproud started to question him about why he’d tried to climb out the window of the train while it was moving, he took one look at Cissy and said he didn’t remember. Blacks did not air their dirty laundry in public. No one would believe him if he did, anyway. To make it more believable, Sirius made sure he rubbed the lump on his head where he’d whacked it on the floor when he’d been stupefied. He wanted to remind them he’d been hurt.

In the end, the prefects (and honestly, who in their right mind would make Malfoy a prefect when he hated muggles) and the Head Boy decided he must have lost his memory and agreed to have the school Mediwitch examine him when they arrived at the castle. Meanwhile, Alice kept popping in to check up on him every thirty minutes or so and tell him how sorry she was about stupefying him, but instead of finding her attention comforting, her fussing over him was making him feel confused and anxious. She was kind and pretty, she smelled good like the roses at Zornita Ruzha, but he wasn’t used to older witches being gentle and caring to him. It made him feel trapped and uncomfortable but also weirdly, he longed for more of it. How bizarre was that?

Frank was nice to him too and he explained that like James Potter, his year mate, Frank and Sirius were related to each other by marriage. He said that most first-years panicked and wanted off the Express when it first started towards Scotland but that the homesickness soon settled down because there were so many new things to see and learn and new friends to make. Sirius knew he was trying to reassure him, but he could hardly say to Frank that a huge part of him was bloody glad that he didn’t have to wake up in the same house as his parents. Particularly Walburga and that hideous little house-elf of his mother’s Kreacher, who adored torturing him every day. Frank wouldn’t believe him if he did tell him.

It was just that as much as he longed to be out from under his Mother and Kreacher, there was a part of him was totally sure that no good would come of him leaving Reg behind; he didn’t know how or what, he just knew something bad would happen. Sirius wondered if he’d had a premonition. His best friend Pandora Abbott talked about premonitions and visions which her mum got a lot. Pandora said her mum sometimes saw the future, or she’d get a strong feeling about something that was going to happen.

He would write to Panda and tell her what happened, he knew she would understand – not that he’d told her about what happened at home. Blacks didn’t talk about their troubles to others, they were loyal to the family no matter what. That was the Black way, and so he always kept quiet and tried to make the best of things. A lot of folk would say he had a good life, his parents were rich, and he could have anything he wanted.

Of course, what he really wanted didn’t cost a Knut – he wanted to be loved and accepted for who he was, but he knew that wasn’t likely, and perhaps he deserved to be beaten and tortured. He just made sure that Regulus was protected, just like Sirius had promised when he was born. It usually worked because he was a much better wizard than Sirius, obedient and didn’t ask questions all the time.

Reg was the good child.

Chapter 13

When the lady with the trolley cart knocked on their door, the four boys parted company with some of their money, James flashed a lot, Sirius less but still splurged, having noted that the wizard called Remus Lupin took a lot of time to decide what to spend with his Knut’s and so did the blonde boy whose name they’d learned was Peter Pettigrew. Sirius decided to buy 20 Magic Frog Cards so they could have five each and James also bought enough for them to share. Then they sat down and promptly made pigs of themselves as they gorged on their lollies and sweets. Hardly surprising behaviour for any eleven-year-old wizard on their own for the first time, with no adult authority to curb their gluttony. Once all their sweets were devoured, the four boys started evaluating their magic cards and trying to trade them.

“Hey, Seriously! Trade you a Dumbledore for that Felix Summerbee you have. I don’t have that one, but I have five Dumbledores,” James asked Sirius imploringly. “Can you believe it? Five. What do you need with five?”

Sirius chucked the card at the stupid prat who handed him a Dumbledore card. Remus asked curiously, “Why is Felix Summerbee famous, Jamie?”

James read off the card, “He’s the inventor of cheering charms who lived in 1447 – 1508,” he said.

“Oh, wow, that’s a good one!” Peter looked dejected, “I don’t have that one, either. I also need the Ignatia Wildsmith card. It’s hard to get. Does anyone have it?” he gave them his best pleading look and Remus handed over his, reading out the statistics before giving it the blonde wizard who snatched it up greedily and gave him a card in return.

“Thanks, Remus. Ignatia Wildsmith was a witch who lived in 1227 – 1320 who invented floo powder.”

James looked interested. “Cool, Pete. What about you, Remus? What do you need?”

“Oh, that’s okay. I really want to get an Alberta Toothill but that’s a rare one. I’ll get one someday.”

Sirius checked the cards he was holding in his hand and chucked one at Remus. He looked at it in amazement and said, “Hey I can’t take yours’, Sirius.”

He tried to hand it back, but they could all see he really wanted it. Sirius reached over and grabbed the card Remus had swapped with Peter.

“Keep it, Mate. I don’t have this one.” He said truthfully because he wasn’t all that fussed about collecting the Chocolate Frog cards.

Remus frowned, “But Sirius, Alberta Toothill was the winner of the All-England Wizard Duelling Competition of 1430. She won by using a Blasting Curse against the favourite, Samson Wiblin, and that card you took is for Fulbert the Fearful.  It’s a dud,” he said honestly.

“Hey Remus, chill out. Seriously said he didn’t mind. Isn’t that right mate?” James told him.

Rolling his eyes, he said to Remus, I don’t care if it’s a dud, Remus, take it. I don’t collect Magical Frog Cards, honest.” Lupin looked embarrassed but grateful.

Before the awkward wizard had a chance to start thanking him, he kicked Potter in the ankle. “As for you, you numskull, how many times do I have to tell you, my name’s Sirius. I’m named after my great grandfather and his uncle and my middle name is Orion after my father. Got it?  And I don’t reckon you’ve got room to talk since your dad’s name is Fleamont,” he said pointedly.

The sandy-haired boy grinned, suddenly looking interested. “So, you were named after stars and constellations – Sirius is the dog star and Orion is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and it can be seen at night throughout the world,” he told the two other boy wizards. “In fact, some astrologers say it’s one of the most visible and recognizable constellations in the night sky.”

Sirius was impressed. “It’s true. A lot of my relatives are named after stars or constellations, it a bit of a thing in my family, that and being named after other family members.”

Remus waved dismissively. “Lots of people are named after other members of the family. Tell us about the people in the family who are named after stars,” he said inquisitively.

Sirius decided that Remus was destined for Ravenclaw with his love of knowledge and hoped if he was sorted there too that they might end up being roommates.

“Well, there’s Great Aunt Cassiopeia, cousins: Bellatrix, Andromeda, Pegasus, Gemini, Archer, Grandfather Arcturus, my uncles: Alphard, Cygnus and my great uncle and my brother, both named Regulus.”

“Wow that’s awesome,” Remus enthused, and Sirius noticed that he didn’t sound nervous anymore.

He shrugged, “I guess, At least no one in the family’s been dumb enough to use Scorpius or Draco, I mean who’d be so cruel?”

“Or Betelgeuse.” Remus contributed.

“Or Alnilam!” Sirius offered because his pre-Hogwarts education was full of astronomy, astrology, and Greek and Roman mythology and he knew the most arcane names for heavenly bodies. All the Blacks did; it was expected.

Remus looked concerned for a moment before coming up with, “Rigel.” He grinned at the others.

Sirius nodded approvingly before contributing, “Saiph.”

Rolling his eyes, Remus said “Hydra.”

“Upsilon!”

James feeling left out, chimed in accusingly, “You made that one up!”

Sirius looked outraged. “I did not. It’s a star in the constellation of Orion.”

Remus nodded. “He’s right.”

James looked at him and asked curiously, “How do you know so much about heavenly bodies and stars, Remus?”

With James, Pete and Sirius looking at him curiously, he looked extremely uncomfortable. “I um ah… like to read and we have a book at home. My mother’s astronomy book from Hogwarts,” he said nervously.

Peter looked impressed. “I bet you’re real smart, Remus. Can I borrow your class notes, pleaaaase?”

James said, “We don’t know what houses we’ll be in yet. We might not even be in the same classes, Pete.”

Peter smirked and said, “Everyone knows where Sirius will be sorted. The Blacks and the purebloods always go to Slytherin.”

James and Sirius both shouted, “I’m not going to Slytherin,” and then looked at each other and grinned.

“Well, I’m not. Lots of pureblood families go to Gryffindor and Ravenclaw and even Hufflepuff. All the Potters have been sorted into Gryffindor, Pete. I don’t intend to be the first in my family to miss out.” James stated.

Sirius said softly. “Well, I do. I’m gonna be the first in the Ancient and Noble House of Black to not get sorted into Slytherin, if I have any say about it.”

Peter looked shocked, “But why? My dad says all the wizards and witches who hold power are Slytherins and they’re usually wealthy. I wouldn’t mind being in Slytherin and then I could get back at the tossers who bullied me.”

James and Sirius exchanged a private grin, acknowledging that Peter Pettigrew wouldn’t last five seconds in the House of Snakes before one swallowed him whole like a rat or a vole. Lucius Malfoy and his Slytherin mates would utterly despise the half-blood boy and have him for dinner.

Sirius shrugged. “I hate all that pureblood rot. I like muggles and muggle-born witches and wizards a lot better than some of the stuck-up crazy prats in my family.”

James looked at him approvingly, Peter gaped at him like he had two heads, and both were mad. Remus stared at him with a mixture of cautiousness and respect.

He said, “So James will go to Gryffindor, Peter wants to go to Slytherin. Where do you want to go if you don’t get sorted into Slytherin, Sirius?”

“Ravenclaw, I guess. I might just get away with that. I know my grandfather admires my Great Aunt Dorea because he says she’s super smart. She’s an Unspeakable in the Ministry of Magic and a Potions Master when she was only twenty-three.”

“What about you, Remus? Where do you think you’ll go?”

“Hufflepuff, I expect,” he said without thinking.

All three boys looked surprised, but it was Peter who blurted out, “But you’re so smart. How could you not want to be a Ravenclaw?”

The young boy looked incredibly sad. “Because I’ve learnt that the best and brightest aren’t always kind. They can lack loyalty and can be quick to judge anyone different to them. Hufflepuffs don’t favour knowledge over friendship.”

James broke out his stash of Honeydukes Chocolate and that’s when they learnt Remus would do just about anything for the sweet treat. As they sat around shoving pieces into their mouths, he said with a cheeky grin, “Sigma.”

Sirius responded immediately, happy for the change of subject, “Chi1 Orionis.”

James objected chuckling, “Okay, admit it, you definitely made that one up, mate.”

“Did not! It’s in the Orion constellation at the tip of the hunter’s upraised club according to my tutor,” he argued. “And there’s Pi3 Orionis. If someone in the Black family had twins that’s probably what they’d call them.”

As the boys dissolved into giggles, Peter piped up, “I know, I got one! Ursa Major,” so proud of himself for coming up with a contribution as the rest of the boys howled with laughter.

Maybe everything would be okay!

As the Hogwarts Express neared its destination, the other boys were talking quietly amongst themselves because they thought he was napping. He wasn’t, he was thinking over the events of the day so far. He knew from his family that there was the manky old Sorting Hat and the House sorting ceremony, plus the Hogwarts New Year Feast before the day was over but his thoughts were back at Grimmauld Place and Regulus.

What was Reg doing, was he okay? They’d never spent a day apart, not since his little brother was born. He had been so excited, he always wanted to have a brother or a sister; he didn’t much care which. When Regulus was introduced to him, he’d been surprise because he had no idea that his parents were expecting a baby, but he was delighted. He was lonely at Zornita Ruzha, there were no other children to play with and he promised to look out for him.

Yet he’d left him alone and scared. He was a terrible brother.

He looked at the three boys sitting in the carriage with him. Remus was smart but nervous, Peter was obviously a lazy little sod and had been bullied, he thought remembering his comment about going into Slytherin. And James, well he could be a bit cocky, but he was kind too and full of fun. Potter recruited them into playing a prank against a carriage load of 2nd year Slytherins next door, turning their noses in pig snouts with some candy he’d managed to buy from some online magical joke shop before he left for Hogwarts.

Soon the whole train had heard about their lark and Sirius had laughed so hard that he forgot to worry about Reg. After getting a tongue-lashing from just about every Slytherin prefect on the train and a couple of the Ravenclaws, a couple of red-haired wizards burst into their carriage, bowing to them and lavishing praise on the four first years for their wicked prank.

Sirius smirked; he was fairly sure he knew who these characters were. They were wearing the red and gold colours of Gryffindor and were so obviously twins that he bowed back. “I know who you are, you’re the famous Prewitt twins, Giddy Gideon and Fabulous Fabian.”

They turned and stared at him taken aback. “Do we know you?”

I’m Sirius Black, my cousin Lucretia married Ignatius Prewitt and they had twin boys, Ares, Aaron and their little sister, Gemini. They’re always telling us stories about how much trouble you two manage to get up to and it’s a lot,” he informed the three first years gravely. “So, I guess it also means we’re distant cousins.”

The twins looked at each other for a millisecond before they grinned as they chorused, “Hello little Cousin.”  He was soon to learn they did that a lot. How they knew what each other was going to say he didn’t know, but they did. They also finished each other’s sentence which was hilarious and creepy too.

“Can’t wait until that pair of scallywags, Aaron and Ares start at Hogwarts next year. Gryffindors won’t know what hit them,” one of them (possibly Fabian) predicted gleefully.

“You mean the prefects and Professor McGonagall. They won’t know what hit them. It’s going to be awesome,” the second twin corrected him cheerily.

“You don’t say, Gid and Fab. With two sets of Prewitt twin ratbags in Gryffindor next year, I think I’ll return my prefects badge and go hide under my bed,” Frank Longbottom joked. He’d popped into the carriage to check on Sirius and make sure (as he’d done, along with Alice) that he wasn’t preparing to jump out the window again.

“Everything okay in here, Lads?” he asked casually.

James nodded rolling his eyes. “Yep. Cousin Sirius has just run into more distantly related family, so I guess that makes us all one big happy family,” he joked.

As he watched them later when they thought he was asleep, he wondered if he could be part of their great big non-Black family. He knew from Aaron and Ares that Gideon and Fabian were in Gryffindor and James would end up there too and he was happy about it. Maybe he should ask the sorting hat to put him in Gryffindor too, he thought half-seriously. His mother and father would have a fit!

Well, if that wasn’t reason enough, he sniggered.

Later, as they woke him up, he pulled out the Chocolate Frog card that Remus had called a dud which he’d slipped into his pocket, he looked at it properly and wondered if his friend Pandora would say that this was a sign or a message. Fulbert the Fearful was famous for being so cowardly he never ventured out of his house and he died (sometime in the Middle Ages) when a defensive charm backfired, and his roof fell in.

Somehow, he was waiting for the roof to fall in!

~o0o~

As the Hogwarts Express was pulling into the Hogsmeade Station, the prefects urged everyone to hurry off the train and to leave their trunks behind. When Peter and Remus had protested, Alice reassured them that all the student’s trunks would be waiting for them when they reached Hogwarts Castle. Night had fallen and the boys shivered in the crisp cool of the Scottish Highlands as they pulled their robes around themselves as little more.

A huge bear of a man, roughly twice as tall as an average male was calling all the first-year students to assemble with him. He was not only preternaturally tall, but he was immense of girth too, with long dark hair and a wild beard that looked more like a bird’s nest than facial hair. James and Sirius exchanged grins as they all gathered around him. Both wizards knew that this gigantic man was Rubeus Hagrid, the Gamekeeper and the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts who would escort them across the lake to the castle as was the tradition for all first years.

As Hagrid yelled at them to group themselves into fours, they watched wide-eyed as the other students climbed into the school carriages and departed for the school.

Peter squeaked, “How do the carriages manage to pull so many students?”

“Magic,” James chuckled as Sirius contradicted him.

“Thestrals,” he said.

Remus looked intrigued. “Really? How do you know, Sirius?”

“Because my Great-Great Grandfather was Headmaster of Hogwarts. He used to breed them and donated a herd to Hogwarts while he was here. My Grandfather also breeds Thestrals.”

Remus looked impressed but James and Peter looked confused. “Remus explained, “Thestrals are winged horses that are massive beasts. They can only be seen by wizards and witches who have witnessed death.”

“Oh, so that’s why we can’t see them,” Peter exclaimed in excitement as Hagrid started herding them down to the lake where small boats were bobbing in the water waiting for them to board them.

“Yes, and they are carnivores unlike other horses who are herbivores,” Remus continued to supply them with information as they were waiting in line for the first-year students ahead of them, to climb into the tiny boats.

When it was their turn, Sirius said to Remus, “You know a lot about Thestrals, Remus.”

It was a question but expressed as a statement. Remus said, “I guess. It’s just that people are afraid of them because they are rather fearsome looking, all black with white eyes, very skeletal, no flesh just skin and bones and some people think they’re a bad omen, but they’re not!” he finished passionately.

Sirius agreed. “No, it is just superstition. They’re incredibly gentle creatures and fast, swift flyers.”

As James, Sirius, Peter, and Remus clambered into their own tiny boats and sat down, the tiny boat set off following the other boats across the dark silent lake. Hogwarts Castle was all lit up, its reflection in the dark waters of the lake making for a cheering sight for the overawed children. Each boat was being propelled by an unseen force that was a little bit creepy.

Peter nudged Remus, “What’s pulling the boats, Remus?”

James grinned widely and told him, “Thestrals.”

Remus and Peter looked at Sirius, figuring if his great-great-grandfather was a headmaster that he’d know.

Sirius shook his head, “Not Thestrals.”

James pouted at him. “Then what?”

Looking very intense, he thought before answered seriously, “Magic.”

The other wizards looked as if they wanted to pile onto him for his flip response but in the confines of the boat, they thought better of it.

James nudged him, “Prat.”

He giggled. “No really. The boats are enchanted to move back and forth across the lake,” he explained.

The boats carrying the first-year students pulled into a concealed pebble covered beach with a rocky overhang. The four wizards clambered awkwardly out of the boat, feeling rather chilled, no one fancied taking an unscheduled dip in the cold forbidding water. The night air was starting to feel quite chilly, and Sirius wished he’d worn gloves and a scarf to help keep from freezing his extremities off. He was looking forward to being inside where it was warm and hot food and drink awaited them, along with the Hat Sorting Ceremony which he was becoming increasingly anxious about.

Hagrid led them up a path, exhorting them to all keep moving until they came to a set of massive wooden doors. Lifting his right hand that was as big as a dinner plate, he banged three times and waited, the first years all lined up in a double line behind him like baby ducklings, feeling forlorn and a touch homesick.

The front doors of Hogwarts swung open to reveal a witch with black hair pulled back into a tight bun, dark brown eyes and squarish spectacles perched on her nose. Although not yet middle age at the age of thirty-six, Minerva McGonagall seemed far older than that – perhaps it was her brusque manner, but she could easily pass for ten or twenty years older than her age.

She informed the students that she was the Deputy Headmistress, Professor McGonagall and would be their transfiguration teacher too. The stern professor proceeded to give the chilled students a bracing pep-talk about the house which they were about to be sorted into being like their family for the next seven years.

Sirius snorted. He’d wanted to come to Hogwarts to get away from his family, well except for Regulus. He hoped that his housemates would be a lot better than his family. As she led them inside, Sirius felt his stomach starting to clench. He looked at the three other boys and saw that Remus looked nervous too. Peter looked petrified and James looked positively excited, but then, the stupid berk knew where he was going to be sitting for the feast, even before the Sorting Hat got near the tosser’s head. One thing for sure, since the ceremony took place alphabetically, Sirius Black wouldn’t have to wait long to learn his fate.

B for Black he might be first up!

Chapter 14

Christmas 1971

The four boys jostled and roughhoused with each other as they boarded the Hogwarts Express at the end of their first school term; they were excited to be going home to their families for the holidays. Well, James, Remus, and Peter were excited, having missed their parents a lot. Sirius was more nervous than excited. He knew he was going to be in big trouble when he got home and if he had any doubt about it, the constant stream of Howlers from his mother that had to start arriving the morning after he’d been sorted into Gryffindor confirmed his worst fears.  He was in deep dragon doodoo!

All four first-year wizards had been sorted into the House of the Brave and Impetuous, including Peter; go figure, since he seemed scared of his own shadow. Remus was so shocked when sorted into the gold and scarlet house that Frank needed to come up and gently coax him off the stool and lead him to the form to sit down next to Sirius so that the sorting could continue. And then there was James, who no one was the least bit surprised about when he was sent to Gryffindor since all his Potter ancestors had been sorted there, too.

Sirius reckoned that the shabby old sorting ceremony had pretty much outdone itself by the time it reached the Bs with his drama-filled sorting into Gryffindor; everything after that point was pretty much an anticlimax. When it was announced that he’d been sorted into Gryffindor, there was a shocked silence – the headmaster looked like he’d swallowed his tongue as his eyes bulged out of his head. Professor McGonagall and the other professors present all looked at the young Black with a mixture of mistrust and disbelief. The exception was the Slytherin Head of House, Professor Slughorn who was wringing his hands, proclaiming it was an outrageous disgrace and action needed to be taken immediately. He looked as if he was about ready to start sobbing into his pumpkin juice.

The Slytherins looked equally shocked and angry. Most looked like they wanted to chuck him off the astronomy tower. Meanwhile, his cousin Narcissa, with the true stoicism of a Black, was being comforted by that anaemic looking vampire, Malfoy. He glared at Sirius with hate that made the wizard’s skin crawl, and he knew with certainty that he would need to watch his back around him. Without even trying he’d made a mortal enemy out of the fifth-year student on the first day – that had to be a record!

The Gryffindors were effusive, overwhelmingly so and he wondered was it because they really wanted to welcome him or so they could stick it to the Slytherins that finally, a Black was wearing the gold and scarlet colours. Being a young wizard prone to cynicism, he reckoned it was most likely the latter, although Frank had been welcoming, as had Fabian and Gideon. They were family though, so it didn’t count. Alice was lovely to him but then again, she was a prefect – it was her job.

Still, he had the four of them there supporting him as the rest of the first years were sorted, making the waiting a little easier. He knew Potter would probably end up in Gryffindor. He didn’t reckon that Hogwarts could survive the fallout James wasn’t sorted into Gryffindor, not after the furore with Sirius. However, it was a long wait until he found out where his other two acquaintances from the train would end up. Would they be classmates or fellow Gryffindors?

When the sorting hat finally reached Remus Lupin, it seemed to take almost as long as it did in sorting him before it shouted out, “Gryffindor, I think!”

When Frank escorted him over, Remus looked shocked and very scared as he joined Sirius, sitting down to wait numbly. Fabian moved over allowing Remus to sit beside Sirius and it seemed before they knew it, Peter was sitting next to Remus which kind of proved to Sirius that the Sorting Hat was an old and barmy magical artefact. As far as he was concern it needed to be sent off to retirement because the kid seemed like he was afraid of his own shadow and equally scared of hard work. Pete had already latched onto Remus because he was obviously brainy.

Finally, it was Potter’s turn. He was the third last in line and the hat was barely on his head when it shouted, “Oh another Potter! Gryffindor of course.”

James jumped off the stool, strolling nonchalantly over to the long table, as if there hadn’t been a doubt in the world that he’d end up in Gryffindor. And there probably wasn’t!

And then there were the four of them at the Gryffindor form that stretched from one end of the Great Hall to the other. Soon the feast began after announcements by the headmaster who made a few corny jokes that everyone laughed at dutifully. Then the students proceeded to pig out on all the amazing food before heading off to their dormitories and common rooms for the first night of term.

All except Sirius who, after the other students had gone on ahead had been taken by the fifth-year prefect, Frank Longbottom to report to Madame Pomfrey, who was the school Mediwitch for an examination under the watchful eyes of the Headmaster Dumbledore and Professors McGonagall and Slughorn. Not only had Madame Pomfrey examined his head closely, but she checked to see if anyone had confounded or imperious him into trying to leap out the window earlier in the day. Not able to find any reason for his crazy behaviour, she’d insisted that he might have a concussion and she wanted him to spend the night in the infirmary under her observation. He’d heard someone whisper about his mother’s mental instability and he knew they were wondering if he was crazy too.

After trying to jump out of the train he’d wondered the same thing. Most everyone in the family knew that his cousin Bellatrix Black was off her rocker too, but his Uncle Alphard said that it was their damn Crabbe blood. He’d also said that it was only ever the Crabbe females who ended up going nuts.

Now they were going home for the Christmas break and although Sirius was looking forward to seeing Regulus and his Uncle Alphard again, he was not looking forward to the reception that awaited him when he got home. Still, to spend the holiday with Reg he would just have to put up with his mother’s rants, foaming at the mouth and abuse. He was sure that Kreacher was already planning a heap of super fun stuff to make him wish he’d never been born a Black but Kreacher was too late. He frequently wished he’d never been born a Black. Sirius used to wish sometimes that he’d never been born at all. Although, since starting at Hogwarts, he now wished he were like some of his cousins, born a Greengrass, Prewitt, Longbottom, or a Potter.

Still, if he had to be miserable, over the Christmas break, he was happy that he would at least be able to check out something in a particular book they had in the Black Library at Grimmauld Place. At Hogwarts, it was in the restricted section and he really wanted to read it again to check if he was right. He, James, and Peter had noticed in the first term that Remus was sick a lot and had to visit the infirmary, spending several days there, missing classes, and coming back all sad and depressed. James reckoned he was hurt, having seen him wince when he climbed the stairs to the Gryffindor common room.

What Sirius noticed was that it happened every single month since the term started and that it always occurred with the full moon. He was almost sure what was going on, but he wanted to be sure before he asked Remus. Plus, he might ask Uncle Alphard about the Lupin family. Maybe there was something that they could do to help him.

As the train ate up the miles between Hogsmeade and London Peter, James and Remus became increasingly excited at the thought of seeing their parents. All three were only children and no doubt were looking forward to seeing them again. He wondered what that would feel like before his thoughts turned to the dumb Sorting Hat ceremony back in September.

When Professor McGonagall set the magical artefact on his head when he told it, “Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.”

His uncle Alphard had told him that he and the hat could carry on a mental conversation which was a relief because he didn’t want anyone hearing his secrets even if the hat could read his mind. His uncle had told him that there was a skill that was called Occlumency which involved organising a wizard or witches’ memories, protecting them so that mind readers called Legilimens couldn’t penetrate their thoughts. Unfortunately, Sirius was just a first-year student, and he didn’t know Occlumency although he decided he was going to ask Alphard to teach him how to practice it.

It would be useful to keep stuff from his father and crazy mother, not to mention when they were planning pranks at Hogwarts. James had inspired him on the train that first day they met, turning a bunch of Slytherin second year’s noses into pig snouts. It had been glorious!

‘Not Slytherin you say? But all the Blacks go to Slytherin.’

Sirius had just kept mentally repeating the mantra, ‘Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.”

“But where to send you if not Slytherin. You possess enduring loyalty to your friends so you could flourish in Hufflepuff. You’re likely to be at the top of your year and even with the calibre of students this year, you could certainly hold your own in Ravenclaw. You also have impetuous bravery and a self-sacrificing nature that would make Gryffindor feel like home. But I do fear with what lies ahead, you will need ambition and wiliness to fulfil your destiny. Are you sure you don’t want Slytherin, young Heir?’

At first, he thought the Sorting Hat had been talked around, but when it mentioned Slytherin, Sirius was alarmed by the artefact seeming fixated on him going to Slytherin. That was not what he wanted. ‘Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.’

‘Stubborn aren’t you. How Gryffindor of you, the young son of the House of Black. Hmm, perhaps you’ll have need of the lions before you’re done. Yes, I think so. It had better be Gryffindor and may Merlin give you strength to withstand your family’s fury, future Lord Black!’

“It’s Gryffindor for Black!” the hat shouted as pandemonium broke out.

Sirius felt equal parts relief and terror. He wasn’t going to Slytherin, but he also knew that being sorted into Gryffindor was like declaring war on his entire family and all they stood for. He’d thought he was ready to deal with the backlash of being sorted into Ravenclaw but GRYFFINDOR?

He remembered being welcomed to the Gryffindor table by Frank Longbottom as he’d somehow managed to find his way over to the correct table despite his shock when he realised what he’d done. It hadn’t been his intention to declare war on his whole family – it was far too big and powerful!

Now as the moment crept ever closer to when he would be forced to face up to his family, he was in a funk. As the express pulled into Kings Cross Station he could see Uncle Alphard waiting for him on the station. Sirius felt a sinking feeling, knowing that something was very wrong. As he wished his fellow Gryffindors a Happy Yule he knew that this was not going to be a happy time at all.

~o0o~

The Christmas break had been even worse than he’d expected, and his expectations had not been high, to begin with. He’d expected his mother’s constant lunatic ravings and her house-elf’s punishments, even though they weren’t pleasant. He’d expected that his father would lecture him about what a disappointment he was and how much shame he’d brought to the family and he was right – that’s exactly what happened, every opportunity he got over the Christmas break.

His grandfather had thankfully taken a different tack, he’d ignored him for the three hours that he’d attended the Black family Christmas dinner. As did most of the Blacks including his Grandmother Melania, but he’d noticed that she pretty much ignored him and Regulus anyway, doting on Aunt Lucretia’s twins and Gemini. To his surprise though his two great aunts, Cassie and Dorea were kind to him, and his Uncle Alphard was too, although he had to pretend to be mad at him when Sirius’ parents were around so that his uncle wasn’t banded from seeing him – now and in the future.

What he wasn’t ready for though, was his little brother, Regulus. He had turned into a pureblood apologist, parroting the same bunch of tripe that his parents and Uncle Cygnus sprouted pretty much every time they opened their mouths. No way had he seen that coming.

Oh, Reg had always been his mother’s favourite child and he could see why. Regulus was shy and quiet. He was obedient and listened to their mother, never argued with her, or ignored what she said. He was everything that Sirius wasn’t, which was why he had thought that his mother would never physically or mentally abuse him – he was her beloved darling baby. Yet he and his brother had a close and loving relationship despite everything but after one term of Sirius attending Hogwarts, Regulus hated him and seemed joined at the hip with his mother.

He said vile and disgusting stuff – the sort of claptrap that their mother proclaimed, so assured of her superiority even though she was freaking CRAZY! But hey, she was a pureblood and therefore above reproach. Reg had stopped going out with the Ankle Biters, saying he wanted to spend his time with his mother and of course Kreacher, who he adored. That foul little monster smiled evilly at Sirius whenever he was addressing his Master Regulus. He had to know how much it upset him to see his little brother swallowed up by the hate and prejudice of Walburga’s insanity, combined with pureblood hatred of her ‘inferiors’ and it made him happy.

Sirius had pleaded with Alphard to do something, but he told him that he’d already been trying all term, but he was at his wit’s end. They both tried to get him to come out and exercise Paddy in the snow-covered streets of Islington, but Reg had turned his nose up and said that real wizards didn’t waste their time with inferior beasts. Walking dogs was something foolish muggles did, and he had better things to do than spend time with his brother who was a muggle lover. He said he had to restore the reputation of the family after Sirius had ruined it.

When Sirius had spent time building snowmen and having snow-ball wars with their cousins, Reg had declined, saying that it was a dumb muggle pastime. It was not dignified for pureblood wizards and he would rather read the History of Salazar Slytherin again because he would be a proud snake when he attended Hogwarts and make their parents proud instead of shamed. Of course, while muggles did build snowmen and have snowball wars, Sirius proceeded to impress the Ankle Biters with his new magical skills, charming the snowman so he could walk and talk. When they broke into two teams to lob snowballs at their opponents, his team won because he enlisted the snowman to sneak up on Arron, Ares and Pip and bury them in a giant snowball.

The only good thing was he’d also got a chance to talk to Pandora. She told him that sometimes, bad things happened for a reason.

He said, “You don’t really mean that do you, Panda?  I don’t believe there’s any reason why Regulus deserves to be turned into a monster by my mother and a house-elf.”

She looked sad. “I know, Siri. I’m so sorry. But it wasn’t your fault,” she told him.

“But what can I do?” he said sounding desperate because he was.

His friend shook her head helplessly. “Maybe one day he’ll want you to save him but until then, I don’t think you can. He’s stopped coming to Ankle Biter outings.”

He felt so frustrated but was grateful that Pandora was still willing to be his friend. Now that he’d lost his brother, she was his best friend. He said as much.

“I’ll always be your friend, Sirius. Forever and beyond,” the little girl told him earnestly. “Ending a friendship over what house you get sorted into at Hogwarts is plain stupid. Loyalty, kindness, love, and cooperation are all good reasons to be friends with others; being assigned by a magical artefact in the ‘wrong house’ is not. And even if I cared about that sort of bosh, it isn’t like the Abbotts or the Ollivanders have ever been sorted into Slytherin.”

He smiled because it was true. “The Ollivanders – seers and wandmakers had always been Ravens and the Abbots were pureblood but usually in Hufflepuff.

“Besides, it’s not your fault the Sorting Hat sent you to Gryffindor.”

When he didn’t say anything, she stopped and looked at him inquisitively. “What? Did you do something?”

Sirius shrugged. “Uncle Alphard told me that you could state your wishes about which house you wanted to go to, but the Sorting Hat makes the decision,” he told her guiltily because he was second-guessing himself. If only he’d just gone to Slytherin, Reg wouldn’t have felt like he needed to side with Walburga.

But I thought it would send me to Ravenclaw and I figured they’d kick up a stink but then they’d get over it, you know?”

Pandora gave him a lightning-quick hug. Being his best friend growing up, she knew he wasn’t comfortable with hugs. They made him feel weird.

He looked at her curiously. “What was that for Panda?”

“Because it’s not your fault. You said it yourself, Siri. You can make a request, but the Hat decided where you go. Did you ask to go to Gryffindor?”

“No, I didn’t ask to go anywhere, except not to Slytherin. I hate all the pureblood superiority garbage, all the wanting to kill muggles and muggle-born witches and wizards. I HATE IT!”

“Well, the Sorting Hat is supposed to be all infallible. Mummy told Lord Black it must have had a really good reason to send you to Gryffindor.”

While Sirius was processing the fact that Panda’s mother had been speaking to Arcturus about him, the small blonde girl giggled.

“Maybe when I go to Hogwarts next year, I’ll ask the Sorting hat to place me in Gryffindor too.”

Sirius gave her a fleeting hug. “I really wish you could be in my house, Panda. We both know that Pip will get there, and she’ll drive me crazy.”

Pandora giggled ever harder. “Is she still pestering you, Siri?”

“She tells everyone she is my girlfriend. I’m way too young to have a girlfriend,” he wailed. He wasn’t like his Grandfather Pollux.

“It’s better than telling everyone she’s going to marry you when she leaves Hogwarts,” she teased him playfully.

“Oh no, she still does that even though I told her a thousand times that’s not happening,” he said crossly.

“Do you remember when we were little, and she said that? I said I was going to marry my Daddy, and everyone laughed at me?”

“Yeah, I remember. Do you still want to marry your father?”

“No, but I do like older men,” she teased. “Your grandfather, Lord Black is very handsome.”

Sirius gaped at her, wondering if she was pulling his wand. If she wasn’t joking, he wondered what was wrong with her. Not just her but James too. He was acting all gooey eyed about a witch in Gryffindor called Lily Evans. She was the witch he’d seen walking along the Platform nine and three quarters. She had green eyes, long red hair, and a fiery temper to match, plus she was super smart. James had (stupidly) announced to the whole common room one night in the presence of Lily that he was going to make Miss Evans the next Mrs Potter. She’d called him an arrogant git, then kicked him in the ankle, telling him she wouldn’t marry him if he was the last wizard in Britain. Then she went flouncing off to the first-year dormitory with two of her roommates.

It hadn’t discouraged him. Not one little bit as far as Sirius can judge. If anything, James’ reaction to being rejected had been a lot like Pegasus Potter (who was James’ cousin after all) when Sirius had told her to leave him alone. She just said that she liked a wizard with spirit. Similarly, James had grinned after Lily goofily, clutching his ankle as he rolled around on the floor of the Gryffindor common room, getting mighty close to the fireplace. As she left the common room in a snit, he grinned and announced to everyone that Potters loved a challenge.

He left corny love poems beside her porridge every morning at breakfast. He would follow her around, wanting to carry her books for her. Despite her rejecting all his sappy advances ruthlessly, it never stopped him.

James was consumed with jealousy when he realised her best friend was a Slytherin first year called Severus Snape. He rapidly became James bitter enemy, earning the nickname Snivellus Snape as the other boys dutifully joined in the enmity as it became about house pride. Sirius abhorred Severus on sight, reminding him of all the worst rhetoric which was now also being spouted by his baby brother, about how Slytherins purebloods were far superior to muggles and muggle-born witches and wizards.

Honestly, he couldn’t figure out how Snape had been sorted into Slytherin – when Snivellus was clearly NOT pure blood. Slytherins were the most class-conscious bunch of stuck-up berks. He remembered seeing Snape’s parents at Kings Cross station in September. His mother was undoubtedly a pureblood witch. She had that typical someone shoved a stick-up-her-bum pureblood posture accompanied by air of sour disapproval when she saw anyone who wasn’t pureblood. Frankly, she reminded him of Walburga, without her mad rants except he got the feeling that Snape’s mother was too much of a lady to let that type of abusive vitriol cross her refined pureblood lips.

The thing he couldn’t figure out was how she ever ended up with Snape’s father though. Sirius was sure Severus’ father was a muggle. As he walked down the platform at Kings Cross Station, his discomfort at being around magical folk seemed as apparent as Lily Evans older sister had been. Rather than being enthralled or overawed by it, they both acted disgusted by magic and magical people. So, it seemed like Tobias Snape was an exceedingly strange choice of husband for the very snobby Eileen Prince to end up with. Perhaps he was a squib – that would explain his resentment towards all things magical, but it sure didn’t explain how those two ended up married with a son.

According to his Uncle Alphard, half-blood students were almost always ostracised and constantly bullied if they ended up in Slytherin, but Snape seemed to fit in okay. Maybe his dad was half-blood and not a muggle. Technically, if his father wasn’t a pureblood, Snivellus would be considered a half-blood, regardless of whether his father was a muggle or a half-blood. But in a House like Slytherin, it wasn’t just a technicality and social class was everything. Any wizard having a muggle father was viewed as being too lowly to share the same air as themselves. In some ways, to a pureblood, a witch of pureblood marrying a muggle was way more offensive than two muggle-borns which although illogical, was their reality. Sirius couldn’t figure out how someone like Snape was able to gain acceptance. Maybe he lied.

But he doubted that would continue if he continued to hang around with Lily, a Gryffindor, AND a muggle-born witch, although the snakes usually referred to them as a mudblood. It was a highly offensive term for muggle-born folk, all because the purebloods were outraged and offended that wizards and witches who they considered were beneath them, were permitted to mix with them. Purebloods considered themselves to be the elite and while they had barely managed to cope with having half-bloods living in their midst, no muggle-born student had ever been sorted into Slytherin.

Sirius just knew that it would all end badly. Lily honestly thought she and Snivellus could be friends at Hogwarts because they had been childhood friends from the same town of Cokeworth in The Midlands. Someone live Snape, whose mother was a pureblood witch could possibly be that naïve though. He must surely know that he couldn’t hope to fit in as a Slytherin and have a muggle-born best friend.

Those two things were incompatible. Sooner or later, Severus would be forced to choose between being the friend of muggle-born Lily Evans or being true to his Slytherin values. Since it was obvious to Sirius that Snape despised his father and worshipped his pureblood mother, Sirius had no doubt that he’d chose his Slytherin peers over Lily when the time came. If he really wanted to choose her, he would have done what Sirius had, begged to be placed anywhere but Slytherin. The fact he hadn’t indicated to Sirius that he believed in the whole pureblood supremacy bullshit.

It was like that muggle tale that Pandora had told him one day about a scorpion and a frog who meet on the bank of a stream. The scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog isn’t sure he should help so he asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.” So, the frog is satisfied, and they set out together, but in the middle of the stream, the scorpion stings the frog. As the venom starts to paralyse the frog, he knows they’re both going to drown. The frog has just enough time to ask the scorpion, “Why did you sting me? Now we’ll both die!” The scorpion tells the frog, “It’s my nature.”

Snape was the scorpion – a half-blood Slytherin who would have to throw a muggle-born friend under the Hogwarts’ Express, so no one looked too closely at his dubious blood status. And Sirius couldn’t help but despise him for his Slytherin nature putting self-interest over friendship. He tried not to think about Lily’s pain when she learnt the hard way.

Uncle Alphard told him that originally Salazar Slytherin was afraid that muggles would try to kill all magical humans but that his stance on muggle-born magical humans as dangerous had created the pureblood elite that existed today. Sirius knew that those fears were real in the Middle Ages, even up to the 17th and 18th centuries. The fact that witches and wizards were being horribly persecuted was a well-known fact to kids who collected Chocolate Frog Cards of famous witches, thanks to Wendel the Weird. Her claim to fame was that she apparently enjoying the cruel practice of being burnt at the stake so much she allowed herself to be captured and burnt multiple times in various disguises. Some folk claimed it happened at least 14 times while other accounts put the burning as high as 47 times. Sirius reckoned she should have been called Wendel the Barmy.

Anyway, the point was that old Salazar Slytherin had real reasons to fear muggles. Now the class system of ranking purebloods as more special than half-bloods and muggle-born magical served an entirely different purpose. It was all about containing all the wealth and power because Pureblood folk didn’t want to share either with anyone else.

It was about control.

Chapter 15

January 1972

Sirius was happy to head back to Hogwarts for the winter school term to escape from his father’s anger and disapproval and his mother’s disgust and daily verbal abuse. Calling him a blood traitor, abomination, scum, or filth was hardly surprising to him, but it didn’t make it any less unpleasant to bear, either. Plus, when those particularly hurtful slurs weren’t sufficient for her purposes of trying to destroy any sense of self-worth he had, there was always the memorable insults that he was by-products of dirt and vileness (which he figured was the pure-blooded equivalent of calling him a pile of shit) and she rounded out the verbal attacks on him by telling him he was the shame of her flesh.

So, he didn’t shed any tears over leaving his parents far behind but in the first term, it had been terribly difficult to leave behind Regulus, his beloved little brother. But that was then, this was now. That Regulus was no more. Now he was a true pureblood apologist. His little brother that Sirius adored was eager to make sure that Sirius hurt just in case he did suffer enough fallout from the other Slytherins and purebloods at Hogwarts. As he left to go back to school, he was forced to face the fact was that much as Sirius might want to save Reg from his parents’ bigoted ways, Reg didn’t want to be saved.

Pandy had said, you can’t save someone unless they want you too. He had to trust that she was right, that his brother may come to his senses when he was older and reach out for Sirius’ help. If he didn’t try to believe that might be a possibility, then he was to blame for not sacrificing himself to save Reg and Sirius was pretty sure he couldn’t live with that much guilt. Sirius just had to wait, watch, and hope it would be okay.

Meanwhile, he tearfully turned his energy into trying to help someone who he hoped would accept his help. A friend who wouldn’t be a stubborn mule and let his friends help him. At least he hoped so, but Remus was an obstinate wizard – he would want to be the selfless and bloody noble hero. Still, the Black library had yielded some valuable information that had led him to develop a couple of plans and he’d nicked a couple of priceless books out of Grimmauld Place, smuggling them into his school trunk to take back with him to Hogwarts.

He’d also managed to organise for his Uncle to send him a large supply of Honeydukes chocolate every month. He suspected that Alphard thought he was setting up a business inside Hogwarts and he chuckled over the idea. Then again, the more he thought about it, he realised the idea did have merit, especially amongst the first and second years who didn’t have Hogsmeade visiting privileges and it would also help allay anyone’s suspicions. The last thing he wanted was to give anyone the wrong idea (or the right idea) about why Remus disappeared on such a regular basis and craved vast amounts of chocolate. He was surprised that more people hadn’t noticed already, and by more people he meant Slytherins, since they tended to be very well educated in the dark arts and keen to stick their noses into everyone else’s business.

So, wanted to provide cover for their friend, and he thought James would be on board with it. He was not so sure about Peter so he’d decided to talk to James first – then both would approach Remus and they could decide whether to let Pettigrew in on this caper. It seemed fair since if he were right about this, it could mean life or death for Remus. The truth was that he wasn’t the most trusting of wizards – perhaps it was being educated in the dark arts from such an early age, but Alphard was the only adult Sirius trusted completely. Okay, so maybe he didn’t trust him completely, he’d never told him about all the physical and mental abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother and her obnoxious house-elf Kreacher. But he certainly trusted him more than he trusted anyone else.

He’d gotten lucky with Alphard. In a huge family filled to the brim with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, he’d always felt so alone. No one saw what was going on right under their very noses and he never told anyone. Truthfully, he didn’t think anyone would believe him. After all, the Black family were powerful, feared, and revered (well among the Slytherin purebloods and even amongst the so-called light side) people were wary of making enemies of the Ancient and Noble House of Black.

Of course, you’d have to be blind, deaf and an idiot not to notice that Walburga was at least one ingredient short of a potion but maybe he was the dumb one. Maybe they all knew what was going on and they approved of her methods of raising him. They probably believed that he deserved it and maybe they were right, after all, she had always been totally different to Reg.

Still, he wasn’t sure he would have been able to endure the Christmas break if it hadn’t been for Alphard and Pandora. Pip had driven him crazy, but he supposed he should be grateful that she talked to him. The trouble was that she wanted to do a whole heap more than talk to him and he didn’t want to hurt her feelings and tell her that he didn’t feel like that about her. He’d tried to let her down easy, telling her he was way too young to have feelings like that or want to get married. She’d argued that wasn’t true.

She’d contended, “Your grandfather, Pollux Black was only thirteen when your mother was born. That means he was only have been twelve (the same age as you are now) when he and his grandmother Irma had made Baby Walburga. And your Uncle Cygnus was only thirteen when Cousin Bella was born which means that he was just twelve too when she was conceived. Obviously, wizards in your line get started young.”

Sirius knew about Pollux and it made him feel sick to his stomach that his grandfather would get a witch pregnant as a second-year Hogwarts student. He couldn’t imagine getting married and becoming a father to a baby at thirteen. However, he didn’t realise Uncle Cygnus had done the exact same thing with Bella. He checked out the family tree to make sure that Pip had her facts straight and was shocked and dismayed to find out she was right. It seemed that like father like son, his uncle was a right randy little bugger and he lost even more respect for his family… if that was possible.

However, he’d countered Pip by saying that his mother had been 34 years old, and his father was 30 years old when he was born. He had no intention of getting married before he left school and he didn’t like Pip that way anyway. He wasn’t sure he’d discouraged her – like James she was not easy to squash. At least when he was back at school, she wouldn’t be following him around constantly, which was annoying.

Once they were back at Hogwarts, he was mindful that he needed to talk to James alone before the full moon. It took some doing but he finally managed to talk to him by waking him up in the middle of the night and sneaking into a room on the seventh floor that was full to the brim with a heap of old junk, old books, broken desks, ancient broom, dusty old robes plus who knew what else. They sat down in a space on the cold stone floor and James who was still half asleep and inclined to be grumpy gave him a bleary-eyed look.

“What’s was so bloody important we need to get up in the middle of the blessed night, sneak out of Gryffindor and sit into this grubby old junk room which is bloody freezing?”

Sirius didn’t take offence – James liked his sleep once he was asleep. Instead, he cast a warming charm since it was chilly in their dressing gowns and pyjamas. “So, remember how the last term when Remus was getting sick every month and how wrecked he was when he came back from the infirmary.”

“Yeah, you said you might know what was wrong, but you wouldn’t say.”

“Yeah, not ‘til I was sure.”

James sat up; all traces of sleepiness gone. “And are you?”

“Pretty sure. I wanted to double-check with a book that we have at home.”

Sirius produced an obviously old book he’d concealed under his woollen dressing gown. James raised his eyes at the title – Dangerous Magical Beasts – and Sirius opened it to a page he already had marked and pushed it at the bespectacled wizard. “Read it!” He instructed his friend.

What is a werewolf?  A werewolf is a human infected with lycanthropy and when the moon is full, changes into a dangerous wolf form which only exists for a very brief time during the full moon. Other than the full moon, a werewolf is a completely normal human, but the term werewolf is used for both the wolf-like creature and the normal human.

How is a werewolf created? Lycanthropy occurs when a human is bitten by a werewolf while they are in their wolf-like form, not when they are human.

How do you tell the difference between a wolf and a werewolf? Physically there are a few small distinctive features of werewolves including the pupil size, the snout shape, and they have a tufted tail.

Do werewolves retain human awareness when in their wolf-like state? When transformed a werewolf is highly dangerous as all traces of human awareness is absent and the werewolf will attack any witch or wizard, including their friends or family.

He read the passage and looked up at Sirius, his hazel eyes sombre.

The grey-eyed wizard said, “What do you think?”

James said, “Oh Merlin’s grey beard, it fits. Remus is a werewolf!”

Sirius nodded. “I think so. You can see why I wanted to check to be sure before I said anything, right?” His friend nodded looking dazed.

“To be honest, I don’t see how the teachers and the headmaster plan to keep this a secret, James. Lots of families who are pure-bloods will figure this out.”

“And Remus obviously doesn’t want people to know.”

“Yeah, and that’s smart. The Slytherins will want him chucked out of Hogwarts… if he’s lucky. People like the Abraxas Malfoy and my mother will want him killed.”

James went white. “Seriously?”

“That’s my name,” Siri said automatically and got an eye roll from him. “But all joking aside because it isn’t a joking matter, if Walburga or Abraxas found out that a werewolf was attending Hogwarts they would flip their lids. Then start demanding that the committee for the Control of Dangerous Creatures execute him.”

“But that’s terrible. It isn’t Remus’ fault he was attacked by a werewolf. He’s just a kid like us. He’s not some monster!”

“In the eyes of Slytherin purebloods, he is. The truth is that my mother who is off her trolley and Abraxas Malfoy are just saying what all of them are thinking, which is why we have to make sure no one finds out,” Sirius said.

“How?” James wanted to know.

“I have some ideas. We start providing excuses about why Remus is missing every month.”

“How?” James asked a second time.

Sirius rolled his eyes. “Little bit of thinking outside the box, Jamie. We start causing mischief and mayhem. That leads to the odd prank going awry – and sometimes a minor injury, like slipping down the stairs and voila, a trip to the school infirmary is required. Or the Marauders plan an epic prank where we deliberately get caught and get detention that lasts the entire night,” he said.

James looked excited. “I see where you’re going with this. We could start sneaking out of Gryffindor at other times besides the full moons so it isn’t so obvious – after all, if we noticed, then seriously, sooner or later others will too. I just have one question, mate. What’s a marauder? I thought it was a brigand or a plunderer?”

Sirius chuckled. “Did I ever tell you that my Uncle Alphard, who is Mother’s brother used to call Reg, me and my close cousins the Ankle Biters?”

“Nope. So?”

“Well, I think that we need a name for us too. Marauders seem to be a cool handle. Mischief, mayhem and watching each other’s backs.”

James shrugged, “I guess! So, what now?”

“We need to get Remus on board and then vote about if we make Pete a Marauder or if it is just us.”

“Why wouldn’t we make him one?”

“Because I don’t know if we can trust him. Werewolves are heavy stuff to some folk and Peter isn’t the bravest wizard. I’m not sure why the Sorting Hat put him in Gryffindor. I like Pete but you gotta admit that he’s a wimp. Besides – this is Remus’ life so I reckon he should decide if he wants Peter to know about his furry little problem,” Sirius said gravely.

“But you trusted me,” Potter said. “How’s that different?”

“You’re my cousin, okay distant cousin but we are still family, plus you’re a Potter. All your family are Gryffindors, James. They don’t fear muggles or muggle-borns, so I figured they won’t be afraid of a wizard who for a couple of days of the year has a little furry problem and is perfectly normal the rest of the month.”

He looked at his distant cousin critically. “Are you telling me you are going to spill Remus secret?”

James looked highly offended. “Of course not. I’m not a bigot.”

“Good because I’m trusting you, Cousin. Plus, the Marauders aren’t just going to try and confuse everyone. I want to help Remus too.”

His friend rubbed his hazel eyes. It was late and they needed to get some sleep. “I didn’t think that there was anything that could cure werewolves. What can we do?”

Sirius produced another book from inside his dressing gown with a flourish and a drum roll. The title of the rather flea-bitten book was… How to Find Your Inner Animagi.

James raised his eyebrows. “I don’t get it.”

Pulling the previous book towards him, he quickly thumbed through it looking for the passage he’d marked beforehand and stuck it under James’ nose. It said…

A bite or attack by a werewolf on a human when they were transformed into their wolf form during the full moon either results in death if the injuries were severe enough or if the victim survived, they became a werewolf too. The only exception to the transmission of lycanthropy was for wizards and witches who were Animagus. If they were already transformed into their Animagi form when the attack occurred this would make them immune to catching lycanthropy if bitten by a werewolf. It would not protect them from death, however, if the werewolf inflicted grievous injuries which were incompatible with life…Of course, wizards or witches who can become Animagus are extremely rare as the process is extremely difficult and not without risk. Few in the wizarding world are willing to attempt it.

Looking confused, he asked, “How does this help us or Remus? We aren’t Animagi, Sirius.”

Looking quite pleased with himself he said, “Not yet we’re not. But with the help of that book, we could be,” he pointed to the probably priceless book he’d smuggled out of Grimmauld Place library.

They talked about it for almost an hour and James started to believe that it just might work. After all, Professor McGonagall was a tabby cat, so clearly it was possibly. If they did become Animagi, then they could spend the full moons with Remus, so he didn’t have to feel like a monster and be all alone. Sirius said that he’d probably always spent every full moon scared and alone since he was infected, and that was a horrible thought for both boys.

They finally decided to call it a night, Sirius decided to save his other plan to help their friend with the Honey Dukes Chocolate supply caper until later. He’d found another book in the Black Library at Grimmauld Place that was about the Magical Properties of Foods That Heal. Curious since he’d noticed how Remus seemed to crave chocolate frogs and hot chocolate after he was recovering from the full moon, he’d looked up the magical properties of chocolate and discovered that milk chocolate represented:

  • friendship
  • self-love
  • nurturing
  • love
  • balance
  • fun
  • raised emotional energy.

He’d also found other information about the painkilling opioid effects of certain compounds in chocolate which he figured meant that it would help Remus feel better. Other properties were said to be helpful for healing (called antioxidants) that would help his tortured body recover from the monthly transformation. But it was late, and they had a double potions lesson with old Sluggy later today.

Potions was James’ worst subject at the best of times. Sirius couldn’t decide if he was naturally clumsy and inept or if it was the sight of Lily partnering with Snivellus in Potions that was enough to cause him to wreck their potions (since they usually partnered in that class) unless Sirius had his wits about him. Honestly, he couldn’t afford to take his eyes off James for a second in that class.

Luckily, potion-making was one of Sirius’ better subjects, but it was often pure luck that James didn’t manage to blow up the potion lab and everyone in it. With so little sleep today, he was going to ban James from handling any of the potion ingredients or the cauldron for everyone’s safety and his reputation.

His plan to sell chocolate to the other students and make it easier for Remus to eat a ton of chocolate without raising people’s suspicions would wait to be shared for another day. So, they sneaked back down to the Gryffindor common room, careful not to be caught before falling into bed exhausted.

It was going to be a long day!

Chapter 16

September 1972 (Marauder’s 2nd Year)

Sirius looked around at all the beds in the Gryffindor boys’ 2nd-year dormitory in satisfaction and relief. Merlin, it felt so good to be back at Hogwarts. Of course, he was still in danger here from the Slytherins who were only too ready to hex him or hurt him. He seemed to get a lot of the snakes ‘accidentally’ bumping into him and sending him arse -over-tit down the stairs as Uncle Alphard would say, resulting in a visit to see Madame Pomphrey in the infirmary. He was already intimately familiar with Skele-Grow from his first year, but he knew that his ‘clumsiness’ courtesy of the Slytherins was unlikely to abate this year.

Yet he would take all their subversive attacks on him rather than having to endure another two months of summer holidays with his family at 12 Grimmauld Place. He was hoping that they would have had time to accept his placement in Gryffindor and that with Reg being such a model Slytherin-like son, he’d simply be ignored. Sadly, that hadn’t proved to be the case. Turned out that Orion felt humiliated and thought that the Knights of Walpurgis would reject him because Sirius had been sorted into Gryffindor. His father had confided to him that it was his mother’s fault for babying him when he was little (he must have missed that) which had obviously turned him into a blood traitor. His dad seemed to think that all that was required to ‘fix Sirius’ was to make a man out of him.

This process seemed to entail Orion dragging him off with some of his Slytherin colleagues to participate in one of their favourite sports of muggle baiting which according to his father’s bragging, pretty much always turned to muggle killing. Of course, Sirius had used his skill for underage Apparating to disappear from their disgusting and illegal activities, not caring that the consequence would ultimately involve some new forms of torture devised by Kreacher when he returned home.

He thought that things couldn’t get any worse but apparently, his father’s Slytherin associates had been whispering in his father’s ear offering suggestions about ways to make a man out of him. His dear old dad was threatening to not just make a man out of him by making him kill muggles, but he told him his birthday present later this year would be a visit to a prostitute in Knockturn Ally. Sirius had already decided not to go home for Christmas!

Having the odd trip down the stairs at school, courtesy of the Slytherins seemed like a small price to pay for not having to be around his parent. Plus, it made Remus’ absences from the boys-second-year dormitory a lot less obvious to anyone who might notice because of Sirius’ own frequent injuries. The good thing was that the Marauders had decided to band together to watch his back. Someone was usually with him when he was out and about in the castle and likely to run into Slytherins. Alice and Frank as 6th-year prefects kept a close eye on him too.

The Prewitt twins considered themselves as unofficial Marauders by this stage and helped to watch the Slytherins. Although they didn’t know about Remus’ furry little problem or Operation Animagi they were privy to the legitimate side of the Honey Dukes Chocolate business, selling to their fellow students. It had made a tidy little profit for them all and while Sirius and James weren’t fussed about money, coming from wealthy families, Peter couldn’t get enough, and Remus wasn’t wealthy either.

Plus, Fabian and Gideon weren’t averse to having extra galleons for their future post-Hogwarts which meant that the business was flourishing. That Remus was frequently seen eating the merchandise was seen as a very clever marketing ploy. Which was exactly what Sirius had intended.

As the new school year got underway, his prediction that the Prewitt Ankle Biters would find their way to Gryffindor proved correct. Apparently, the fact that their surname was Prewitt and not Black meant that no one sent Aaron and Ares abusive howlers every morning at breakfast, unlike when Sirius was a first year. The predicted mayhem that two sets of red-haired Prewitt twins would cause had turned out to be an understatement. They were holy terrors!

Pegasus Potter, who most people called Pip (other than the professors who called her Miss Potter) had also been sorted into Gryffindor and happily continued to harass Sirius. Of course, she’d immediately announced to an almost full Gryffindor common room on the second night of the year that she intended to marry Sirius when he left Hogwarts. No surprise it caused much mirth at his expense and turned him a lovely shade of embarrassment.

Lily often helped him avoid Pip and he would return the favour with her and James by distracting him when he was being a total prat, letting her give him the slip. Sirius found his friendship with her deepening because of their shared experience at the hands of the obtuse Potter cousins who both refused to take no for an answer.

So, it was as a friend, he felt obligated to warn her about the doomed future of her friendship with Severus Snape, but on that subject, she stubbornly refused to listen to him. She believed she knew Snape better than Sirius did because they had been childhood friends together, so he’d stopped trying to warn her about the facts of life as they related to Slytherins. Some things you just had to learn the hard way.

Meanwhile, he was delighted that Panda was also at Hogwarts. Being sorted into Ravenclaw wasn’t a surprise, Ollivanders usually ended up there and even though she was an Abbott, the Ollivander line was strong in her. Pandora was already showing indications of being seer like her mother and grandmother before her. Having her at Hogwarts was amazing, they got to talk all the time and Panda did her best to keep Pip from harassing Sirius as much as possible. There was something really calming about Pandora Abbott – he’d missed her when he went away to school last year.

His other cousin, Phineas started at Hogwarts this year too. As a Greengrass and a Black, it didn’t surprise anyone that he was sorted into Slytherin, but he at least remained neutral. They might be Slytherin but the Greengrass family had always had the appearance of being non-aligned with the dark or light side, which was essentially to do with maintaining clients across the spectrum of their business interests. At least Phineas was polite if they were forced to interact, and Sirius was grateful for small mercies. As an Ankle Biter, Phineas had always been a bit of a conceited prat, so Sirius wasn’t all that surprised when he stopped hanging around with the other non-Slytherin members of the family like Aaron and Ares, Pip and Panda (who not blood was as good as his family).

The fact that he tried to avoid or ignored Sirius if it was practical to do so wasn’t a surprise. Like Snivellus, sooner or later they’d force him to choose between his fellow snakes or Sirius. He understood that Phineas couldn’t afford to choose him over Slytherin. He wasn’t exactly cut up over it because it was a fact of magical life and there was nothing to be done about it. However, he also knew that the day was coming when Regulus would begin at Hogwarts and inevitably be put into Slytherin, at which point any slim hope of a reunion between them would die a swift and bloody death. Regulus would be forced to pick a side and attack his own brother to prove his loyalty to the pure-bloods and Slytherin and he reckoned Reg would welcome the chance to publicly make him pay.

Sirius Black wasn’t looking forward to that day but there was nothing he could do about it.

~o0o~

As the term went along, the Marauders continued to gain a well- earned a reputation for playing pranks on their classmates and the teaching staff; they usually tried to come up with elaborate and clever pranks that involved charm work and careful research. Sometimes it involved potions, but they were careful not to dabble in anything dangerous or life-threatening. One time, Remus, who had turned out to be something of a dark horse, had come up with a prank where they’d dosed Headmaster Dumbledore’s lemon drops with Veritaserum and then organised for him to a give the commentary for the Slytherin versus Hufflepuff quidditch game with hilarious results. While they’d lost a heap of house points, it had been completely worth it to cheer Remus up who always felt down after his painful transformations.

The only exception to their rule about not harming or humiliating anyone with their pranking was the Slytherins. There was often a no holds barred approach adopted there – partly because of Lily, and the nasty rivalry between Snivellus and James’ and partly because the Marauders took a dim view of the Snakes attacking and hurting Sirius. And thanks to James’ amazing cloak of invisibility that had been a family heirloom for hundreds of years, they were able to get highly creative with those pranks which often doubled as payback.

Sirius especially loved causing that arrogant git, Lucius Malfoy to lose face amongst his fellow Slytherins. He was horrified to learn over the summer holidays that Abraxas Malfoy was trying to persuade his Uncle Cygnus to let him marry his cousin Andromeda – clearly, Bella was too crazy, even for them.

The idea of that despicable wizard marrying his cousin and becoming a part of his family disgusted him and that said a lot. There were already some appalling Blacks in the family tree, but they didn’t need to add the likes of the Malfoys to their already horrendous array of monsters. Some of the infamous Malfoys in the past included Nicholas Malfoy, a notorious member of the Malfoy family, thought to have murdered unruly Muggle tenants, disguising them as Black Death victims back in the Middle Ages. He was never reprimanded by the Wizard’s Council, no doubt because he was an influential pure-blood and therefore above the law.

The first Lucius Malfoy (circa 1500s) was a wizard who was associated with Muggle aristocracy and royalty. There was strong evidence that he was a suitor to Queen Elizabeth I and that when he failed to win her hand in marriage and become her consort, he jinxed her, so she was never married.

Another influential wizard had been Brutus Malfoy, the editor of an anti-muggle periodical called Warlock at War which was a polite name for a rabid rag that stirred up fear and bigotry of muggles using out and out lies (according to history books) and was responsible for the deaths of many hundreds of innocent muggles. He had been fond of telling his readers that, “Nothing is a surer sign of weak magic than a weakness for non-magical company.”

In the late eighteenth century, Septimius Malfoy, another charming member of the family, who was an extremely influential figure in the Ministry of Magic in Unctuous Osbert’s time in office, even though Septimius wasn’t an elected government official. Historians believe that Osbert was under the control of Malfoy during his term as Minister. So okay, Septimius was hateful but not blatantly violent, still having control over the head of the government made him dangerous and oh so Slytherin.

Desperate to follow in the footsteps of his loathsome ancestors, there was Abraxas Malfoy, the wizard who wanted his heir to marry a daughter of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. Many believed Abraxas had masterminded a plot to remove the first Muggle-born Minister for Magic, Nobby Leach, from office when he was forced to resign owing to developing a mysterious illness. Sirius supposed not even Abraxas Malfoy could get away with killing a Minister for Magic in plain sight, so he’d needed to be more creative.

Sirius fervently hoped that when it was Abraxas’ time to go, he caught some hideous disease and died a painful death. Unfortunately, as repugnant as the pureblood was he’d no doubt dodge it, just like he’d managed to avoid ending up in Azkaban.

He really hoped that Andi didn’t end up marrying Lucius, he loved his cousin, and she didn’t deserve to end up with Malfoy. So, if he stepped up the pranks to make him look like an idiot with his fellow Slytherins, it was to honour his older cousin. He was a twelve-year-old wizard, there wasn’t anything he could do to stop the marriage; however, he could make Malfoy’s life miserable – him and the other Marauders. And he took pleasure in it too.

~o0o~

Pandora Abbott and Lily Evans were suspicious. The Marauders were up to something big. Even though the four Gryffindors were constantly pranking students and staff, they were kept incredibly busy with their Honeydukes Chocolate business. It had grown into a thriving concern. Sirius had told everyone he started it because first and second years weren’t allowed to go up to Hogsmeade on visiting weekends. And it was true that Pandora missed being able to have her favourite chocolate to help combat homesickness but now she noticed that even the teachers who could go out to Hogsmeade every weekend had become some of the Marauder’s biggest customers – and the rest of the students too.

There was something else going on with the four second year Gryffindors, aside from their thriving business venture. Lily thought it was some massive prank intended to humiliate her best friend, Severus Snape but Pandora didn’t agree. Oh, she knew that James hated him and probably would be up for a humiliating prank, but she didn’t think that was what was keeping the Marauders so busy. While Sirius had talked a lot about his loathing for Severus who James had given the highly unflattering nickname of Snivellus, he and Pandora agreed that Lily would have to learn the hard way that Lily and Severus’ friendship – at least while they were at school – was doomed to fail.

Pandora didn’t need any second sight to agree that a Slytherin, especially a half-blood one at that, couldn’t afford to spend seven years in the House of Snakes without being forced into picking sides – either his friend or his housemates. It wasn’t anything personal and she doubted that anyone could stay neutral. Perhaps, Sirius – he’d gone against his entire family because he believed that the pure-blood philosophy wasn’t true, but Severus wasn’t Sirius. Panda knew that both boys had grown up with abusive parents, but Severus had a doting mother which was a whole lot more than Sirius had.

Still, she didn’t know why the staff hadn’t done something about both boys.

Scratch that, she knew why they didn’t have Walburga, and Orion Black investigated for the abuse they inflicted on Siri. They were important members of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight families. Plus, everyone believed that his parents were the next Lord and Lady Black. Panda knew thanks to her seer gifts that in fact, Sirius was Arcturus’ heir, and he would be the next Lord Black but not even her friend knew about his paternal grandfather’s intention to skip Orion. This was why people were afraid to cause trouble with Walburga and Orion Black because they didn’t want to make enemies of them. It was wrong but it was the way the world worked and all she could do was be a good friend to Sirius.

That didn’t explain why they hadn’t done something about Severus though. He was half-blood and even though Eileen Snape was pureblood, she was one of little importance in the wizarding world, despite her haughty stuck-up ways. Nothing was stopping Professor Dumbledore, Professor Slughorn or Madame Pomphrey from reporting the abuse he faced to the appropriate wizarding authority at the Ministry of Magic. So why didn’t they? Deciding to write to her mother and inform her of her ‘insight’ into Severus’ homelife, she resolved to do it right after dinner when she had more privacy.

Meanwhile, they were trying to figure out what the Marauders were up to, but Panda had a feeling that today wasn’t the day she and Lily were going to catch them out. Peter was selling chocolate to the Hufflepuffs and Remus was in the library studying. Not that the girls believed that for a moment. They suspected that the Marauders had found a way to charm their books so that they appeared to be reading a History of Hogwarts, no matter what topic they were really reading. Lily reckoned it was because they were reading books on sex, but Panda wasn’t so sure. She thought that the Marauders wouldn’t bother to hide that – well perhaps Remus would. He was such a shy wizard, except when he was interested in something and then he forgot to be shy.

For a while, they suspected that Peter and Remus had been left as decoys as they couldn’t find Sirius or James and they set out to catch the two Gryffindors out, only to be disappointed. The two wizards were flying around the quidditch field training since both had been picked to play for the Gryffindor team this year. James was a chaser, but Sirius tended to be the fill-in player, he could play most spots passably well, even seeker, but he wasn’t as mad about the sport as James.

Potter just recently announced to the Gryffindor common room that he wanted to be a professional quidditch player and marry Lily, which didn’t go down well with the feisty red-headed witch. She’d whacked him over the head with her History of Hogwarts textbook, not that he was deterred. Pandora thought that Sirius was more focused on the freedom of flying fast than the actual game but he was incredibly loyal to his mates and seemed more than happy to help James train.

Disappointed that they hadn’t caught them carrying out mischief, the two witches stayed to watch their practice session. When they noticed the girls, they’d flown over to the stands to say hi and offered to take them for a ride down to Black Lake. Panda jumped on James’ broom to prevent any awkwardness about him inviting Lily and her refusing him. She exchanged an amused grin with Sirius who patted his broom to encourage Lily to hop on board. He’d noticed like most muggle-born witches, she wasn’t overly enthusiastic about flying on a broom, so he didn’t fly too high or fast, unlike James who decided to show off his skills to the blonde first-year who also happened to be was also a bit of a daredevil in the air.

Sirius took it slow and easy with no high flying or aerobatics and they got to the lake well before James and Panda. He landed beside the lake and Lily dismounted quickly. He joined her and they watched as James skimmed across the lake, annoying the Giant Squid who tried to wet them, before proceeding to fly up high and dive bomb the creature repeatedly as Panda squealed excitedly. He could see that Lily wasn’t impressed by him showing off and she looked at him consideringly.

“Pip was looking for you.”

He rolled his eyes. “I know. That’s why we snuck off to practice quidditch. She’s family so I can’t be rude, but she is driving me nuts.”

Lily chuckled; her green eyes crinkled in amusement. “She and James are a lot alike.”

Tell me about it!


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SASundance

Writer and reader from down under, obsessive filler of pot-holes um plot holes. You can find me at A03 and fanfic.net under my pen name SASundance

One Comment:

  1. I have a sinking feeling about the whole ‘skip Orion in favor of Sirius for Lordship’ thing.

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