Another pain, different than the kind he had earlier experienced, engulfed Sirius. It was a sort of massive headache, his brain contorting and contracting upon itself. The nerves were fusing, shrinking, as his brain became…simpler?
Sirius roared and dropped to the ground, clutching his head.
There was a small girl of about five standing by the fountain in the middle of Grimmauld Square, tears dripping down her cheeks as she threw a penny in and made a wish. Sirius’s heart ached to share his new gift with the sad girl; she didn’t look like she got many gifts.
Grinning, he trotted over, but when the girl heard him coming and turned around to see who it was, the tears ran faster than ever. “Please…please d-don’t hurt me,” she whispered, terrified.
Sirius was confused. “I wasn’t going to hurt you,” he explained earnestly. “I want you to see my new toy. Will you play with me?” He smiled and held up his car.
The girl took a shaky breath. “My mama says your family is different. She says you're dangerous. I don’t want to play with you. I-” Looking around wildly, she backed into the fountain’s edge.
“But I’ve never even met you,” Sirius protested, his eyes welling up with tears. “You looked so sad, standing over here all by yourself. I'm by myself, too. Don’t you want to be my friend?”
“No!” shrieked the girl. “No, no, NO! Stay away from me!” Screaming at the top of her lungs, she ran across the square into a dilapidated old house and did not appear again.
The racket drew neighbors’ faces to their windows, but all they saw was a lonely little boy sitting on the edge of the fountain, silently crying. Once they recognized who the boy was, their heads retreated again. By outward appearances, the boy and his parents looked absolutely normal. But everyone who lived on Grimmauld Place knew with vague certainty that the Black family had always been up to no good.
It was about this time that Sirius’s nanny, a Squib, poked her head out of the door. Hurriedly she ran over to comfort and take charge of him before his parents, god forbid, found out that she had let him out of her sight. They walked up the steps of Number 12 together.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” she crooned.
Sirius sniffed. “That girl--I was trying to be nice. I wanted her to play! And--and she yelled at me to stay away and ran!” he bawled.
The nanny gasped. “Sirius, a Muggle?” she shrieked. Her voice echoed in the silent house. As footsteps were heard thundering down the stairs toward the entrance hall, she realized her mistake at once. But it was too late.
That night, the distant screams of a woman horrifically tortured rang through Grimmauld Square.
Sirius’s insides heaved as if he was going to be sick. They heaved again and again, but nothing came out. Only a foreign, empty feeling remained in the pit of his stomach, closely reminiscent of an urge to vomit, but not quite the same sensation.
Unidentifiable, unrecognized, but horrid beyond belief, the utter loneliness of that day 3-year-old Sirius lost his innocence--and the eight straight years that followed without repose--crashed upon the grown Sirius’s body, compressed into a slight second. The time raced over him in a flurry of ill-feelings.
He cried, gasping for breath. And then it was gone, and he spun again into a different time.
At eleven years old, just being around children his age was giving Sirius such intense joy that he didn’t bother feeling bewildered by all the new sights, sounds, and people as the Hogwarts Express delivered him, for the first time, to his school. For once there was someone to smile at, someone to talk to, and someone to delight in the trip across the magnificent lake with…
“What House d’you reckon you’ll get?” James Potter asked him as they lined up in the Great Hall with the rest of the first years, with eyes for nothing but the giant mass of black robes and people in front of him. Sirius’s face hardened immediately. This was the one thing, he knew, that was more important than any other. More important to him, even, that that little Muggle girl so long ago.
“Slytherin,” he said resolutely. “I know I’m going there because everyone in my family’s been a Slytherin.”
“Hmph,” James scoffed. “What’s so great about Slytherin, anyway?”
Sirius stopped scanning the room and thought. But try as he might, he couldn’t think of anything exactly that he knew for sure made Slytherin better than the other Houses. He had always assumed that it was the truth, because his parents had told him so for as long as he could remember.
“Besides,” James continued before Sirius could open his mouth to argue, “You don’t seem like the sort who’d belong in Slytherin, anyway. My parents told me all about the Houses before I came here.” He smiled confidently, which gave Sirius a little more confidence, too. “My mum was a Ravenclaw, but my dad was a Gryffindor. They still argue about which one is better sometimes.” James and Sirius laughed.
“Well, I hope you’re in the same House as me,” Sirius said, although he felt that if James was already so set against Slytherin, there would be almost no chance of it.
It was truly a shame, though, because Sirius was really beginning to like James. The bespectacled boy was nothing like Sirius's younger brother Regulus, who was one of the only children that Sirius ever played with. Regulus was annoying because he was a suck-up; he always obeyed their mum and dad perfectly and even tried to imitate their the pompous airs when he thought Sirius wasn't looking.
“Abbott, Cassandra, please step forward.” A stern-looking witch was standing next to the Sorting Hat, reading names off of her list.
“That’s Professor McGonagall,” James whispered. “My dad said she was Head Girl when he was a second-year, and came back to teach Transfiguration the year he graduated. She’s been here ever since.”
McGonagall turned a beady eye on James and frowned slightly, jumping when the Hat yelled, “HUFFLEPUFF!”
Sirius saw, and nudged James in the ribs. “She likes you already! Maybe you’ll get to be good friends.” They both laughed again.
As the small, shifty-looking boy took his seat, the Hat started to speak out loud. “Avery, eh? Boy, would you like to know how many Averys I’ve Sorted in my time? Two hundred and seven. Two hundred and seven, and one hundred ninety-eight went into Slytherin. Well, you’re nothing special, boy, so it’d better be…SLYTHERIN!”
Sirius was uncomfortable. What if the Hat began to talk about him too? He was pretty sure that the whole Hall could hear it just now, and although it hadn't seemed to bother Alexander Avery, Sirius didn't want that to happen to him. But he had no time to dwell, for the next name called was…
“Good luck,” James whispered and shoved Sirius out of the line and in front of McGonagall. He gulped as she picked up the Hat and set it down on his head.
“Black? Another family legacy. Even a hat gets tired of the same faces and names, you know.” Sirius glanced over at James, who was looking too apprehensive to know what the Hat was saying. Breathing a sigh of relief that the Hat was indeed speaking for his ears only, Sirius listened.
“Hah! Boy, if there’s an ounce of modesty in you, I’m sure that after a year or two here it’ll be all drained out. So no Hufflepuff, you'd be unbearable. Ravenclaw? Well, you’ve got a good mind, sure enough. But somehow I have a feeling that you’re not the studying type…no Black ever is. So it’d have to be between Gryffindor and Slytherin. Most peculiar, boy. See, Gryffindor and Slytherin are traditionally the Houses with the strongest rivalry between them. The most clashing of values, yet the equally strong desire to prove themselves…
“What say you, boy? Shall I send you where the rest of your family has absolutely shined…or where your new friend will go?" Sirius sat bolt upright, shocked. "Yes, I remember the Potters, too. And unless I’m gravely mistaken, young James will be a Gryffindor. But now this is your choice, boy: where your legacy lies, or where your heart desires to be?”
Sirius, utterly confused, looked over at the Gryffindor table. Strange, but very friendly faces looked back at him.
He then looked at the Slytherin table, where he identified his cousins Narcissa, Bellatrix, and Andromeda. Remembering all of the awful holidays he had spent with them didn’t help. (Bellatrix, though only one year older than him, had already taken to tormenting him last year by constantly threatening to hex him with her new wand; Narcissa, who would be a fourth-year this year, had barely even acknowledged his existence with more than an occasional shove since it had gotten around the family that he had tried to befriend a Muggle child; and Andromeda was the only civil one, but it wouldn’t help much to rely on her, as she was already a seventh-year.)
“What’s the holdup?” snarled a leering Slytherin boy who was seated next to Narcissa, his arm around her. Sirius guessed that he was her boyfriend, a 5th year and an Avery. She had talked incessantly about him at the last family gathering, though not to Sirius directly, of course. At home, barely anyone ever talked to him, not even his 9-year-old brother, Regulus.
As most of the older Slytherins joined Narcissa’s Avery in chanting, “Get a brain, little Black!” he realized that if he chose Slytherin, nothing much would change. He would never be accepted there.
He looked back to the Gryffindor table. He knew that this was a crossroads, a decision that he could never go back on. This would be the direction in which his life would run. There was no more hovering on the edges of his family, looking out at the real world and longing to join in the fun. What would his parents say if he came home, a Gryffindor?
He did not even glance at James. This had nothing, yet everything, to do with his new friend. He represented what Sirius wanted to do, what he wanted to be. James was confident where he belonged.
As the chorus of “Get a brain, little Black!” grew louder, Sirius could no longer think. Taking a deep breath that rattled way past his lungs, into the heart of the Sirius now in the future, fallen through the veil, he told the Hat,
Little Sirius and grown Sirius closed their eyes as the Hat yelled his choice. Dazedly they made their way off the raised stage to the Gryffindor table, where they were met with…cheering. The Gryffindors were happy that a Black had joined them. Names meant nothing to them.
Little and grown Sirius took a seat at the end of the table, grinning from ear to ear. What the hell, at least school would be fun. But as they glanced toward the Slytherin table, the older students there silent with shock, the cold regret that follows most rash decisions flooded into their gut.
Seven years of Slytherin taunts, “Nasty blood traitor, Black!” echoed behind the veil.
The sounds of jeering Slytherins still ringing in his ears, Sirius stirred. Opening his eyes with difficulty, he found himself staring into large, shining grey bulbs, a snout-like nose scantly an inch from his own.
“How does young Master Sirius enjoy his little nap?” Kreacher cackled. “Little blood traitor, my poor Mistress was devastated when she heard, yes, but he would never stop to think of her, his mother…” he muttered quickly under his breath as he drew away from Sirius.
Groggily Sirius ran his fingers through his hair, and was startled to find a swelling bump on the back of his head. Tapping it slightly with his fingers, he felt pain shoot through his skull.
“What the hell?” he muttered, biting his lip. “Where am I…?” Looking up, he saw the two nostrils of a snout-like nose, and two pointy ears protruding from either side. At first, he thought Kreacher had somehow gained the ability to float in midair, before realizing that this was another elf’s head, mounted on the wall.
It was then that Sirius felt the side of something pressing cruelly into his numb back. He reached around: there was a knot there in his spine as well, and stairs behind him. He was lying at the foot of the stairwell in his house.
Grimacing and feeling quite battered, he turned to Kreacher, who was still quietly laughing in the corner near the kitchen. “How did this…What happened? Answer me!” he thundered.
“Oh, very funny, young Master, so funny,” Kreacher giggled. “My Mistress gave you what you deserved, yes…and she did as my beloved Master would have done to you, indeed…”
Images came flooding back to Sirius: The dread in the pit of his stomach as he rode the Hogwarts Express back to King’s Cross, to see his family for the first time in a year. His recently widowed mother, wasted away with grief, grabbing him and shoving him in the door to Number 12, well out of earshot, before screaming, “Gryffindor! The shame, oh, the humiliation I have had to suffer because of you, bloody wretched boy!”
She had shrieked and swore and raged for ages, taking her anger out on him with her wand, until a final blow sent him flying into the stairs, knocked unconscious.
Anger reared up in him now, and flinging Kreacher aside, he stormed down the steps into the kitchen. His mother was sitting at the table, looking apprehensive. “Oh, dear, you’re awake,” she said hastily. “I do apologize for my overreaction earlier. I don't know what came over me. You know that I've never done anything of the sort before...and there's no need to mention it to anyone from the Ministry, of course…”
Sirius ignored her. How predictable Walburga Black was, to worry that Sirius would send the Ministry after her for child abuse. It was a preposterous thought. How horrible a disgrace to the family name that would be!
He yanked open the doors to various cupboards and, upon grabbing a great amount of food into his arms, slammed them shut again. His mother was still talking.
“I’m sure it was a mistake of the Sorting Hat, there hasn’t been a Black in Gryffindor for centuries! The last time that happened, they burned him alive… Anyway, my poor Sirius, it must’ve been awful for you, stuck there all this year! I shall contact the Headmaster about switching you immediately…”
Sirius wrapped some ice in a towel for his head and stomped to the door with his food. “Don’t bother,” he snarled. “You know what Dumbledore would say. ‘There is no reversing the Hat’s choice. It is done.’ And he’s right. The Hat was right. I belong in Gryffindor. So burn me, why don’t you?”
He left his mother in the kitchen, silent with indignation.
Back in his room on the top floor, he found that his trunk had been brought up already. In a daze of inspiration he found anything and everything he owned that was in Gryffindor colors. Scarves, robes, ties, posters, and flags were placed strategically around the room so that upon entering, one was blinded by the sudden blaze of red and gold. When it was finished, Sirius, exhausted by sheer rage, collapsed onto his bed, holding the ice to his head and nursing his other injuries.
And so he spent his summer in his only haven, his bright, brave Gryffindor room. It reminded him of the world beyond the dreary palace on Grimmauld Place. It reminded him of the wonderous place in which he had found solace during the school year.
He left his room only at night, when the other Blacks had gone to sleep, to go to the restroom, replenish his food, and take long walks in the warm summer’s night breeze. His mother, offended and stripped of her small hope that this had all been a mistake, did nothing. She made no effort to see her 12-year-old son until September 1st, when they made their way to King’s Cross in sullen silence.
Author's Note: Edited December 2nd, 2008. Did you like it? Review please!
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Siriusly: The Loneliness of Eight Years
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