It started out to be a fairly normal day, all things considered - the summer sun shone in brightly through the curtains on Sirius Black's bedroom window, illuminating the red and gold Gryffindor hangings that dominated the walls of his shabby bedroom. Seeing a lion instead of a snake first thing in the morning never failed to brighten his day - it made his pride in being different from his parents, and especially from his brother Regulus, all the more intense. He could even hear birds outside, and smell grass that had just been cut. Already it was shaping up to be a pleasant summer day.
Unlike a normal fifteen-year-old boy, Sirius hated summer even more than school, even with Hogwarts's lessons and exams and rather stern teachers. Being stuck at Number 12, Grimmauld Place all summer with his parents and brother meant limited contact with James, Remus, and Peter. It meant boring, long-winded talks about blood purity and social order that made Sirius's own blood boil with the sheer thought of their arrogance. And most of all, it meant that the feeling of being trapped, with no way to escape, permeated his conscious even more than usual.
He stretched widely, scratching the faint stubble on his chin with long, thin fingers, and blinked blearily in the warm and pleasant light. A letter from James was expected in the post, if he wasn't mistaken, and that was always something to look forward to. Still, it was with a rather determined lethargy that Sirius slowly climbed out of his bed. This was slow going, as the sheets and bedspread weren't messy so much as they resembled a rather odd-shaped bird's nest, and one's feet could get quite easily tangled in the folds of the fabric. He didn't bother changing out of the red-and-gold striped boxers (a joke gift from Remus on his last birthday; all the guys had given him underwear) and white T-shirt he'd slept in.
The spotless banisters and stairs fairly gleamed in the sunlight pouring in through tall, arched windows dotting the landings; it seemed that Kreacher had recently dusted and polished, and if Sirius paused to sniff, he could definitely detect a whiff of varnish mingling with the smells from breakfast. A small sneer marred his handsome features in thinking of the young elf, who was still a fairly recent addition to the Black household, having taken over the duties after his own mother died. Sirius hadn't reckoned there could have been a more unpleasant elf than Beechy, Kreacher's mother, but her son was certainly trying hard to outdo her.
Both Regulus and Mrs. Black were seated at the long dining table in the basement kitchen when he entered the room, but he didn't bother to acknowledge them; no use ruining his good mood before he had to. He crossed to one of the cabinets and pulled down a bowl, grabbed a spoon from a drawer, and pulled a box of Muggle cereal from another cabinet. His mother hated the fact that he brought anything remotely related to the other world into her house, but it was purchased with his pocket money, and nothing she had said in the past had been enough to stop him.
Mrs. Black glanced up from the thick leather-bound book she was reading as her eldest son plopped down at the table and vigorously began shaking cereal into his bowl - he hated eating it with milk, preferring it dry. A look of disdain crossed her haughty features, but Sirius wouldn't give her the satisfaction of asking her what was wrong. Dark hair falling in his eyes, he scooped up a great mouthful and chewed it loudly, pleased at the annoyed expression on his younger brother's face.
"Must you do that each morning, Sirius?" his mother said frostily, being driven to speak. Sirius glanced up at his mother levelly, said nothing, and spooned another mouthful of cereal in. She clamped her lips so tightly that they almost disappeared into her face.
"Mother, make him stop." Ah, yes. Regulus had been forced into speech, as well - Sirius was on a roll today. He glanced in disgust at his whiny speck of a brother to his left, the morning's Daily Prophet perched importantly by his own bowl of house-elf-made porridge. Sirius couldn't stand Regulus on most days - his pompous and arrogant attitude, so typical of the boys' parents, nor his subtle showing off of just how brilliant he was, at age fourteen. Sirius secretly thought that sometimes his parents pretended they only had one son, for Regulus was surely more their vision of the ideal Black than Sirius could ever hope to be - if he had hoped for such a thing.
Mrs. Black said nothing to her youngest son's request, however, and Sirius opened his mouth to show his younger brother a mouthful of mashed-up corn puffs. Regulus wrinkled his nose in disgust, and called it to his mother's attention.
"Mother, really. I can't read the newspaper with all his disgusting habits."
"Sirius Black, you leave Regulus alone. Will we have to go through this every morning this summer?" Mrs. Black said exasperatedly, pinching the bridge of her nose as though her eldest son was a great trial and burden to her. Sirius shot Regulus a look of pure loathing, and opened his mouth for another bite of cereal.
Crunch, crunch, crunch. Maybe if he tried really hard, he could imagine the crunching sounds were sounds of his own feet on Regulus's fat head. He closed his eyes, trying to picture this most wonderful of visions, but the subject of that little fantasy was having none of it. "Stop!" Regulus moaned, drawing the word out for a long time. He didn't sound nearly so smug and intelligent anymore, but instead whiny and annoying.
"Shove off," muttered Sirius irritably under his breath, and his mother looked up quickly, nostrils turning white with anger. "I didn't do anything to him!" he added hastily.
"Really, Sirius, I've had quite enough out of you. Coming down here and spoiling our nice breakfast - it's unbelievable." Walburga Black sat up a little straighter in her chair, a sure sign that she was about to give him a stern talking-to. "You ought to be ashamed of the way you treat your little brother. Apologize to him for disturbing him."
"He disturbs me way more than I disturb him," Sirius said with venom, shooting another malicious glance in Regulus's direction. Little cockroach. He glanced at his mother again, who looked ready to shoot daggers herself. He stood up roughly from the table, bowl of cereal abandoned, and began crossing back to the door to return to his room. It was amazing how quickly his family could spoil a morning for him.
"Sirius Black, listen to me when I'm talking to you. Apologize to your brother," said Mrs. Black to the retreating figure. Sirius turned around, seeing red. He knew his rather high temper was already simmering dangerously under the surface, preparing to explode at any moment, but a stronger part of him didn't give a damn.
"I don't have anything to apologize for," he said icily. His mother gave him something that was dangerously close to a sneer.
"It's bad enough that you came down in such a way, Sirius. Disrupting your father, no doubt, with all your banging and thumping, eating your food with no more manners than a common hippogriff. And what you're wearing-"
"What the bloody hell is wrong with what I'm wearing?" Sirius said heatedly, his voice rising dangerously close to a shout. This was how his mother always worked during these sorts of arguments - focusing in on one small grievance at first, and then slowly escalating the problem into large and larger proportions until she was bringing up things that had happened months, maybe even years ago.
"Maybe if it was a different color," smirked Regulus, the expression of feigned hurt he'd been wearing disappearing as he offered the snide comment. Sirius fumed; even now, in the middle of the summer, he couldn't escape the Gryffindor and Slytherin rivalries that would have been better left at Hogwarts.
At that moment, a tapping at the window interrupted whatever Sirius had been preparing to shout next. Glancing through the small, slightly rippled panes, he could make out the color and shape of the Potter family owl, clutching a rather fat-looking letter in its beak. Settling instead for an obscene gesture in Regulus's direction, he crossed to the window.
Unfortunately, he'd forgotten for the briefest of moments that his mother had still been in the room.
Just as he was about to take the letter from the owl's beak, his mother had leapt up wildly and snatched it before he could. Sirius made an angry noise of indignation, startling the bird, and leaped wildly for the letter.
"You can't take my things! Give me my letter!" he roared, angrily pushing his hair from his face where it had once more fallen in front of his eyes. He couldn't remember the last time he had seen his mother so mad - not even when he'd set Regulus's Slytherin scarf on fire when they had been on holiday last summer. Accidentally, of course.
"If you are not going to act like a decent, civil member of this family, then you can say good-bye to all the privileges of living," said Mrs. Black waspishly, striding purposefully over to the fire in the kitchen hearth and holding the letter over it. Regulus watched in spiteful glee at the events unfolding, the newspaper forgotten beside him.
"I never wanted to be a part of this family, I didn't ask to be born to you!" Sirius screamed, still trying to wrench the letter from his mother's grasp. But she was much stronger than she looked, and the attempt was still for naught. He caught his mother's gaze as he made another unsuccessful bound forward, and saw only dogged determination there.
Quickly, before Sirius had time to react, she dropped the letter straight into the heart of the orange flames.
With a yell, and possibly a curse or two, Sirius dropped to his knees, watching helplessly as his own name, written in James's messy scrawl, turned brown in the heat before shriveling and wilting into ash. He stared dumbstruck for a few moments at the gray pile which had once been his letter, and then slowly turned to his mother, a different sort of rage than he had ever felt before welling up inside him. It was not the red, heated anger he normally felt, but instead a kind of calm and white rage that exceeded all understanding.
Sirius stood up and bolted from the kitchen, sprinting into the hall. The troll's leg umbrella stand thudded over behind him as he passed, but he didn't bother to pick it up; hopefully Regulus would trip over it later and break his stupid neck. He stomped all the way up the flights of stairs to his room, making as much noise as was humanly possible. Normally this served to make him feel better, but for some reason today it only made him angrier. Dimly, he was aware of the rough and painful patches on the sides of his throat from screaming at his mother and brother; a large sore throat was surely what awaited him later in the day. What a nice way to end off this hellish morning; he had to admit, a screaming match before noon was probably some kind of record.
His room no longer seemed as warm and friendly as it had when he had woken up, not even an hour earlier. In a rage, he lashed out at his open Hogwarts trunk and slammed it shut; then, finding that this wasn't enough to calm him down, flipped it over completely. The floorboards rattled with the heavy weight.
Seething, he plopped himself down at his desk, yanking a piece of parchment toward him and nearly upsetting his ink bottle. He jammed a quill into the bottle and began scratching out a quick message to James, writing to hard that he tore the parchment in some places, but not bothering to fix it. His note had more credibility that way.
Mum burned up your last letter. Won't bother to explain it all now - too angry. Can I come round your place for dinner this Sunday? Have to get out of this house. Let me know as soon as possible.
He had already tightly furled the note and jammed a leather cord around it, preparing to send it to James, when he remembered that he'd have to go downstairs to make use of the Black family owl. And there was no way in hell that he was going back down there right now. He tossed the note disgustedly on the mass of other papers on his desk, and crossed to the bed, burrowing himself in the covers.
Maybe it was true that he'd lost his temper with his mother and brother, but that still didn't explain why Mrs. Black hadn't even bothered to scold her younger son for all the nasty things he'd said to Sirius, too. It wasn't fair for one to be punished and not the other, of course, but that was how it always seemed to happen in the Black household. It served to sever them further, really - to alienate Sirius even more from the people who should have loved him unceasingly, but never seemed to.
Well, Sirius thought gloomily, only another month until school resumes. A month seemed an endless time to wait, but he would endure it; he always had in the past. He slumped morosely on his bed, feeling angry at himself, and at the world, and began to wait. There was nothing else to do.
A/N: We've all had struggles with our parents at one time or another, sometimes more forcefully than at other times. This one-shot came after having fought in succession with my parents and one of my sisters, and was really just a way for me to vent my frustrations and empathize with someone in my annoyance. I think teenage Sirius fits this mood rather well - don't you? Much credit to Sarah for reading it over in all her Sirius-expertise, and urging me not to chuck it once I'd cooled down!