Chapter 1 : The Black Family in Seven Parts
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Disclaimer: This is all J.K. Rowling’s. The characters and the reasons for their disownment were taken from the Black Family Tree. It’s not mine.
The Black Family in Seven Parts
“You’re leaving,” Elladora said flatly as she stood outside the room.
Isla’s head shot up to look her sister in the eye.
Elladora was looking cool, calm and controlled, like always. Every hair was in place, her robes were perfectly pressed and her make-up perfectly applied.
Next to her, Isla felt ugly and low. She knew that her hair was a mess, completely falling out of the bun she had put it in just an hour ago. Her dress was wrinkled and she had gotten a grass stain on it that morning when she had tripped chasing after the dog who had stolen the laundry their poor house-elf had been trying to hang on the line. She knew her face was red and sweaty and that she looked flustered.
“I—yes,” Isla finally replied, deciding that it would be useless to try and lie about it.
Her trunk was half-packed (if flinging everything she could get her hands on into the trunk could truly be called packing, Isla thought glumly) and her room in more of a disarray than usual. It was painfully obvious what she was doing.
“Why?” Elladora asked, her face a study in disinterest.
Isla huffed, “Because.”
It was a bad answer. An awful answer. It wasn’t even a complete sentence. But Isla had never been good at thinking on her feet in times of pressure.
Isla wasn’t good at a lot of things. She couldn’t flirt like Elladora did, or look as pretty and put together or as poised either. She wasn’t as smart as her brother Phineas and she didn’t have his great ambition and motivation. She wasn’t as kind and gentle and graceful as her mother and, while her father could pull off aloof and arrogant, she couldn’t if her life depended on it.
She didn’t fit in here, in this world of perfection and grace. She was clumsy, and stumbled over her words and had to work really hard to get good grades at school. Whenever she was at home, she could just feel people’s eyes on her, telling her that she wasn’t good enough. That she didn’t belong.
So she was leaving.
“It’s because of that boy, isn’t it? That Hitchens,” Elladora speculated scornfully. “That useless boy who always had his hands in the dirt and constantly blew things up in class.”
“He’s not useless!” Isla snapped before she could stop herself. “He’s perfect! And he loves me and we’re going to get married!”
Bob had asked her to marry him last week, when she had pretended to be sick so that she could sneak out and see him. She hadn’t said yes, but Bob had smiled and given her the ring, the beautiful silver ring, anyway and told her that it was hers and, if she changed her mind, he’d be waiting for her. Isla had changed her mind.
Bob never made her feel as though she weren’t good enough, as though she were a disappointment. He never scorned her when she tripped or stumbled over her words or couldn’t figure something out in class. He helped her and told her funny stories about when he’d done something similar. He made her feel as though she weren’t worthless and Isla was so, so tired of feeling worthless.
“You’re going to—Isla! That’s ridiculous!” Elladora sputtered, her calm finally shattered. “He’s a mudblood! You can’t marry him!”
But she could. And she would.
Isla closed her trunk and gave Elladora a long look, for once feeling as though, maybe, she wasn’t beneath her perfect older sister.
“Good-bye, Elladora,” she said, pulling her trunk behind her as she swept out of her room and out of the life where she had never been worth anything.
Phineas had heard the story a thousand times. About how difficult his birth had been, about how his mother had nearly died. About how terrified his parents had been to have any more children because of him and how Arcturus, who came along five years later, was an awful surprise and they’d almost decided not to have him because of how fearful Phineas’ birth had made them.
He had heard it a thousand times from his mother (who had survived not only Arcturus’s birth but two more after) and his father and his aunt and his uncle and his grandparents and everyone he had ever met. They all told it to him in this stern sort of way, as though he ought to feel ashamed of himself for all the trouble he had caused his parents by merely coming into the world.
They told the story to him and ended it by telling him that it was a bad omen and that it meant Phineas must always watch out about who he could hurt and always do as he was told, because he had more capacity to hurt people than others did.
When Phineas was younger, he took this as nothing short of the gospel truth. He could hurt people; almost kill them, just like he did his mother. So, Phineas always took extra care to do exactly what his parents and teachers told him to and to not to bully anyone or to get into any arguments and to be kind to everyone—because Phineas had learned early on that, sometimes, words hurt more than anything else ever could.
As he grew up, he realized that just because his birth had been difficult didn’t mean that he had more potential to be a killer than anybody else or any of the other ridiculous things his family had told him. But Phineas had seen the hurt people did to one another, had seen true pain, and didn’t want to be the cause of it. So, he stayed the same, if not a bit more outspoken against those who had the nerve to try and hurt others. Because, by this time, Phineas had realized that, sometimes, doing nothing caused more hurt and pain than doing something.
So when he was twenty-three and his older brother Sirius began campaigning to make it illegal for muggleborns to use any spells, defensive or offensive, against purebloods, Phineas had spoken up.
He had pleaded before the Wizengamot to see the ridiculousness, the cruelty, in not allowing muggleborns to fight back—especially when over 75% of the visitors to St. Mungo’s were currently muggleborns who had been attacked by purebloods and a little under 1% of St. Mungo’s patients were purebloods who had been injured by muggleborns. He gave speech after speech and wrote letter after letter and, finally, when the matter came to a vote, the Wizengamot agreed with him and not Sirius.
The muggleborns were safe.
Phineas was not.
When he received an invitation to go to his parent’s house for a family dinner, he knew things were not going to go well. And he was right. Over dinner, a very tense affair in which Sirius glowered at him and clearly struggled not to pull his wand and Cygnus never put his plate on the table, obviously fearing that it would be pushed over soon and Belvina, the most talkative person Phineas knew, didn’t say a word and instead shoveled food into her mouth so fast that she was done a good 15 minutes before anyone else, his parents told him the story again. In detail, with tears.
They finished by saying that he had hurt them, very badly, by denying what they had taught him and that if he didn’t go before the Wizengamot and tell them that he was wrong and that they ought to rethink their decision, it would be like killing the entire family with his treachery.
Phineas did not argue back. He did not point out that he had done the very thing the story had taught him to do, that he had protected others and did his best to ensure that no harm would fall on them.
Instead, Phineas said that he would not and the table got flipped over (only Cygnus’s plate and food, which Cygnus continued to eat as the argument went on, left safe) and Sirius began to duel him, and everyone was shouting and yelling and hexes were being thrown at him and the dining room was completely wrecked.
And as Phineas continued to use only defensive spells (he had already hurt his family enough, he wasn’t going to hex them too), he made his way closer and closer to the front door so that he could leave.
Because the Black family did not understand not hurting people. They did not understand the lesson they had taught him—that all human life was precious, all the more so because of how fragile it was and how soon it might be gone. That blaming people, no matter how innocent they actually are, hurt and that, sometimes, the only way to save something from pain and suffering was to hurt something else. That, most of the time, there are things more important than yourself.
As his father shouted that Phineas would be blasted off the family tree, that he was disowned and that he was dead to them, Phineas listened quietly.
Then he said, “I forgive you.”
Because even though they had hurt him, even though Phineas felt a small part of himself dying, he knew that he could not hurt them back in return. There was enough pain and suffering in the world without him adding to it.
Marius did not get his letter. He knows this is bad. Pollux and Cassiopeia both got their letters exactly on their eleventh birthdays.
Marius has been eleven for three weeks now and he still hasn’t gotten his.
Pollux and Cassie don’t look at him anymore and Mother and Father keep whispering together. He also hears them arguing at night when they think he’s asleep. Something about him only being eleven and something about being a disgrace and Marius doesn’t know what they mean but he knows that he hasn’t gotten his letter yet.
And that’s not good.
“Marius!” Mother yells again.
Marius just curls into an even smaller ball in the dark corner of the hall closet. Maybe if they can’t find him, he thinks desperately, maybe if they don’t know where he is, it’ll be okay. Everything will work out, because Mother and Father will realize that they can’t give him away to anybody else, so they’ll talk to the school and they’ll make them give Marius a letter and…
Marius knows this won’t work.
Not having a letter isn’t the problem. The problem is that Marius doesn’t have magic either.
He remembers, once, when Cassie was 10, she picked up Pollux’s wand and waved it around and she accidentally broke the window. Nothing happened when Marius picked it up.
And Dorea, who’s only nine, can make her dolls dance and turned her bedroom walls pink once when Mother and Father refused to paint it for her.
Marius knows he’s never done anything like that and he doesn’t know how to fix that.
But, maybe, if he stays in the hall closet long enough and if they don’t find him, he can make himself have magic.
He isn’t really sure how he’s supposed to do that, but he thinks he can do it.
He hopes he can.
“Marius?” a little voice whispers as a crack of light filters into his closet.
“Shh! Either come in or stay out!” Marius hisses in reply.
The door opens a little farther and Dorea slips in before closing it behind her.
“Marius, why are you in the closet?” Dorea whispers as she comes and sits down next to Marius. “And why are Pollux and Cassie so quiet and sad? And Mother and Father so scared? And do you know who that strange man out in the hall is? Mother says he’s come to take care of you, but I didn’t think you were leaving!”
Marius’s heart sinks. “I didn’t get my letter. I don’t think I have magic, Dory.”
“What?” Dorea looks absolutely shocked. “What do you mean you don’t have magic? Of course you do, you silly! You’re a Black, we’ve all got magic!”
“Well, I don’t!” Marius snaps back. “I don’t know why, but I haven’t got any and Hogwarts didn’t send me my letter and now Mother and Father are going to send me away because I’m just like a filthy muggle so they don’t want me anymore. So I’m hiding and I’m—just get out, Dory, and leave me alone!”
Marius is trying not to cry, because it’s bad enough that he’s a Black with no magic—he doesn’t want to be a weak little sissy too.
“Marius,” Dorea finally says in a small voice, “Is—Pollux was saying that—but it can’t be true because—well, I mean—but if it is true—but it’s not—but if it is, I just want to say that, you’re my brother and—this is going to sound really dumb, because this is has to be some of kind of accident—but I lo—”
The door to the closet is flung open.
Marius winces away from the light. Father is scowling at him.
“Get out here, boy. Don’t disgrace us more than you already have,” Father growls.
Marius wants to stay in the closet. He wants to hear what Dorea was going to say because he has a feeling that it’s really important. But Father is furious and Marius doesn’t want to be remembered as a coward or be an embarrassment—even though Marius thinks he already is because he didn’t get his letter and—Marius gets out of the closet.
As he stands up, he sees Pollux and Cassie standing stiffly on the staircase. Cassie looks like she might cry and Pollux looks as though he’s a statue. Mother is standing next to them, looking rigid and stiff and not meeting his eyes. Behind him, Dory’s climbed out of the hall closet too. Across from the stairs is a tall man with dark hair who looks a lot like Father. Only, while Father looks emotionless, this man’s fists are clenched and his eyes are flashing.
“Marius, this is Phineas. He’s going to be taking care of you now.” Father gives Marius a rough shove closer to the tall man.
“You’re making a mistake Cygnus,” the man, Phineas, says tightly.
“Just take him. You said you would. Now take him.” Father’s voice is hard.
Marius blinks furiously against his tears. He was right. He is leaving. They don’t want him anymore because he didn’t get his letter. He stares at the floor, because, that way, even if he does cry, they won’t see it.
“I thought you were a better man than this, Cygnus,” Phineas says, then sighs. “Marius?”
Marius doesn’t looks up and keeps staring at Phineas’s shoes.
Suddenly, Marius sees Phineas’s knees and feels a gentle finger pushing his head up.
Marius reluctantly raises his eyes.
Phineas is kneeling across from him, looking at him. He doesn’t seem angry anymore and Marius suddenly sees that, while his father’s eyes are grey, Phineas’s are brown, just like his.
“Hi. I’m your Uncle Phineas. You’re going to be staying with me for a while, okay? I promise I don’t bite.” Phineas gives him a small smile and Marius realizes that he also looks kinder than Father does. “I have an apartment in London and it’s really nice. You’ll get a room to yourself and you’ll be able to decorate it anyway you want. And I’ll teach you at home for a while, until you get more used to the idea of not going to Hogwarts. How does that sound, hmm?”
“Phineas. Leave,” Father orders harshly.
Marius gets ready to walk out, because no one ever disobeys Father when he sounds like that, but, only, Phineas does. He stays on his knees and keeps talking.
“And I know that this is going to be really scary, leaving home and going someplace you’ve never been before. But I promise it’ll all be okay and that you can come and talk to me anytime you want, alright? So, do you want to go right now or is there anything you want to get or do before you leave?” Phineas continues, still looking kind and honest and so understanding and Marius—well, he’s not really sure, but he think he might like him, even though he’s pretty sure that this is the Phineas who got blasted off the family tree—the one that no one ever talks about.
“Phineas,” Father says tightly.
“No,” Marius tells Uncle Phineas, because if he does anything else, everyone would have to see the tears coming down his face. And Marius won’t let that be his family’s last look at him. He won’t let them see him crying.
“Alright, then. Are you ready to go?” Uncle Phineas smiles as he gets back to his feet.
Marius nods even though he’s not ready to go and doesn’t think he ever will be. But Uncle Phineas offers Marius his hand. Marius has never held anyone’s hand before but he takes his Uncle’s and it’s warm and dry and safe. Together, they walk to the door and open it.
Then they leave, neither of them looking back.
Cedrella was breathless with anticipation. It was her coming of age ball, when she was to be announced to pureblood society and her engagement to Caspar Crouch was to be formalized.
Everything was expected to go perfectly. Her hair was elegantly arranged, her dress beautifully and perfectly fit. Her jewelry was artfully selected and she knew she looked just as her mother had always dreamed she would. And as Cedrella twirled in front of the mirror, she laughed giddily.
“You’re a vision,” her younger sister, Charis, sighed wistfully.
“Perfection, like always,” her older sister, Callidora, grumbled, looking jealous.
“Brilliant Cedrella,” Mother beamed. “I knew I could count on you to make an excellent impression on the Society. You are such a lady.”
A vision, perfection, brilliant, a Lady: the way her family had always looked on her. The perfect pureblood daughter. Beautiful and quiet and always, always obedient.
Except, of course, for when she wasn’t, Cedrella thought slyly, thinking of the ring hidden in her pocket and a bright smile on a freckled face.
“Are you ready, my daughter?” Father asked, coming into the room and beaming down at her.
Cedrella smiled demurely, “Yes Father.” And she was. More than ready. In fact, she was dying for the ball to begin. “I’m ready,”
“You look lovely, Cedrella,” Father complimented.
“Caspar is going to be so thrilled, Ella!” Charis squealed.
“He’s a lucky man to be getting you,” Mother smiled. “My beautiful daughter.”
For a moment, her parents beamed at her, looking unspeakably proud. Cedrella smiled sweetly back at them, repressing a smirk with difficulty. Finally, the clock chimed, breaking them out of their reverie.
“Alright, well,” Father cleared his throat, suddenly businesslike. “Cedrella, it’s time for us to leave you. Charis will stay with you, but Callidora, Harfang is waiting for you in the hall and Lysandra, the guests will be waiting for us. Good luck, Cedrella. I’m sure you’ll make us proud.” Father gave her a wide smile and everyone swept out of her bedroom except for Charis. Cedrella waited a moment. She heard the music begin to swell and knew that her parents and sister were beginning to walk down the staircase and into the ballroom.
“Charis, can you keep a secret?” Cedrella asked, suddenly spinning to face her little sister.
Charis’s face lit up. “Of course I can!” Cedrella knew she couldn’t. Charis, sweet though she was, never knew when to keep her mouth shut.
“Well,” Cedrella gave Charis a sly smile, “You needn’t keep it for long. I’m only telling you because you won’t be there to see it and I know you hate being last to know. But, see, I’m tired of being perfect.”
“What do you mean, Ella?” Charis asked, confused and a little nervous. “How can you tire of being perfect? I wish I could be more like you. It’s so hard disappointing Mother and Father all the time and it’d be nice if they’d be as proud of me as they are of you,” she finished with a slightly wistful look on her face.
Cedrella laughed hollowly. “They’re proud of me because I made them I think I didn’t have a mind of my own. All of my life, I’ve followed their rules, never doing anything on my own, never doing anything I wanted to and never questioning what they told me to do. And I’m so tired of it, Charis. I want to be able to laugh aloud at jokes everyone else thinks are crude, I want to be able to speak my mind without being frowned at and told that women aren’t meant to think. I want to dance in the rain and wear dirty clothes and lounge around in my pajamas all day. I want to become a Healer even though that isn’t the proper job for a pureblood witch. I want to be successful in my own right and I want to marry a man I love, not the one deemed proper and most advantageous for me.”
Charis looked worried. “Ella, what are you going to do?”
“Something stupid and improper and horrible, Charis. Something no one would ever dream of me doing. And, actually Char,” Cedrella whispered, her eyes alight with happiness, “It’s not what I’m going to do. It’s what I’ve done.”
And with that, Cedrella pulled out her ring, the ring her Septimus had given to her when they’d married last week, and she slid it on her finger.
“I’m no longer Cedrella Black, Charis,” Cedrella beamed, “I’m Cedrella Weasley.”
And, with that, Cedrella swept past her gaping sister and into the hallway.
Standing in the darkness near the staircase, Septimus stood in his best dress robes, a wide grin spread across his freckled face.
“Are you ready, love?” Septimus asked, gracefully bowing and offering her his arm.
“Of course,” Cedrella grinned.
“Wait! Wait!” Charis suddenly shouted, sprinting toward them, panicked. “Ella, you can’t do this!”
But it was too late.
Perfect, Obedient, Beautiful, Pureblood Cedrella Black stepped forward and hooked arms with her Flawed, Blushing, Stuttering, Overly Curious, Red-Headed, Freckled, Blood Traitor of a husband.
And, arm in arm, Septimus and Cedrella Weasley strolled down the staircase to announce their marriage to the unsuspecting world.
After all the fighting and the swearing and the yelling are over, Andromeda is still standing. She feels stripped down to her bones and as though her heart has been torn out of her chest, but she is still standing.
Bellatrix has long since stormed out of the room screaming that she didn’t know what that Tonks boy has done to her sister but that she doesn’t know Andromeda anymore and that she hates whoever or whatever it is that Andromeda has turned into. Bellatrix’s last words to Andromeda were that they are no longer sisters.
Narcissa is gone too. She had stayed longer than Bellatrix; long enough to hear Andromeda plead for understanding and beg for them to not make her choose between her love for Ted Tonks and her love for her family. Then Narcissa had stood up and said that Andromeda is a fool if she thinks she can have both her family and Tonks. Narcissa is quieter than Bellatrix but harder too. While Bellatrix has screamed and shouted and disowned Andromeda herself, Narcissa has made Andromeda do it.
Narcissa stood in the room and said that Andromeda had to choose between her family and Tonks. Narcissa made Andromeda say that Ted is worth more to her than they are. Narcissa made her say that she’d rather be disowned than lose Ted. Then, Narcissa said that Andromeda has made her choice and that, by Andromeda’s own words, they are no longer sisters. Then, Narcissa had quietly and calmly left the room.
Her mother left too. She had stayed perfectly silent until Narcissa left. Then, she had asked Andromeda if she truly meant what she said. When Andromeda had said yes, her mother had cried and wailed and begged Andromeda to change her mind. She called her names and brought up good memories and bad memories and accused Andromeda of forgetting who she is and where she comes from. When Andromeda made it clear that she will not change her mind about Ted, no matter what they say, her mother fled from the room, sobbing.
Now, it is just her and her father and they are silent. Andromeda is tired.
She has lost her family, but she still has to wait for her father to make it official. Andromeda will not leave; will not give up on her family until she sees them blast her name from the family tree. She refuses to give up such a large part of who she is without a fight.
So, even though she is tired and it is finally quiet, she readies herself for one more round, the most important and the most helpless one. If her sisters, who she loves more than anyone but Ted, who she has laughed with and cried with and grown with, cannot accept her and the man she loves; if her mother, who always doted on her and listened to her problems and concerns, will not have her in the family; her father will not.
She has very few memories of the man sitting at his desk and surveying her over his steepled hands. While he has always been there, he is quiet and reserved. While his word is law, he rarely speaks and never gives his opinion. He is hard and unforgiving and his disappointment always hurt her more than anything else ever could. She has never felt his approval or love.
“Father,” Andromeda begins, but he holds up one hand and she falls silent, feeling hopeless and lost and so very far away from home even though she is still standing in her house.
“You love this boy. This mudblood.” Father is not asking her a question. He is stating a fact.
All the same, Andromeda nods. “Yes. I love Ted. More than anything.”
“Obviously,” Father agrees drily.
Andromeda fidgets under his steady stare, feeling a little bit like she’s eight years old and he just caught her trying to sneak a cookie in before dinner.
Finally, he sighs.
“You have ignored Bellatrix’s furious accusations. You have agreed with all of Narcissa’s coolly delivered jabs and admitted that all of the things you’ve been accused of are true. You have refused your mother’s pleas to leave him.” Her father lists, his voice as calm and even as it ever is. “Why are you still here, Andromeda? You have made it clear where your heart is, and, thus, what your choice is.”
“Father, I don’t want to have to make a choice!” Andromeda exclaims, feeling as though no one has listened to her. This is what she has been saying since she called everyone together today. Andromeda does not want to choose. She wants to have Ted and she wants her family to accept that she loves Ted and still accept her.
“Andromeda,” Father says sternly, “You are not stupid. I have seen your grades, your O.W.L. results and your N.E.W.T. results, all of which were outstanding. I know you have intelligence. You must have known when you called us in here today what would happen. You must have known you would have to make a choice and you obviously knew what your choice would be.”
Andromeda feels like crying.
This is the first time her father has ever given her any indication of paying her any attention and, for once, he is looking and talking to her and only to her and Andromeda feels as though his gaze is piercing into her very soul.
“Why are you still here?”
“I—” Andromeda looks at her father helplessly and, finally, she sits in a chair, feeling striped to her bones. Someone has torn her heart out of her chest, Andromeda thinks dully, and she’s just been stampeded by erumpents and everything hurts. She starts crying.
“I don’t want to leave,” Andromeda finally chokes out, because she doesn’t.
Because even though she loves Ted and she’d give up everything for him—and she is, she is giving up everything for him, everything she is and everything she has and she knows she can’t ever get it back—she doesn’t want to leave. Not yet.
“You’ll have to eventually,” her father tells her, still looking at her as though he can see into her very heart.
And Andromeda knows it isn’t legilmency because she knows occlumency and her shields have been up and impregnable since she started dating Ted when she was fifteen. But she still feels as though he knows what she’s feeling and thinking perhaps even better than she does.
“I know,” Andromeda finally replies with a shuddering breath as she tries to stop her tears.
Her father looks at her for a long moment and then nods. He goes back to his paperwork.
Andromeda watches him for a moment and then leans back into her chair and closes her eyes, trying to calm her mind and her heart.
In the silence, she goes over all of the happy memories she’s had in this house. She effortlessly conjures the memories of sunlit days with Bellatrix and Narcissa and spying on balls they were too young to attend. She revels in the memories of her mother brushing her hair and singing her to sleep. She thinks wistfully of all of the books she’s read, and the games she’s played with her cousins and the dreams she’s held here. She remembers all of the bits and pieces of her family and this house that helped to make her who she is. All the reasons she doesn’t want to leave, doesn’t want to have to choose.
And then—then Andromeda forces herself to remember the prejudice and the hatred. The scornful laughter and the arrogant looks. She makes herself remember all the times she was told that some people are worthless and deserve to die; all the times she saw people smiling with satisfaction when they heard of a hate crime committed against a muggleborn. Even though it hurts more than she thought possible, Andromeda convinces herself to remember the tattoo on Bellatrix’s arm and the casual remarks uttered by Narcissa that made innocent eleven year olds cry. She wills herself to remember all the times she shook with fury but stewed in silence because she was too afraid to speak up for fear of what she might lose.
Then, Andromeda opens her eyes and stands up.
Her father glances up at her, looking a bit preoccupied, just like he always had in the days of her childhood.
And in the silence, even though she is striped to her bones and her heart is broken and she aches all over, Andromeda leaves, because in her heart she’s always known that, eventually, she’d have to.
It was Christmas Eve when Sirius ran. When he couldn’t stay anymore because just the thought of staying in the house made him feel like he couldn’t breathe (and not because he was laughing too hard, but because there wasn’t enough air in the house because everyone was taking more than their fair share and not leaving enough for him).
There was no big argument (not like the one they had when his parents realized that Remus and Peter were half-bloods and that Sirius had gone out with a muggleborn girl, or even the one they’d had when he’d been sorted into Gryffindor, all of which had been filled with shouting and tears and hexes being thrown). No loud declarations or even a tipping point (like, when Sirius was fourteen and found out that Regulus, his kid thirteen year old brother who he’d played with and made fun of and created mischief with, wanted to be a Death Eater when he grew up—Sirius had dealt with that, he’d stayed and hadn’t run then) where things just became too much.
Christmas Eve had been a day like any other (not like at Hogwarts, where Sirius knew James would have made it a huge production with stockings and gifts and paper chains—Remus would have watched on in amusement, probably wearing some awful Christmas sweater while Peter sang along with the Christmas carols on the radio at the top of his lungs). Stifling, and quiet and filled with disapproving looks. It was tense and Sirius spent most of his time staying up in his room (at Hogwarts, Sirius never went into his dormitory except to sleep, because there was so much to do and see and say) and avoiding everyone at all costs. He’d learned long ago that he couldn’t get into too much trouble (at Hogwarts, Sirius had to go out of his way to make trouble, which he did because it was fun at Hogwarts—here, sometimes, just being seen was enough to get him a stern look and a lecture and it was never any fun at all) if he didn’t see anyone or say anything to them, and the best way to do that was to stay in his room.
He had done his best to make his room a refuge. He had decorated it with Gryffindor colors, (although they weren’t exact because Sirius had charmed them when he was thirteen and charms had never really been his strong point) and put up pictures of muggle girls in bikinis (although, he supposed that was actually more to annoy his parents than to make things feel like home again) and a picture of his best friends (which, really, didn’t even come close to actually having them there to talk to and laugh with when things got bad). But, on Christmas Eve, even his room, the one place he had always felt okay, like he could at least deal with everything and that nothing was unmanageable (he never felt like things were unmanageable at Hogwarts), began to shrink in on him.
He felt trapped.
And, by the time the day was done, even though it was no worse than usual (which meant that instead of feeling like killing someone or crying and breaking things, he’d just felt numb and miserable) even though there had been no argument and no tipping point, Sirius knew he couldn’t stay.
He didn’t really know anything else (like where he was going to go, or what he was going to do, or how his family would react or anything) but he knew he couldn’t stay.
So he left.
He packed up his things (just as calmly and easily as if he was going to Hogwarts, like it was nothing out of the ordinary except for the fact that, for some reason, he couldn’t stop trembling) and walked down the stairs and out of the door.
He didn’t know where he was going (but he was going and he could finally breathe again) but he kept walking.
And the further he walked, the lighter he felt until, suddenly, he couldn’t just walk. He ran. Laughing and whooping and waking up all the neighbors, he ran away, as far away (from the stifling house, the people who weren’t his family, the house that wasn’t his home) as he could.
He ran until his lungs were heaving and he couldn’t breathe. Except this time, it was because he was using too much air not because everyone else was, and Sirius could still let out sharp barks of laughter in between panting.
And it was okay. Even though he wasn’t really sure where he was going or what he was doing or how he’d get food or anything.
It was okay.
Because he was gone and he was never going back.
Alphard felt old. So, so, so old. Like he might just go to sleep one day and not wake up. Alphard didn’t think he’d mind it. Dying. He almost thought it would be a relief.
He wouldn’t have to watch his siblings destroy their families. He wouldn’t have to watch a Dark Lord destroy the world. He wouldn’t have to feel himself wasting away.
He’d just be gone. Just like that. Alphard thought it would be easy. Wonderfully easy and simple and freeing.
But Alphard wasn’t old. Alphard was only forty-nine.
He felt like he was forty-nine going on ten thousand. His healer said his body was also like forty-nine going on ten thousand.
Something about alcohol and drinking himself to death. Alphard hadn’t really paid attention. He’d only gone to the healer because Walburga had nagged him to. It was always easier to just do as she said. The yelling didn’t last as long then. He could escape her quicker and go back to his books.
Alphard loved his books. He felt alive when he read them. He felt young. It was much better than his wine for making him feel alive. But his wine was much better at making him not care. And Alphard didn’t need to feel alive as much as he needed to not care.
He needed to not care that Walburga was spoiled and greedy. That Cygnus was jaded and hid in his work to avoid the world. That the world itself was falling to pieces. That he wasn’t stopping it. That, actually, in a twisted way, he was helping to tear it apart. So Alphard drank. And if it was killing him… well, Alphard hadn’t been afraid of death in a long time. How could he be? He’d already stopped living.
He looked blurrily down at the book in front of him.
It wasn’t a mystery or an adventure. It wasn’t a history. It didn’t tell him about people whose lives were more exciting that his. It talked about law. And writing wills.
The healer said he’d die within the next two years if he didn’t stop drinking.
Alphard took a swig of cabernet from the bottle. He tried to focus his gaze. He tried to understand what he was reading. He fuzzily thought that it’d be easier if he was sober. Probably because he wouldn’t have been trying to read it then. He wouldn’t be writing his will. He’d be ignoring the fact that he was dying. He’d be trying to pretend that everything was okay. Even though it wasn’t. And hadn’t been. Not for a long time.
Alphard swore under his breath. The words on the page were beginning to blur together again.
He shoved the book to the floor. He’d figure out how to do it properly later, he thought. Now, he’d just decide what to do.
When Alphard had been younger, after he’d decided to stay and before he’d decided to drink, he’d worked. Really hard. All the time. And he was good at it. He’d been considered one of the most promising business men in the wizarding world. He was one of the richest men in the world. He was in line to become the richest. Then he saw her again. She’d started to cry. Walburga tried to hex her. May have succeeded. He didn’t know because Cygnus had pulled him from the room.
That was when he sold his business. He was the richest man in the world for two weeks. He began to drink. A lot. He wasn’t the richest man in the world anymore. But he was close.
And he was dying.
Someone had to get that money and he… he…
Alphard pulled out a piece of parchment. He grabbed a quill and some ink.
With shaking hands, he wrote.
TO ANDROMEDA: for following your heart and for being brave. I leave you my blessing. My well wishes. All my possessions and money
Alphard stopped. Andromeda had left already. She was married too. Last he’d heard she’d had a baby and a steady job. She had always been independent. She had always wanted to make her own way in the world. And she was. Alphard didn’t want to get in the way of that. He crossed it out.
TO CYGNUS: all my possessions and money.
Except that Cygnus didn’t need them. He was already rich. He already had everything he wanted. And the one thing he didn’t have, Alphard couldn’t give him. He crossed it out.
TO NARCISSA: my possessions and money. You’ve always
Alphard didn’t know how to describe it. What Narcissa had. The thing that Alphard recognized. That made him sure she’d always land on top. Then, he had a hazy idea that maybe she didn’t need what he’d give her either.
He had sold his company to a Malfoy, a long time ago. Alphard vaguely remembered attending her wedding to a Malfoy. He was fairly certain that there was only one Malfoy family in Britain. So that meant that she already had a piece of him. He didn’t need to give her more. He grabbed a new sheet of parchment.
TO WALBURGA: my possessions and money.
Alphard crossed it out almost as soon as he was done writing it. She’d never shared anything with him when they were younger. She hadn’t grown up any since then so Alphard felt it was perfectly acceptable to act like a child and refuse to share anything with her now.
TO BELLATRIX: everything I have.
Alphard almost kept it. Bellatrix had always been a needy child. She had always wanted more. And more. And nothing had ever been enough for her. Maybe, Alphard thought, this would help.
But then he remembered the mark on her arm.
He realized that nothing would ever be enough for her. She would always destroy herself trying to get more.
Alphard crossed it out.
TO REGULUS: for your joy when you were younger. For the fun you used to have. For your enjoyment, I leave you everything.
Except that wasn’t right either. Because Regulus had changed. Regulus had become dark-eyed and quiet. There was no more joy around Regulus. Only anger and passion and hate.
Alphard did not think Regulus would last much longer in this world. No one ever did. Not when they changed who they were. Not when everything they were was dark and they had no more light left inside of themselves. Alphard was living—or dying—proof of that.
He pulled out a new sheet of parchment.
Sirius had run away. Sirius had gotten blasted off the tree. Last Christmas, Sirius had left, leaving Alphard to get drunk on his own. Walburga was still furious about it.
Alphard was the tiniest bit proud.
Out of his entire family, Sirius had always been his favorite. They had hidden from Walburga together. They had mocked Cygnus when he wasn’t looking. They had gotten drunk to avoid hearing all the horrible things everyone was saying. They had been scorned together, endured people whispering nasty things about them. They had survived the nightmare together.
Sirius had been one of the bright points in Alphard’s life.
And Sirius had found the courage to get out of the grave. Sirius had left. He was living. Alphard knew, because Sirius still sent him letters.
Not very often. Not like he had when he’d been trying to survive his first year at Hogwarts as the Gryffindor Black. Not like he had when he hadn’t been able to breathe and wanted Alphard to teach him how. Not like he had before he’d gotten blasted off the tree. But Alphard still got letters from Sirius.
And, in all of them, Sirius had been living.
It was almost as good for escaping as his books.
This, Alphard thought muzzily, felt right. Leaving everything to Sirius felt right.
But Walburga would blast him off the tree for it.
He was positive she would.
TO SIRIUS: for living. For escaping. For being brave and strong and everything I wasn’t. I leave you everything. My money, so you can focus on the important things in life. My house, so you can learn what’s not a home. My belongings, so you can see what doesn’t have value. My journal, so you can understand the damage that cowardice and lies cause.
Alphard put down his quill. He clutched the parchment tightly as he stumbled to his feet. He tripped over the law book he had thrown to the ground. He staggered to his owl. He attached the letter with fumbling fingers to the owl’s foot. He sent it to his lawyer, who would, hopefully, know what to do with it.
It was done. He as good as blasted himself off the family tree. Alphard supposed he ought to feel sick or horrified or sad. But as he tottered back to his cabernet, he felt a strange sort of satisfaction.
Alphard was old. He was forty-nine going on ten thousand. But perhaps he wasn’t dead yet.
A/N: Reviews appreciated