AUGUST 6, 1971
“Monsieur Auclair?” Regulus asked, his eyes wide and curious. “What will Hogwarts be like?”
Sirius Black looked up from his book—Infamous Tales of European Wizarding Families—and eyed his tutor, curious as to how he’d choose to respond. Regulus, of course, had asked their parents this question nearly a dozen times before Walburga had hexed his mouth shut. Neither Orion nor Walburga were particular forthcoming with answers to that particular question, other than furious mutterings of, “Mudbloods and blood traitors, roaming the halls like they have the right to be there.”
Alphonse Auclair, the gruff and most recent tutor for the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, let out a grunt. “Haven’t the foggiest,” he grit out. “Went to Durmstrang, didn’t I? That’s where all the great pure-blood houses go, I expect.”
Sirius rolled his eyes. “You’re not from a great house, Auclair. You’re one step up from a blood traitor,” he said with a sneer. He didn’t particularly like to point it out, but it was true. He’d heard his mother say it nearly a hundred times. The Auclairs, though great in numbers now, were scattered all around France and Western Europe. That being said, they were a relatively young line of pure-bloods. Nothing compared to the awe-inspiring lineage of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. “Besides,” Sirius said, ignoring Auclair’s glower and turning to Regulus, “Durmstrang’s full of nothing but dark wizards. Hogwarts is way more fun. ’Dromeda told me so.”
“Hogwarts,” Auclair said, baring his yellowing teeth, “has had no shortage of their own bits of riffraff over the years.”
“Are the ceilings really enchanted to look like the stars?” Regulus asked, ignoring the tension between Sirius and Auclair.
Sirius tried to hide his smile. He’d told Regulus about the ceiling in the dining hall after reading about it in Hogwarts: A History. Regulus always loved the stars.
“’Course not,” Auclair said before Sirius could reply. “I expect Hogwarts’s ceilings are perfectly normal.”
“And you would know this how, exactly?” Sirius shot back. “Seeing as you have no imagination to speak of and went to Durmstrang, how would you know what Hogwarts’s ceilings look like?”
“Wonder and awe are mere parlour tricks to make Muggles and Mudbloods remember their place,” Auclair growled. “No respectable wizarding institution would waste the time and resources on such audacious and tedious spellwork, when there’s practical magical instruction to be done.”
Annoyed, Sirius reached into the pocket of his robes and pulled out a folded bit of parchment. It bore his name and a broken wax seal. “Even so,” he said, waiving the letter in Auclair’s face, “Mother and Father seem to have decided Hogwarts is best. Got my letter a few days ago.”
“Yes, of course you did,” Alphonse said, his nose wrinkling at the parchment. “’Suppose a brat like you will be sorted into Hufflepuff. No spine to you whatsoever. No stomach for the, ah… More demanding magic.”
Hufflepuff? Sirius nearly cringed at the thought.
“That so?” Sirius replied, instead, throwing a wink at Regulus. Sirius flexed the fingers of his right hand, reaching for the tingle of magic that seemed to dwell just beneath the surface of his skin.
A bolt of red light shot from Sirius’s pointer finger and hit Auclair square in the chest. The tutor’s long, wiry hair stood straight up, as if he’d been electrocuted, and instantly turned from a stunning white to a bright, flamingo pink.
Regulus rolled off his chair onto the floor, clutching his stomach, as he collapsed in a fit of laughter.
Sirius smirked and snapped his book closed. He wiggled his fingers playfully, the magic still dancing between them. “How’s that for audacious and tedious?” he said.
Regulus just laughed harder.
“Why, you little—” Auclair reached into the pocket of his robe for his wand, pointed it, and muttered a curse.
Sirius was ready. He leaped out of his chair, throwing the book in the general direction of Auclair, and dived behind the coffee table. Auclair’s curse, having missed Sirius by quite a significant margin, hit the high-backed armchair in which he’d been sitting instead. The arm chair let out a shriek and contorted in what Sirius guessed was the chair-equivalent of constipation.
“Ah, Auclair,” Sirius chided. “You aren’t supposed to curse us. What would Mother say, if you deprived he of the immense pleasure of doing it herself?”
Auclair roared in fury, drowning out the shrieking chair.
Regulus howled, tears streaming down his face, grin wild and unable to cease his fit of laughter.
Auclair readjusted, aiming again for Sirius, but before he could mutter a spell, Sirius stood up, meeting his tutor in a well-practiced duelling pose. Except instead of a wand, Sirius Black had only his fingers and the magic coursing through his veins.
Another red bolt shot from Sirius’s fingertips, once more hitting Auclair directly in the chest. This time, his once-expensive, dark green robes changed into a shade of neon orange that greatly clashed with his bright pink hair.
Regulus cackled and roared, clapping his hands when he had to stop laughing to catch his breath.
A string of French curse words flew from Auclair’s mouth as he looked down at himself. Then, turning from Sirius, Auclair grabbed Regulus by the back of his neck, his wand trained on Regulus’s forehead.
Instantly, the triumphant smile disappeared from Sirius’s face. Regulus let out a small whimper.
“Don’t you fucking dare,” Sirius growled, trying to ignore the fact that his voice cracked when he spoke.
A wicked, twisted grin spread across Auclair’s face. “Ah, there’s that Slytherin fury. I knew it was there somewhere.”
“Sirius—” Regulus choked out, but Auclair silenced him with a flick of his wand.
Sirius grit his teeth together. “Let him go. He didn’t do anything. You want to punish me, so do it. Not him.”
“And still with that brazen stupidity,” Auclair sneered. “So unbecoming of the heir to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.”
“ALPHONSE!” roared a voice from the doorway.
All three of them turned to see the looming, well-to-do shape of Walburga Black watching the scene unfold with something akin to hellfire blazing in her soulless, grey eyes.
“Release my son, Alphonse,” she snapped, and instantly, Auclair obeyed. Even a cretin like Auclair knew better than to test the patience of Walburga Black. Regulus tumbled to the floor. He scrambled to his feet, brushing off his robes and hovering close to Sirius’s side. Sirius didn’t miss the tremor that went through his younger brother’s body.
“Sirius!” Walburga said, her voice a little too loud, a little too grating on his already-frayed nerves for Sirius to entirely hide his flinch. His mother gestured at his tutor. “Fix him. Now.”
Knowing better than to talk back to his mother, Sirius suppressed an eye-roll and flicked his wrist at Auclair. His robes instantly reverted to their original colour, as did his hair, save for a bright pink streak, right down the centre of his scalp.
Walburga gave him a harsh glare, her lips pressed in a thin line.
“Sorry,” Sirius muttered, though he was not even remotely so. He gestured to the sparks of magic flickering between his fingers. “Best I can do. It’s still a bit unpredictable.”
This was, of course, not even the least bit true. Sirius Black had considered himself the resident expert in wandless magic since he turned eight years old. Number Twelve Grimmauld Place, naturally, was warded against all sorts of magic, both protecting from the outside and concealing the secrets within. With no enforceable restriction on underage magic, Sirius had perfected a series of simple hexes and jinx, all easily accessible with varying flicks of his wrist.
Regulus, though a year younger, was not nearly as skilled or practiced as his older brother in wandless magic. The magic he displayed was predominantly accidental, as was standard of a wizard his age. Sirius, on the other hand, had something of a knack for charms and enchantments, despite never having owned a proper wand.
Walburga, of course, knew all of this, and had bragged to Druella about his knack for wandless magic whenever the occasion to lord Sirius over his cousins arose. However, now, looking at the pink streak in Auclair’s hair, Walburga said nothing to contradict Sirius’s excuse. Instead, she said, “We’re going to Diagon Alley.”
Sirius blinked, unable to hide his surprise.
“You, apparently, are in need of a proper wand,” Walburga said. “Kreacher and your father shall meet us there. Come, now, Sirius.” She held out her hand.
With a wide-eyed glance at his brother, Sirius went to his mother’s side, though he did not take her hand. Instead, she grabbed his bicep, his arm clutched tightly between her well-manicured fingers.
Sirius tried and failed to suppress a grimace. He did not particularly like to be touched, even if it were his mother and it didn’t inherently hurt to be touched. Not unless she was also in the process of cursing him. The Blacks, themselves, were not a particularly physical family. Personal space was valued above all else and physical contact, if ever utilised, was usually accompanied by a certain degree of punishment.
Regulus, of course, was his one exception. Touching Regulus neither came with the burning pain of physical contact with someone of a lesser bloodline, nor did Sirius ever view it as a punishment to have Regulus’s hand clasped in his, or his hand resting on his younger brother’s shoulder. It was merely comfort, plain and simple, between two young, yet long-suffering souls.
Sirius tried to pry his arm out of his mother’s grasp, only to earn himself a harsh yank that nearly ripped his shoulder from its socket.
“Regulus, back to your studies,” Walburga commanded.
Regulus immediately obeyed, picking up the book that Sirius had hurled at Auclair and opening it up to a random page, pretending to pick up right where he left off.
Walburga turned her hellfire-gaze to Auclair. “Alphonse, I leave you in charge.” He nodded, obediently. Walburga lowered her voice. “I feel it necessary to remind you that the discipline of my sons is mine and mine alone. You will not raise a hand against either of them again, no matter what this one might do.” She shook Sirius, to emphasise her point. “Am I understood?”
“Of course, my lady,” Auclair said with a slight bow, a lock of his pink-streaked hair falling in his face.
Sirius didn’t bother hiding his smirk. Regulus watched them, and Sirius didn’t miss the flicker of fear at the thought of being left alone with their recently slighted tutor. He strained to catch Regulus’s eye. “I’ll bring you back something, yeah?” Sirius said.
Regulus gave him a weak smile and nodded.
Without another word, Walburga yanked Sirius down the portrait-lined hallway, all the way to the entrance hall. “We will discuss your punishment later,” she hissed in his ear.
Sirius swallowed the bile rising in his throat and tried, instead, to think of the wonders that awaited him in Diagon Alley.