"You don't have make that face. I don't mind."
Spica is sitting on the rug in the Gryffindor common room, and she's shaking. She just told Remus the most important thing and he didn't even hesitate. It's too bad he's not the person she was worried about telling.
"Don't tell me not to make this face," she says miserably. "What's James going to say? What's anyone going to say?"
Remus sighs. "I don't know. I only just figured out I'm not the only fag at Hogwarts last week. So." He doesn't look at Spica. "I don't know if Purebloods even know that word," he says.
So that is how who Spica was and who Sirius is become a block between him and Remus. They become a way in which he hurts that doesn't quite connect to the ways in which Remus hurts. Remus tries, but Sirius doesn't want Remus to understand. He wants James to understand.
One night in fifth year, he and Remus lying outside together, at the top of one of the towers.
"I know how that feels," Remus says softly, apropos of nothing. "Not being in charge of your own body."
Sirius lies still and pretends not to hear him.
But Remus is good, because Remus is constant. He finds a star chart and points out Sirius, the dog star, when Sirius wants to change his name. Later, when Sirius learns to transform, they both laugh about it.
Sirius is a dog in the same year he perfects the spell to change his body. The dog is just a middle step.
He and Remus sleep together, for a while, in their seventh year. Then they stop sleeping together and start living together instead. Being freak roommates is a good way to start off life after Hogwarts. Sirius can curl up around Remus once a month and try not to dig his teeth in. Remus can digs his nails into the small of Sirius' back when someone sees them in the street and calls Sirius by the wrong name.
They're never what Remus wants them to be to each other, though.
It's a problem. Sirius can't call Snape Snivellus without getting called Spica. He can't decide if that's fair. He thinks Snape only says he because Regulus makes him.
Before Regulus starts at Hogwarts, of course, Snape is as much of a petty bastard as he can possibly be. Sirius lights his robes on fire and Snape calls him a girl. Sirius turns Snape's hair into spiders and Snape insults his tits. It's a good system.
"You're pathetic," Snape tells him when they're fifteen. It's probably not the first time, but Sirius has a bad memory for the rubbish that comes out of Snape's mouth.
" I'm pathetic?" he demands. He's still binding his chest and his voice is squeaky. It's not a good year.
Snape glowers at him across the classroom. "Yes. It's never going to work. You can try all you want, but it's not impressive."
Sirius goes red. "Fuck off," he snaps. "It's not like you'll ever look like a man, either."
Snape laughs. "I wasn't talking about that, you idiot. I was talking about Potter."
The worst thing about Snape is that even after he's not allowed to call Sirius a girl anymore, he never stops being just clever enough.
So Sirius beats him up again, as usual, and Snape can't say anything else nasty with his mouth hexed shut.
"If you're not a girl," Peter starts hesitantly.
"Yeah?" James asks. He sounds sharp and quelling.
Sirus notices Remus's mouth twitch, but he cares a lot more about what James is doing.
"I didn't mean anything--" Peter tries again, but James cuts him off.
"Of course you didn't," he says loftily. "Doesn't much matter, does it? Sirius is still our friend."
"Well, of course," Peter says, clearly relieved.
And that's how it is with Peter. He follows James' cues, so it's not as though Sirius will ever know what he thinks of the whole thing.
One time, when they're seventeen, he and Sirius are alone in the library and Peter says, "Do you ever miss it? Being a girl?"
"No," Sirius says fiercely. He's not as angry since he moved in with James and his family, but he's still as prickly as ever. "Why would I? It's never been me."
Peter subsides, looking sad. "I just wondered--"
Sirius slings his arm around Peter. He can finally touch people without feeling ill. "Mate," he says, "I wouldn't ever go back."
"Not even if it meant--" Peter blushes. "If it meant someone would look at you who wouldn't otherwise?"
Sirius' stomach lurches. "No," he says. "No, that's . . . To be honest, Peter, I don't think it would make much of a difference."
Peter nods and gives him a little smile of comradeship.
"I could be the heir," Spica says.
"No," Regulus says, "you really couldn't. And I don't mean because you're a girl."
"I'm not a girl!" Spica shouts. It's the day before she starts at Hogwarts, and she damn well knows. But Regulus is looking at her with his serious little face and he's right . She hates this family. Even if she's a boy, she's not going to inherit a damn thing from the House of Black.
After she tells Remus the truth, when they're twelve, she writes home. The letter is addressed to her parents, but it's meant for Regulus. She knows he'll understand.
There is no word from home for three weeks. Then Regulus writes--in his impeccably neat handwriting--to say that Spica is the best big brother he could ask for. They probably both know that's a lie, but it makes Spica feel better.
The next time Sirius is home, his parents act like nothing's happened, but Regulus calls him brother and he and ignore it when anyone glares at them.
When Regulus starts at Hogwarts, he becomes a very polite, nasty bodyguard for Sirius. Sirius hates him for being Sorted into Slytherin, but he still ruins the lives of anyone who deliberately calls Sirius a girl.
When Sirius is sixteen, he moves in with James. He's barely speaking to Regulus anyway, but at that point, Regulus stops trying to speak to him.
He can forgive Sirius for being a boy, but not for betraying their family.
"Regulus must think you want a chance at being heir," Bella says. "Which, as we all know, is nonsense."
"Regulus knows it, too," Sirius says. He's twelve, and at home for Christmas. His aunt and cousins are here, too, but he and Bella have hidden themselves away in Sirius' bedroom.
"He's smart, for a stupid little child," Bellatrix says. "Smarter than you, probably."
"Probably," Sirius agrees. "So you don't care?"
She sighs. "Why would I? What am I losing? Cissy will miss the chance to do your hair, but it doesn't seem as though you're cutting it any time soon, so you could probably be bullied into it. But I don't care about hair. I have business to do."
"What about the other things?" Sirius asks. "I'm marriage material now, you know."
Bellatrix laughs. "I've got a boyfriend, thanks. I'd sooner die than marry someone like you." She winks. "A Gryffindor . Please. But Cissy might be swayed."
Sirius looks at the pictures of girls tacked up on his walls. They're pretty. But they're not for him. "I think I might like boys," he says quietly. He doesn't dare look at her.
"You're so difficult," she says. "Well, have it your way. You're too smart for her, anyhow."
And that's how things are with Bellatrix, until the Death Eaters.
"We have a place for everyone," she tells him then. "Even people like you."
They're standing by the lake, and it's twilight. He just came down here to think. He's sixteen, and he just learned how to transform into a dog. He's weeks away from managing the spell to transform everything else.
"Even people like me?" he asks, furious. "How can you say that?"
"I mean the rest of the world thinks you're a worthless freak, but we don't. I don't." Bellatrix looks him in the eye, perfectly calm.
"You used to mean that," Sirius spits. "Now you just think you can, what, use me because I used to be a girl? Like you think you can use Snape because he has no friends?" He stops, surprised with himself.
"Turning us down now doesn't mean turning us down forever," Bella says. "Goodbye, Sirius. I'll see you again."
"Say what you like, you'll always be a bitch to me," Lucius Malfoy sneers.
Sirius is twelve. Lucius is older. He's managed to corner Sirius after Quidditch practice, with James still in the locker room.
"Go away, Malfoy," Sirius says. There are worse things, he thinks, than being a bitch.
Lucius laughs. "You're the talk of the Slytherin common room, you know. You and your silly little game. You must realize you'll never be a man, Black."
Sirius clenches his fist around his wand. "There are spells," he says steadily. Spells that you can only do yourself, and he isn't old enough or quite clever enough to master them yet. But Madam Pomfrey says he will.
"But everyone knows you," Lucius says. "Everyone talks about your family anyway . I don't think there's a single person in my House doesn't know all about you and your--"
"You're such a fucking bore."
Sirius turns. Bellatrix is standing behind him, arms crossed over her chest. She's always at Hogwarts these days.
"Do you honestly spend your time harassing kids, Malfoy? Come on, make a fool of yourself somewhere else."
She waves at Sirius over her shoulder as she goes. Malfoy follows her, silent and furious.
When James comes out, he frowns at Sirius' expression and says, "What is it?"
Sirius loops his arm through James' and says, "Nothing. Let's go eat."
"Transfiguration isn't my strong suit. You really ought to ask Potter."
Sirius sighs in frustration. "I can't , Evans. Not about this."
Lily relents. "No, I understand. I only meant--Well, I'll do my best. I know Potter can be awful. Probably even to his friends."
Sirius wants to say that's not exactly what he meant, but instead he just shrugs and says, "Right, sometimes. Look, I've looked up the spells, and I've talked to Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey about it. I just need to practice."
"You ought to try McGonagall," Lily says cautiously.
Sirius knows. She's offered, even, in her brisk and embarrassed way. But he's not ready yet for it to be quite that real. "I will," he says.
He works on understanding the spell with Lily off and on for two years, until all he can do is wait. He just isn't there yet, even though he's far ahead of most people in his class.
When he can't wait anymore, when he's fifteen and furious, he learns to brew polyjuice potion.
Alone in his room over the summer, he drinks it and looks at himself in the mirror, tracing the line of his jaw, the curve of the muscles in his arms and chest. He looks perfect.
After he changes back, he feels so guilty that he has to tell someone, but he can't think of a single person he can tell. Not James, not Peter, not even Remus. Not Regulus. Not Bella, anymore.
So he writes to Lily.
I'm sorry I'm a freak who stole my best friend's hair , he writes.
It only takes a day for her to write back. He doesn't keep the letter or remember much of what it says, but she tells him he's not a bad person.
"Why did Professor Snape call you Spica?" Harry asks.
Sirius's stomach flips. This is the one person he can't afford to lose.
Before he has a chance to say anything, Remus practically snarls, "Because he's a petty bastard." He relaxes and says, "Sorry. Sort of like you, Sirius."
Sirius barks out a laugh. "Petty, yeah. But he's not wrong. That used to be my name." He looks Harry in the eye. "Back when I was a girl." He wonders why he's purposefully testing his godson.
"Oh," Harry says. Then, "Right, well, I don't blame you for calling him names."
I did it first, Sirius wants to say, but he's too grateful.
Harry looks like he wants to ask more questions, but he doesn't. He'll probably ask Remus later, or Hermione.
Later, when he and Sirius are alone, Remus says, "He's so glad to have a family again that it doesn't matter to him." He probably doesn't mean it to sound like, He'll take any freak , but who knows. Remus isn't always kind, just quiet.
But none of this is right. Harry isn't being undersatnding for the same reasons James was.
"He's not James," Remus the mind reader says sharply. "If you want him to be everything James was to you, maybe I should call the Order."
That is more than unkind, but all Sirius says is, "James was never more than a best friend to me, Remus. Isn't that the point?" And even if he had been , he wants to add, that wouldn't have been the reason you and I didn't work out.
"I don't want to be a girl anymore, and that's not a joke," Spica says. He told Remus three days ago, and it's been eating at him ever since. He and James are the only ones in the dorm.
James is silent for a second. Then he says, "Right. Well, we can't very well call you Spica, can we?"
Spica lets out a breath. " Oh. That's all?"
James grips his arm fiercely. "Yeah. You're my best friend anyhow. This'll just mean I don't get made fun of for being best friends with a girl."
Sirius nods a little desperately. "Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Remus was helping me pick a new name. Sirius, he thinks."
James makes a face. "I don't know. Well, no, I think it could grow on me. Sirius, then. You'd best start using it now so I can get in the habit." He grins. "Bloody hell, though. I didn't see that coming."
"Don't think anyone did," Sirius says, trying to sound casual. "Maybe Remus."
"He's clever," James agrees. "Why don't you change your last name, too? Make a clean start of it?"
Sirius thinks about it. Spica Black. Sirius Potter. He wonders if it's all right to want to be James' brother and his boyfriend at the same time.
But of course it's not.
For the next four years, James hits or curses anyone who calls Sirius a girl. Remus watches, and when he hears people start in, he lets Sirius take care of it himself.
When James starts dating Lily, Sirius starts sleeping with Remus. It's never very good, probably because Remus likes cock. That's one of the nicer things Sirius thinks about him during that time.
Sirius always wonders what would have happened with James if he'd just stayed a girl, but honestly, he knows.