Sirius Black was awake. He doubted that he would ever sleep again. His entire body was alive with energy, buzzing, as if he could feel the magic fizzing in his veins.
This was unfortunate, as it was well past midnight and there was nothing to do but lie in bed. His mother had begun sending Kreacher, the wretched little snitch, to check in on him after one fateful night when she had discovered Sirius under the covers with a muggle magazine. She had been furious, ranting about how her niece was “poisoning his mind” and “contaminating the purity of the noble Black family.” There had also been a lot about ‘Dromeda’s “perverted obsession with mundanity,” a line which Sirius had thought his cousin would actually find quite funny. It wasn’t funny when Walpurga was screaming it, though—her face twisted up into a frightening snarl.
The magazine wasn’t even Andromeda’s. Sirius had nicked it from a bin two weeks back; he’d shown it to Reg, and they’d had a laugh about the silly, unmoving pictures.
Tonight, though, none of that mattered. Because tomorrow—tomorrow Sirius was going to Hogwarts.
Just thinking the name made him giddy, and he grinned up at the dark panelled ceiling of his room. He felt like laughing—he wanted to throw off the covers and jump up and down on the overlarge mattress. Hogwarts. It was all he’d wanted since he could remember, the shining light at the end of what felt like a very dark tunnel.
All summer he’d been up at the crack of dawn, racing downstairs to check the post. His mother’s sharp reprimands that he behave with decorum had not been enough to thwart his excitement—nor had the punishments she doled out when her commands went ignored. He didn’t care about washing a few dishes or dusting a few old cabinets, and the fact that chores were the worst of it made Sirius think that secretly, his mother must be just a tiny bit excited too. Maybe even proud of him. Just a little. Surely, if she was truly angry, she’d have done much worse.
When the letter did come, Sirius had whooped with joy and grabbed Reggie’s hands, swinging them around in circles until they collapsed on the living room floor, giggling.
“Can you believe it, Reg? I’m really off to Hogwarts.” Sirius had sighed, blissfully. His little brother smiled, although there was a hungry glint in his eye as stared at the letter clutched in Sirius’s hands.
“Wish I could go with you,” he said, rolling over so that he was lying on his back, staring up at the ceiling.
“Aw, come on, you’ll be there in a year! And we’ll be housemates, living in the dorms together, and I can show you ‘round and tell you which professors are nice and all that.”
Regulus dug his fingers into the plush carpet beneath them. “S’pose,” he said. And then, after a short pause, “Won’t be the same ‘round here, without you, though.”
Sirius stiffened. “’Course it won’t,” he said, “Be a lot a more boring, eh?” Even to his own ear, the cheer sounded forced, but Reggie smiled valiantly.
“Yeah,” he said, “Right.”
They left it at that.
Walpurga Black refused to take her sons shopping in Diagon Alley, and Sirius knew better than to think that any amount of pleading or bargaining would change her mind. The Noble Black Family was above mixing with the crowds of halfbloods and mudbloods that were sure to flood the place, she said; it was bad enough, the state Dumbledore had let things get at Hogwarts.
“I mean, really,” she sniffed over dinner on the night that Sirius received his letter, “They used to have standards. Maybe a few halfbloods here and there, but I heard from Dominia Lestrange that nearly a quarter of the incoming class are mudbloods. Can you imagine!” Her husband nodded solemnly in agreement, mouth twisted as though he had just eaten something sour.
“Sirius,” he said, turning to his son, “You’re to stay away from those sort, understand?”
“Yes,” Sirius muttered, poking unenthusiastically at his dinner. He was secretly quite curious about muggle-borns—he’d never met one before. His parents insisted that they were all incompetent, the dregs of wizardkind. But if so many were getting into Hogwarts, they couldn’t all be awful, could they? And if Andromeda had run off to marry a muggle-born, then there had to be something interesting about them, didn’t there? Otherwise, why go through all the fuss?
Walpurga tutted loudly. “Sit up straight, boy, and stop playing with your food this instant.”
Sirius straightened immediately, and hated himself for it. He let his shoulders slouch forward a bit, defiantly, but his mother didn’t seem to notice this small rebellion. She was still going on about Hogwarts: “I mean, what’s next? Goblins? House elves? Dumbledore has to draw the line somewhere…”
So there was no Diagon Alley for Sirius. The Black family’s private seamstress came to measure him for a new set of robes, and Walpurga sent Kreacher out with the list of books and supplies that Sirius would need. He didn’t even get to choose his own owl from the Black family owlery—his parents saw to that, presenting him with a spiteful beast that nipped at his fingers whenever he went to open its cage.
The only good part was the wand. It was a Black family heirloom, stored away until the heir came of age to use it. Even though Sirius had turned eleven in November of 1970, his mother had refused to let him touch it until the summer before he left for Hogwarts.
“A wand is earned,” she had said to him, voice cold and sharp as ice, when he opened the empty box on his birthday. For the rest of the year, any bad behaviour was met with threats: You are the heir to this family, Sirius, and if you don’t wish to accept the responsibilities that come with that title then you will never earn the privileges it bestows, either.
Sirius tried his best. Really, truly, he did. He sat still in lessons (he and Regulus were home-schooled—another reason Sirius was dying to get to Hogwarts. Aside from the children of other stuffy pureblood families, Sirius had never been able to make any friends his own age) and parroted back his parent’s teachings in his essays. He memorised family trees and French conjugation. He wrote fewer letters to Andromeda—and he was sneakier about sending them.
It was never enough, of course. There were still the arguments, and the punishments, and the nights when he climbed into bed wincing on bandaged legs. Sometimes Sirius hated himself for his inability to just let go, to give in and play the proper son that he knew his parents so desperately wanted. He wished he could excise the stubborn part of his heart that screamed at injustice, the bit that felt like a kick in the gut—that isn’t fair. That’s wrong. The infuriating instinct to just scream NO.
But he couldn’t ignore it, no matter how he hard he tried. The more Sirius attempted to fit in, the more aware he became of his complete inability to do so. Like trying to jam a puzzle piece into a board when it just wasn’t shaped right—for the entire year, Sirius felt like something with its edges scraped raw.
Still, he managed. He was good, mostly—good enough that when the time finally came, he got his wand.
Walpurga insisted on a traditional bestowal ceremony, which meant all the family members Sirius hated and the stuffy, starched dress robes and hours of speeches about purity and lineage and the Black family name. He tried not to squirm too much—just a few more weeks. A few more weeks, and I’m going to Hogwarts.
It was actually quite nerve-wracking, having to stand in front of all his relatives and take the wand. Sirius had never touched it—had never even seen it, but he was well aware of the age-old motto: the wand chooses the wizard.
What if this wand didn’t choose him? What if it could sense that there was—something wrong. That he didn’t fit in. As Sirius stood to accept the crystalline case, it felt like a distinct possibility. For a moment, as he opened the box, he was sure that the wand would reject him, proving to his family once and for all the secret fear that curled, hidden, in his heart: that Sirius wasn’t truly worthy of being a Black at all. That he never would be.
There was an oath that he was supposed to say. Sirius recited the memorised words—more horseshit about family legacy, blood purity, blah blah blah—without thinking about them. Instead, he stared down at the wand.
It was elm, nine and a half inches. Dragon heartstring. The wood had a beautiful finish, and it seemed to glow softly in the light. As Sirius finished his oath, his family chanted:
“Toujours Pur,” He repeated. His throat had gone dry.
There was a short pause. Sirius looked up, and met his mother’s eyes. She was frowning, glaring meaningfully at their assembled relatives, who were all waiting for him to do something. Walpurga raised her eyebrows slightly, as if to say, Just pick the bloody thing up!
So he did.
There was a rush of heat—of energy—a sort of tingle, as if stars were shooting up his fingertips and spreading through his entire body. Sirius gasped, smiling. The wand seemed almost to hum in his hand, as if it were greeting an old friend.
It chose me, Sirius thought, giddy. As if in response, a stream of light burst out of the wand. Sirius felt a tug in his gut, like something was pulling the magic out of him. It wasn’t forceful—more guiding, like the wand was showing him what to do. He released a startled laugh, following the wand’s lead, pushing more magic out into dizzy spirals of tiny fireworks that leapt away from the wood to crackle over his relatives’ heads.
There were hums of awe and delight, scattered applause, a buzz of chatter as people began to disperse, turning to talk and find refreshments now that the ceremony was over. When Sirius looked up again, his mother was smiling.
There was still something of a smirk about it—Walpurga Black was beautiful, but there was nothing kind in her features, and the tilt of her lips meant that any smile looked somewhat haughty at best. But it was proud. Undeniably, it was proud, and it was directed at him.
“Well, now,” she sniffed, smile still playing across her lips, “You may just make a fine heir yet.”
Sirius felt as if his heart might burst with joy.