After deliberating whether to go outrageous in your clothing or not, you settled for a pinafore dress over a shirt, something not formal but not gaudy either. You’d only been here a mere hour and you didn’t want to cause chaos.
You leave the bedroom and Kreacher is waiting for you, giving your outfit a disgusted look but signalling for you to follow all the same. You never thought a house elf could make you feel so small but the way he was muttering under his breath, you knew he thought very little of you already.
“-Half blood filth-“ you catch every now and then but it’s faint.
When you get into the dining hall, your eyes have to adjust to the dim candlelight. There’s a long table running down the centre with one end seating Walburga Black, the other seating a stern looking man with sharp cheekbones, aggressively thick eyebrows and lustrous hair swept back neatly. You could see a lot of Sirius in his features.
This must be his father, Orion Black.
The two boys were sat opposite one another and a chair had been set for you next to Sirius. He, in turn, was wearing a brocade waistcoat and a loose shirt, looking like something in a Regency muggle novel that your mother used to keep.
The Blacks really took tradition seriously.
“Sit, my dear,” Walburga gestures, and you obey, already feeling a stuffy air of tension rising in the room.
“Thank you for having me here, Mr and Mrs Black,” you try politely.
“I must say,” Orion speaks, his voice deep and drawling. “When my wife told me one of our sons was considering courting a Locksley, I would never have expected it to be Sirius. I’m pleasantly surprised.”
“I’m glad you approve, father,” Sirius puts on a fake smile and you can see it’s costing all his pride to do so.
“Of course, the Locksleys do have their current….image problem,” Orion continues. “Walburga tells me Edmund is in need of a match. It might help his…ailment.”
“He’s not really been the same since my mother died, sir,” you say carefully. “She was the love of his life.”
“Curious when pure wizards fall for muggle girls. I don’t mind the dalliances but marriage….what was he thinking?” Orion tuts. “Your grandfather tried to get him to marry my sister Lucretia but he wouldn’t listen.”
This was news to you. You never had any inkling the Blacks wanted to intermingle their families earlier into your house.
“Robert was something of a pragmatist,” Orion smirks. “He even said Edmund could carry on seeing your mother additionally but he needed a pureblood marriage to carry on the line.”
“I think that’s rather medieval,” you say bluntly.
“Let me guess, girl,” Orion sneers, his skin pulling back tightly so you can see the outline of his skull. “Your mother read you muggle books about marrying for love?”
You say nothing, heat pooling in your cheeks. You’d never been so angry and you’d never been so simultaneously embarrassed.
“She’s only ever dated halfbloods or more at school anyway,” Regulus snorts, helping himself to food. “Never seen her with a muggleborn.”
“She likes who she likes,” Sirius says warningly. “Nothing wrong with that.”
“Let’s eat before an argument ensues,” Walburga shakes her head. “The main point is Sirius has a twenty-eight family match which will make your child a pureblood so this really is moot discussing this. It will bolster the Locksley name back from disgrace.”
You would’ve said something nasty back but Sirius’ hand shoots to your leg under the table and he squeezes it hard. You just bite your tongue and start spooning dauphinoise potatoes onto your plate.
“So, Regulus, how did this confusion occur? Your mother led me to believe it was you that was courting,” Orion breaks the silence after a few minutes of quiet eating.
“That’s what I believed,” Regulus flashes you a rather offended look. “We attend Professor Slughorn’s parties quite regularly and had struck up quite the rapport. I was a little disappointed when my brother seemed to be taking her attention.”
“I guess I’m just more charming, Reggie,” Sirius smiles pleasantly.
“Are you courting for love then?” Regulus asks casually, intending on making his brother squirm. “From your outbursts, I would never have taken you for the type to date a family name. “
Sirius nearly chokes on his vegetables before composing himself and taking your hand, placing it in full view of the table with your fingers interlocked, “Of course. It’s just a coincidence she’s from an old family. I like her for her.”
“I didn’t say like, I said love,” Regulus smirks smugly.
You felt incredibly uncomfortable now, all eyes on the both of you. Sirius was never going to say anything so outrageously romantic because, as Remus had told you, Sirius was terrible at relaying feelings and found it awkward being overt. Regulus knew this and was trying to expose your fake relationship for what is was.
“Yes, actually, I do love her,” Sirius says quietly.
Silence falls across the table as everyone processes what’s just been said. Regulus looks absolutely stunned, Walburga and Orion are staring at their son as if he’d just sprouted pixie wings. You, on the other hand, look anywhere other than Sirius.
Did he really just say that?! You know he was trying to keep Regulus away from you but saying something so bold was just so out of character. He really was putting a lot of effort into protecting you.
“Well, I suppose it’s a bonus,” Walburga shrugs, clicking her fingers so Kreacher appears with a salt cellar as large as himself. “Your father and I were arranged and it took time. A good foundation for a good family match will ensure no problems.”
“What your mother means, Sirius, is that she’ll expect many grandchildren if you’re so much in love,” Orion laughs.
“Well that depends on when Locks is ready,” Sirius hides his face behind his hair, finally succumbing to embarrassment.
“Such modern notions,” Walburga tuts. “I despair of today’s youth.”
Again the room lapses into tense silence. You can feel Regulus’ eyes boring a hole into your head. You got the impression he was furious.
Sirius has let go of your hand but he keeps nudging your foot with his, as a sign of solidarity. You’re able to eat a little of the meal now, the uncomfortable atmosphere having killed your appetite before. You’re just praying for the moment when you can leave and hide in the guest room.
A crack beside you makes you jump, your knees banging into the table as you see Kreacher appear next to you with a grin on his gnarled face. He’d definitely done it deliberately to spite you.
“Kreacher has a message from Edmund Locksley.”
He hands over a letter before walking out of the door.
Ignoring protocol, you read it quickly,
Walburga has told me you’re settling in well and you’re courting her eldest son Sirius. Sirius was one of your friends, wasn’t he? That’s lovely. I was friends with your mother before we started courting also.
I hope you’re enjoying yourself.
Walburga has also arranged for me to meet Margo Bulstrode this week.
Speak to you in a couple of days,
“Good news?” Walburga asks knowingly.
“Just that he’s meeting Margo this week,” you tuck the letter into your shirt, away from prying eyes.
“Excellent,” Orion nods in approval . “About time. Margo is an attractive prospect, I’m sure they will get on well.”
“Maybe there’ll be wedding bells soon,” Regulus says nastily, knowing that’s the last thing you wanted to hear about your father.
“I hear Margo looks like the backside of a hippogriff,” Sirius interrupts. “Edmund will have more taste than that.”
“Sirius!” Walburga chides.
“So who do you suggest then?” Orion tents his fingers, studying his son.
“Judith Abbott,” Sirius shrugs. “Pretty widower, part of the twenty eight, likes gardening. Locks tells me Edmund loves his garden.”
“I think this girl has changed you, Sirius,” Orion gives you a shrewd look. “You’re actually thinking sensibly. Walburga, send an owl to the Abbotts.”
“Yes dear,” Walburga replies. “Well if you’ve changed my son this much, I think you’re rather ready for marriage soon yourselves.”
You’re currently taking a big gulp of wine and cough awkwardly as she says this, grabbing the nearest napkin to stop yourself spluttering everywhere.
“Mother, enough,” Sirius scowls.
“She’s right, brother,” Regulus chimes in. “We’re nearly finished with school. You could start married life straight after. How about a joint wedding and graduation party?”
“Blacks don’t penny pinch,” Orion’s eyebrow raises. “Two separate events Regulus. It will be the same when you have a lady on your arm.”
“We’ll think about it,” you recover yourself. “We’re concentrating on our N.E.W.Ts first.”
The plates are cleared away and you’re just itching to run out of the room. This was the most excruciating situation you’d ever been in. At least Sirius had helped you avoid potentially getting a pureblood fanatical stepmother. The Abbots were incredibly reasonable and modern.
“Very well, “ Walburga nods. “You can all retire for the evening. I’m sure the journey was long. Breakfast will be at the normal time.”
Both you and Sirius stood up in tandem, hastily leaving the dining hall and going up the two flights of stairs to the bedroom landing.
“I never imagined it would be that bad,” you blow air out hard. “Your parents are so….”
“Oppressive? Yeah,” Sirius mutters darkly. “This is why I ran away.”
“I’m sorry to make you come back here.”
“I wasn’t going to let you face them alone,” he smiles before it falters. “About what I said in there-“
“-You were just trying to protect me from Regulus, I get it,” you finish for him.
“Uh…yeah, yeah that’s what it was,” he seems reluctant to admit it for some reason. “Come here, I said I’ll show you my room.”
He opens the door to his left and as you enter, you see a sprawling room coated in posters but they weren’t wizarding posters. They were pictures of motorbikes and girls in skimpy lingerie…even girls with their breasts on show.
“Drives mother nuts,” he grins. “I put a permanent sticking charm on them so she can never get rid.”
“You know, I feel like I understand you more now,” you look around. “Why you are the way you are, why you cling to James-“
“-I do not cling to James!”
“Sure,” you wink at him. “But I get it. I would run away from here too.”
“I know I’m forbidden from your room but I’ll sneak in there later today and we can talk like we started doing near the forest last month. I liked that. Would that be alright? I know you’re still probably mad at me for what I did and I don’t deserve it but I miss our conversations.”
“We said a fresh start, Sirius. Sure. Come up later. I’m going to get a nap. I hate travelling,” you yawn for dramatic effect.
“See you later, Locks,” Sirius smiles warmly.
You head towards the guest room, only to run into Regulus who’d come up from the other side of the house.
“Think that was funny, do you?” he scowls.
“I asked you here to be my guest and you show up with my brother?”
“I told you before, I’m not interested.”
Regulus backs you up against the wall and your hand goes to your wand hidden in the garter underneath your dress.
“You humiliated me,” Regulus snarls quietly. “Now Sirius is the favourite son because he’s ‘cleaned himself up’ when you and I both know he’s just here as a buffer.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” you stare him out. “He loves me, remember? When have you ever heard Sirius say that about a girl?”
Regulus pauses, unable to think of a comeback but draws his wand and you do the same. You’re both stood there, inches apart and wands at the ready.
“I should’ve let Severus continue cursing you,” he says bitterly. “You have no taste.”
“Wow,” you laugh. “So because I don’t want you, you’re happy to slice my face up? That’s mature, Regulus. Why don’t you date Servilia Greengrass? She likes you.”
“Because despite your common attitude, I like your spark and I find you very attractive,” Regulus moves back. “Locksley, I am the better Black brother. Sirius will do what he does with all girls. Use them and then discard them. If you get married, he’ll have mistresses. He can’t help himself. He’s a wastrel. I would never do that. I would adore you, lavish you, give you perfect children.”
“Well that’s my decision to make,” you say firmly. “Now I’m going to bed. Good night.”
You duck past him, going into your room and locking the door, enchanting it so he can’t use spells to get in.
Were you really having to barricade yourself away like this? Regulus was obsessive. It almost scared you.
Hopefully Sirius would come over soon and you’d feel a little safer.
You just lie on the bed, wand tucked under the pillow, staring at the canopy and trying to shut off your whirring brain. You were no good tired, you would never survive this place.
Only twelve days left to go.