No one had ever seen Sirius Black so nervous. The usually careless and laid back Gryffindor was seated between James and Remus, fidgeting with the sleeve of his robes and restlessly tapping his left foot as they awaited the sorting of the new First Years.
"You're going to wear a hole in the floor, mate." James warned.
"Does it really matter what house he's sorted into? He's your brother." Peter reasoned. But Sirius did not respond, he merely chewed his lip and made a small whining noise in the back oh his throat while his knee continued to gyrate wildly.
The doors to the great hall swung open and the First Years filed in, gazing around in excitement and wonder. Sirius rose slightly in his seat, desperately scanning the sea of 11 year olds for his brother, but James pulled him down. Sirius seemed to radiate anxiety all throughout the Sorting Hat's song.
Finally, Professor McGonnagall stepped forward and lifted the Sorting Hat off of the stool. Sirius' leg shook harder and faster until suddenly he felt a hand come and rest on his kneecap.
Shocked from the contact, he froze and his grey eyes shot up to meet the amber ones of Remus Lupin.
"Sirius," He said calmly. "It's going to be okay."
And for some reason, Sirius believed him.
"Black, Regulus!" Was called and without a conscious thought, Sirius grabbed Remus' hand tightly.
Regulus walked slowly up to the stool in the front of the hall. It wasn't just Sirius that seemed to be on edge. At the Slytherin table, Bellatrix, Narcissa and their gang were staring intently at the younger Black brother. Regulus himself looked terrified as he took his seat on the stool. He kept his eyes, wide with fear, on the ground so that he could not see either the Gryffindor or Slytherin tables.
Sirius swallowed hard as Professor McGonnagall lowered that hat onto Regulus' head and the next few moments were the longest of either brothers' lives. Sirius' grip on Remus' hand was so tight, Remus was sure he'd need the jaws of life to free himself.
Then, at long last, the Sorting Hat announced loud and clear;
Sirius felt his stomach drop.
The Slytherin table cheered louder than they ever had before.
Regulus slowly stepped down, his grey eyes desperately seeking the identical ones of his brother as he made his way to the table at the other end of the Great Hall. But Sirius did not look up. He kept his gaze firmly on the table in front of him, wide and, to his embarrassment, full of tears.
The Slytherins continued to hoot and holler a little longer than usual, and Bellatrix's shrill cries of "My Darling cousin!" were easily recognizable over the noise.
Suddenly Sirius stood.
"Excuse me," He murmured.
"Sirius, the sorting isn't over," Peter said carefully.
"I need some air, that's all."
"Just wait until the sorting is through," James said, placing a hand on Sirius' arm. "You'll draw too much attention if you go now." Reluctantly, Sirius sat.
"Honestly, Black," Said Lily Evans from across the table. "I don't see what you're making a fuss about. It's only a house assignment. If you weren't so prejudice against the Slytherins you'd see it's not such a big deal. Severus-"
"Shove it, Evans!" Sirius snapped. "Snivellus is just as bad as the rest of 'em. You just don't see if because you're in love with him or something."
Lily's face turned as red as her hair. "No I'm not! We're friends! Because we don't care what house a bloody hat put us in!"
The sorting came to an end and abruptly Sirius stood up.
"What about the feast?" Peter asked, as though he was personally wounded.
"I'm not hungry." Sirius grumbled, stuffing his hands in his pocket and walking quickly out of the hall.
At the furthest table down, Regulus watched his brother leave with the deepest feeling of regret.
Just outside the Great Hall, Sirius paced back and forth, gripping at his hair in frustration. He felt anger bubbling in his chest and tears burning his eyes. Under his breath he repeatedly muttered every swear word he knew, plus a few he was sure he had made up.
In the back of his mind, he knew he was overreacting. It's only a house assignment. It doesn't mean anything...
Except, he thought, that it did mean something. It meant something that he had known for almost his entire life.
When it came to his family, Sirius was different. No one, not even his own brother, was like him. He would never fit in.
He was alone.
Ducking behind a stature of a gargoyle, Sirius buried his face in his hands and let out an angry cry as the tears he had been trying to hold back began to fall freely.
Regulus managed to pry himself away from his overbearing cousins once dinner appeared in front of them. Taking a deep breath, he cautiously approached the Gryffindor table where his brother's friends sat.
"Sorry," Regulus apologized as he interrupted the boys' chatter. "Have you seen Sirius?"
James Potter bit his lip. "Er...Yeah, he stepped out for some air."
"He wasn't feeling well." Remus added, giving Regulus a pitied sort of look.
Regulus tugged nervously on the sleeve of his robe and nodded. "Oh...er..."
"It isn't your fault, Regulus." Remus offered kindly. "He's just-"
Regulus shook his head. "Don't...don't lie to me...it is my fault. He'll hate me. This isn't what I wanted. I didn't want him to be angry! I didn't want anyone to be angry!"
"Of course you didn't," said Lily, smiling sweetly at the boy. "It's not something you had any control over. I'm sure Sirius won't stay mad."
Regulus glanced at her uncertainly. "You don't know the Blacks." And without another word, he strode out of the great all to find his brother.
The sound of footsteps forced Sirius to pull himself together. He quickly wiped at his face and stood up just in time to hear his brother's voice call his name. Slowly he stepped out from behind the gargoyle, trying hard to mask any emotion from his face.
"Sirius, please don't be angry," Regulus pleaded. "This doesn't change anything. I'm still the same person!"
Sirius shrugged. "Yeah. You're the same person. It's just now we're going to learn exactly who that person is." he said coolly.
Regulus frowned. "What's that supposed to mean? All of the sudden I'm a bad person? Just because I wasn't sorted into Gryffindor with you?"
"That's not what I-"
"It's what you meant, Sirius! You're angry because now it's really true! Sirius Black is officially the Black sheep of the family! You wanted me in Gryffindor so that you wouldn't be the only one on the outside!"
Sirius' fists clenched. "Shut up."
"You know, you spent all summer trying to tell me that our parents were bigoted and prejudiced and mean. You hated them for how they treated you when you weren't sorted the way they wanted. Now here you are treating me the same way!" Regulus shouted.
"It's not the same!"
"IT'S EXACTLY THE SAME!"
Neither boy noticed that they had drawn a small crowd. James, Peter and Remus had come running around the corner, as well as Bellatrix, Narcissa and Rudolphus Lestrange.
"You think you're so special Sirius, because you asked the sorting Hat not to put you with the rest of your family," Regulus' voice dripped with rage. Narcissa and Bellatrix gasped loudly. "That doesn't make you special, brother! It makes you a traitor!
Sirius looked as though he had been slapped across the face. The angry red had drained from his face, leaving him a pasty white color and his mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water.
Bellatrix and Narcissa had burst into giggles. "Ooooh!" They squealed.
"You may not be in the same robes as us, Sirius. But the blood in your veins is still the Black family's, and one day you'll realize that you're exactly like the rest of us." Regulus said coldly. "And by that time you'll have no family left to turn to." He turned to his cousins. "Let's go." And all of the Slytherins left without looking back. Sirius stared at the back of his brother's head until he disappeared around the corner to return to the feast. After a few moments, James stepped forward and put a hand on Sirius' shoulder.
"Hey," He muttered. "Let's go up to the common room. Everyone's still at the feast. It'll be empty. We, er...We could take a look at dad's old invisibility cloak, yeah?"
Sirius nodded wordlessly and together, the four boys headed up to Gryffindor tower.