This is a series of vignettes about the Black family and their relationships with alcohol. This story is set in the canon universe and there will be seven chapters. I hope you enjoy, and please remember to review.
Warnings for this fic: Alcohol addiction and misuse. Underage drinking. FASDs. Discrimination, misinformation and slurs regarding FASDs and learning disabilities. Body issues. Swearing. Sadness and angst. Vomiting. Gambling. Death Eater activities including torture. Allusions to child abuse. A scene of fairly intrusive medical examination.
For the first time in thirteen years, Sirius Black is drunk. He's grubby and sweaty, alone in a wood, and with only a hippogriff for company. He doesn't know the time and is barely sure of the date. Sirius is not sure what country he is in. But he is happier than he was been since before he went to prison. Last night he lost Peter but he kept Harry safe, and Harry's safety is more important than anything. More than Remus, more than Sirius clearing his own name.
Thanks to Harry, Sirius escaped. Once Buckbeak had launched off the West Tower, the hippogriff had flown East, straight out over the North Sea. They flew for hours, Sirius' heart battering his ribcage the all the way. The feeling of having escaped was exhilarating and overwhelming. When he'd swam from Azkaban almost a year before, Sirius' head had been filled with Peter, Peter, Harry Harry. Find Harry, find the rat, protect Harry, kill the rat. But this time there was nothing to aim for. All he had to do was fly. Buckbeak tired eventually, wings flapping slower and head drooping, until finally land appeared in sight. Once they were close enough Buckbeak swooped lower, landing in a clearing in a patch of woodland. Sirius slid of the hippogriff's back and managed to turn into the dog before flopping onto the ground. He sprawled there for a long time, head feeling both buzzing and gloriously empty. Eventually, Sirius hauled himself into the trees and beckoned Buckbeak to follow him, and together they collapsed into sleep.
Sirius was awoken this morning by Buckbeak flapping and squawking. The hippogriff hadn't been fed for days- what was the point of feeding a hippogriff condemned to death?- and the long flight had exhausted him. Sirius and Buckbeak walked through the woods and although birds were circling overhead, there weren't voles or stoats to catch on the forest floor. A few times, Sirius heard human voices in a language he didn't understand. He'd shepherded Buckbeak away from them, but once the search for sustenance in the forest proved futile, Sirius knew that the only thing for it would be to follow the voices. He snuffled and barked at Buckbeak to stay hidden, lowered his nose to the ground, and tracked the human scent through the woodland. He found boot-marks which led to the edge of the woods, onto a pathway and eventually to a red-brick building with three cars parked outside and a sign swinging from a beam above the door. Although Sirius couldn't understand the writing on the sign, he could tell that the building was a pub. Sirius felt a strange desire to laugh; he was in the middle of nowhere in an unknown country, hours after he'd reunited with Harry and Remus and nearly been given the Dementor's Kiss. And here was a quaint little tavern. Having trekked through England to Harry and then to Scotland to track down Peter, Sirius knew how to steal from pubs and cafes. He stayed hidden in the woods, watching the pub until the last person left, locked the door and drove away. Sirius waited a while longer, then made his break. He galloped across the carpark, turned back into a man, unlocked the pub door with his wand, and slunk inside. It was dark, so Sirius cast lumos and clamped his wand between his teeth. The pub was swankier than he'd expected from the outside, and Sirius wanted to take time to sit on the plush seats (he'd barely used a chair for a year, and he hadn't touched a cushion since before he went to prison), run his hands across the shiny wood of the bar, or grab a newspaper to try to work out where the hell he was. But there wasn't time. He headed behind the bar to find the kitchen, shoved open the door, and made a beeline to the fridge. Inside, there was a packet of chicken breasts, which Sirius grabbed for Buckbeak, plus a couple of pre-made hamburgers he could warm up for himself. Sirius shoved them into his pockets and snatched a packet of crisps from the shelf. He hurried out of the kitchen and back through the bar, but before he could leave again something stopped him. He was in a pub, for Merlin's sake. Sirius leaned over the bar towards the bottle-rack, yanked out a bottle of a red wine, and raced outside.
He rushed back to into the forest and followed his own dog tracks back the way he'd come. It was harder as a man than a dog because there wasn't a scent to follow, but eventually Sirius found his way back to Buckbeak. He threw the chicken at him, and hippogriff immediately tore at the packaging and gulped down the meat. Sirius scoffed the packet of crisps, licked the salt from his fingers and then from the packet. He uncorked the wine bottle and took a deep sniff. Thirteen years and he hadn't had a sip. Alcohol hadn't been on the menu in Azkaban, and for the past year Sirius hadn't wanted to distract himself with drinking. Sirius smiled happily- God, he'd missed that smell. Sirius threw his head back and tipped the wine down his throat. He'd missed the taste more than the smell, though with red wine smell and taste blurred into one another. The rich, heavy fruitiness. The sweet, spicy sharpness. Sirius finished the bottle quickly, and now he's buzzing on a cloud of giddy drunkenness. He's free.
Sirius had always loved red wine. As a boy, the first booze he tried was absinthe. Creeping around in his parents' wine cellar, Sirius had been enticed by the lurid neon blue of absinthe, though when he tried to drink it the taste was too strong, and he spat it back into the bottle (although that gave Sirius a sense of satisfaction, and he opened up the other bottles to spit in them too). By the time Sirius was twelve, he decided that it was time to stop being a wimp and start drinking properly. He'd spent a term at Hogwarts, so he knew what it was like to escape from this family. He had friends and a reputation and he wasn't a little boy anymore. A few nights into the Christmas holiday, Sirius tiptoed down to the wine cellar and cracked open a bottle of red wine (everything on the spirit shelf might be as hard to swallow as absinthe had been, and white wine was the colour of piss). The deep, acidic taste made him shudder, but Sirius reminded himself that he wasn't a baby. Finishing this bottle would get one over on his parents, and impress the boys at school. Plus, being drunk looked like fun. Sirius kept drinking until he'd emptied the wine from the bottleneck, then until it was down below the top of the label. He felt exhilarated when the cellar began to wobble and swim. When Sirius stood up his body lurched, and when he waved an hand in front of his face it he seemed to have fifteen fingers. Sirius giggled. His head felt heavy and light at the same time. When Sirius put the bottle back on the shelf and walked back upstairs, his feet slipped on the steps and his head lolled. It was thrilling. Back in bed, he burst into laughter so hard he had to stuff his face into his duvet.
A couple of nights later, Sirius slunk back to the cellar to finish the bottle, and when the holidays ended he stashed a couple of bottles in his trunk to take back to school. It was easy to persuade his new mates to join in: "Peter, you're not a chicken, are you?", "Okay, Potter: I dare you", "I thought you wanted to be our friend, Lupin". James vomited the first time he drank wine, which made them all chortle. By Sirius' second year, he and James had worked out how to steal from the school kitchens. They tried vodka, Firewhiskey, beer brandy and Chardonnay, and at the end of term they liberated a bottle of champagne. But Sirius always favoured red. He liked how adult and sophisticated he looked and felt drinking red wine. He liked he woozy type of drunk it made him, and how it made stress blur into unimportance. He learned to like the sour fruity taste of it. He liked how it made him braver when teasing his friends or sneaking out or jumping off the greenhouse rooves. Hogwarts was fun, and being drunk made it more fun.
On visits to Hogsmeade, Sirius would ask for a glass of wine in the Three Broomsticks. He looked and sounded older than he was, but the trouble with having a reputation at Hogwarts was that it got you a reputation in Hogsmeade too.
"You're Orion Black's boy," Madam Rosmerta accused.
"You're very distracting," Sirius replied, fluttering his eyelashes.
"Professor McGonagall said you'd be down here,"
"I've heard it's the spot to be,"
"She also said you're thirteen,"
"I'm old for my age," Sirius assured her.
"Sorry, we don't serve schoolchildren," Madam Rosmerta told him with a tightly sweet smile, "Go back to your little friends,"
Sirius scowled and stomped away, while the rest of the Marauders cackled and hooted from their table.
By fourth-year, Sirius started keeping a bottle of wine in his bedside drawer for bad days and for nights when he couldn't sleep. He knew he drank more than his friends did, even before Remus timidly pointed it out. But so what? It wasn't an addiction; Sirius wasn't off his face every day. He never turned up to an exam drunk, and hardly ever a lesson. If he was drunk during school hours, it was only because Prongs and Wormtail dared him. Sirius had a stronger stomach than his lightweight mates and besides, the other Marauders didn't have Sirius' family, so they didn't know stress like he did. Towards the end of each term, when he knew he'd be going home soon, Sirius drank more and drank faster. It made him feel brave enough to try bigger dares- shout even louder, jump off something even higher, chat up a girl even older- and to be crueller towards people who crossed him. It felt good.
Back at Grimmauld Place, Sirius would drink half a bottle or more on most evenings, though he'd become so surly and monosyllabic with his family that they couldn't tell he when he was hungover. It took until fourth year for Mother to notice that he'd been stealing from the cellar. She raged and ranted at him, but Sirius didn't care about Mother's tantrums anymore, and the lock she put on the cellar door could be easily unlocked by the knife Wormtail had bought Sirius for his birthday.
The following year, Sirius left Grimmauld Place for good. It had never been his home and now it ever would be again. He was done with his family's bigotry and their patheticness and he was done being made an example of in front of his baby brother and his cousins. He really wasn't a little boy anymore, and he could choose to get out. Sirius drank less once he moved in with Prongs. Not because escaping from his family made him not need wine anymore, but because he had to be on his best behaviour with James' family. The Potters were kind, but they were still parents, and Sirius wasn't of age yet so Mr and Mrs Potter could have sent him back to Grimmauld Place. Sirius had to be perfect in front of them, which included not looking like alcoholic layabout or an adrenaline drunkie. There was still plenty of drinking to be done at school though. As the Marauders got older more of their friends started to drink alcohol too, which made Sirius feel disappointingly less of a rebel, though he liked being able to teach his classmates about different types of booze. Plus, since he'd been drinking more and stronger for longer, Sirius could drink most of his peers under the table, and he liked to think that he was growing out of hangovers. Once NEWTs were over, he and Prongs threw parties every night until the end of term, and on the last Hogsmeade weekend Sirius finally persuaded Madam Rosmerta to serve him a glass of wine.
Life got more complicated when Sirius and his friends left Hogwarts. The real world was exhausting and perplexing, not to mention it cost a fortune. Sirius realised how reliant he'd been on his parents' money, and even the sum Uncle Alphard had left him didn't go far when it came to buying a house. Sirius bought a motorbike instead. Lots of stuff didn't matter if you looked cool (coolness was why Sirius had favoured red wine in the first place), and a flying motorbike was as cool as it got. Sirius loved swerving the motorbike through town and blasting into the sky. He loved screeching it to a halt in front of the pub where he'd meet his mates. Sirius loved pubs. Now he was a real grown-up, drinking booze he'd actually bought, not sneakily necking a stolen bottle of red wine. He loved leaning on the bar, flirting with bartenders and saying things like, "This round's on me," and "Make it a large one, I've had a rough day".
Joining the Order meant being surrounded by danger all the time, and facing death, too. Benjy Fenwick, Caradoc Dearborn, the Prewetts. Dying was no longer something that happened to old people and random relatives. Dying now happened young people, to friends, and their deaths were sudden and violent. Sirius always drank too much at the funerals.
But there was a wedding too, and if you didn't get hammered at a wedding, then when did you? That's what Sirius reckoned, and judging by the conga line it's what James' Geordie aunties though too. Despite the War and James' parents being ill and Lily's sister being a cow and the dreadful news about the Bones family barely a fortnight before, James and Lily's wedding was a bloody fantastic day. Everybody was determined to make it fun and celebratory. It had been a proper party, and the sorrow Sirius had been feeling about James getting married melted away. Lily Evans had turned out to be quite a laugh (who'd have thought it?) and James was happy. Cheers to that.
Prongs tried to become more of a square once Lily fell pregnant, but he was easily persuaded to head down the pub or for a ride on the motorbike. Or both. Sirius needled James about being a henpecked husband and told him that he was freeing him. The bike was freedom to Sirius and, he supposed, getting drunk was too (although there was no way to say that without setting Lily and Moony off fretting). Freedom then, Sirius thinks, tossing the empty wine bottle down beside him, and freedom now. The Ministry will be searching for him, but Dumbledore's got enough ins at the Ministry to put them off the scent. Sirius and Buckbeak will keep alert, hide, and not spend too long in one place. That way, they'll stay free. Sirius has spent thirteen years being the convict, the prisoner, the man locked in his cell staying sane by telling himself "I'm innocent," over and over. Now he can be Sirius Black again. He is not a number or a bogeyman. He is the kid sneaking into his parents' cellar to gob in their bottles, the teenager trying to flirt his way to getting served a Firewhiskey, and the young man roaring up to the pub on his flying motorbike. Flopped on a grubby forest floor, in an unknown country with an escaped hippogriff and a bellyful of red wine, Sirius feels more like that person than he has done for thirteen years.