Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns all of Harry Potter's world and its wonderful characters. I own nothing but the plot I made up and a few OCs.

I am what I am

And what I am needs no excuses

I deal my own deck

Sometimes the ace

Sometimes the deuces

It's my life and there's no return and no deposit

One life, so it's time to open up your closet

Life's not worth a damn 'til you can say

Hey, I am what I am

(Shirley Bassey)

SIRIUS:

Sirius never meant to become a white sheep in the Moste Ancient and Noble Family Black. It had happened so gradually that, to begin with, he hadn't even noticed. It had started with normal childish defiance: Sirius had always been one to test boundries – needing to find out exactly how far he could push his mother before she snapped and punished him. Being brought up, for the most part, by the family house elves, Sirius longed to gain the attention of his haughty mother and almost permanently absent father, and he found that the most effective way to do this was by getting into trouble.

It started with little things. He stole a jar of enchanted colour-changing nail vanish from his cousin, Narsissa, and painted a handlebar moustache like Uncle Alphard's on his Grandmother's portrait which hung in the hall. Unfortunately for Geminus Black's portrait-self, the nail varnish was designed to be everlasting, so her portrait was taken down and hidden in the attic. Sirius was spanked and locked in the cellar for a day where he screamed and beat small fists against the door, afraid of the shadowy bulks of the wine-barrels and the skittering things in dark corners.

One Christmas Eve a few months after his seventh birthday, he spent a quietly productive night chewing up thirteen packets of Drooble's Best Blowing Gum and sticking it into his sleeping cousin Bellatrix's hair. The resulting drama the next morning was well worth another spanking and the confiscation of his pocket money for two weeks.

Undeterred, and drunk on the attention and his creativity, Sirius pulled his next prank when the Malfoy family came to visit for a dinner party. Lucius Malfoy had sneered at Sirius's new green velvet dress robe and Sirius smiled brightly at him, then later enlisted the help of his little brother, Regulus, to lure Lucius away from the main party and into a spare room in which Geminus Black's old Swallowing Chair was stored. It was only much later, when the Malfoys were due to leave, that the older boy was discovered swallowed up to his neck by the massive, fur-upholstered chair, swearing fluently at Sirius and Regulus who were painting the older boy's white-blonde locks with coloured streaks of glittery pink and violet food colouring.

Only his favourite cousin Andromeda, and Great Uncle Alphard seemed to appreciate his efforts towards causing chaos in the Moste Ancient and Noble House of Black. At the time he hadn't realised that they recognised in him the same defiance towards his family that they had found in themselves. As Sirius's mother pushed him further away from her and her ideals through constant criticism and punishment, Andromeda and Alphard quietly took him under their wings, creating a small flock of white sheep among the Black.

Sirius grew to love his two protectors more than his parents, and when Andromeda announced her engagement to the Muggleborn, Ted Tonks, three weeks before Sirius's tenth birthday and was consequently disowned and burnt off the Black Family Tree, Sirius's efforts at mischief turned from a bid for attention and into a subtle way to get revenge on behalf of his favourite cousin.

"You'll go the same way she did!" shrieked Walburga Black as she furiously directed the house elves to catch the twelve nifflers that were tearing the house apart in search of shiny items.

Sirius had saved his pocket money for months to afford the nifflers, and hoped his mother wasn't going to drown them.

"Are you listening to me Sirius Orion Black? I swear I will burn you off the family tree if you keep behaving the way you do!"

"Well, maybe I don't care!" Sirius screamed back, "Maybe I think that it would be better to be like Andromeda than like you!"

"DON'T YOU DARE SPEAK HER NAME IN THIS HOUSE AGAIN, THE FILTHY MUGGLE-LOVING BLOOD TRAITOR!"

Before Sirius had a chance to react, his mother had slapped him hard across the face with the back of her hand. He felt the big ring with the family crest cut into his cheek as he fell to the floor. His mother had never struck him before. Ordered him to be beaten by house elves, yes, but never actually struck him herself. Sirius's hatred hardened to diamond and lodged in his chest.

"I like Ted!" Sirius actually felt himself shaking with fury. "He's kind and funny and I don't care that he's a mudblood!"

He opened his mouth to say more, but she leaned down and slapped him again, before picking him up and dragging him to the kitchen and throwing him into the cellar. He was there for two whole days, the longest time he could ever remember being punished for, and his hate and anger grew through each dark hour.

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Sirius woke with a jerk in the early hours of the morning he was due to leave for Hogwarts. He sat up in bed, listening, and smiled when he heard the tentative knock the second time.

"Come in, Reg," he called softly to his little brother. The door creaked open and nine-year-old Regulus crept in and scrambled up onto his brother's bed.

"I don't want you to go to school," he whispered to Sirius. "What'll I do without you to protect me from Mum?"

"You don't need protection," Sirius said, grinning at his brother in the darkness. "I'm the bad one. You only sometimes get into trouble 'cos I make you."

"But I'll miss you here."

"I'll miss you too, Reg."

Sirius leant over and hugged him around the shoulders. Neither of the boys were used to physical signs of affection and it felt awkward and warmly comforting at the same time.

"You'll write to me?"

"Of course," Sirius said. "I'll write and tell you about all the brilliant pranks I plan to pull on all our slimy Slytherin cousins."

"But you're going to be a Slytherin. If you pull pranks on all of them, who will be your friend?"

Sirius leant back in his bed, regarding his little brother. Regulus' face looked pale and worried in the moonlight filtering through the curtains. He came to decision.

"Can you keep a secret?"

"A secret?" Regulus said uncertainly. "What secret?"

"I'll only tell you if you promise to keep it."

"Okay. I promise." Regulus leant forward, his face eager.

"I am not going to be in Slytherin."

"What?"

"Shhh!" Sirius hissed, slapping his hand over his brother's mouth.

Regulus batted his hand away, staring at him open-mouthed. "What do you mean you won't be in Slytherin? Everyone is in Slytherin. You can't be anywhere else. The only other person who was in another House was Andromeda and she…" Regulus trailed off as he suddenly understood. "That's why isn't it? 'Cos of what Mum did to Andromeda! Come on Sirius! Do you want that to happen to you? She'll hate you – more than she already does! Besides, you can't choose what house to be in."

"Yes you can," Sirius said. "Well, not what house you will be in, but you can choose what house you don't want to be in. That's what Andromeda did. She said to the Sorting Hat that she didn't want to be in Slytherin, so it put her in Ravenclaw."

"She didn't!" Regulus whispered in tones of horrified awe.

"She did, too."

"But what if it doesn't put you in Ravenclaw? What if it puts you in Hufflepuff? Or Gryffindor? What if it put you in Gryffindor? No one in our family would ever forgive you!"

"You would, wouldn't you?" Sirius asked, suddenly uncertain.

"You want to go into Gryffindor?" Regulus shifted away from Sirius on the bed, as though his disturbing Gryffindor tendencies were contagious.

"Please Reg, say you'll forgive me even if it puts me there." Sirius reached out to grab Regulus' wrist as he moved away.

"Mum'll kill me!"

"Please?"

"Sirius…" Regulus turned to stare at the shaft of silver moonlight from the window. "Okay, okay. I promise I won't hate you. But I can't promise I'll stand up for you." He looked at Sirius with tears in his eyes. "I'm not brave like you. You would make a good Gryffindor. You're stubborn and brave and do stupid things without thinking. But I can't stand up to Mum like you can."

Sirius felt a clench of pain in his heart, as though it had twisted and been yanked roughly up in his chest. He wondered if this was what Andromeda had felt as she watched her name being burnt off the family tree. He wanted to scream at Regulus, tell him that brothers should stand up for each other no matter what. But he couldn't. Regulus was right. He wasn't as brave as Sirius. In fact, saying that he would support Sirius even secretly was the bravest thing he had ever done.

"It's okay, Regulus. As long as I know that you secretly don't hate me it'll be fine." He hesitated for a second, then said, "Even if I wanted to be in Slytherin, I have the feeling I couldn't be. Can you think of any Slytherin-ish qualities I have? At least this way I'll have made my choice."

Regulus didn't answer. He just leaned over and gave his brother another one of those awkward hugs before slipping out of the bed and tiptoing to the door.

"I really will miss you, you big, stupid Gryffindor," he whispered as he got there.

"Shut up, you git!" Sirius hissed back, that pain in his heart slowly fading.

Regulus huffed a laugh and shut the door behind him.