Cygnus Black steps out of the Floo and into the main reception room of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place. Taking a moment to smooth down the front of his robes, he then turns back to the intricate design of the fireplace, inlaid with the Black family crest and motto, and extends a hand to help his wife and daughters out.
“Cygnus!” booms a voice, and he turns around to see Alphard striding across the room towards him, a grin nearly splitting his face.
Cygnus outstretches a hand to his brother, who pauses to scoff at it before knocking it aside, instead seizing Cygnus in a bear hug that nearly lifts him off his feet. Behind him, Cygnus hears Druella tutting her disapproval, and the giggles of Narcissa and Andromeda.
“Hello, brother,” Cygnus says, once Alphard has released him. “How are you?”
“Splendid!” Alphard says, ducking around him to kiss Druella on the cheek, which she endures with a frozen smile on her pale face.
Cygnus knows his wife dislikes his brother, but he’s a favourite with his younger daughters, who squeal with delight when he hugs them both in turn and produces a Galleon each for them from behind their ears. Bellatrix, however, is regarding her uncle with a look of disdain.
“That’s a stupid trick,” she says plaintively. Andromeda steps on her foot; Bellatrix elbows her in the ribs.
“Now, Bellatrix,” Druella admonishes, but she’s smiling. “That’s not polite.”
“Ah, don’t worry, Dru,” Alphard says, waving a hand dismissively, failing to notice Druella’s lip curl at the nickname. “I’m sure you’ll be top of your year when you start Hogwarts, won’t you, Bellatrix?”
“Mother and Father already let me practice some spells in the house,” Bellatrix says proudly.
“Splendid,” Alphard says again. He ruffles Bellatrix’s dark hair, ignoring her squawk of protest, and turns back to his brother. “So, Cyg, what do you reckon? Boy or girl? Heir or spare? Care for a wager?”
“Certainly not,” Cygnus says stiffly. “Honestly, Alphard, you’re far too careless with your money. And,” he adds, with a glance at his daughters, “I don’t really think talk of gambling is appropriate in front of present company, do you?”
Alphard stares at him for a moment, and then throws his head back with a raucous laugh. Cygnus, not for the first time in his brother’s company, feels stuffy and uptight. As far as he’s concerned, Alphard is far too laid-back about some things. Content to live as a bachelor his whole life he may be, but Cygnus actually takes his family seriously, and he sincerely hopes that upstairs, behind the many Silencing Charms that have been cast, Walburga is delivering a boy. Cygnus adores his daughters, but a male in the Black line would be a thing to really celebrate.
The heavy door to the reception room is pushed open, and Cygnus drops his gaze to where his sisters’ house-elf is walking slowly into the room. “Masters Cygnus and Alphard,” he croaks, bowing low to the carpet. “Mistress is ready for company now. The child has been delivered safe and well.”
“Thank Merlin for that,” Alphard says, with a wink to Cygnus. “Suspense there was killing me. Come on, Cyg. Ten Galleons say it’s another girl.”
Bellatrix is pleased, largely in part because stupid Uncle Alphard has to part with ten Galleons, when the baby turns out to be a boy.
“His name is Sirius,” Uncle Orion is saying, as Uncle Alphard and Father shake his hand and even Mother smiles a real smile. “Sirius Orion Phineas Black.”
It’s a large name for such a tiny thing. Bellatrix and her sisters crowd closer to Aunt Walburga on the bed, jostling each other in their eagerness to see their cousin. Bellatrix is the oldest and the tallest, but all she can make out is a tuft of dark hair amidst the blankets Aunt Walburga has him swaddled in.
“I want to see the baby,” Bellatrix demands, but Aunt Walburga doesn’t seem to hear; she’s too busy staring down at her son with an expression on her face Bellatrix is sure she’s never seen there before.
“He’s perfect,” Aunt Walburga whispers.
“I want to see,” Bellatrix says, stamping her foot, accidentally crushing Cissy’s toes, who cries out in pain.
Mother’s hand on her shoulder is firm. “Be patient, Bellatrix. You’ll have all the time in the world with Sirius soon enough. After all, you will have to teach him about being a Black.”
Bellatrix catches Andromeda rolling her eyes, but she doesn’t care. Bellatrix straightens her shoulders, stands up a little taller with this new responsibility. She’s been trying to teach Andromeda about being a Black for years, but Andromeda doesn’t listen to her, even though she should because Bella is the oldest. Cissy is too small for such things, and still too intent on playing with her dolls. But Sirius is a boy, and now the Black heir. Sirius will be different.
Bellatrix smiles, watching her cousin snuffle in his sleep. She’ll take care of him, Bellatrix swears to herself. She’ll look after Sirius.