Regulus reads by the large sitting room window. The sunlight streams a golden yellow glow over the pages of his book. He loves this; the quiet, the solitude, no yelling to disturb him and no brother to throw hexes at him.
He thinks of his brother. Sirius is gone. Regulus' silence is undisturbed because his parents have no one to shout at. His solitude is uninterrupted because his brother is not there to bother him.
Lowering his book, Regulus runs a finger along the pane of the
windowsill, the wood dark and dustless. He sighed. He was tired and cranky, just having finished his schoolwork for Potions. The Christmas holidays were always ruined by extra amounts of schoolwork; at least, they were ruined according to Sirius. 'Couldn't they just let us rest,' Sirius had said more than once, both during the summer holidays and during the Christmas and Easter ones.
Regulus had finished his quickly, knowing that it would take him more time to get through Potions than anything else. The subject had always been his least favourite. He had finally finished it, though, and as he suspected, it had put him in a foul mood.
A yawn threatened to creep up on him, making his body feel languid and lazy. He stood to attempt to send blood to his extremities, stretching his arms over his head. The muscles in his back were tight and bunched; he twisted around to loosen them.
Something hit him in the side of his ribcage, knocking the breath out of him as he fell to the floor. He felt the immediate urge to laugh, and he did it, confused and happy all at once. He heard some sounds over his laughter. Looking to the doorway, he saw Sirius standing with his wand out, smiling at him. Kreacher was at his feet, his snout like nose wrinkled in distaste.
"Young Master mustn't be so loud," Kreacher said as he shuffled closer to where Regulus was still on the floor, unable to stop laughing. "Young Master will wake the Mistress. Kreacher begs Young Master to keep quiet."
"Bugger," Sirius swore. "I don't know how to do any reversal spells for Cheering Charms. Kreacher, take the spell off, will you?"
Regulus thought that Kreacher had probably thrown a dirty look at Sirius, but he was just speculating; it was no secret that Kreacher detested Sirius. In the next instant, he was able to stop laughing, the Charm lifted. He scrambled up off the floor, glaring at his brother. "What'd you do that for?"
Sirius shrugged. "I have to practise my spell work," he said casually. "You looked so solemn that I thought I'd make you feel better."
"You're not allowed-" Regulus started, but Sirius waved his hand.
"Oh, please," he said, exasperated, but still smiling at his younger brother. "You looked as if you could do with a good Cheering Charm. I was just doing you a favour."
"I'm fine," Regulus snapped. "You didn't need to practise it, you git. You just wanted to hit me with a spell that wouldn't get you into too much trouble."
Sirius' mouth tightened. He leaned against the edge of the doorway, twisting his wand between his fingers. "I did you a favour," he repeated. "I might do it again, too. But you'll have to ask nicely for it, this time."
"I hope you do," Regulus said as he walked towards his brother. "If you keep on the Ministry will come and throw you into Azkaban for illegally doing magic outside of school." He brushed past his smirking brother and stepped out into the corridor, turning back around. "Can't you just leave me alone for two seconds?"
Shoulders slumping, Sirius frowned. "No, I can't. I have no one else to talk to here. Mum won't let me send an owl to James, and she won't let any of my friends visit me." He grinned again. "So it looks like you're stuck with me, little brother."
Regulus fought back his own grin. When Sirius was happy, it was infectious. Regulus didn't want to make nice with his brother, though. They were enemies at school, no matter how close they had been just a few years before. He turned away from the other boy and started to walk off.
"It doesn't have to be like this, Regulus," Sirius called after him. "We'll grow out of this. It's stupid to be hostile forever. We're bonded by blood."
Sirius was right, of course. It was stupid, this animosity. They would both grow up and reconcile whatever differences Hogwarts had forced upon their relationship, or they would kill one another, fighting for different sides of some upcoming war or conflict. He knew that it would have to be the former. He didn't think he could ever kill Sirius, no matter what. As much as he sometimes did not want to admit it, Sirius made him happy.
"Maybe," he grunted quietly, slipping off down the dark corridor
towards the stairwell. He stops at the first step, looking up into the gloom of the second floor. Ghosts of memories dance in the dark corners. He feels the air shift as he ascends.
Echoes of childish laughter greet him as he reaches the landing of the second floor. He stops, closing his eyes as he strains to remember. He takes a step towards his bedroom
and stopped when he saw that Sirius was standing in the doorway. The older boy was clearly waiting for him. He probably knew.
"Let me through," Regulus said hastily, trying to push past his brother. A strong arm kept him out.
"Just tell me what you did, first," Sirius said stubbornly, his hair falling into his eyes. "I heard her yelling. She said something about a vase..."
Regulus sighed, folding his arms across his chest. "I accidentally knocked it over. She'll kill me; that's the vase that Uncle Reginald passed down to Father."
"Bugger," Sirius muttered. Regulus frowned; Sirius was not allowed to curse. His brother had always done the forbidden, though. He tried to push his way past again.
"Let me through," he said, exasperated. Sirius was just being a prat.
Sirius stared at him, his childish nose wrinkled and his arms folded back over his chest. "What are you going to tell her-"
"Boys! Get down here at once!"
Regulus winced, dread rising in the pit of his stomach. The last time he had been in trouble, his father had beaten him. The scars from the belt to the back of the legs had not faded.
Sirius raised his eyebrows at him, but silently slid past and headed down the stairwell. Regulus followed slowly, wondering if he could possibly run away to avoid facing his mother's wrath.
When he finally descended into the living room, his mother was standing next to the broken shards of the vase on the floor. She was holding her wand, but she wasn't speaking. Instead, she was glaring at Sirius, who was standing next to the doorway.
"So," his mother said softly, almost as if she were greeting them with affection. "What happened?"
Regulus opened his mouth, but he was cut off by Sirius' voice.
"I did it accidentally. I was playing with my wand, and I tried a levitation spell. I couldn't make it work, though. I'm really sorry."
Closing his eyes at his mother's intake of breath, Regulus shook his head slowly. No, Sirius couldn't take the blame for what he did himself. Sirius COULDN'T; he'd been in so much trouble lately already, and his black eye from the last time had been purposely unhealed to remind him not to 'do it again', whatever it was that he had done. No...
"Regulus, go upstairs," his mother said softly, not looking at him as he opened his eyes to stare at her. She was glaring at Sirius, who was shuffling his feet but standing his ground.
"Couldn't you just fix it, Mo-" Sirius started to say, but she quickly raised her wand and threw a spell at him wordlessly, her eyes flashing as he bent over in obvious pain.
"Fix it," she repeated harshly. "Fix it? Why don't YOU fix it, you ungrateful little swine?" She cast another spell and hurled it at him, the force almost visible as it flew through the air, knocking Sirius to the floor with a cry. "Regulus, I said go upstairs."
Regulus wiped at his tears as he stared at where his brother was writhing around in pain. "But he can't fix it, Mother. Please, he doesn't know the spell! He would do it if he could!" He had no doubt about that, but Sirius was only seven years old. Surely, she didn't REALLY expect Sirius to fix the vase...
"I said go!" She shouted at him, really seeing him as he let tears run down his cheeks, trying resist the urge to run to his brother. "Go now!"
He left in a hurry without a second glance to where his brother was moaning and crying in pain, curled into a ball on the floor. He hurried out the door and ran up the stairs as fast as he could, racing into Sirius' room and throwing himself onto the bed and letting himself sob, beating his fists against the
soft dark blue coverlet, the thread still looking new and untouched. His mother still keeps Sirius' room the way he left it, refusing to let his father take everything out and clear the room for another use. The reason why she does this is lost on Regulus; he thinks that their mother hates his brother. She's glad that Sirius finally left, he speculates.
He exits Sirius' old room and closes the door softly, feeling the air shift from cold to warm. The corridor is silent and empty. He walks across the space to his own room, pushing the door open and entering slowly. He stares at where his bed is sitting, already made and tidy. He shifts closer to the bed, sitting slowly down on the edge. Feeling the softness of his own coverlet, the mattress sags slightly with his weight as he
scooted back and reached up to pull the covers down just enough to crawl under them. He burrowed into the safety and stillness of the cloth, the coolness of the sheets sending chills over the exposed skin of his arms and his chest. Goosebumps stood out as he shivered.
He wasn't tired, but he had been told to go to bed by his father. Sirius had a big day tomorrow; he was to catch the Hogwarts Express in the morning, and they all had to get some sleep, as they would all be accompanying his brother to the train station.
Two minutes, twenty minutes, a couple of hours...time was undecipherable and swiftly passing while Regulus dozed, visions of big red trains and colourful paintings adorning castle walls dancing in his head. He wasn't sure if he had been dreaming or just imagining, but he clearly heard the click of his door as it opened, breaking the long stretch of silence that had dominated just a moment earlier.
"Still awake?" It was Sirius, sounding sleepy but worried. Regulus pushed himself up to a sitting position, furrowing his brow at his brother's frown.
"Come in," he said as he watched Sirius move closer, shut the door, and sit on the edge of his bed. "What's wrong?"
"I..." Sirius trailed off as he glanced down, staring at his hands. "Can I sleep in here?"
They had not slept in the same bed in years, but Regulus was not about to complain; Sirius was a still sleeper and he always seemed to be warm. He wordlessly shifted over and raised the edge of the blankets. Sirius immediately rolled over into the space next to him, facing him, the shirt of his pyjamas twisting around a bit at the neck.
Sirius sighed, but he didn't speak. Regulus tried to start him off. "Are you excited?"
He watched as Sirius shut his eyes, his lips set into a frown again. "Yes."
This wasn't the whole truth, Regulus could tell. He moved a bit closer to Sirius' heat, bringing his hand forward to touch his brother's chest lightly. "And?"
Regulus stared at Sirius. Scared? Sirius was never scared. He never showed fear. Ever.
"What if I don't make friends? I might not know anyone..." Sirius looked positively miserable, and Regulus scrambled for something helpful to say.
"Bellatrix and Narcissa will be there," he said softly. "And you'll know Andromeda, though I suppose you won't be near her that much with her being in Ravenclaw and all."
"But Bellatrix and Narcissa are Slytherins," Sirius whispered anxiously. Regulus was shocked again.
"That's...that's where you'll be. All Blacks are either Ravenclaw or Slytherin, and you don't read enough to be a Ravenclaw." He knew that he sounded as if he were desperately seeking an answer to Sirius' fear, but really...Sirius couldn't be anything else but Slytherin. "Mother and Father were Slytherins."
Sirius suddenly looked sad. "I don't think I'll be a Slytherin, Regulus."
"Course you will. Why wouldn't you be?"
"No. I'm just...I'm not like our parents. I don't think like they do." Regulus was filled with sadness when Sirius said this, because he knew that it was true.
He raised his hand to Sirius' shoulder, pulling his brother into what he hoped was a comforting hug. "Don't worry. You'll be a Slytherin, and you'll make them proud." He wished that he could believe it himself.
"And then the next year I'll be in there with you."
"And you'll introduce me to your friends, and we'll both make our parents proud." His felt a pang in his heart when he said the words, but he couldn't help it. Sirius was his brother. He had to show support, because that's what Sirius would have done for him.
He opens his eyes at the voice drifting up the stairwell. His mother calls him again after a few seconds, and so he leaves his room and closes the door, sighing.
He finds her in the drawing room. She is standing near the Black family tapestry, gazing up at the rows upon rows of names. He clears his throat, watching as she turns around and smiles at him.
"Let me tell you a story," she says softly, gesturing to the seat next to the desk for him to take. He walks over and sits down, the leather squeaking. Her voice, as it used to do when he was a child and she would tell him stories, washes over him.
"You see the top of the tree," she lifts her dainty hand to point at the first Black, Constantine Black. "He's the first of us purebloods. See where these come into the line?" Her hand sweeps to the right of the tree, a little ways down, where Archivir Malfoy joins with Anwyn Black. Ru Lestrange connects to Rhona Black further down on the left. "This is the first crossing of the pure families."
He lets his eyes peruse the top part of the Black part of the tree. There are a good ten or so generations of Black marrying Black. Sister marrying brother, father marrying daughter or cousin. Regulus feels a little strange from looking at that, imagining marrying his own mother.
"The Lestranges and the Malfoys, the first ones, are on different trees," she continues. "Constantine Black was the first, a descendant of Salazar Slytherin himself. He decided that Muggles and Mudbloods would have to be avoided to make his family tree into what it should have remained all along...pure. He had one son and two daughters, so he let his daughters marry into the Malfoys and the Lestranges, two families who shared his views on keeping bloodlines pure." She stares up at where the intricately weaved name of Constantine Black sits at the top, rimmed in gold and a thin green snake underlining the name. "He was clever, Regulus," she continues. "He told the fathers of the sons that his daughters married that they were to follow his trend. Let sisters and brothers wed. Keep the blood pure. The first few generations were rough. Children and infants died, and some of the ones that grew into adulthood had many health complications."
"So why did he do it?" Regulus is hesitant to ask, but he is curious as to why the bloodlines had to be pure if there were problems.
She turns and smiles at him slightly. "Because the bad blood, the complications...it was all bred out. After more than a few generations, there was only good blood left with the ones who survived. Us Blacks, along with the Malfoys, the Lestranges, and a few other families who started the pureblood later on, had the best powers. We had the best survival rates, the best looks, and the best abilities. We had the best blood."
He stares. It makes sense to him. He understands what she is trying to say. "If I marry anyone but a pureblood, my sons and daughters will have bad blood mixed in them."
"Yes," she agrees softly, glowing with pride. He feels triumphant in telling her what he concluded with her story. "There is no bad blood in the pureblood families. It is acceptable to mix blood with other purebloods, because there is no bad blood left. Once a child is born with any bad blood, however, it is generations of pureblood breeding before the bad blood disappears."
He nods and stands up, his mind flickering faces of known pureblood girls that he knows. "I will continue in the pureblood path, Mother. I will not let you down."
"I know," she nods, turning back to the tapestry. That is his cue to leave, so he takes it, pulling the door closed behind him. His mind plays the story of the history of Blacks like a Muggle film.
The bad blood was bred out. That means that there is no bad blood in him. In the Blacks and the other pureblood families; there were a few others like the Malfoys, the Lestranges, the Weasleys (though he knew that there were getting fewer and fewer of the pureblooded Weasleys), and some from other countries. There was no need to be forced to marry his mother or one of his closer cousins; he would have a variety to choose from.
Smiling, he climbs the stairwell again. He reaches the top, stopping at the end of the corridor to think. To remember. To close his eyes and take a deep breath, inhaling the sweetly cold air through his nose and pushing it out slowly through his mouth. The good air in. The bad air out. He feels dizzy all of a sudden, placing his hand on the railing that lines the sides of the stairwell. The wood is
cool and hard, eyes of steel, penetrating through the tough walls of callousness that he has spent year building in defense against his brother's persistent charm. He shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably, avoiding the gaze.
"I know you heard me," Sirius said softly. Harshly. "I'm leaving."
"Have a nice holiday, then," Regulus managed, though his stomach was heaving at the thought of Sirius' absence from the house. His brother, however different from the rest of the family, belonged at 12 Grimmauld Place.
"I'm not coming back," Sirius snapped. "I'm never setting foot in this wretched house again!" He sighed and lifted the strap of his bag to his shoulder. "Not that you care."
He wouldn't cry. He wouldn't try to coax Sirius into staying, either. His parents were right; Sirius was a rebel and an uncaring, ungrateful swine...wasn't he?
"This 'upholding the Black family honour' shit has turned you into a nutter like them," Sirius hissed, and Regulus looked up in shock, a bolt of anger flashing through him. "Purebloods are not royalty, as much as Mother would like you to believe that. We're no better than any other humans, Wizarding or Muggle."
"We're better than Muggles," Regulus argued. "We can do magic! And the pureblood families are all better than half-bloods or Mudbloods, too. We're stronger, more powerful." His mother had always told them. She had ingrained it into his skull as soon as Sirius had left for Hogwarts that first year, when Regulus had been too young to go. Sirius, she had told him, would never listen, so it was up to Regulus to not disappoint her.
Sirius shook his head at him angrily, pushing past him. "Goodbye, Regulus," he said almost sadly. He didn't turn around, though. "If you ever get tired of their pureblood mania and their 'family honour' tripe, then send me an owl. I'll take care of you." He started to descend the stairs.
"I'm not a child!" Regulus felt heated and angry, but he couldn't look at the back of his brother then. Not when Sirius was determined to never return. "And I don't need you!"
Sirius didn't say anything. He left quickly and
silently, the phantom of his ever-leaving brother passing him again and again as he stands at the top of the stairwell.
Regulus bites his lip at the sensation.
In some ways, Sirius never left.
In some ways, Regulus is comforted by that thought.