Flying at top speed through the brisk autumn night air, squinting with the light of the full moon, Regulus knew at once that Quidditch would become his outlet. All of his stress, his worries, his fears...they would all be released through the thrill of excitement that ran through him as he soared above the pitch. It was his first time on the pitch, though not necessarily on a broom, and tryouts for the Slytherin Quidditch team were in a few hours.
When he had first heard about the tryouts, Regulus had not thought about trying out. Quidditch, he thought, would just take up his free time in the evenings. He liked his hours of relaxation; he could think of no reason to worthlessly dissipate that time.
But then, on the eve of tryouts, something had changed his mind drastically.
He had been tucked away in a dark corner of the library, finishing his essay for History of Magic. He had always loved the subject; visions of the different Goblin Wars and Dark Creature hunts and wizard bans all formed a picture of a violent past that gave him great joy. It was fun to see the exciting version of history. He supposed that when he got out of Hogwarts, he would do well to become an academic of some sort, whether it was teaching or researching. It filled him with glee whenever he thought about doing something with Wizarding history for the rest of his life.
Faint laughter had interrupted his thoughts, however, irritating him. Madam Pince was strict about noise. What imbecile had the audacity to disturb his studying?
He should have known. At a table not very far away sat two people, including his brother's best friend, James Potter. He was the one who had laughed, the cretin. Regulus had seethed. He abhorred this one more than he hated anyone at Hogwarts. He had found it easier, in the year and few months that he had been there, to direct what loathing he had wanted to have for Sirius to Potter. After all, it was almost the same thing. Potter had tripped Regulus during his Sorting the previous year. That, Regulus thought, had been unforgivable.
Sitting with Potter was the enigma, Remus Lupin. Regulus had not bothered to try and conjure dislike for the sickly looking boy. He thought that it would come naturally, Lupin being Sirius' friend and all. To his surprise, Potter received the majority of his hate, and Lupin and their other friend, Peter Pettigrew, happened to be spared.
At that moment, as Regulus had watched through slitted eyes, Potter had leaned back and sighed loudly. "I wish someone would try out this year," he had said in a tone that grated on Regulus' nerves. "Sirius is a good flyer. I don't know why he won't try out. I won't have anyone to cheer on out there." He had sounded pathetically miserable, much to Regulus' delight.
Lupin had rolled his eyes, pushing his hair out of the way, his face greyish. "Stop that. You'll make friends with whoever makes it on the team this year and forget all about us non-Quidditch playing friends, anyway."
Potter had snorted. "Right." He had paused, and then asked for what Regulus had supposed to be the hundredth time, "Why won't you try out again?"
Setting down his quill carefully, Lupin had suddenly looked quite suspicious to Regulus, despite the bags under his eyes and the worry lines on his forehead. "I don't want to take up my time for my studies," he had said carefully. "Besides, I'm terrible at Quidditch."
Lupin was clearly hiding something.
Potter had accepted this answer, however, no doubt a bigger dolt than he had first seemed. "Well," he had said, "at least I'll have fun clobbering those Slytherin idiots again. It's a wonder that some of them can even remember which end of the pitch to fly towards."
And with Potter's grin, Regulus had decided that he would be on the Slytherin team no matter what. He would show Potter which team was full of idiots.
So in the darkness of the pitch, Regulus practised. He flew slowly, looking around carefully for an invisible ball of some sort. He had not decided which position to try out for. The Slytherin team needed a Chaser and two Beaters. He knew that Potter himself was a Chaser. Perhaps he could secure one of the Beater positions and concentrate on knocking Potter out of the air.
He revelled in the feeling of weightlessness that permeated his skin. It was so EASY, this flying. The lights from the castle illuminated a part of the pitch. The moon cast a silvery glow across the other end.
He didn't know how long he had been flying, but soon, the very eastern part of the sky was lightening slowly, a pinkish tinge blossoming just above the dark line of the horizon. Tryouts were in the afternoon, which left only a little more time to practise before the pitch became filled with other Quidditch-minded boys and girls.
Looking around, Regulus saw the outline of some people in the far distance. It was somewhere near where that Whomping Willow tree was planted. Two people were slowly making their way towards the castle, though Regulus wondered how he could have missed them coming from the edge of the forest, which was quite a long way from the Willow. He tried to squint, sitting idly on his broom as he stared at the two, the slightly taller one supporting the shorter one.
He wasn't sure what had hit him, but Regulus felt something knock his breath out of his lungs in that next instant. He fell a short distance but righted himself quickly, scanning the ground and settling his eyes upon two figures who stared up at him. Angry at someone catching him unawares, he flew down close enough to make out who was grinning wickedly up at him.
Potter. And Pettigrew.
Both had brooms in their hands, and Potter had the audacity to make a rude gesture up at him before clapping Pettigrew on the shoulder. "I told Peter here to pick a target for practising his spell work," he called up. "It had to be something moving, high up, and completely dense. Looks like he found the perfect target!"
Regulus felt a rage build up as he stared down at the two. Pettigrew kept glancing at Potter, still holding his wand, smirking up at Regulus.
Unfortunately, Regulus had left his wand in his dormitory. He hadn't thought that he would need it for flying.
His mind quickly decided what he should do. He tilted his broom down and shot towards the pair on the ground, settling his face into a determined mask of rage. Potter, to his credit, stood his ground, but Pettigrew scuttled out of the way.
Whether Potter thought that he would pull up at the last second or not was quickly made known. Regulus flew right past Potter's shoulder and kicked out at that sneering face, which shuttered in surprise right before Regulus' boot connected with it. Pulling up sharply, Regulus landed and clenched his broom in his hand, turning around.
Potter was lying on his back, wincing, blood spurting from his nose. Regulus watched as the thick red liquid dripped down Potter's mouth and chin onto the front of his robes. Pettigrew was crouched down beside his friend, trying to wipe up some of the blood with his own robes. Potter pushed him away, glaring at Regulus.
"You'll pay for that, you prick," Potter spat. He angrily jerked out of range of Pettigrew's fussing hands and stood shakily. "That was dirty, even for a Slytherin git like yourself."
Regulus shrugged lightly, his fingers aching because of his grip on his broom. "I was unarmed," he said roughly. "You would have hexed me."
"I'll still hex you!" Potter turned and grabbed at Pettigrew's wand, which the latter had thrown to the ground at the kick to help his friend. He snatched it up and pointed it at Regulus. "What shall it be, then? Jelly-legs? Knee-reversal? How about broccoli coming out of your ears?" He fingered the wand as the grinned wickedly, circling slowly. "I could make it grow out of other places, too. Though you probably know what it feels like to have...other places filled. Slytherin is a tight bunch, after all."
Regulus had stood his ground through this entire speech, seething. He didn't have a wand. How was he going to get out of this? He risked a quick glance at where Pettigrew was still standing, watching with predatory eyes.
"Relashio!" Regulus was blinded and thrown back, gasping as he felt the hairs on his arms and the flesh of his face burn. It wasn't fair, he thought, because that spell was at least a third year level curse, and he was only a second year. He coughed and pawed at his eyes, trying not to cry at the pain.
He heard something else from nearby. Someone shouted, "James," and then a few seconds later, "Stupefy!" and Regulus thought that it must have hit Potter, because from where the older boy had been standing came a grunt and a thud. He heard a scared whimper and he fought to open his eyes, trying to see what was going on.
A few seconds later, someone was helping him up, gripping his arm. A slightly rough voice asked him if he was okay, and he recognized his brother. Jerking out of Sirius' grasp, Regulus touched his own cheek lightly, recoiling when he felt the tightness of his burned skin. "Potter did this to me," he snarled in the direction of where he thought Sirius was still standing.
"Bugger," Sirius muttered. "Come on, I have to help get you to Madam Pomfrey. She can fix you right up-"
"Let him go," someone else interrupted. Bellatrix. Regulus felt Sirius grab onto his arm again and tense up.
"I'm taking him to get some help," Sirius said stubbornly. "So sod off."
"You're not taking him anywhere," Bellatrix hissed. "I'm taking him. You can scrape your friend off the ground."
"James is fine," Sirius argued. His hand tightened slightly on Regulus' arm, making him wince. "I'm taking Regulus."
"Let him go or your other friend gets it," she said nastily. Hearing a whimper again, Regulus suspected that she probably had a wand pointed at Pettigrew.
"He's my brother," Sirius said quietly, but the grip lessened. "I didn't want to see him hurt. I didn't know that James...that he..."
"Of course you didn't," Bellatrix taunted. "How were you supposed to know that Potter was a great git who attacked unarmed children who are younger than him? I mean, he never does that when you're around, does he?"
"Shut up," Sirius snarled. "Just shut up about him. You don't know what he's done for me-"
"Oh, I'm sure that I DO know, Sirius," she said. "Being friends with him has made you popular, hasn't it? He's the star Quidditch player, after all. You'd be nothing without him, just like Pettigrew here."
"Peter's someone," Sirius said angrily. "Just go, Bellatrix. I'll take Regulus up to the castle."
"He's in my House," she spat. Regulus felt Sirius tighten the hold on his arm again.
"He was placed in the wrong House," Sirius yelled back. "He should have never been a Slytherin!"
Regulus was awash in a sea of emotions. He pulled away from Sirius, stumbling a little. "You're the one in the wrong House!" He held out an arm, feeling someone take it. "I'm in Slytherin like I was supposed to be. You're the one who mucked it up. You're the one who disappointed Mum and Dad." He made himself sneer, despite the fact that he probably looked stupid with his burned face. "You're the one who failed the family. Not me."
There was a grave silence. Regulus could feel the hand on his arm stroking lightly at the singed flesh of his forearm.
"We're going," Bellatrix said lightly. "Tend to your loathsome friend and his lapdog." Regulus could feel himself being slightly pulled away. He could hear nothing else behind him. But then, that's what he felt like he was walking away from, anyway.
Regulus, with his newly healed skin and the latest announcement, grinned at the Quidditch captain as he realized how wonderful he felt. The skin itched a little and he had to force himself to keep his hands from his face. Instead, he gripped his broom tightly with both hands and looked around at the rest of the Slytherin team.
He had secured one of the Beater positions. As soon as he got back to the school, he would head to the library to research some spells that he could use during the upcoming game against the Gryffindors. Cheating, after all, was one of the Slytherin secrets to winning.
He would show Potter the consequences of messing with a Black.