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Thicker Than Blood

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 I.

 1970.

 Regulus Black was huddled in one of the corners of his bed, holding one of his father's large books in his hands. It was slightly chilly despite the rising sun, as the summer slowly died and fall took its place.

He opened the book and started reading, trying to understand anything and failing. It talked about spells and potions that looked too complicated, and he was, as his father told him a few days ago when he asked for a wand, too young to use magic.

He eventually gave up and just started looking at the moving pictures instead. He frowned as he flipped through the pages; most of the pictures were of people jerking and moving wildly, their eyes wide, like the eyes of the animals his father hunted, right before he flicked his hand and they went still.

When Regulus asked him what he had done, his father had told him that he put them to sleep. He asked if he could teach him that spell. His father only shook his head. Regulus was familiar enough with his father's moods and he knew from the look in his eyes to not bring up the topic again. He never did.

As he flipped through more pages, he started to feel the familiar pain in stomach, the one that made him stay awake at night, forcing himself not to sleep in fear that he might have another bad dream. He always had trouble sleeping whenever he accompanied his father to one of his hunts.

He didn't know what the book was about, but he had a feeling that it wasn't anything good. He slapped the book shut, and for perhaps the thousandth time that morning, wished that Sirius was there. He would have grinned when he found out that he stole a book from his father's library and read it with him. He doubted he would have been able to understand it -he had a feeling that this book was one of the ‘adult’ books his father mentioned before- but at least, they would have tried together. But his older brother went away yesterday to Hogwarts for the first time, promising to write him regularly.

He wondered if he should ask his mother if Sirius sent anything, but he doubted he would receive any answer as his mother was usually busy reading the newspaper and answering her letters at this time. If Sirius had sent anything, then it is going to be a while before he found out.

As if on cue, he heard his mother shout his name from downstairs. He immediately bounced off his bed, his heart in his throat. Did she find out that he took the book? But his father wasn't home yet, and she never sat in the family’s library at that time. He grabbed the book, shoved it under his beds, and ran downstairs. Whatever happened, he knew his mother would be angrier if he didn't come at once.

He jumped the last two stairs and turned around towards where his mother stood. His frantic heartbeat slowed down when he saw her standing next to the usual pile of letters, staring at a particular one as if she could burn it alive with just her stare. Her hand was clenched into a fist, fingers turning white from the pressure.

He crept towards her, wondering if he should ask what's wrong or just let her be for now.

"Mum?" He finally asked. "Are you okay?"

"Something must be wrong," his mother murmured. He wondered if she was talking to him or to herself. "The hat has finally lost its magic."

Regulus tried to guess what she meant, but all that came to his head was a funny hat he saw a muggle wear yesterday as they accompanied Sirius to platform nine and three quarters. It was so weird that he was tempted to ask his father for one like it, but they hurried along before he managed to pluck up his courage.

"Is something wrong, Mum?" He tried again, almost hoping that his mother wouldn't snap out of whatever state of mind she was in. He never liked her like that, as he was familiar with how she acted when she finally came to her senses. He suppressed a shiver at the memory.

She suddenly whipped around and faced him. "Go get your coat, Regulus," she ordered. "We are leaving." He quickly nodded and ran back up the stairs, only too happy to do whatever she wanted at that moment.

He snatched one of his coats out and hesitated for a second before leaving the room, debating whether it would be worth it or not to try and get the book back to its place. In the end, he decided that didn't have much time left and that any punishment for taking the book wouldn’t be worse than keeping his mother waiting right then.

When he went downstairs, he found her mother had already worn her cloak and was standing in front of the fireplace, tapping her foot impatiently. She grabbed his hand in a tight grip when he was next to her, then threw green powder into the fireplace.

"Hogwarts," she said. Then, he found himself spinning around as flashes of different colours and sounds assaulted his senses.

He blinked as his vision started to become clear again and found himself in a large room. It was decorated with shelves and shelves of books, potions, and things he didn't recognise. A phoenix was perched on a stood nearby, watching them with round ruby eyes.

In front of him, sitting on a desk was a man with a long beard. He looked up and Regulus was met with piercing blue eyes. He remembered his mother describing him to Sirius a few days before he left, but for some reason, Regulus had the image a cold slightly mad man, not like the person in front of him.

"Ah, Walburga," he said. His voice was deep and warm. "I had a feeling I would see you soon."

"What is the meaning of this?" His mother demanded, raising her right hand, a crumpled letter in it.

"Please sit down, and let's talk," the man said. He looked the same age as his father, maybe a little older.

"I will not sit down until I know what kind of a game are you playing here, Dumbledore," she spat. Regulus flinched.

Dumbledore sighed. "I think you know very well that I have nothing to do with the hat's choices, Walburga."

His mother strode forward. He thought about following her then opted against it. It was better if he stayed out of it. "Then what?" She demanded. "What could have possibly happened to sort my own son into Gryffindor?"

Regulus searched in his memory for that familiar name and remembered a day where he and his brother sat next to each other as their father told them the tale of the Four Founders, and Godric Gryffindor's betrayal against his closest friend, Salazar Slytherin.

"What do you learn from it, boys?" He asked, as he always did, whenever he told them a story.

"That you shouldn't let stupid fights ruin your friendship," Sirius said simply. Their father gave him a disapproval glare.

"This wasn't just a stupid fight, Sirius," he said, then turned around and shifted his attention towards Regulus.

"What do you think?" Regulus hesitated for a moment before he answered. He was originally going to say something alongside what his brother said -It really wasn't a stupid simple fight, but the friendship between the four seemed too strong and deep to be broken apart after all that time.- But he knew his father wouldn't hear of it, so he thought of something else.

"That you shouldn't betray the one closest to you," he said at last. He didn't say who he meant exactly — in his opinion, both Godric and Salazar made a big mistake, but it was enough for his father. He smiled and clapped him on the back, then shot a look towards Sirius.

Regulus hated that look, because whenever he looked at Sirius like that, Sirius would shoot him a glare when his father wasn't looking, full of anger and something else he couldn't place. He didn't like it.

"Nothing," Dumbledore's answer brought him back from his thoughts. "The hat was given all its knowledge about the houses from the founders themselves, and it saw it best to sort your son into Godric Gryffindor's house. I know you aren't the biggest fan of that house, Walburga, but the hat believes that he will do great in it."

"Then, I want to speak to the hat."

"It wouldn't matter," he replied. "The hat made up its mind, and you know that it won't change it." Dumbledore suddenly looked towards him. "You are Regulus, aren't you?"

He blinked in surprise and quickly nodded. He didn't know that the Headmaster was paying attention to him at all, he rather hoped he didn't.

"Why are you standing so far away? Come here and have a seat," he said, gesturing to one of the chairs in front of his desk.

Regulus glanced at his mother but she wasn't looking at him, so he took it as a sign that she wouldn't say no. He shuffled towards where they were and sat on the chair. His legs dangled as he couldn't reach the floor yet, so he rocked them slowly back and forth while keeping an eye on his mother for the slightest sign of disapproval.

"How old are you, Regulus?" Dumbledore asked.

"Nine, sir," he answered. No matter what differences his mother and that man had, he was older than him, and he wouldn't show disrespect. His father taught him that.

"You shall be here in two years then." Regulus nodded. Dumbledore looked at his mother again. "Walburga, please, have a seat. Let's try to put our differences aside and talk about this."

His mother shook her head. "This isn't over, Dumbledore."

He sighed. "I'm afraid so."

“Regulus, come," she commanded. Regulus stood and hurried to catch up with her fast pace.

Just as she was about to put the green powder in the fireplace again, Regulus turned around. Dumbledore watched them as his phoenix stood on his shoulder and sang quietly.


 Regulus opened the door of Sirius’ room slowly and looked around at the mess on the floor.

“What are you doing?” He asked.

“Redecorating my room,” Sirius spat, his back to him, as he waved his wand and another shred of the green wallpaper was thrown on the floor.

“You can’t use magic outside of Hogwarts,” he reminded him, remembering all the stories he had heard about people spending time in Azkaban.

“This is a magical house, isn’t it?” He said, waving his wand for too long, creating a thin crack in the wall. “They can’t pinpoint exactly who is using magic.”

“But mum and dad will,” Regulus said. “They are bound to find out. If they didn’t come here because of all the noise you are making, then Kreacher will tell them.”

“I don’t fucking care!” Sirius shouted, turning around to face him.

That was the first time he had heard Sirius swear. He was about to ask him where did he learn that -language like this was forbidden in this house- but the words got stuck in his throat when he noticed Sirius’ eyes, full of unshed tears and silent misery.

He took a step towards him and Sirius took a step back, staring at the wall, clenching his hands.

“They didn’t mean it, you know,” Regulus murmured. “What they said before. They just said it out of anger.”

“Yes, they did,” he spat.

Sirius stood with his shirt crumpled up and his cheeks blotchy and his eyes puffy with the effort of keeping in the tears.

Regulus took a step forward, unsure of what to do, of how to help his brother, but he needed to do something. Anything.

“Do you want me to help you with the rest of the wallpaper?”

Sirius blinked and huffed, and Regulus pretended that he didn’t see him when he quickly wiped his eyes. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “Okay.”

When they were done, they sat on the bed. Regulus had glue on his fingers from trying to put on the scarlet and gold wallpaper — that was until Sirius got tired of it and they hunted down a spell that could help them. He knew that he was going to get in a lot of trouble, but right then, as he watched his brother toy with his wand, a grin plastered on his face, he didn’t really care.

“You know what?” Sirius asked after they had spent a while in silence.

Regulus made a noise that he was listening, as he thought of how he was going to postpone his parents finding out about the new wallpaper until Sirius’ vacation ended.

“They are right.”

He looked at Sirius. “About what?”

“I did choose to be sorted into Gryffindor,” he said. “The hat kept going and forth between Gryffindor and Slytherin. I told it to choose Gryffindor.”

“But why?” He asked. They both knew how their parents reacted when something didn’t go how they wanted it to. And they were certain that Sirius would be in Slytherin, just like the rest of the family. Regulus remembered his father’s reaction when he had found out. He shuddered.

“Because I belong in Gryffindor,” he stated. “I knew how they would react, but I also knew the right house for me.”

Regulus looked around the room, at all the shredded silver and green wallpaper. The last day before Sirius went to Hogwarts, their parents spent a day to decorate his room with proper colours, as they had said then. They even went as far as buying new furniture to match.

“How did you learn that spell?” Regulus asked as he picked one of the pieces from the floor and played with it idly.

“I watched Dad as he used it, it isn’t that hard.” He shrugged.

“You almost cracked the wall, don’t try to act humble,” he said.

Sirius looked at the wall as if he just saw the crack for the first time. “Oh,” he said. “Shit.”

He then looked at Regulus and they both burst out laughing.

“I will ask Kreacher to fix it, and ask him not to tell anyone,” Regulus said when they both stopped to catch their breath.

“He will tell them if he saw the new decoration. I still have a couple of ideas.” Sirius grinned.

“He won’t. He obeys me.”

Sirius scoffed. “That ugly elf is a spy for our parents,” he said, as he turned around to start collecting all the shreds of wallpaper off the floor

He sighed. “He isn’t. He actually helped me with a lot of things, even though he knew they would be angry if they found out. You just have to be nice to him.”

“Did you see how he looked at me when I came home with my Gryffindor cloak? It is like I betrayed the entire family!”

Regulus started to shred the silver piece in his hand. “He is…Well, he is loyal to Mother, and believes in everything she does.” He shrugged. “But you can change his mind if you just treated him better.”

Sirius snorted. “I doubt it,” he said, as he placed his wand on the table. “Now, will you help me get rid of this mess? I need to finish up before dinner.”

Regulus nodded and together they put all the pieces in one pile and Sirius muttered a spell, it disappeared.

As they walked down the stairs to have dinner, Regulus caught Sirius’ hand in his and squeezed it lightly.

Sirius smiled briefly then it disappeared as their mother’s voice rang clear in the house, ordering them to come.

 


 

 II.

 1974.

The wind rustled around Regulus as he watched his brother mutter something under his breath, waving his wand.

For a moment, nothing happened, and then Sirius started to become shorter as black thick hair slowly came out from every inch of his body, his limbs shaking and twisting. Soon, a dog stood in his place, his tail swinging lazily as moonlight shined on his soft fur.

The dog sniffed and then suddenly froze. In a moment that Regulus could have missed had he blinked, Sirius was back to his true form.

Sirius turned around. "Who is there?"

Regulus put his hand on his mouth, making sure not to make any sound as he watched his brother look around, looking for him.

Sirius took his wand out of his pocket and raised it. "Regulus?" He called.

Regulus poked his head from where he was hiding. "Hey."

Sirius lowered his wand and put it back in place. "Aren't you supposed to be sleeping?"

"I could say the same thing about you," he said as he reached where his brother stood.

"What are you doing there?"

"Watching you. I heard your footsteps as you tried to sneak." He smirked. "You were never good at it."

Sirius rolled his eyes. "Well, Kreacher didn't catch me, and that's what is important."

"So, why are you training to be an Animagus?" He had read about it before, but he had never seen anyone turn completely in front of him like that.

"What? Can't I try and improve myself?" Sirius asked innocently.

Regulus raised his eyebrows. "You can, but you usually don't try at all in the summer, and you don't sneak at midnight to do it."

"I just want to be able to do it." Sirius shrugged. "And Mother never agrees on anything I want to do. She would probably say that I should focus on something else, something more 'useful', as she always says."

"Is it because of that werewolf?" He asked, having had enough of Sirius evading what he was really talking about.

Sirius' eyes widened. "How did you-"

"Oh come on, brother. Did you think I wouldn't notice?" He asked. "Remus isn't careful enough. You are lucky I am the one who saw him sneaking, and not another student like Snape."

Sirius snickered. "Snivellus can't do anything."

Regulus shook his head. "I never understood why you two hate each other."

Sirius pursed his lips. "Because he is a wanker."

He laughed. Sometimes he felt as if he were the older one. He turned around to make sure that Kreacher wasn't listening before continuing. "Where did you learn that?"

"I found a couple of notes written by Professor McGonagall." He winked. "After that, it isn't that hard if you know where to look. Remus might have helped."

"How long have you been practising?"

"A couple of months. This was the first time that I transformed completely." Sirius grinned, his silver eyes shining excitedly in the moonlight.

"And what do you plan to do?"

"Remus is dangerous when he turns, but only to humans," he said. "We will accompany him through the transformation, make sure he doesn't hurt himself, and be back before school starts."

"That's risky, you don't know how wolves are," Regulus said.

"But I know Remus," he stated. "Once his wolf gets used to us, nothing will go wrong. I will have James and Peter with me."

"Is that supposed to reassure me?" Regulus questioned.

"I will be fine," Sirius said. "I will have my wand, and I know a couple of spells for werewolves. Remus taught us himself. I can stop him if needed, but I won't have to."

"Someone will catch you."

"We will manage."

Regulus shook his head helplessly. "Always so confident with yourself," he said. "And whose brilliant plan was this?"

"Mine." Sirius grinned.

He snickered. "I should have known." He shivered as a cold gust of wind passed by. He sighed. "It is late and we should get inside. Mother will be up as soon as Dad comes. You know she is waiting for him."

Sirius' grin vanished.


 Noise erupted from downstairs. Regulus leaned closer towards his brother. Sirius wrapped an arm around him.

Regulus could barely see anything in the dark cold room. They were hiding in Regulus' room, as they were used to whenever their father got pissed or drunk or in this case, both.

He lay his head on Sirius' shoulder, breathing his scent. "Do you think he will find out that we are here?"

Sirius shook his head. "He will be too busy with her."

Regulus tried to hear what they were talking about, but whatever they were arguing about this time was lost between their shouts. Regulus hoped that Kreacher had the sense to stay away from them, and dreaded what would happen to the elf if any of them called for him.

"Do you think he will..." He paused. He didn't want to say it out loud. It would make it all real.

"No," Sirius answered. The shouting increased. "Maybe. If she doesn't calm down soon."

Regulus looked up. "We need to do something. Stop him."

Sirius let out a bitter laugh. "And how will we do that?"

"I don't know. Tell someone."

"Who? No one cares," he stated. "And she would never want anyone to know anyway. She cares too much about the perfect reputation for this family." He snickered. "Imagine her reaction once she finds out. Or his," he spat the last word. "And he will find out, you and I both know that."

Regulus didn't answer.

Sirius was right, he knew, but that never stopped his mind from going in endless circles on how to fix it, because he needed to. He couldn't just watch as his family fell apart. He hated feeling so helpless, but he didn't know what he could do.

It seemed like it all started all suddenly, but maybe it was always there, just beneath the surface, and he was too young and naive to figure it out in time.

They tried talking to their mother, but it didn't end up well. They always reached out for her, but she never reached back.

Regulus intertwined his fingers into Sirius', holding on tightly, praying that this summer would be over soon. Despite that he wasn't in the same house with his brother and Sirius being constantly surrounded by his friends, he didn't feel the need to hide away there as much as he did in his own home.

A shattering sound and a scream echoed from downstairs. Regulus squeezed his eyes shut. He felt as if something was clawing at his insides, slowly tearing him apart.

"How long will this continue?"

"Until we leave this house," Sirius murmured, as he rubbed his back soothingly. "And we will leave it, Regulus. I will make sure of it."

 


 

 III.

 1975.

 Excited whispers rang in Regulus' ears as people ran around him.

"What is going on?" He asked. Students stopped a couple of steps in front of him, circling around something he couldn't see.

"A fight," Lucius said as he pushed through the ring of people.

Sirius was standing in the middle of the circle, staring down at Evan Rosier, who was lying on the floor, a hand covering his bleeding nose.

"Cousin." Narcissa's eyes widened as she looked towards Evan and then Sirius. "What happened?"

"Your cousin was being a little shit," Sirius stated. "I was teaching him a lesson."

She shot a glare towards Sirius as she helped Evan stand, touching his nose tenderly. Her anger seemed to shift towards her boyfriend, who took a couple of steps forward.

"It seemed that he isn't the one who needs to be taught a lesson," he noted coldly.

Sirius snorted and raised his wand. "And what are you going to do about it?"

Lucius smiled. Regulus knew that smile. He needed to stop the prefect before things escalated.

"Enough, Lucius," Regulus said. "We don't need to lose any house points."

Lucius broke his battle of stares with Sirius to look at him instead.

"No doubt that Evan would want to take his own revenge," Regulus continued. "Just leave it for now. Andromeda, get him to the Madame Pomfrey."

Andromeda nodded and put her arm under Evan's armpit.

"This isn't over, you traitor!" Evan spat as he limped slowly away.

"I would love to see you try anything," Sirius shouted, his arms wide open in an invitation.

Lucius regarded Regulus for a moment. Regulus was younger than Lucius and the whole group. He knew that there was no reason why he would listen to him.

Then, Lucius' eyes travelled towards Narcissa. Some sort of silent communication must have happened between them, because after a moment, Lucius took a step back.

When Regulus was sure that Evan and Andromeda were far away enough not to listen, he looked at his brother. "What is wrong with you?"

"Stay out of this, brother," Sirius warned, his eyes never leaving Lucius. There was a hard, uncharacteristically ugly edge to his voice when he said the last word.

He raised his eyebrows. "Or what, Sirius? What will you do?"

Sirius' eyes snapped to stare at him. "This isn't your fight."

"Evan is my friend," he stated. He sighed. "Why do I always find you fighting?"

Sirius scoffed. "Because I can't take bullshit, that's why," he spat.

"Lower your wand, Sirius," he said. He could feel the stares of everyone on them. "Don't take this any further."

Sirius lowered it slightly. "What the hell are you doing by hanging with people like them?" Sirius demanded, pointing at the Slytherin group around him. "Don't you ever fucking learn?"

Regulus narrowed his eyes. They had gone through this conversation several times, but Sirius never gave up. "You don't get to choose my friends, Sirius," he stated. "Just like I don't say anything about yours." His eyes wandered toward where James, Remus and Peter stood behind Sirius. James shifted, his eyes moving between Lucius and the rest of the group.

"At least, I'm not stupid enough to be friends with people who deal with Dark Arts," Sirius snapped.

He saw James snicker. A haze of red swam behind Regulus' eyelids. The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. "That's tough coming from someone who can't even talk like this at home."

Sirius' face clouded. Any slight mention of their house was enough to get a rise out of him. Regulus knew he had taken it too far.

Murmurs ran through the grounds once again, the student's eyes travelling between them. Excitement and anger thrummed through the air. Lucius was smirking. Narcissa watched them silently, his face a mixture of annoyance and curiosity.

Regulus looked at his brother once more. He raised his wand at the same time Sirius raised his.

A fight between houses, especially Slytherin and Gryffindor was common in Hogwarts. The hatred that brew between the two houses went before Regulus was even born, and the Blacks were one of the known Slytherin families in Hogwarts for generations.

His cousins taunted Sirius, some took it too far, enjoying Sirius' short temper, and Sirius never backed down from a fight. Regulus did his best to ignore all that, even pretended that it wasn't real at times. He had all of his cousins in Slytherin and his brother in Gryffindor. He wasn't willing to give any of them up.

"What the hell happened to you?" Sirius demanded, something strange and heavy in his voice.

Regulus sighed and pushed a frustrated hand through his hair. He didn't know how to fix this. Everything between him and Sirius had always been as easy as breathing, and just as unthinking. It only made it all the harder.

Suddenly, a voice rang up through the air. "Stop this right now, Mr. Black."

Regulus and Sirius whipped around to find Professor McGonagall striding towards where they stood. Everyone around them started to scatter, mumbling about how they didn't want to lose any house points. Some stuck around, most likely to see McGonagall yell at them

"You two come with me," she ordered, her voice breaking no argument. She turned around and started walking down the path towards the castle. They followed her, already knowing what was going to happen.

As soon as they were inside her office, Professor McGonagall looked at them. "I'd expect this from Sirius. But you, Regulus? You never get into any fights."

Sirius snickered and Regulus wanted to punch him in the face right then and there and damn all the consequences. Instead, he gritted his teeth and met his professor's gaze.

"Now, would any of you like to tell me what were you two fighting about?" She looked at Sirius, who had shoved his hands into his pockets and shrugged.

"My brother was being a brat."

"You know better than to insult any student in front of me, Sirius. Fifty points from Gryffindor. I met Mr. Rosier. Whatever he had done, you hitting him is inexcusable."

Sirius glared at her and then looked at the ground, muttering something too low for them to hear.

"Did you say something, Sirius?"

"No, professor."

McGonagall narrowed her eyes and turned toward Regulus. "And twenty-five points from Slytherin. Fifteen from Mr. Rosier, ten from you. I don't care if you didn't actually use your wand. You were going to." Her eyes shifted from him to Sirius and back. "I don't care what caused the fight, but it better not happen again. You are brothers."

Regulus pursed his lips and decided not to answer.

After a couple of moments of silence in the room, both of them unwilling to speak, McGonagall shook her head. "Teenagers," she huffed.

At the end, she assigned them a detention then said that they were free to go for now.

When they were out of the professor's room, Regulus marched towards the Slytherin common room without giving Sirius a second glance. He knew that if he opened his mouth right then, he would regret everything he was going to say later on.


 At night, Regulus excused himself and went to his room, saying that he was tired.

He lay on his bed, glad that the room was empty. The only light in the room was the moon shining on the bed sheets.

He squeezed his eyes shut and groaned. He didn't even know what worked him up so quickly. Sirius was always like this, hotheaded with a sharp tongue. He learnt to roll with it and leave him until he calmed down.

If Regulus had been smart, he'd have heeded the warning and stopped, but he was never all that smart when it came to Sirius, for better or worse. He needed Sirius' anger, needed him to stay angry, so Regulus would have an excuse to stay away from him as much as he could.

Sirius had been patient for a long time, much longer than Regulus deserved. He'd met Regulus' distance with confusion, his hostility with hurt. He'd tried to talk to him, to ask what was going on, but each time the words Regulus wanted to say piled up on his tongue, crowded his throat, and he couldn't answer, couldn't give Sirius anything but more distance.

And now Sirius had become more angry than patient, more snappish than hurt. He had taken to spending more time than ever with James, which is almost worse than anything. Regulus desperately wanted to fix things, to stay friends with his brother without exposing himself. To make everything right. To make himself right. But he couldn't. He had no idea how.

Regulus sighed and pushed a frustrated hand through his hair, tightening it into a fist, and pulling at his scalp enough to hurt.

He was driven out of his thoughts when he heard the sound of something breaking and a muttered curse. He sat up and looked around.

"Hello?" No one replied. "Sirius?"

A head poked out of nowhere. "How did you know that it was me?"

"I didn't," he said. He was rather hoping it was him. "How did you come in here?"

Sirius took off the cloak and suddenly his body was visible. "Invisibility cloak."

Sirius put the cloak on the bed. Regulus ran his hand along its length. It was silky and fragile to the touch.

"I borrowed it from James."

Regulus stopped touching it. "What are you doing here?"

Sirius shifted from one foot to the other. "Can I sit?"

Regulus nodded and shifted to gave space to sit on the small bed. Their bodies touched as they lay side by side.

"I shouldn't have gotten you in this," Sirius mumbled. "Rosier just drives me crazy, and that boy Cissy is dating just doesn't sit well with me."

Regulus didn't know Lucius much, but he was their Head Boy and he made Narcissa happy, and that was all that mattered to him.

"Evan is just…" Regulus paused, searching for the right word.

"Psychotic," Sirius finished.

He laughed despite himself. "He can surely be…energetic."

Sirius snorted.

"I'm sorry I was a dick earlier," Regulus mumbled.

Sirius shrugged. "We both said things we didn't mean."

Regulus grasped Sirius' hand. He waited for Sirius to say anything but he thankfully stayed silent.

Peaceful silence filled the room. Regulus missed this. Just he and his brother spending time together, without having to worry about their parents or school or anything else.

"So what was the fight about anyway?" Regulus asked.

"James and Rosier were arguing. Rosier raised his wand. I intervened."

"Always ready to save him," he said, trying his hardest to sound casual.

Sirius glanced at him, raising his eyebrows. Regulus looked away, cursing himself silently. He just had to make a stupid comment.

"He doesn't hate you, you know," Sirius mumbled after a moment of silence. "James, I mean."

Regulus hummed. He knew that. James never did anything bad to him, probably for Sirius' sake more than anything. But that didn't help him at all. It was hard to hate someone just because he was his brother's best friend. Someone who stole the only person he confided in, the only person he truly felt comfortable with.

"I don't understand why you don't like him." Sirius leaned on his arm. "You know, he reminds me of you, in a way." He chuckled. "Maybe because you two get angry so easily."

Regulus glared at him, but he doubted Sirius noticed as his face was hidden in the darkness. "Says the guy who regularly storms out of family meetings in the first five minutes."

Sirius' smile vanished. "That is different."

Regulus sighed, suddenly feeling guilty. "I know. I just-" He paused, struggling with words to explain. At the end, he huffed. "It is nothing."

He was always good with words. It was the reason why he stayed in his parents' good graces despite everything. But when it came to moments like this, he didn't know how to explain. He had a hard time explaining it to himself. The burning blinding feeling he felt whenever Sirius and James spent too much time together.

He sat up. "I noticed that James was talking to Lily today," he said, trying to change the subject. It ended up the same way it always did, with Lily storming out of the great hall. "What happened?"

Sirius sighed and Regulus could almost feel his eyes rolling. "James just doesn't know how to talk to girls. At all. I am almost embarrassed to hang out with him."

Regulus chuckled. "Is he trying to ask her out?"

Sirius hummed in agreement. "And she said no, yet again."

"Oh," he mumbled. "I thought that…"

"What?"

Regulus was suddenly glad for the darkness around him. "I thought that you and he were…" He swallowed, unable to finish the sentence.

Sirius made a face. "No. James is my best friend."

Regulus nodded, unable to stop a smile from stretching across his face.

"What made you think that?" Sirius asked.

"Just…I don't know." Regulus shrugged and looked away. "You two seem close."

"We are," Sirius confirmed. "But nothing like that. Oh, Merlin. The image is horrifying," he put his hands on his eyes and whined dramatically, causing a laugh to erupt out of Regulus.

He put his hand on his mouth, his eyes on the door, hoping that no one had heard him. They wouldn't be very happy to see a Gryffindor in their common room.

Sirius sat up. He could make out his silver eyes in the darkness, and the smile that was playing on his lips.

Regulus expected him to say something, but instead Sirius just stared at him for what seemed like an eternity, and then his eyes dropped to Regulus' lips and the air in Regulus' lungs evaporated.

Before he realised what was happening, Sirius leaned in and captured his lips. Regulus froze for a moment, every muscle in his body twisting and jumping. Something hot and wild and unbearably intense bubbled up inside his chest.

Sirius pulled away. He started to apologise before Regulus shut him up by kissing him again.

Regulus had thought about it a lot. He's thought a lot about kissing Sirius, about the right way to go about it, about what kind of situation that needed to make it seem natural and unforced. He never could come up with one. He'd never thought of Sirius making the first step. He'd never thought of it happening like this. He'd never thought of a lot of things.

Then, Sirius was kissing him back, hungry and messy and sweet, and Regulus stopped thinking entirely. Sirius leaned closer and buried his hand in Regulus' hair as he deepened the kiss.

"I thought that maybe-" Sirius breathed when they broke apart. A ghost of a smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. "I was hoping, but I wasn't sure." He cupped Regulus' cheek, tracing a rough thumb over his lower lip, sending shivers all the way down to Regulus' toes. "I missed you."

Regulus stared at his brother, speechless. He could feel his cheeks heating up.

Laughter erupted from somewhere outside the room. "You need to leave, or they will catch you," Regulus whispered, fighting against the voice in his head that ordered Sirius to stay.

Sirius nodded took the cloak in his hands. "I will see you tomorrow."

Regulus nodded and leaned in to give him a quick kiss before Sirius slipped inside the cloak and walked out of the room.

Regulus stayed wide awake all night that day, replaying everything in his mind over and over again.

 


 

 IV.

 The sound of footsteps echoed in the barely lit room.

"Where are you going?" Regulus asked, even though he already knew the answer.

Sirius stopped in his tracks, his back to Regulus. "Aren't you supposed to be sleeping, brother? Our parents wouldn't want you up all night. You know how they are."

"Heard you pacing around in your room." He eyed the suitcase in Sirius' hand and repeated, "Where are you going?"

His brother finally turned around. "Away from here."

"Sirius, they-"

"Don't," Sirius interrupted. "There isn't anything you can say this time, brother."

Regulus sighed. He didn't what he should say to fix this. The fight that happened a couple of hours ago between his parents and Sirius had almost blown up hadn't his mother made Sirius leave the room. Regulus had never felt so shaken before, so scared.

"You have nowhere to go," he argued feebly.

"I do."

"To the potters?" He demanded, his anger instantly rising.

Sirius regarded him for a moment then nodded.

"Potter convinced you to leave your family?" To leave me?

"This isn't about James. Don't try to turn this around and make it about him," he said. "This is about me. I can't live with them anymore."

He swallowed. "Is it that easy for you then?"

"No," Sirius murmured. "But, I can't stand it anymore, Regulus. If I stay with them one more day, I will go mad."

"So you will just leave me here?" He demanded, cursing inwardly when his voice cracked.

"Come with me then." Sirius let go of the suitcase and took a couple of steps towards his brother. "And we won't have to be apart."

"Sirius, we talked about this," he said. "I can't leave. I could never do that to them."

"Why not?" He demanded. "Don't you see how they treat us?"

Regulus shook his head. "They are still our parents."

"And that gives them the right?"

Regulus didn't answer.

Sirius grabbed his hand. His hands were warm and inviting. "Come with me. The Potters would be happy to have us, at least until we find a place for our own."

"You will be seventeen soon. I'm still a minor. They can bring me back."

"They will have to find us first."

"They will," Regulus stated. "You know our father. He will figure out a way."

"What then?" Sirius demanded. "You will just stay here, accept this hell? Or are you secretly happy about how they treat you? Their precious Slytherin son," he pat, his expression darkening.

"Sirius, you know that's not it. It was never about that."

"Then what?" He snapped, his voice rising in the quiet room.

Regulus looked around. Kreacher must have heard that.

Just as he expected, the house elf was standing in the corner, watching the conversation as it unfolded.

"Oh hell, what is this wretched thing doing here?" Sirius demanded.

"Master Sirius shouldn't leave in the dead of night like this," Kreacher whispered. "Mistress would be very angry, and Kreacher can never lie to her."

"What are you going to do? Go and tell her now?" Sirius whirled around. "You just try it, elf."

Regulus scrubbed a tired hand over his face. "Kreacher, just go now," Regulus said. He needed to separate those two quickly before someone heard them. "And don't wake up anyone. I'm going to handle this."

The elf didn't respond. He remained standing, staring at Sirius. "Please, Kreacher."

After a moment, the elf nodded and then disappeared.

"We need to go before he tells her," Sirius slipped his hands in Regulus' and tugged slightly. "Come on."

Regulus stared at their joined hands. "He won't say anything." He looked up to Sirius' silver eyes, shining in the darkness. "I can't leave."

"Yes, you can," Sirius murmured, his warm breath brushing against Regulus' skin.

Regulus shook his head. "Mother needs me. You know that."

"She refused our help time and time again, Regulus. She doesn't want us. She is…" Sirius swallowed. "She is becoming like him."

Regulus knew that, yet he couldn't leave. He was bound to her no matter what she did. Some part of him refused to give up on the memory of his mother from years ago.

"So you aren't coming?" Sirius asked.

"Sirius, just listen to me-"

Sirius let go of his hands and grabbed his suitcase once more. "I will see you later, Regulus."

Regulus followed him until he reached the door, and grabbed his sleeve. "Sirius please-"

Sirius whipped around and cupped Regulus' face between his hands, crushing their lips together, forceful, messy and desperate. Regulus closed his eyes and kissed him back, clutching Sirius' jacket in his hand.

Sirius guided him, making Regulus walk backwards until he hit the wall behind him. Sirius' hand wrapped around his body, the other brushing against his cheek. He pushed their bodies closer as he devoured his mouth. Regulus stopped thinking entirely, focusing on the taste and feeling of Sirius. He twisted his fingers into Sirius' hair that was just reaching the nape of his neck, pulling Sirius in.

He heard a distant noise and quick footsteps coming from upstairs.

Sirius let him go far too early. He gave him one last quick kiss.

"Goodbye, brother," he breathed.

He was out of the house before Regulus could reply.


 The light of the room was on. Regulus blew on his frozen fingers and tapped on the window three times, their usual sign to know that the other was at the door.

He heard distant shuffling and then the window was opened. A head with wild dark hair and pale skin popped out.

"What are you doing here?" Sirius asked.

"Let me in," Regulus said. "I am freezing."

Sirius looked around and then stepped back. Regulus jumped on the floor and closed the window behind him. He looked around. It was a small warm room, filled with clothes thrown everywhere. A few opened letters were on the bed. He recognised his handwriting on some of them.

"How did you come here?"

"I asked Kreacher."

Sirius wrapped his arms in front of his chest. "He is going to tell them you are here."

"No, he won't," he stated. "Mother won't ask anyway. I doubt that she will notice my absence anyway."

"And Dad?"

"He won't tell him. I asked him not to."

"What if dad orders him to? Who will he choose to obey?"

Regulus shrugged, but they both knew the answer. Sirius snickered and shook his head."I never understood why he chose to listen to you above the whole family."

Because he was the only one who treated him well, Regulus wanted to say but decided against it. This wasn't the time.

"Why are you here?"

"Do I need a reason?" Regulus asked. "I wanted to see my brother."

"If you keep this up, they will find out, and they will be angry."

Regulus pulled his shirtsleeves until they hid his arms completely."I don't care."

"Yes, you do." Sirius sighed. "Go back, Regulus, before they find out."

"I don't care anymore," he snapped. "Why are you even trying to convince me to go back? Do you really don't want to see me that much?"

"That isn't it, and you know it."

"Then what?" Regulus demanded. "Why are you taking this on me?"

"I'm not."

"You aren't answering my letters."

Sirius looked at the letters piled on his bed.

"Look at me."

His eyes shifted toward him once more. "If they knew that you were here, or that we are exchanging letters, then you would get in trouble and they would force you to tell them where I am. I can't risk it."

"I wouldn't tell them."

"You wouldn't have a choice."

Regulus gritted his teeth.

Someone knocked. "Sirius? I heard something. Is everything okay?"

"Yes, Mrs. Potter," he said, not taking his eyes off Regulus. "Just a lost bird hit my window."

"Okay. Dinner is in half an hour."

Regulus clenched his hands into fists, fighting an irrational anger rising from the depth of him towards a woman he had never seen. He shouldn't be angry at Sirius for leaving. He didn't even knew who he should be angry at anymore.

"Okay," Sirius said, then paused until the sound of footsteps faded. "Mrs. Potter wouldn't mind if you asked to stay, you know."

"I can't."

Sirius took a step forward. "No one would know that you are here, Regulus-"

He held up a hand. "Don't. You know I can't."

Sirius shook his head and let out a bitter laugh. "Forget it. I don't even why I am trying." He ran his hands through his dark hair. Regulus fought the urge to swap off Sirius' hand and replace it with his.

"You need to leave," Sirius said. "School will start soon. I will see you then."

"You will be too busy with your friends, pretending that you don't have any cousins, or a brother, for that matter."

He gritted his teeth. "I don't do that, Regulus. You know that."

Regulus knew that. He just wanted something. A reaction. For Sirius to get angry, furious, anything. Not this indifference, not this shell that he had wrapped himself in ever since he left the house.

"I haven't seen you in weeks. I still have a couple of hours," Regulus said. "Mum and Dad are out. They won't be back for a while. Kreacher will cover for me."

A heavy silence stretched between them as Sirius regarded him. Finally, he sighed and opened a drawer. He threw something at Regulus. It was a pair of gloves. He took them gratefully, stretching his hand against the familiar warm fabric.

"I will tell them that I am not hungry," Sirius said as he handed him a coat. "Take this and wait for me outside. I know a place near here. We can go and get something to eat."

For the first time in what seemed like forever, Regulus smiled.

 


 

 V.

 1977.

 The wind was cold against Regulus' skin as he walked down the narrow alley. The houses around him were broken down and abandoned, visible marks of the ongoing war. His breath rose in visible puffs, joining the darkening night sky. He shoved his hands in his pockets and ducked his head a little.

"So, it is true?" The voice ran clear and loud in the quiet place around him.

Regulus stopped in his tracks. Turning around, he watched as a figure marched towards him.

"Sirius," he called. "It has been almost a year. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Don't play with me, Regulus," Sirius commanded as he stopped inches away from him. Regulus took a glance at his face and saw it covered with stubble.

"It is nice to see you too, brother."

"Is it true?"

"What is true?" Regulus knew that this was going to happen sooner or later, but that didn't mean that he wasn't going to stall as much as he could, just to enjoy the furious look on his face.

Sirius didn't answer. Instead, he grabbed Regulus roughly and removed the sleeve. Regulus flinched at a look of disgust that flickered upon Sirius' face.

"So, it is true," Sirius spat. "My little brother became a Death Eater."

Regulus tried to remove his arm from Sirius' grip, but it was too tight.

"You finally listened to them, didn't you? You blind little prat," Sirius snarled.

"At least, I didn't my abandon my own family," Regulus spat.

Sirius' eyes blazed with anger. He shoved Regulus. Regulus took a couple of steps back until he hit the wall behind him. He held his brother's gaze.

"After they all they have done to us, everything they put us through," Sirius gritted out. He grabbed Regulus' forearm so tightly it hurt as if he could remove the Mark on it by his sheer power of will. "You still obey them? They don't deserve your loyalty, they don't deserve anything!"

"They are my parents," Regulus said. "Just like you are my brother, and that will never change."

Sirius growled, reminding him briefly of his Animagus form. He wondered for how long he could push his brother before he snapped.

Sirius closed his eyes and suddenly, all of his anger evaporated from his face. "Then, just tell me you are only doing this for them," he murmured. "Tell me you don't really believe in anything he says."

Regulus didn't say anything. He could never lie to his brother.

Sirius sighed. He looked tired, far older than his age. Regulus wanted to comfort him. He was always gifted with words. He knew that. It was what saved him and Sirius more times than he could count. But he couldn't find the right thing to say.

Sirius rested his head on the wall beside Regulus. "I knew," he said. He could hear the ragged sound of his breathing, just tickling his ear. "Right when I heard the Order members whispering about it, thinking that I couldn't hear them. I knew that it was true. But I had to make sure. I had to…"

He looked at Regulus in the eye. "He is worse than you think," he continued. "You, Cissy, Bellatrix...You are all brainwashed by him."

"I could say the same thing about you and the rest of them, brainwashed by Dumbledore and the rest who think that they know everything," Regulus retorted.

Sirius' expression changed so fast that Regulus didn't have time to register it before the blow came, swift and unexpected. Regulus' face whipped to the side. He raised a hand and tentatively felt the bruise on his chin.

"You solve your problems with violence now?" He asked calmly, looking back at him. "Like father like son, I suppose."

Sirius flinched as if he were the one who took the blow. He grabbed Regulus' face and shoved it till it hit the wall.

Regulus didn't react, merely watched Sirius. "Are you going to hit me again, brother?"

Sirius didn't answer. They stared at each other for what seemed like a lifetime. Regulus could feel his harsh breath on his face, warm against his cold skin.

And then Sirius was kissing him, harsh and fierce and forceful, full of anger and desperation and a million unsaid things. Sirius grabbed his hair, and Regulus wrapped his arms around his neck tightly, afraid that he might disappear any second.

They separated reluctantly, gasping for breath. "Please don't do this, Regulus," he said, stroking his cheeks, a silent apology for the blow. Regulus leaned into the touch. "I know that you don't believe in the same things that I do, and I won't try to convince you. But please, don't go down this road. I don't want to be forced to…" He paused.

"Be my enemy?" He finished, saying what was both of their minds.

"He isn't the great wizard you think he is. Making the wizards rule everyone isn't what he wants," Sirius said. "He wants to rule us all, and he would do anything to achieve that. You are sixteen; too young to be a Death Eater."

"You are two years older than me, Sirius. Don't you think then that both of us are too young to enter a war?"

"I'm fighting for what I think is right. Age doesn't make a difference in this matter."

"So, it is right for you, and not for me?" Regulus asked. He shook his head and sighed. "I don't want to argue anymore, Sirius. It seems like all we ever do when we meet lately is argue."

"So you won't change your mind?" Sirius demanded.

Regulus didn't answer. He didn't have to. The silence was an enough answer for Sirius.

The hand that was grabbing his arm loosened and Sirius took a step back.

"Goodbye, brother."

Regulus swallowed and clenched his hands into fists, trying to stop himself from reaching out to him. Pain gathered in his belly, sending heat licking out just beneath his skin."Till next time." He listened to Sirius' footsteps until they were swallowed up by the sound of the wind.

He wanted to say many things; scream at his brother for being so stubborn, tell him about the times where he watched his mother look at his pictures when she thought that no one was watching, tell him about how much Narcissa missed him, how much he did, but it didn't matter. They both had chosen their paths, and none of them would change his mind.

 


 

 VI.

 The wind rushed around Regulus as he ran, shouts and curses trailing after him. His heart pounded in his chest and he forced himself not to turn around. He was close, only a couple of minutes and he would reach the portkey.

Pain flashed in his leg and ran through his body. He collapsed on the floor, the dirt digging into his skin, blinded by the pain for a moment. He clasped his left leg, looking at his rapidly darkening trousers.

Gritting his teeth, he tried to stand up but the pain intensified and he fell once more. He looked around quickly; trying to find any remaining Death Eaters but they were long gone.

"I got one! I got-" The figure suddenly stopped shouting. Regulus looked up and realised why.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Sirius demanded, his wand still in hand.

Regulus smiled. "Just passing by. Thought it would be fun to join."

"Don't try to lighten up the situation, Regulus," he said, pointing his wand at him. "It doesn't suit you."

He and Evan were supposed to do a simple mission for the Dark Lord, but they were stupid. They thought it was going to be easy, but one small wrong step and they found themselves trapped, members of the Order surrounding the place.

Evan put everything they needed in his pocket and ran outside of the place before Regulus could figure out what the hell was happening.

Regulus tried to breathe through the pain, hoping that Evan was quick enough to get to the portkey. Screams tore through the night.

"Looks like they have found Rosier too," Sirius noted. He looked at Regulus. "What were you doing there? What were you trying to steal?"

Regulus didn't answer. Sirius gripped his wand tightly, his face darkening. "I don't even know why I still bother with you," he spat.

"Are you going to let them take me, brother?" Regulus asked.

Sirius hesitated for a second, his wand lowering.

"I leave you for a few hours and you already got yourself in trouble, Regulus," someone behind him tsked. Regulus struggled to turn around and look as Bellatrix strolled towards where they were.

"Long time no see, cousin," she greeted, her hand holding her wand casually. "I heard that there was a bit of trouble here, so I thought I'd join."

Regulus supported himself on his arms, trying to stand up, breathing heavily. They need to leave before this escalated. "Bella, did you see Evan?"

"Yes, he is already back home," she said, her eyes never leaving Sirius.

A shout erupted from somewhere near. Regulus gritted his teeth and got up, standing on one shaky leg. He needed to leave before anyone else from the Order came.

"So, what are you going to do, Sirius?" Bellatrix asked casually. She looked at Regulus's leg for a moment. "Send your brother to Azkaban?"

"Bella, don't-"

"I would much rather send you there, Bellatrix," Sirius said.

Bellatrix laughed. "Why don't you try, then?"

They both eyed each other.

Regulus watched them both. "Sirius-"

"Stay out of this."

They both knew he could never do that.

Regulus stood on his left leg, letting out a pained cry. It wasn't loud enough to draw attention towards them, but it was enough. Sirius' eyes snapped to his for just a second, concerned, and Bella waved her wand.

Sirius was thrown back from the impact of the spell. Regulus flinched.

"Is he going to be okay?" He asked, trying to stop himself from walking towards where Sirius lay, trying to remind himself of the task at hand, of what would happen if he failed.

"Should be fine," Bellatrix said. "It isn't even that powerful."

Regulus was familiar enough with the spell to know that Sirius should be up in just a couple of hours, but he couldn't look away from Sirius' body on the ground. An intense feeling of self-loathing bubbled inside of him, threatening to suffocate him.

Someone put his hand on Regulus' arm and he flinched, expecting a blow that never came.

Bellatrix tugged on his sleeve. "Let's go, Regulus. The Dark Lord is expecting us."

Another scream erupted from somewhere close. Regulus took one last look at his brother's form before he forced himself to turn around and leave.

 


 

 VII.

 1979.

 Regulus paced the room back and forth, his hands gripped tightly behind his back, waiting.

The Dark Lord had called for him yesterday and told him that he needed a house-elf. Regulus called for Kreacher and asked him to go with him.

As they were leaving, he saw the look of fear in the elf's eyes and hated himself. But what else could he have done? They both knew he didn't have a choice.

He looked at the clock for the umpteenth time, praying that nothing had happened to Kreacher. Whatever the Dark Lord wanted, it shouldn't have taken so long.

Hours passed and his worry intensified. The butterflies that had taken permanent residence in his stomach seemed to have dull blades in their wings, scraping his insides with each flutter. Finally, having had enough, he called for Kreacher.

A crack echoed around the room. Kreacher stood at the door, leaning heavily against the wood.

"Kreacher," he breathed. He was just about to relax until he saw the look on his face. He ran and caught the elf just as his limbs gave way. Kreacher fell, a small thing in his arms.

"What the fuck happened?" He demanded. He stared at the black and red marks on the elf's arms, at his unblinking eyes, and did not know what to do. Kreacher didn't answer.

"It is okay. I'm here. You are going to be fine," he soothed, desperation tearing right through him. He stood and gingerly walked towards the bed.

"What happened?" He whispered, as he gingerly laid the elf on the bed.

The elf shook his head, muttering something incomprehensible.

He held the elf's small hands in his, careful not press too hard. "Kreacher, please, tell me."

Kreacher looked towards him and opened his mouth slowly. Suddenly, he whipped around, reached the end of the bed, and threw up on the floor. Regulus took a step back. Silver liquid came out of the elf's mouth, shining on the wooden floor. Regulus waved his hand, and the pile was gone.

Kreacher fell on the bed once more and closed his eyes, muttering something over and over again, too low for Regulus to hear.

"Kreacher?" He said, trying to stop his voice from shaking. "Please, tell me what I can do."

"There is nothing Master can do for Kreacher," he muttered. He had never heard the elf that tired, or that frightened.

"I can't leave you like this!"

"Yes, Master can," he said, opening one eye for a second before shutting it once again. "Kreacher is going to be fine. Kreacher can heal himself. There is no lasting physical damage."

Regulus sat on the bed. "Just tell me what happened."

Kreacher swallowed, his apple popping slowly. "Master, please," he muttered. "Don't make Kreacher talk anymore."

Regulus stared at his friend, torn between demanding to know what the Dark Lord had done and how he can fix it, and leaving the elf to rest. "Are you sure that you are going to be okay?"

"Kreacher is certain, Master," he said.

"Don't call me that," he chided lightly. "I told you to call me Regulus."

Kreacher's lips tugged to one side before he winced. "Mistress will never allow Kreacher."

"Well, she isn't here now," he said, laying gingerly on the bed next to the elf, careful not to accidentally hit him. "Sleep here tonight. We will talk tomorrow."

Kreacher opened his mouth, most likely to protest, but Regulus threw a blanket over them. Kreacher let out a sigh and closed his eyes.

Regulus did the same, but he couldn't sleep, his mind too focused on the shallow breath coming out of Kreacher.

After a while, he heard shuffling next to him. He wrapped his arms around Kreacher who clung to him, silently weeping, his head buried in Regulus' chest.


 A few days had passed before Regulus finally managed to make Kreacher talk.

Kreacher sat in the middle of his bed, his bony legs crossed underneath his, his eyes cast downwards as he told Regulus about the trip towards the cave.

"And then Dark Lord asked Kreacher to drink the water," Kreacher said and shivered. "It made Kreacher see things…" He stopped, wrapping his small arms around himself.

"It is okay. You don't need to say anything else," Regulus said. He knew what kind of water Kreacher was talking about it; it was one of the things he was forced to study in the summer. He took a deep shaky breath, trying to stop himself from doing anything reckless.

"I'm going to leave to rest," he said after a moment. "And tell Mother that the Dark Lord had called for you again. It should give you some time."

Kreacher shook his head. "Mistress needs Kreacher."

Almost as if on cue, Regulus heard his mother shout from downstairs. He opened the door slightly, trying to detect if his name was being mentioned. His mother always seemed angry lately, and he grew too tired of trying to know what she was on about. Last time he tried to calm her down hadn't been really pleasant.

He heard a familiar click and immediately shut the door. His father was here.

"She is going to be fine," he said and turned around. He wasn't sure if he was trying to convince Kreacher or himself.

Kreacher shook his head once more. "Mistress has been getting sick lately. She needs Kreacher."

Regulus didn't know if Kreacher was turning a blind eye to everything that was happening in the house that had been his home for almost all of his life, or if he was just in denial about it.

A crashing sound of something echoed through the big hollow house.

Regulus flinched. He tried to focus on the matter at hand. "You need to rest," he stated.

His mother stopped shouting. Regulus wondered if his father had shut her up with his hand or his wand this time. Regulus clenched his hands into fists, trying to control his anger. Telling himself that he couldn't do anything, that he tried more times than he could count and failed, still didn't make it any easier.

He waited until he heard her reassuring slow footsteps walking towards her bedroom before he spoke once more. "It is my fault you are in this state. I should have made any excuse so he wouldn't take you."

"Regulus didn't know, and he couldn't lie to the Dark Lord. He would have found out. He wouldn't have been pleased." Kreacher shivered.

"You are going to stay here, Kreacher," he stated. "And that is final."

Kreacher stared at him. Regulus never ordered him to do anything, but he couldn't let the elf refuse this time.

"What if Mistress sees Kreacher?" He asked at last.

"I doubt it. No one ever comes here," he said. He was almost like an invisible ghost in the house, a faint reminder of a son that had betrayed them, and the Dark Lord's tool.

 


 

VIII.

"Why are you doing this?"

Bellatrix stood facing the small window, her back to him. "Doing what?"

"This." Regulus waved his hand vaguely around him as if being in that room could explain everything. "Choosing to be a Death Eater, to be on his side."

Bellatrix turned towards him, her wavy hair moving freely. "What do you mean? I thought you and I are on the same side."

"Oh, we are," he said immediately. "But I want to know your reasons."

"Because I want magic to rule the world," she said.

"You mean him."

"Is there a difference? He is the most powerful sorcerer." There was always a certain gleam in her eyes whenever she talked about the Dark Lord that unsettled him.

"That's it?" He asked. "Surely there is something else."

She tilted her head, like a curious bird. "What do you mean?"

"Bella, let's be honest here," Regulus said. "Everyone in this mansion has an ulterior motive. Lucius joined because he wanted power but now he is just too afraid to back out. Rosier is here because he is in love with the chaos and the power that comes with the Dark Lord. What are your motives? What do you want?"

She watched him for a long time without answering.

"I think it might be something related to the Dark Lord himself," Regulus prompted.

Her eyes flashed, warning him, just like every time he tried to bring up the subject.

"You never loved Rodolphus, Bella. You married him because it was expected of you. Because he was a pureblood," he said. "You and I know that."

She raised her head. "That has nothing to do with the Dark Lord. What are you trying to get to here?" She demanded. "Planning something, cousin?"

"I just want you to be honest with me," he said, his palms stretched outwards. "Nothing more."

A tense silence stretched between them as she stared at him.

"I just don't want you to get your hopes up," he murmured. He had seen things that he couldn't erase from his mind, no matter how desperately he wanted to. They haunted his dreams, looming on his every waking day. Someone like the Dark Lord was incapable of love, and he didn't know if Bellatrix didn't see that, or if she was turning a blind eye to it.

"Like you did?"

"What?"

"You were always easy to read, Regulus. I knew long before he did."

Regulus swallowed. He knew what she was talking about. There was no point in denying it. "Then you should learn from my experience and get away while you can. The Dark Lord isn't who you think he is, Bella."

"Oh, I know exactly who he is, Regulus," she replied slowly. "I do. And I don't care. Just like how you both knew that it wouldn't work, that you and Sirius had chosen two different paths, but you didn't give it up.”


 Regulus slapped a book shut and threw it on the table in front of him. The fireplace warmed the room as he stared outside the window, his mind searching through every spell and potion he had ever learnt, every Dark magic and ritual, looking for something that would solve the mystery for him.

He knew the necklace that Kreacher described for him. It was the Slytherin locket. But why was it be so important that the Dark Lord would go through all those measures just to secure it? He had been searching for weeks, but nothing offered an explanation, and with each passing day, he grew more restless. Whatever it was that the Dark Lord wanted, it couldn't be anything good.

He turned around and started looking for his answer again among the hundreds of books in his family's library. His hand hovered over a familiar dusty book. He remembered that one. He had to hide it once when he was a child under his bed so that no one would know that he took it. He opened it, hoping it would give him the answer that he needed.

He flipped through the pages until one of the moving pictures caught his attention. A guy was lying on the floor, another stood next to him, holding something in his head. He read the text under the picture, and suddenly everything clicked into place.


 Regulus watched as The Dark Lord entered the room. The Death Eaters bowed their heads slightly, avoiding his sharp gaze, and he did the same. When he turned around, Regulus stole a glance at him; he wore a long dark robe, his wand no doubt hiding somewhere in it. There was a certain calmness about him that made Regulus' hair stand on edge.

The Dark Lord dropped oblique hints about immortality; probably too arrogant to think that someone would understand him. Regulus watched him through the whole meeting and tried not to let anything show on his face.

"Have you brought him?" The Dark Lord asked, turning to face Evan Rosier.

Evan grinned and looked up. "Yes, my lord. It wasn't easy, I will admit. But it was a good chase." Evan always talked of other people as if they were animals that he enjoyed hunting.

The door opened and Regulus watched a servant dragging a man into the room. The man stumbled behind him until the servant released him in the middle of the circle of Death Eaters.

The Dark Lord stood in front of him, watching the man. "Well?" He asked. "Have you learnt your lesson yet?"

The man didn't answer, clenching his hands tightly. His eyes were wide with fear, but there was a certain gleam of stubbornness and determination.

The Dark Lord glanced at Bella, and she smiled. She whispered a spell and the man started screaming. Evan laughed. Regulus swallowed, forcing himself not to look away, not to make any sort of reaction. He could feel some of the Death Eaters stares on him every now and then, no doubt waiting for him to crack, just like the first time.

This wasn't the first person that the Dark Lord had interrogated lately, nor it would be the last, and yet it never became any easier for him. He kept his face neutral, his eyes on the muggleborn as he was expected to do, and said nothing.

Eventually, Bellatrix lifted her wand. The man lay on the floor, shaking helplessly as the waves of pain finally left his body.

"Regulus," he looked up as his name was suddenly called. The Dark Lord was looking at him.

"It seems that our guest hasn't learnt his lesson yet," he said. "I am no longer interested in whatever information he possesses. I found someone a much easier person to talk to."

The man snapped his eyes open at that. "You are lying!" He shouted, his voice hoarse. "No one has betrayed us!"

"You dare call your lord a liar?" Bellatrix demanded, her voice rising with each word, eyes wide with anger with a touch of madness. She raised her wand once more and a scream erupted from the man as he rolled on the floor. Regulus closed his eyes for a second against his better judgement.

He took a deep breath and opened his eyes again. Lucius was looking at him. When their eyes connected, Lucius turned around. Regulus noted that Lucius looked paler than normal.

Voldemort smiled. "It is okay, Bella." He looked at Regulus again. Regulus made himself hold the stare. "Kill him."

Regulus looked at the wizard, remembering the first time they met a few months ago, and the utter look of hatred and disgust that was shot towards him when he knew who he was and saw the Mark on him.

"No wonder Sirius never mentions you," he had spat. Regulus raised his wand then, a spell on the tip of his tongue, uncontrollable anger blinding him. But he couldn't do it. Ever since he got the Mark on his arm, he had done unimaginable things, but he couldn't hurt him then. He was a member of the Order. Sirius would know.

Instead, he didn't react at all, just left and claimed that he never found him. The Dark Lord wasn't pleased and was more than happy to illustrate that. Now, it was his time to redeem himself.

Bellatrix looked at him and smiled. Was she really that happy just to serve Voldemort, to do whatever he wanted? Was it just to make him happy, or had it become enjoyable for her as well?

"Do it," Rosier encouraged.

Regulus raised his wand, and considered what he would have done if the roles were reversed; if Sirius were a Dark Lord and he was one of his followers. He wondered if he would have done the same for his brother.

An image of Sirius ran through his head, his smile turning into a disappointed frown.

His eyes landed on the man. He was on his knees, staring at him with so much strength that Regulus envied him. He wondered if the man ever mentioned him to Sirius, or how Sirius would react when he found out.

What would he do if Sirius or Kreacher was caught?

What had he gotten himself into?

"Are you waiting for something, Regulus?" Voldemort asked. Regulus could feel Nagini as it crawled around next to his leg, surrounding him. One small order and he would be gone.

Regulus gave one last look at the man, hoping to convey everything he wanted to say in that glance, and flicked his wand. The man was dead before his head had hit the ground.

 


 

 IX.

 Regulus heard a click as Kreacher opened the cupboard where he lived in.

“Master Regulus could have called for Kreacher,” the elf said when he laid eyes upon him. “He would have come right away.”

“I told you not to call me that,” Regulus said, then continued before Kreacher could argue as usual. “I need you to do something for me.”

“Anything,” Kreacher said, just as he always did.

He muttered a spell under his breath. He was certain that no one was here, but he wanted to make sure that no one would hear what he was going to say. He knelt down in front of Kreacher and took a deep breath.

“I need you to take me to the cave.”

Kreacher’s eyes widened. He took a step back. “No.” That was the first time that he heard that word from him.

“Kreacher, don’t argue.”

Kreacher shook his head, his big ears flapping around his small face. “It is dangerous there. Kreacher won’t let Regulus get in danger.”

“Kreacher, I told you about the Horcrux,” he said. “I need to stop him.”

“There is nothing Regulus can do.”

“There is,” he stated. “We just need to get the locket first. If there is something dark enough to create a Horcrux, then there must be something out there to destroy it.”

“It is better if Regulus stays away from it.” Kreacher paused, watching him for a moment. “Regulus hasn’t been sleeping well lately. He just needs some rest. Kreacher is going to make something for Regulus, to help with the nightmares.”

“I am fine,” he insisted.

“Regulus isn’t. He would think logically if he were,” Kreacher murmured. “He can’t defeat the Dark Lord.”

“No, but I can make sure that there is a chance for someone out there to beat him,” he said. “We will get the locket and you will find a way to destroy it, Kreacher.”

Kreacher shook his head furiously.

“If you won’t help me, then I will find a way on my own,” he stated, starting to stand up.

“Kreacher will tell Mistress,” he said instantly.

He paused. “Really?”

He nodded firmly. “Whatever it takes to stop Regulus from hurting himself.”

Regulus went on his knees and looked at the eyes of the elf who had been serving him for as long as he could remember, the one who had slowly become his only friend as years passed. “No, you won’t,” he murmured. “You won’t betray me, Kreacher. You and I know that.”

“I will if it means that Regulus will be okay.”

“And you think I will be okay if they found out what I was going to do?” He asked. Kreacher stayed silent.

“I have to do this, Kreacher. I can’t - won’t be able to live with myself if I don’t do anything,” he continued. “You know what he is doing. Who knows who might be his new target? Order of Phoenix always opposed him.”

“Master Sirius will be fine. He could take care of himself,” Kreacher insisted.

“What about everyone else? I can’t risk it, Kreacher. I won’t,” he murmured.

“But Regulus might die!”

Regulus’ heart hammered inside his chest as though determined to escape his body. He didn’t answer.

Something must have shown on his face because Kreacher took a step back. “Regulus is planning to stay there,” he whispered, horrified.

“I can’t continue being a Death Eater anymore and I can’t leave alive, everyone knows that. I am…” He swallowed. He needed to say it. To get used to it. “I am dead either way.”

“Kreacher could hide Regulus or the Order could.”

“If I go into hiding, then he would go after my parents, after Sirius. He would fucking hunt us down, every single one of us, and he won’t rest until he finds us. You have seen what he had done to the others. I can’t let that happen,” he said. “If I die, then he would simply forget about me and leave them alone. It would give you time to destroy the locket.”

He held Kreacher’s small hand in his. “You are a powerful elf. You will figure out how to destroy it. But we have to act fast before he calls for another meeting. If I don’t show up then one of the Death Eaters might come here and see you,” he continued. “You are going to make up an excuse to tell my parents, and the Dark Lord would continue thinking that he is immortal, until he meets his equal, and dies.”

He stood up and turned around. Taking a deep long breath, he prayed that Kreacher would just listen to him. The idea of what he was going to do was already suffocating, frightening. He ran a shaky hand through his hair, gripping it tightly until it hurt.

He thought about everything the Dark Lord had done, everything Regulus had turned a blind eye to, pretended not to see, and how it all might continue for eternity.

He doubted that the Order would ever find the man he had killed. He knew how the Dark Lord’s mind worked. What better way to torture them and the man’s family other than making them wait, wondering and hoping and praying, but never finding an answer? He wondered if Sirius would ever know about the man’s death, or that Regulus was involved in it.

Sirius. He wanted to say so many things to him, to apologise, to say that he was stupid and to kiss him senseless.

He thought about everything his brother was doing to defeat the Dark Lord, and everything Regulus had done to serve him, to help him. He felt sick.

He never thought they would end up like this.

He took another deep breath, trying to calm himself and failing.

He needed to leave now, before he changed his mind, before he lost control and whatever fragments of courage he still had.

He opened his eyes and walked toward where his owl stood, watching them the whole time. He attached a letter to her leg and watched at the bird flew through the sky, and wished he could do the same. He used to play Quidditch with Sirius in the summer. In that moment, he missed that more than anything.

He turned around. Kreacher was watching him.

"Promise me something."

"What?"

"That you won't tell anyone where I went. No one can know. Someone might do something stupid and try to avenge me."

Kreacher didn’t answer.

Regulus took a locket out of his pocket. “I am going to buy you some time,” he said. “I will replace the locket with this one.”

Kreacher stared at him for a long time. Both of them were having a battle of will, trying to persuade the other.

“I can’t do this without you,” Regulus said. “Please, Kreacher.”

“Kreacher can’t leave Regulus to die.”

“You can.” Regulus swallowed. “It is what I want.”

Moments passed, and then Kreacher let out a long, tired sigh and offered his hand. Regulus took it and felt the world shift around him as they Apparated.

 


 

 X.

 Sirius’ scream was lost beneath the thunder that rolled overhead.

“What is it?” Remus demanded as he bolted awake, his voice still scratchy from sleeping. He heard shuffling and then light danced from Remus’ wand to the rest of the room.

“It is Regulus,” he said, his heart beating erratically. Cold beads of sweat ran down his face.

“Sirius, you were dreaming,” Remus mumbled, lying down again. “Go back to sleep.”

His eyes landed on his nightstand. A framed picture of two young boys was on it, wearing emerald and bright red robes, a matching grin forming on their faces as the picture captured the moment and repeated it over and over again.

They were young and happy, ignorant to what the future held for them.

“No,” Sirius said, as he watched his brother laugh. He gripped the dirty sheets beneath him tightly. “Something is wrong.”


 The world twisted and moved around him. When Sirius opened his eyes, he found himself in front of 12 Grimmauld Place. He never thought he would ever come back here.

He took his wand out of his pocket and murmured a spell, making sure that his parents weren’t inside before he entered the house.

He called for Kreacher and the elf showed up a second later.

“Where is he?” He asked.

Sirius saw the look on the elf’s face and something twisted violently in his stomach.

He swallowed. “Where is he, Kreacher?”

Kreacher shook his head.

“I demand you tell me where he is.”

Kreacher shook his head again, furiously this time. There were scars all over his body, old and new. He recognised some from Kreacher’s methods of self-punishment.

The elf went on his knees, his hands leaning on the floor beneath him, ready to hit his head on it.

“Stand up,” he said hurriedly. Despite everything, he couldn’t bear to see the elf hurt himself.

Kreacher obeyed slowly. His bony limbs were shaking.

“Where are the rest?”

Kreacher shrugged. “Master Black doesn’t tell Kreacher or anyone where he goes anymore.”

“And Mother?”

Kreacher shook his head again. “Kreacher barely sees Mistress. The house has been abandoned for some time now. Kreacher has been keeping the place clean, waiting for Mistress to come back.”

“No one comes? Not even Bellatrix?”

“She came once, and asked Kreacher about Master Regulus,” he said.

“Kreacher.” Sirius went on one knee. “Just tell me. Is he…” He paused. The words were stuck in his mouth, unwilling to come out. He didn’t even want to consider it. “Is he dead?”

Kreacher looked at him and let out a heart-wrenching sob.

Sirius’ heart fell.

“What happened?”

Kreacher started to shake violently, tears falling down his blotchy face.

“Kreacher,” he stopped, voice cracking. Pressure built up in his temples. He swallowed and tried again. “What happened?”

Kreacher stared at him for a long time. “A duel,” he said at last. “Master Regulus was having a duel with someone. He lost.” And with that, he disappeared.

Sirius stayed at home for weeks, waiting for anyone to come. He wondered if his mother was mourning Regulus. He wanted to scream till she heard him from across the world. He wanted to hit his father, to hurt him until all what was left of him was a bloody mess. He wanted to get back at him for everything he had to them. But most of all, he wanted all of this to end.

He never saw Kreacher. The only indication that he wasn’t alone in the house were the meals that he found around three times a day. He heard the regular footsteps and thumps coming from upstairs. Kreacher walked around the house like a ghost, always disappearing before Sirius could see him.

Sirius’ hands were loosely bandaged when he too tired to stay awake. Trickles of blood seeped through the thin material, covering the floor beneath him. Chairs, mirrors, and tables lay broken around. There was something satisfying about breaking things with his own hands.

He clenched his hands into fists, letting the physical pain take over his mind and every part of his soul.


 In the bedroom, he found a damp letter on his bed. He read it over and over again until everything became dark and blurry around him; until he couldn’t stop the shaking of his limbs. There was a sadness caught in his throat like a cobweb, and he couldn’t cough it away.

Moonlight shone, breaking through the dirty window, illuminating the last lines of the letter in his hand, and Padfoot whined.

Sirius,

Believe me when I say that I didn't have much choice,

But now I do.

I intend to keep my word for you and die fighting.

I miss you more than I can ever say.