Chapter 1: Ina Bauer
HOPE & LEGACY: BLACK BROTHERS EDITION
Chapter One: Ina Bauer
A two-footed 'moves in the field' element performed on two parallel blades. It is commonly used as an entrance into jumps, adding to the difficulty.
"Try threatening it with the screwdriver again," Remus suggested. He didn't look up from the paper.
Sirius jabbed at the coffee maker's controls. It sputtered, but the sludge dripping from it changed neither consistency nor colour. "It smells like coffee, at least," he said. The liquid in the pot was of a viscosity not commonly associated with coffee.
"Screwdriver," Remus said, his voice rising half an octave.
Faced with this threat, the coffeemaker sputtered again and shook. It started dripping a thicker substance, not unlike thick motor oil or molasses. The scent became oddly sweet and cloying. Sirius peered at it. "I think it's turned into tar."
Remus made a noise of displeasure behind the paper.
Sirius gave the coffeemaker another once-over, then sighed and vanished the mess with a flick of his wand, resigned to the fact they'd be getting coffee-to-go from the shop round the corner. He sat at the breakfast table, intent on finishing his croissant and eggs. "What's new?"
"The planet has not yet collapsed beneath the sheer stupidity of the human race," Remus replied. He folded the paper and put it down, picking up a half-eaten buttered crumpet.
Twin taps at the kitchen window brought the day’s editions of the Prophet and Le Journal des Sorciers. Sirius paid the owls before they left, the fluttering of their wings almost drowning out Remus’ sigh as he swapped his copy of yesterday’s Le Monde with the Prophet. Sirius was just about to re-join Remus at the breakfast table when three more owls arrived, dropping letters on the floor and swooping out again from the open window without waiting for replies or treats. Sirius scooped the letters up before finally going back to his husband.
Leaving Le Journal for later, Sirius started in on the letters. There were two bills, one large envelope full of junk mail—the French wizardkind were so organised and lovely, one could simply tip the contents of the envelope directly into the trash if one so wished—and a large black envelope of expensive card stock with his name calligraphed in silver ink on the front.
The back was sealed in silver wax that matched the ink perfectly, stamped with the Black family crest.
Sirius considered throwing it out with the junk mail and pretending he'd never received it in the first place. Oh, pardon me, I must've gotten it mixed in with the trash. It's so hard to distinguish between the two these days, I'm sure you understand—you are walking garbage after all.
Curiosity got the better of him, however, and he broke the seal.
Our parents are dead. Natural causes etc. I don’t care.
Grindelwald is making arrangements for the cremation and fuck-all.
There was a splodge of what looked like dried wine on one corner of the letter. Sirius was faintly impressed at the precision of his brother’s handwriting when from all appearances he'd been as pissed as a newt when he'd written it.
"Sirius." Remus' voice was oddly tight. "There's something you need to see."
"Hm?" Sirius lowered the letter. "Is it an obituary? Because I'm not interested."
Remus exhaled, eyeing the letter and the black envelope on the table. "Not an obituary," he said. "More like a...PSA."
"No love lost," Sirius said. He passed Remus the letter, then picked up his fork. His eggs had gone cold. "No funeral notice?"
"No," Remus answered. He read the letter, then passed it back across the table. He picked up the Prophet again and opened it where he'd left off.
He was being too smooth, Sirius noticed. Too calm.
As if he was expecting a bomb to go off if he made any sudden moves. It was all a bit silly, really; it wasn't like Sirius was going to do anything rash.
Sirius picked up his mug before he remembered there was no coffee in it, then made a face at it. "Let's go."
~ • ~
~ • ~
Regulus rose from his chair—his chair; they'd held the meeting in Orion's study but Regulus wasn't going to start sitting on Orion's chair, or using Orion's desk, or anything else in the fucking house if he could help it.
Grindelwald had just left. He never liked paying house visits and usually kept them as short as possible, which suited Regulus just fine. The wine could stay, however. He didn't mind having some more of that. Kreacher had left the bottle of Lafite Rothschild on the sideboard and Regulus poured a generous serving of it into his glass. Grindelwald had declined it in favour of firewhiskey and Regulus reckoned he could drink enough for the both of them.
He didn't like the man: Grindelwald had the ruthlessness of an offended hippogriff and the quiet competence of a butler. Meeting with him felt much like handing out a written invitation to an assassin. But he was the solicitor to the Black family, had been since Regulus was a kid, and someone had to look over the funeral arrangements. It certainly wasn't going to be Regulus.
He wondered if his brother would come.
He had sent a letter (another one of Grindelwald's ideas) but he had been hitting Walburga's sherry pretty hard that day and he barely remembered what he had written. His brother should be glad Grindelwald had insisted on the official Black family stationery—black envelope, crest and all—or he and his sweet husband would have been enjoying the news about the fall of the House of Black courtesy of a Howler.
Regulus downed what was left of the Rothschild in one gulp. The sight would have horrified his parents; they'd always been wine snobs. All Regulus knew of wine—what went well with each meal, the vintage, the body, how to sneak it in between meals without anyone being the wiser; those came from his parents. And now he was drinking one of Orion's most expensive bottles like it was nothing more than cider. The shame.
"Will master be staying for the night?" Kreacher had come back into the room without Regulus noticing.
"Maybe not," said Regulus. Seeing the house elf's face fall, he smiled. "But I'll be back for dinner."
"We'll make sure to have master's favourites ready."
Kreacher was a sweet creature really, servile to a fault but generally well-meaning. Regulus wondered what would happen to him after the execution of the will. Perhaps Grindelwald had already mentioned this; Regulus hadn't been paying attention.
"No red meat, remember." Regulus had never been a fan, so that wasn't anything he was sad to give up.
"Is master going to the rink this afternoon?" Kreacher handed him a platter of nuts and cheese. Regulus usually had a snack before training; liquid food like soup or a shake. But that probably wouldn't go very well with all the wine he'd just drunk. He took a slice of cheese and started munching.
"Merlin could pop back out out of the Pine of Barenton, to the joy and celebration of all, and Nguyen would be telling me off for not training." Regulus made a face. He was wearing formal robes for his meeting with Grindelwald earlier but he'd have to change into something more comfortable before going to the rink. He grabbed the platter and hurried to the living room where he had left his bags. "I'll see you later tonight, then."
~ • ~
Mathis Nguyen was already waiting when Regulus arrived at the rink. He had Floo'd in—the advantage of being from the famous Black family of skaters: Grimmauld Place was one of the few private homes that had access to the Floo network in Lee Valley Ice Centre. But Regulus had taken too much time getting changed and Nguyen was looking more displeased than usual as he did his stretching exercises.
"Cut me some slack, man," Regulus muttered, fumbling at the laces of his skates. "My parents just died."
This made him laugh softly to himself, which didn't ease Nguyen's bad temper any.
"I'm glad you choose to look at the good in every situation," he said, his French accent heavier when he was angry. Regulus had told him before that he could speak French just fine, but Nguyen had listened to his accent with an increasingly pained expression and Regulus had never mentioned it again. "But there is no good reason to get caught off guard when the season begins."
"Have you ever talked to Mad-Eye Moody?" Regulus was waiting for Nguyen to start shouting about ‘constant vigilance' any moment. The (in)famous Auror was very vocal about his anti-Dark Arts policies; Regulus made sure to stay out of the man’s way whenever he had to do anti-jinx tests on the rink before every competition, but Moody’s reputation was quite well known.
"Nothing." Regulus took a deep breath and stepped into the rink.
"Ready?" said Nguyen. At Regulus' nod, his coach waved his wand in a complicated and fluid motion. They had filled two barrels with water earlier that day, setting them out by the rink in preparation for Regulus' programme. Once Nguyen's spell took hold, the water from the barrels rose, flowing in a silky strip not unlike a very long wet scarf.
Regulus pulled at the water, letting the strip move in a circular motion around him. He had considered using cloth instead; having to concentrate on keeping the shape of the water as it flowed and changed colours while he skated wasn't an easy feat, but cloth didn't have the fluidity that he needed.
He just needed to focus more, was all.
Focusing on landing his jumps and controlling the way the water flowed with him meant not thinking of anything. Not about the future. Not about his parents. Not about his coward of a brother who probably wouldn't even bother showing his face at the funeral.
If he'd show up in London at all.
His last jump was a triple Lutz, the moment when he had to let go of his control on the water, letting it fall in a cascade around him. It was hard to get the timing right and he landed badly, sliding down the ice. He would have fallen on his arse if he hadn't pulled at what was left of the water to cushion his fall; anchoring it against the ice until it froze, pillar-like, to break his fall.
"Circe's saggy tits."
He heard clapping, and a voice calling out, "Still relying on your magic tricks, I see."
Regulus looked around the rink; he was breathing fast and his heart felt like it was going to burst out of his chest. Which was understandable, he had just finished a full run of his programme after all. But he would be lying if he said the feeling wasn't laced with surprise.
Standing near Nguyen was his brother, husband in tow. Lupin for his part looked genuinely impressed, but the same couldn't be said about Sirius.
"Piss off," said Regulus.
Chapter 2: Biellmann Spin
Chapter Two: Biellmann Spin
An upright one-foot spin with one foot extended over and behind the head, forming a teardrop shape with the body. It requires great flexibility and spinning ability.
There hadn't been many guests at the funeral. Either nobody had cared to show up or Regulus hadn't cared enough to send invitations. It didn't matter, the guests were leaving and only Regulus remained at the gravesite, looking away from the grave and towards what looked like a mausoleum and a small copse of trees in the distance.
Arguably the better view than what was in front of him.
Sirius stopped loitering by the entrance—not hiding, even though he had chosen to situate himself behind a gargoyle-topped grave—and strode up to his brother's side. "Hello," he said, pleasantly, taking in the scene.
"How nice of you to come." Regulus barely spared him a glance. He wasn't dressed to the occasion, Sirius noticed. Black, sure, but not mourning clothes or formal dress of any kind.
He'd not dressed for the occasion himself either, having shown up in his favourite pair of Muggle jeans and sunglasses. The jeans were comfortable and had holes in them, and the glass in his shades was iridescent. "I'm only here to take care of a small matter," he said, fishing a small salt shaker out of the inside pocket in his jacket. "There might be only ashes in this grave, but I'm taking no chances." He held the shaker out and started drizzling salt over the urns and the earth around them.
When the salt didn't come forth as quickly as he wanted it to, he screwed the top off and shook the salt shaker's contents into the grave until it was all gone.
"That was liberating," Sirius said, pocketing the now empty salt shaker.
"I agree. Stating for the record that I'm not happy about it."
"What? Agreeing with me, or salting the earth?"
"Where's the husband?"
Sirius shrugged. "He had things to do."
"So you don't actually go everywhere together." Regulus had that look on his face he'd cultivated in early childhood as a response to something he was deeply offended by. Or when he was faced with plum pudding, which Sirius honestly couldn't fault him for. Plum pudding was vile.
He could, however, find fault with that expression in the context of his husband. A familiar petty desire to rile his brother up rose within him. "We are moving in with you," he said, taking on that same pleasant tone he'd used earlier.
To Sirius' surprise, Regulus failed to look horrified, annoyed, or even mildly shocked. He looked deeply puzzled. Not quite the reaction Sirius had been hoping for.
"What on earth are you talking about?" Regulus said.
"Grimmauld Place," Sirius clarified. "I'm Head of the House now, so." He gestured, as if to indicate this should be obvious.
"I don't live at Grimmauld Place. You can have it. Good fucking riddance." Regulus gave Sirius a calculating look. "Weren't you actually disowned?"
"Not officially." Sirius shrugged. "I fucking wish. I wouldn't fucking be here if they'd just fucking disowned me right." He glanced sideways at his brother, who was silent as ever. His mouth formed a thin line.
He should've come with. Sirius had asked him to, but the fucking coward had stayed behind.
Neither brother moved. There was a light breeze in the air, carrying with it the heavy scent of magnolias.
"Where do you live, then?" Sirius eventually asked. And then, because he still hadn't gotten a rise out of his brother, he added: "Bunking with old Gellert, are you? I hear he's got a taste for young blood."
"None of your fucking business," Regulus snapped. "Why are you here anyway? Why didn't you stay the fuck away?"
"Told you." Sirius patted the pocket with the salt shaker in it. He grinned, not bothering to hide his delight.
"Bollocks. You didn't come all the way here just to salt a fucking grave."
"No, I came here because I'm moving back to England, and coming back to magic skating while at it," Sirius said, inspiration striking. Who cared if none of that was strictly true? Getting his brother worked up was just too much fun. And it wasn't a complete lie; Sirius had said when he'd left that he wouldn't return to England until the House of Black was dead. The salted grave in front of him was proof of that. "Feel free to step down, brother, because I'll be taking all the gold from now on."
"Fuck you," Regulus said, fury blazing in his eyes.
~ • ~
~ • ~
"The WSU want me to qualify!"
"Mmh," Remus said. He was writing letters and not paying attention to Sirius, which was grossly unfair. He'd been doing that all day. Owls had been coming and going with unerring regularity, leaving droppings and feathers that Sirius was definitely not going to be the one to clean up.
"Don't they know that I'm a permanent fixture in the Muggle Grand Prix Series? I've won the damn thing six years in a row!" Sirius glared at the offending piece of parchment that'd delivered him the news that morning. "I've taken gold at Worlds and the Olympics! Twice! Wizards don't even have Olympics, I am literally degrading myself by doing this, oh my god, the WSU is in the fucking dark ages, skating at such horribly low levels, they don't even understand the concept of having a short programme and a free skate, it's just one fucking programme like it's the goddamn stone age—"
"Mmh," Remus repeated. He tied three letters to their owl and sent it off, then went back to the desk and continued writing. How many letters could one person possibly write?
"I can't believe I'm being treated like this, can you?" Sirius whined. "I should just take the Black fortune, however fucking miniscule it is, and establish my own skating union that doesn't have stupid rules like these. I should host my own Olympics! Take that, fuckers!"
"Sounds lovely," Remus said.
"I am almost sorry that we set my parents on fire. Just watch them spin in the grave when I sell Grimmauld Place and all our other estates and use the money to bring Muggle skating concepts to wizards." Sirius took a moment to imagine this. "I mean, of course the Olympics isn't only skating, but who the fuck is going to contradict me, skating genius extraordinaire with three hundred thousand followers on twitter?"
"Don't forget two hundred thousand followers on Instagram." An owl returned with a letter, which Remus swapped for an owl treat.
"And two hundred thousand followers on Instagram!"
Remus did not reply, only read the new letter and made satisfied noises, then wrote out a reply and sent it off with the owl. Sirius took a moment to compose the rest of his rant in his head before he continued; ranting was an important pastime and deserved to be treated with due respect.
He would go through the humiliating qualifying events if he absolutely had to, of course, he'd left the House, England, the Wizarding World and the WSU behind at fifteen; now ten years had passed and he'd missed the window for come-back skaters by a month.
Losing face to Regulus and sticking to Muggle skating was no longer an option. He'd said he was coming back, he'd said he was going to take gold, so he'd damn well do whatever he had to to do just that.
"I just can't believe it comes down to a technicality," Sirius went on, "like that time in Osaka when I placed second because the judges were fucking blind! That was a fucking perfect triple Axel!"
"That was seven years ago, Sirius."
Sirius ignored this. "So anyway—"
He was interrupted by a flurry of owls swooping in through the window. Remus herded them onto the desk where he relieved all of them of their letters and fed them copious amounts of treats.
"Okay, so, what the everlasting hell are you doing?" Sirius asked, getting up from his fainting couch at last. (It wasn't an actual fainting couch, but Sirius had designated it as such. His real fainting couch was back home in France.)
Remus picked a letter bearing the WSU seal from the pile and opened it. He skimmed through it's contents and then held it up in front of Sirius' face. "This," he said, simply.
It was a formal letter from the Wizarding Skating Union inviting Sirius to compete in the Grand Prix Series of Magical Figure Skating. It was an official invite. Signed. Stamped. No qualifying competitions needed. Direct ticket to the Series, by invite. From the WSU.
"What did you do?" Sirius took the letter. He turned it over, then upside down, as if something would fall out of it.
"Pulled some strings." Remus shrugged. "Charlie's mother is on the WSU board."
"My new student." Remus returned to his pile of letters. "I have two. Also, all our stuff will be shipped from France next week. And we're going to dinner at James and Lily's on Saturday."
Sirius was in love. Granted, he was always in love, but he was maybe a little bit more in love right now than usual. "I love you," he said, fervently.
"I know." Remus looked up, smug smile and all. "But please, go on."
"Shut up." Sirius kissed him. His husband was the best husband. Sirius read the letter again, then realised he'd forgotten one thing in all of this. "Oh, I should talk to Yulia—"
"She's coming over tomorrow," Remus said. "We are picking her up at St. Pancras at eight."
"Marry me," Sirius said. "Again."
~ • ~
"That bloody shag sack." Regulus threw the morning's Daily Prophet on the floor and, for good measure, stomped a foot on the front page, where his beloved brother's photo grinned and winked at him in all his smug glory. From his perch on the chair next to Regulus', Mr Darcy blinked and looked unimpressed.
Wasn't there anything else happening in the wizarding world? "How the hell did a has-been end up on the front page?"
Bastard hadn't been back in London for a week and he was already the talk of the town. Regulus gritted his teeth. Sirius wasn't a has-been, that was the problem; he'd kept up skating in the Muggle world and was a fairly well-known figure—he'd mentioned some chirping followers back at the rink, Regulus had no idea what those were but Sirius apparently had thousands of them. What would happen to those fans now that Sirius was going back to wizard skating was a mystery Regulus didn't care to unravel; it was just tough luck for them.
Tough luck for Regulus as well; he was going to have to compete with the guy. He wanted a drink, but no—that was probably not a good idea; what he really needed was a clear mind. Think things through calmly and methodically.
He threw a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace. It wasn't really cold enough yet for a fire, but the cottage could get drafty even in the middle of summer. "Nguyen!"
No response. Regulus stuck his head into the flames and shouted, "Nguyen!"
"We've talked about this before, Regulus." Nguyen's voice was faint—he was probably still in his bedroom—but Regulus had known the man long enough to recognise the irritation in it. "No Floo messages before breakfast. And not without warning."
"Never mind that," said Regulus. "Have you seen today's paper?"
There was a long pause; Regulus hoped his coach had gotten up and was getting dressed instead of going back to sleep. His doubts were put to rest when he saw Nguyen shuffle into his own kitchen—or at least he saw the man's legs. Talking through the fireplace wasn't Regulus' favourite activity and he had seen enough hairy legs to last him a lifetime.
"What about today's paper?" said Nguyen.
"That bastard—my bloody brother was in the front page talking about how he was going to get gold in the Grand Prix Final." Regulus took a deep breath. "That's not going to happen."
Nguyen had started making breakfast as Regulus was talking; now he pulled up a stool close to the fireplace and sat while the bread toasted and the coffee did whatever coffee does—Regulus had always been a tea person.
"Of course it won't happen," said Nguyen. "I've seen him skate; he is for sure someone to look out for. But he has not done wizarding skating for a decade. It won't be easy for—"
"I'm changing my programme," Regulus cut in.
"I'm not letting my brother upstage me in my rink." Of course that's what he needed to do. Sirius was probably planning on some ridiculous programme that would miraculously not get him killed. Regulus wasn't going to lose to that. "I'll let you know once I finalise the bloody thing."
"Thanks," said Regulus, pulling his head out of the fire. "I just have to take care of some things. I'll talk to you later."
~ • ~
The next order of business was to pay Grindelwald a visit. Regulus sent a letter before Flooing there; unannounced appearances might work on Nguyen but the same couldn't be said for the Black family solicitor. Regulus still had a hard time looking him and Dumbledore in the eye since his last disastrous visit.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" said Grindelwald, gesturing at the chair in front of his—thankfully unoccupied—desk.
Regulus dusted the ash off his robes, frowning at the soot on his hands. Grindelwald could surely afford to have his chimneys cleaned, but it was just like him to force discomfort on his own clients. In this he was Sirius' match; Regulus wished them all the joys of each other's company.
After this, he might not have to deal with Grindelwald again. His frown deepened.
"It's about Orion's will." Regulus didn't sit down. He didn't think this would take long enough for it to matter.
Grindelwald nodded. "Yes?"
"How come you never told me about his heir?"
"But I did." The man was smooth, but that was to be expected. In this case he was too smooth. Regulus bit at the inside of his cheek and waited for Grindelwald to continue. "I have told you what the heir is to expect with regards to his inheritance as well as his responsibilities."
"You never told me the heir's name."
The understanding that dawned on Grindelwald's face looked too perfect to be genuine. "Ah."
Regulus resisted the urge to jump onto the desk and throttle the man. Not only because it would be unseemly but also he didn't want to touch that desk if he could help it.
"I have consulted with—" Grindelwald paused and made a waving gesture with his hand. "With a colleague upon this matter. You understand that the wizarding laws were built on traditions honoured by time."
"You mean outdated." It was also unseemly to snort, so for the record what Regulus did was exhale deeply from his nose.
"And that the Wizengamot has always been very particular about each and every bill in order to make sure they are for the benefit the wizarding world."
"You mean they won't fucking agree on anything."
Grindelwald gave Regulus a small smile. "If you will. Now, given these time-honoured and meticulously argued constraints, the laws of inheritance can be quite beneficial to any interested parties."
Regulus sighed. "Let's cut this conversation short, shall we?" When Grindelwald said nothing, he went on, "Had my brother not come back, would he still be Orion's heir?"
"That could be contested." Grindelwald stood up and walked towards the cabinet case where Regulus knew he kept his firewhiskey. Merlin, but he really needed a drink right now. "With him back here in London, however."
Grindelwald poured a glass for himself and handed Regulus another one. Firewhiskey wasn't Regulus' usual choice of poison, but present circumstances surely allowed him to try new things.
It burned as he swallowed a liberal sip.
Just then, there was a knock on the door.
"Gellert, are you in?"
The last voice in the world Regulus wanted to hear. His hand tightened around the glass he was holding.
Grindelwald gave him a look before calling out, "Do come in, Mr Black."
Sirius swooped into Grindelwald's office in a flurry of colourful Muggle clothing. The man had no shame.
"If it isn't my dear younger brother," he said, when he saw Regulus standing in front of Grindelwald's desk. "How have you been? Do you know how hard it is to get proper croissants here in England?"
"It wasn't me that buggered off to France the first chance I could get," said Regulus.
"France would have been good for you. Especially your complexion; you are in serious need of some sun."
"Did you fucking come here to insult my lack of a fashionable tan?"
"Unfortunately," Sirius made a face, "I'm here on business."
It was easy to forget the sharp and calculating mind Sirius was hiding under all that frivolity. Regulus took another sip of his firewhiskey—fuck sipping, he was bloody gulping his drink down.
"For the record, you could shove that fucking inheritance up Orion's ashy arse for all I care," he said, placing his empty glass on top of Grindelwald's desk. Years of manners and etiquette drilled into his skull by Walburga stopped him from banging the thing against the glossy wood.
"A sentiment I could agree with—"
"But I don't see why you get to have any say, anything at all when you fucking ran off like a cowardly bitch with its tail behind its skinny legs."
"Regulus." Grindelwald sounded like he dearly regretted giving Regulus that drink.
"You could have come with me," said Sirius, his voice low. "You should have come with me. I wasn't the fucking coward hiding behind Walburga's skirts."
"We don't all have the luxury of Alphard's money to tide us over in times of need." Regulus bared his teeth. "This is becoming a trend isn't it? Living off inheritances, enjoying the fruits of other people's labours?"
"You don't know shit about me."
"Fucking right. And I don't intend to." Regulus considered Flooing back to the cottage, but that would mean revealing his address in front of his brother. He would have to go by bus. In his sooty robes. His annoyance rose a notch.
"What makes you think I'd have left you to fend for yourself if you'd come with me?"
"Funny you should say that," said Regulus, stopping next to his brother on the way out of Grindelwald's office. "Isn't that exactly what you did?"
~ • ~
~ • ~
Stung and annoyed and burning up with guilt, Sirius rounded on Grindelwald. "Sell everything," he spat. "I don't want any of all this crap. Get rid of it."
He'd always found it easy to turn guilt into anger.
Gellert Grindelwald hadn't changed a lick in the ten years that'd passed since Sirius had last laid eyes on the man. Still blond, still shrewd, still capable of sighing in just the right way to make Sirius feel like a stupid little boy. "You don't really want that," Grindelwald said. Still a condescending bastard, Sirius noted.
"Sell. It. All." Sirius bristled. "Every single estate—even the post stamp sized one in Cumbria, yes I know about that one, I'm not a fucking idiot—and every single item in every single building we own, no scrap that, that I own, and oh yeah, clean out the fucking House vault too."
"Even the doilies?" Grindelwald did sarcasm well.
"Especially the fucking doilies. Sell the elf as well, or free him—I don't care either way. Give him to some nouveau riche family or other. Consider it fucking charity."
Sirius ran out of things to say. He crossed his arms, staring Grindelwald down.
"Are you done?"
"Just do what I fucking tell you to do," Sirius snapped. "Or do you want me to hire Dumbledore to do your job for you?"
"Don't think I fucking won't."
"Are you aware that the House of Black will cease to exist if you do this?" Grindelwald's eyes were focused on the empty glasses on his desk, probably wishing he could pour himself another drink.
"Perfect." Sirius raised an eyebrow when no reply was forthcoming. "What, are you worried you'll lose our business once it's all gone? I wouldn't, I'm sure my brother will find use for you."
"You want to dissolve the House?"
"Why the fuck not? It'll die with us anyway. We're both too damn asexual to continue the bloody line." Sirius snorted disdainfully. "At least I am, though I suspect my brother is cut from that same cloth."
"Not to speak of the gay marriage to the werewolf, of course," Grindelwald said, voice laced with honey.
"Keep my husband out of this," Sirius snarled.
"Sit." Grindelwald gestured at the chair.
"No thank you." Sirius didn't even glance at the chair. "I'll be leaving as soon as I've dealt with this shit. How hard is it? Just sell the whole bloody lot."
Grindelwald shrugged, but it was a controlled gesture. "There is another option, of course." He didn't elaborate.
Sirius glared at him, not wanting to have to ask. When Grindelwald continued to give him the polite silent treatment, he sneered. "Out with it, then!"
"You can decline to inherit," Grindelwald said in an uninterested tone best used to discuss the weather. "In which event the estate falls to your brother."
For a long moment Sirius didn't know what to say. "What the fuck would he want with this crap?"
Grindelwald smiled. It was toothy and reptilian. "Why don't you ask him?"
Chapter 3: Kerrigan Spiral
Chapter Three: Kerrigan Spiral
A a high-leg outside spiral performed with one hand supporting the knee of the free leg, with the free leg held in a vertical split position. The Kerrigan requires great flexibility and balance.
Regulus was leaving for the Ice Centre when he heard loud hissing and squawking behind him. He let his bag fall down the kitchen floor as he hurried to where Mr Darcy was failing in his attempts to jump at Grindelwald’s owl. He scooped his cat up with a sigh, rummaging in the drawers for a treat to give the offended bird.
It gave him a baleful look as he retrieved Grindelwald’s note; catching the gingerbread biscuit from Regulus' fingers with its beak before flying back home.
I have talked to your brother. He might contact you soon. Please Floo upon receipt of this letter.
Regulus frowned at the piece of parchment. Not a word on what they'd talked about or what Sirius would want from Regulus after what had happened earlier, but it was typical of Grindelwald. He rarely committed to anything verbally, let alone in writing.
Whatever it was, Regulus didn't think it would be any sort of good news. Not after that scene. Sirius was bound to lash out and there was no knowing what he'd do. Regulus grabbed some Floo powder with a sinking heart, preparing for the worst.
Hunkering down on his knees in front of the fireplace wasn't Regulus' favourite pastime, and now he found himself doing it twice on the same morning. He didn’t have time to actually go to Grindelwald’s office, so this would have to do.
Today should have been cancelled.
He found the man seated once more at his desk, fingers rubbing at the bridge of his nose and a bottle of firewhiskey on full view by his side.
"He wants to liquidate all of the Black family property." Grindelwald cut to the chase with a soft sigh. "Essentially dissolving the House, for what it's worth."
"What for?" Regulus' stiff-upper-lip upbringing failed to mask the shaking in his voice.
"He didn't say." Grindelwald took a deep breath. "Of course, your trust is not part of the estates to begin with; that will not be a problem."
"But the rest of it." Regulus swallowed. The stone floor suddenly felt very cold even through the thick fabric of his trousers and he was painfully aware of how uncomfortable his position was. "What is he going to do with the rest of it?"
"Your guess is as good as mine." Grindelwald spread his hands on the desk, palms down. "I was wondering if you could talk him out of it."
"Me," said Regulus. He laughed. And here he thought Grindelwald possessed not a single humorous bone in his old body. "And how the fuck would I go about that?"
Grindelwald shrugged. "How about telling the truth?"
~ • ~
"You're late again." Nguyen waved his pocket watch at Regulus' face. "I hope this is not becoming a habit."
"Sorry," said Regulus, dumping his gear on one of the benches. "I had to drop by the solicitor's this morning."
Nguyen hummed as he pocketed his watch, but he didn't look as irritated as before. "Is there a problem?"
"Personally, no." Regulus hiked his trousers up before starting on his stretches. His clothes were getting a bit loose, which wasn't really an issue except Nguyen might start hounding him about not eating properly if he lost too much weight.
Nothing like a healthy dose of family drama to burn off some calories. The rigours of ice skating paled in comparison.
"But?" Nguyen crossed his arms and waited. When Regulus said nothing, he made a tutting sound and sat on the bench nearby. "It won't do if anything is bothering you. Your troubled heart will show in your performance."
Regulus sat on the floor with his legs spread out.
"I'm worried about my Silver Skates programme," he said, leaning over to touch his feet.
"Ah," said Nguyen. "Forgive me if this is indelicate, but." He waved his hands. "Did your parents not leave you with funds?"
"They probably think they did." Seriously, Regulus needed to have a talk with Grindelwald about that. It was the man's job to make sure this didn't happen. How hard was it to legally disinherit the first-born son? "But now I'm left with my fucking trust and that's sizeable for a man of means but not—" he let his voice trail off.
Nguyen nodded, rubbing the underside of his chin with his thumb. "Not for a philanthropist?"
Regulus snorted. "That's hardly what I'll call myself."
It was a bit more complex than money trouble. The trust fund Orion had set up for Regulus was definitely more than enough for his equipment and daily needs, and for the rest he could always set up fundraisers. That was how he had managed in the past; he'd been determined not to ask his parents for financial assistance if he could help it. Not that they would have been thrilled about Regulus' cause in the first place. Walburga would have shouted herself to asphyxiation at the thought of helping ‘mudbloods' and ‘blood traitors', while Orion would have scoffed at the low-return investment of providing financial aid to skaters who couldn't afford good equipment, let alone rink access and a professional trainer.
Regulus didn't want to be the heir—he had thought of many ways of putting the Black family fortunes into good use but he could make do without. Sirius could use up his inheritance buying his husband a million tea cosies for all Regulus cared; he had managed so far without tapping into the familial coffers.
The problem was, while he didn't really need his parents' money, he also wasn't above using his own name to lure the sponsors in. Dissolving the House of Black and all of its properties would leave him not only homeless, but no more than a relic of a fallen empire. Albeit one with five gold medals under his rather fashionable belt.
"You have always stood proud and tall," said Nguyen.
Regulus stood up and narrowed his eyes at Nguyen, hoping the old man wouldn't give another one of his embarrassing pep talks.
"And you have already proven that you are more than your family," Nguyen went on. "Isn't that enough?"
Regulus said nothing as Nguyen left his bench and headed towards the staff room. He patted Regulus' shoulder as he passed.
"I could do with some tea, would you like some?"
"No thanks." Regulus braced one hand on the bars attached to the walls of the rink to start his horizontal splits.
He didn't know if what he had achieved so far was enough. But he wasn't done yet. It wasn't about what he wanted or hoped to do. Regulus simply did what had to be done.
~ • ~
~ • ~
"So..." Sirius said, when Yulia had done nothing but stare at him for a good seven minutes. At least. He wasn't used to that look on her face—spite and anger, sure, all excellent emotions for a coach to exhibit, but not this level of stone-faced silence.
"Is that it?" She narrowed her eyes at him. "Is that all?"
"What do you mean?" Sirius faltered.
"Well." Yulia drew herself up to her full height—all five feet and a half inch of it—in what Sirius recognised as preparation for a massive rant. "Of course I fucking knew you're fucking magic, you bleeding fucking idiot! What do you take me for, a fucking fool? Your fucking coffee maker frequently makes liquids that aren't fucking coffee, you have a literal fucking wand in your fucking pocket, you have an exasperating habit of just fucking disappearing into thin fucking air—honestly!" She paused to draw a breath. "You didn't fucking put me on a train to bloody England just to tell me you're a fucking wizard, so what the everlasting hell are you up to?"
The fact she wasn't screaming at him meant that Sirius hadn't actually pissed her off—yet—and overall he thought this was going well. Maybe. There was no knowing how she'd react once he delivered the real news.
He took a deep breath and then: "I'm leaving Muggle skating to go back to magic skating and I was hoping you'd still want to be my coach."
"What." Yulia bore down on him like some kind of an avenging angel. Or a very angry Russian. "What. Did. You. Just. Fucking. Say. To. Me?"
Sirius knew better than to repeat his words. "You are the only coach for me," he said, adding a pleading note to his voice. "It's the same kind of skating, I swear! Just with more magic! We can do really crazy shit on the ice! You'd love it, I know it—"
"WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU LEAVE NORMAL FUCKING SKATING WHEN YOU ARE LITERALLY THE TOP FUCKING SKATER IN THE UNIVERSE, ARE YOU FUCKING MAD?!"
Yulia didn't have an ounce of magic in her and that was a fact, but nevertheless when she flew into rages like this, she seemed to grow an extra ten feet in height.
"YOU HAVE AN UNBROKEN GOLDEN STREAK—A FUCKING WORLD RECORD—AND YOU ARE GOING TO LEAVE IT BEHIND TO SWAN AROUND IN SOME SECRET FUCKING MAGIC SOCIETY LIKE A FUCKING MORON? IS THAT WHAT YOU'RE SAYING?"
"I—yes," Sirius admitted.
"Fine!" Yulia threw up her hands, then planted her arse firmly on the couch. "Is there any chance of getting a decent cup of coffee in this godforsaken place?"
"Ah..." Sirius stood up. "Yes, sure, of course...I'll be back in a moment."
The kitchen was blessedly quiet, but Yulia's dissatisfaction was positively radiating through the walls. Sirius set water to boil with a flick of his wand and then set up the poor man's coffee maker that he and Remus had found deep inside one of the cupboards. Nobody had lived in this cottage since Remus' parents had moved up north, so it was poorly equipped—albeit suitable for their needs.
For the time being.
They hadn't actually talked about where they were going to live... Certainly not Grimmauld Place; Sirius would rather pour acid on his groin than set foot in there again, but this old cottage was a little remote for their needs. Perhaps if they hooked it up to the Floo network again...at least their things from France were on the way. He really missed his fainting couch.
"How long does it take you to make a fucking cup of coffee?" Yulia yelled.
"As long as it fucking takes!" Sirius yelled back. Feeling impish, he levitated the mug with the filter still sitting on top, and brought it into the living room. "We don't have a coffee maker," he explained to her. "All our things are still in France."
She gave the levitating coffee cup a suspicious look, then plucked it out of the air. "I haven't seen these cursed things since I was a child in Russia," she said. She looked like the filter contraption had personally offended her.
Knowing Yulia, it might very well have.
Sirius brought the kettle out and topped up the filter up with more water. "So, do you still want to be my coach?"
"I'm still here, aren't I?" She glared at him. "I'll join you in this godless quest of yours...on one condition."
"Yes?" Sirius hardly dared ask.
"Tell me the real reason you're doing it."
"Ahhh...." Sirius fidgeted. "Well....you see..."
"Yes?" Yulia's voice was sharp as daggers and could probably kill a man.
"I want to one-up my brother," Sirius eventually said.
"A-HAH!" Yulia punched the air. "I knew there was something going on!" Then she turned on him. "Spill."
"Before I left the Wizarding World and magic figure skating, I was the champion," Sirius said. "In juniors anyway, I didn't skate senior then, I only moved up when I left...it's why there's no records of me in the junior division in Muggle skating. Anyway. After I left, my brother took my place." Sirius tried for a nonchalant shrug. "I've been away ten years. It's time I took it back, don't you think?"
Yulia regarded him. She'd taken the filter top off the mug; the single serving of coffee finally done. "Tell me about him."
"What's there to say? He skates. If I'm not wrong he moved up to seniors only three years ago, but has been taking gold ever since. He did well in the junior division as well, I'm told."
"Why not now?"
"Why?" she pressed.
"My parents, curse their lives, are dead." Sirius wanted to bite the inside of his cheek or something, but refrained. Yulia would've noticed.
"I knew you were a fucking nutcase, but honestly," Yulia said, "you have issues."
"Tell me about it," Sirius muttered.
"First thing tomorrow you are showing me what all this magic skating is about," Yulia said, blowing on the surface of her coffee. "Then we plan."
"Where's Remus, by the way? I'd have thought he'd stick around for this conversation."
"Shed." At Yulia's raised eyebrow he elaborated: "It's the full moon in two days, so he's preparing the shed. He hasn't used it in over a decade, so...he's reinforcing the wards. Probably also clearing the spiders out."
"The full moon?" Yulia glanced out the window. "What, is he a werewolf or something?"
"Okay. Fine. Whatever." Yulia put down her coffee and stood up. "I'm done. Magic I can handle, magic is fine, but fucking werewolves—next you'll tell me vampires are real?"
"No, don't. Don't say another fucking word. Shut up. I'm leaving. I'm gone. I'm going to the first spa I can find in London and I'm staying there the rest of the day, far away from levitating cups and bloody fucking werewolves."
"So...I'm picking you up tomorrow morning at seven?"
"On fucking time or I'll walk out of England, just you believe me."
Remus chose that moment to come inside. He had cobwebs in his hair. "Oh, are you leaving?" he asked Yulia, who was indeed halfway to the door.
She gave him a once-over. "You don't look like a werewolf."
"Well, yes, I am extremely dangerous and very hairy," Remus said, then turned to Sirius. "You didn't have to tell her about that!"
"It's okay, love, I'll buy you those juice bricks you like for the aftermath. Tesco has the cherry ones on sale, did you know that?" Sirius was by Remus' side in a flash, pressing a quick kiss to his disgruntled mouth. As expected, Remus melted a little bit.
"The shed is fine," Remus said. "It'll hold up. Are the cherry ones really on sale?"
"I swear on my mother's grave," Sirius said. "Which I can actually do, since I saw with my own eyes that it exists."
Remus rolled his eyes. So did Yulia.
"Is either one of you going to drive me back to London and my hotel, or do I have to take the bus like a fucking peasant?"
Sirius shared a look with his husband. Remus' eyes said no, absolutely not. Sirius' eyes said but think how much she'd hate it and how much fun I'd have doing it because she'd absolutely hate me for it but it'd be brilliant. Eventually, Remus relented.
"I'll side-along you," Sirius said to Yulia, altogether too gleefully. "Come on now, let's go outside."
"Side-along what?" Yulia followed him outside. "What are you—let go of me!"
"Hold on tight," Sirius told her. He said a little prayer for his soul, in case Yulia would actually kill him on the other side, then disapparated them.
~ • ~
"I stand by my formal assessment of your character: you belong in the goddamn nuthouse," Yulia said, when Sirius skated back to her.
He'd just finished showing off what he could remember of proper magic ice skating techniques, and was feeling pretty pleased with himself. "But it looks great, doesn't it?"
"It certainly...is a thing," she replied. She didn't look convinced of, well, anything. "What do you hope to accomplish with this type of skating? What's the point of it?"
"This was just the basics, really," Sirius explained, looking back. Remus was on the other side of the rink, talking to two kids who Sirius was sure were Remus' new students. "It's when we add all the cool stuff that it gets fun."
Sirius was vaguely considering appropriating Remus and his students to show Yulia what magic skating could look like. He could skate one of his old programs, even without props, but he could barely remember how they went. Ten years was a long fucking time to not do a thing.
"Levitating spins are banned, I think, which is a shame—the rule is that aside from jumps, one skate must always be in contact with the ice. So anything that includes me taking off from the ice in a non-jump manner is right out." Sirius tapped the barrier thoughtfully. There had to be something he could show her aside from the basics?
A movement across the rink caught his eye. Two black heads of hair—one tall and one short—had just entered through the D exit. Sirius recognised his brother as the tall one.
Well, of course. He was bound to run into Regulus sometimes if they were both going to be training at Lee Valley Ice Centre. Sirius would have to make sure to set up his training schedule so that they didn't overlap, and he wouldn't have to see his brother at the rink. No distractions.
Sirius stepped off the ice and put his blade guards on.
"We aren't done here—" Yulia started, but Sirius shushed her.
"I'm going to sit over there and hide where Regulus can't see me," he said, indicating his brother and his coach. "That's my brother, there. He's the one we have to beat."
A lot of things could be said about Yulia Fuglsang, but it could not be said that she was an idiot. She immediately retreated into the shadows with Sirius (who did pull the shadows a bit closer over them with magic; if Yulia noticed she didn't comment) to spy on Regulus.
This wasn't the first time Sirius had seen his brother on the ice. They'd skated together as children, for one, but for the other Sirius had seen the tail end of a practise a few days prior. What he was seeing now, however...
It became abundantly clear why Regulus was well on his way to become the uncontested champion of magical figure skating in men's singles. He was good.
There was no other word for it. He was good.
Regulus moved with a fluidity on the ice that Sirius recognised in himself, but where Sirius had mastered Muggle skating to a degree that had left him basically peerless—without cheating; he'd never used magic to aid him—Regulus wasn't so much using magic as he was...channelling it, like it was second nature to him.
It was second nature to him, Sirius realised to his horror. He'd been skating with magic since childhood. Sirius hadn't skated with magic in ten years. If he was going to beat his brother at the Grand Prix Final of Magical Figure Skating, he was going to have to...work miracles.
Or just grind.
Regulus finished a spin with a flourish, magic reverberating through the rink, and Yulia turned to look at Sirius. There was fury in every line on her face.
"I see," she said, sweet as poison. "Here's the thing, you utter fucking moron. I don't know magic. But I do know skating, and that? That is skating like I've never seen before."
"I know," Sirius said, miserably.
Chapter 4: Death Drop
Chapter Four: Death Drop
A type of flying entry into a spin. It's performed by jumping up with a forward takeoff, kicking the same takeoff leg backwards, and landing in a back sit position. During the jump the skater is almost horizontal to the ice.
Sirius popped into existence at what looked like an unholy union of a crossroads and a town square, in the middle of a small village called Kettlewell, of all things to name a village. There was a well in the square, though if it was a well of kettles, Sirius didn't know, but there was a sign on it proudly proclaiming the name of the village.
This was the most likely place to find Regulus. Grindelwald had supplied him with a list of all properties belonging to the House of Black—he'd refused to start liquidating until Sirius had signed off on his inheritance, the papers to which were continually getting mysteriously displaced, and kept insinuating Sirius should discuss the matter with his brother—so here Sirius was, trying to track him down.
Grindelwald had also refused to give him Regulus' home address, for reasons unknown to man, so Sirius had made an educated guess: He was clearly not living at Grimmauld Place, the post-stamp sized plot that came with a lordship (the only reason the House owned that plot, in all likelihood), either of the two potato farms or the beach house in Brighton.
That left Black Cottage, which upon further inspection turned out to have an active Floo connection and thus was the most likely place of residence for his brother. It was now located in Kettlewell, which it turned out, hadn't been mentioned in the property records.
To be fair, the property records dated back to 1674. The records didn't indicate any type of village or other habitation in the area, so it wasn't Sirius' fault that he was suddenly standing in the middle of a Muggle village right where the cottage was supposed to be.
Nobody seemed to have noticed Sirius materialising in the crossroads-cum-square, though that could be attributed to the fact that...there was nobody around. He peered into the well, then glanced around the square, at the stream, and at the horse fields in the distance, trying to locate a direction to walk into to find the blasted Black Cottage.
Sirius briefly contemplated changing into his animagus form and sniffing his brother out, but decided against it. He crossed the bridge over the small stream towards the pub he'd spotted right on the other side, and ducked in; there were always people in pubs.
The pub fell silent as he entered, its inhabitants all turning as one to look at him.
"Hello," Sirius said, feeling vaguely unsettled. Muggles didn't usually behave like this. "I'm er, looking for Black Cottage?"
The two old men sitting in front of the bar shared a look. As did the three men seated by the grimy window. The barmaid tittered.
"What's your business at Black Cottage?" One of the men asked. He was particularly gnarly looking, like a withered tree dressed in brown tweed and a tie.
"My brother lives there," Sirius answered.
This response had the entire pub all atwitter.
"He does have that look about him," Sirius heard one of the men by the window say. Another said: "Have you ever heard of a fae asking for directions? I'm telling you there's no fae up at Black Cottage, there never have been—" He was interrupted by the barmaid bringing them fresh pints. "You all know that that boy up at the cottage is fae," she said. "I reckon this one is too, there's a likeness to them that's unsettling—"
Sirius stared at the lot of them, trying to decide what was more hysterical; that they thought his brother was a fucking fairy, or that they thought fae were in the habit of asking for directions or wearing Sex Pistols t-shirts.
He cleared his throat. "So, do you know where Black Cottage is?"
The gnarly dude in the tweed gestured with his pint. "Aye, son. Will you have the directions as a gift, no debts owed?"
What, Sirius thought, hysterically. I'm not a fucking fairy.
"Uh, sure," he said. "I, uh, just need to speak to my brother? Only I can't find the blasted house, there wasn't supposed to be a village here—" too late, he realised how this would sound to a bunch of superstitious Muggles and shut up. "I'll give you a coin for your trouble," he then said, digging around in his pockets for a galleon.
He might as well go all out, right? He had a crumpled tenner in his pocket but also a galleon and some sickles, and the galleon would be suitably dramatic and fitting for his newfangled fae image. Much better than a crumpled tenner, at any rate.
Sirius held the galleon out. Some of the villagers crossed themselves.
The tweed-wearing tree guy took the galleon and examined it with trembling fingers. "It'll do," he said.
"Excellent! Where do I go from here?" Sirius put his hands in his pockets, looking at them all expectantly.
The gnarly tree dude's friend cleared his throat. "On the other side of the stream," he said, giving Sirius a significant look. "There's a path up past the house with the blue door. You'll find Black Cottage at the bottom of the hill."
Sirius thanked them and headed outside, feeling their eyes boring into the back of his head. He was darkly aware that they were probably watching him from the windows as he headed back the way he'd come. When he reached the bridge, he paused, recalling that in Muggle lore fairies weren't supposed to be able to cross running water.
Was that also true when the water was bridged? He made a little show out of examining the bridge, catching chatter on the wind from behind him, and contemplated the merits of just apparating across the stream for the x-factor versus just walking over the bridge.
In the end, he decided he'd broken too many laws recently, what with letting Yulia in on everything, and just walked across the bridge.
There was an audible gasp at his back.
~ • ~
~ • ~
"Are you aware that your villagers think you're a fucking fairy?" Sirius said the moment Regulus answered the door.
Regulus looked like he wanted to slam the door in his face, but then he sighed. "Please tell me you didn't scare them," he said, stepping aside to let Sirius in. "They're sweet creatures."
"I gave them a galleon for directions. Why do they think we are fae?" Sirius walked in, then stopped short. "Holy fucking shit, what the fuck is that?"
A creature that looked like an abnormal evolution of a house elf, in a pink and blue striped sweater, was sitting on the floor. It meowed.
"That's Mr Darcy," Regulus said, closing the door. "He's a naked cat." He scooped up the cat.
The creature was rubbing his head against Regulus' palm and purring.
"It's wearing a sweater." Sirius felt the overwhelming need to point this out. The cat wasn't technically naked when it was wearing a sweater, was it? He fished his mobile phone out of his pocket and took a photo.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm putting this on twitter."
Regulus seemed to fight the urge curse him. "Why are you here?"
Sirius posted the photo and then closed the app, putting the phone away. He ran his hand through his hair, snagging on a few tangles. He went to work on untangling them. "It's about that bloody will," he said, not looking Regulus in the eye. "Gellert is being an obstinate arse about it."
"Oh?" Regulus raised an eyebrow. Their father used to do that, too. It looked wrong on Regulus' face.
"So, what the fuck is his deal then?"
"Why would I know?" Regulus' tone was too light to be entirely casual. He turned down the hall and Sirius followed.
The cottage was nice, homey. Regulus had clearly lived here for some time; the decorations on the walls and the furniture looked to be largely originals to the cottage, but a few more personal items were interspersed with them. Medals hung on one wall.
Regulus came to a halt in a small solarium overlooking the garden, and with a snap of his fingers, a tray of cucumber sandwiches and a pitcher of lemonade appeared on the sidebar.
Sirius recognised the handiwork of a house elf, but elected not to comment. "I'm surprised at your hospitality," he said, instead.
"I have manners."
"Hm." Sirius took a sandwich and then slung himself into the nearest chair. "No really. Does Gellert have, like, a hard-on for you or something? He's clearly playing favourites here, and it's not me."
Regulus put himself and his cat down in the other. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."
"Bullshit. So what is it? I didn't think you were especially interested in all this dross." Sirius gestured around them. "Don't tell me you're actually proud of the family name and all this garbage."
"Perhaps some of us are actually trying to do good with the name and the garbage," Regulus said, enunciating very clearly. There was a dark look in his eyes. "Which is more than can be said for the rest of us."
"Well excuse me!" Sirius said. "For not wanting anything to do with the people who rejected me! I don't want any of this shit! I'd burn it all in a heartbeat!"
"And then what, salt the ground?" Regulus' voice was rising. "Instead of putting in the effort of turning the ship around? No, of course not—" he rose, Mr Darcy jumping from his lap with an indignant yowl "- not when you can just take the easy way out! Why don't you just run off again? It's not like I need you to come back and mess everything up for me!"
Sirius jumped to his feet. "The easy way out? I was a child when our parents kicked me out! What the fuck else did you expect me to do but leave?" He gestured with his half-eaten sandwich. "I told you to come with me but no, you chose to stay. Thanks a fucking lot, brother. You rejected me and you expect me not to be fucking angry about it?"
"You left me!" Regulus' cheeks were red, his eyes blazing with fury. "You were a child but I wasn't? I was ten fucking years old! What the bleeding fuck did you expect me to do?"
"Anything but that!"
Sirius balled his hands into tight fists, trying to control his breathing and his racing heart. He felt hot and ashamed, guilt blooming in his gut again. He could've done more to convince Regulus to come with him, maybe. He could've...there's a lot of things he could've done.
It didn't matter. Fact was they were practically strangers to each other. There was an abyss between them that Sirius wasn't sure could be bridged anymore.
"You can have the fucking lot," Sirius eventually said, measuring out his words. "Just tell me why it's so important to you. Help me understand why you don't want me to dissolve the fucking House, when it's the fucking House that put us here."
Regulus crossed his arms, looking away. Finally: "It's my name, whether I like it or not. I want my name to be...good." His jaw had a firm line to it that was a little too familiar for comfort. "I don't want to be another Dark Arts Black. I want to be Regulus Black."
He turned away abruptly and left the room. Before Sirius could react—follow him or leave or eat the rest of the sandwich, which he was still holding on to like a fucking idiot—he came back.
"There." He thrust a pamphlet at Sirius. "This is what I want the money for. I don't care about the farms or the crumbling ruins of Grimmauld Place or anything else but this cottage and that charity."
The pamphlet had the words SILVER SKATES printed in beautiful silver lettering at the top. Just below there was a photo of a smiling child holding a pair of skates. She waved at the camera, then held the skates closer. Sirius stared at it for a full three loops before taking in the text below, which described the Silver Skates programme.
It was a fucking charity for skating and deserving children and shit like that.
At the very bottom of the pamphlet was a small crest that looked like the one for the House of Black, but slightly modified—because it wasn't the Black family crest. It was Regulus' personal crest.
~ • ~
Once upon a time there were two boys. They were brothers and when they were young they had no idea what the world was like outside the Gothic accoutrements of their home, the harshness of their mother's voice, and the silent disinterested presence of their father. At that age those were the confines of their existence: the younger brother looking up to the older, convinced he held stars in the palms of his hands.
Magic didn't make much of a difference in the life of a child. Small, budding witches and wizards still relied on toys and books to relieve the boredom of long days spent inside the house, much like their Muggle counterparts. For Regulus and Sirius, who could count on one hand the number of times they'd been allowed to play on their own outside, any new trinket and picture book might as well have been sent by Merlin himself.
Regulus had taken almost nothing from Grimmauld Place when he'd moved to Kettlewell years ago, nothing that he hadn't bought with his own money anyway. But on the shelf in his bedroom there was one picture book; the only one he had brought with him from their extensive library back home, nestled in between Muggle novels and dusty spellbooks.
After his brother had left and Regulus' displeasure about the whole incident had been vented upon the long-suffering Mr Darcy, Regulus had pulled the book off the shelf and settled himself on his bed with a pot of tea and a tray of crumpets.
Mr Darcy hopped onto his stomach, purring contentedly as he started kneading, claws getting caught on Regulus' robes. Regulus stroked Mr Darcy's head as he read, making a mental note to give the cat a bath soon.
There used to be two names written on the flyleaf; Regulus remembered inking his brother's name out after he left. It had always been Regulus' favourite anyway. Sirius preferred stories with more adventures in them.
Regulus hadn't read this one in a long time, but he'd been sitting on nothing but a germ of an idea for the theme of his new programme—something that would tie it all together—and his brother's visit had reminded him of this, of afternoons spent reading together, of a story that used to make him think everything would be all right.
Once upon a time there was a little prince. He lived in a castle with his dog companion and anything else a little boy could want.
That is, except for one thing. The prince had more toys and books than he knew what to do with. He could eat minced meat pies and cake whenever he wanted. But aside from his faithful black dog, the prince was quite alone.
The prince had no family.
Well that was pretty bleak for a kid's book. Regulus took a bite from his crumpet, making sure none of the crumbs got between the yellowed parchment pages.
The illustrations were done in pale watercolours, lines clean and simple as was popular at the time. Regulus had always thought the prince looked a lot like his brother. Which probably meant the prince looked like him as well.
Not that it mattered.
One day, the prince decided it was time to look for his family.
Sirius had found his own family at Hogwarts. His friends, and of course his husband.
Bully for him. Regulus gritted his teeth.
The prince and his dog searched far and wide, visiting parts of the kingdom the prince hadn't even known existed. They met all sorts of different people, some of whom the prince liked very much and others whom he never wanted to see again.
Regulus should probably talk to Grindelwald again. At the very least send him a note detailing what had happened during Sirius' visit earlier. But not right now. He had probably seen Grindelwald more in the last month than he ever had in all twenty years of his life.
In one of the villages at the very edge of the kingdom, in a place surrounded by tall trees and even taller mountains, the prince and his dog shared their dinner with an old beggar woman.
She gave them a single bean in exchange for bread and cheese. The prince, who had eaten his fill of their simple fare, promptly gave the bean to his companion.
Upon eating the magical bean, the dog began to talk.
A few years ago it had come to light that Sirius and his friends were unregistered Animagi; they'd finalised the process at age thirteen and had apparently been gallivanting around the Forbidden Forest while still at Hogwarts. It'd been a scandal when it'd come out, but they'd only had to pay a fine—a hefty fine, but only a fine—possibly helped by both the fact that they'd only been thirteen when they'd pulled it off, and that James Potter was married to Lily Potter, already on track to become one of the most capable Aurors in recent history.
Regulus had no idea how his melodramatic brother had managed to keep mum about the whole Animagus thing, but he had heard that Sirius could turn into a dog. Fitting enough considering how he was obviously Lupin's bitch.
The prince's faithful companion spoke of a curse on the family. And the only way to lift it was to jump—soar right into the night sky.
The prince would meet his family there.
Regulus sat up, dislodging Mr Darcy from his stomach and upsetting the tea pot. The cat yowled in irritation and the pot wobbled in mid-air as Regulus charmed the spilled tea from his bed sheets. He could apologise to Mr Darcy later.
He knew exactly what his programme needed.
~ • ~
Everything in his body hurt. His feet, his ankles, his left knee, his hips, his elbows, his fingers, his head, his shoulders, his little toe on the right foot, where he'd stubbed it into the breakfast table that morning. He felt blurry and frayed around the edges, as if magic could unravel when over-exerted.
Not that he'd told Yulia about that. He had his first competition of the Grand Prix Series in less than a week and she was grinding him hard, trying to make something of him that wasn't pure bullshittery and idiocy so that he'd actually make the podium.
Sirius tried to get comfortable, shuffling thirty pillows around. "Come pay attention to me!" he yelled.
"No!" Remus yelled back.
Remus appeared in the doorway to the ensuite, robe loosely tied around his waist and toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. He took the toothbrush out. "Because I don't want to." He put the toothbrush back in and turned away.
Realisation dawned, and Sirius pulled a pillow over his face, groaning into it. Some not so quick mental calculations told him he hadn't paid his husband much attention these past weeks. He was certain they hadn't had sex since the last full moon—well, the aftermath of the full moon, to be exact, as part of their usual wind-down and recovery routine. Between the new skating style and the intense training, re-training and last minute choreographing, the inheritance bullshit—he still hadn't actually decided what to do about it, or what to think of Regulus' surprising philanthropic streak—and unpacking all their things from France into this old cottage, not to mention Remus' new coaching lifestyle, there just hadn't been a lot of time, or quality togetherness when they'd had the time. Sirius had been...well. Too full of himself, to put it lightly. He didn't even know the names of Remus' students, and yet Remus had taken it upon himself to learn how to bake croissants so they—more like Sirius—could still have croissants for breakfast every day.
His husband was the best husband and Sirius was an idiot.
Sirius then—laboriously—crawled out of bed, ignoring all his sore spots, and went to Remus. He found him washing his face, bent over the sink.
"I'm sorry," Sirius said. "I've been neglecting you again."
"Why didn't you say anything?"
Remus put his face in a towel, then put the towel back on its peg. "I did."
"Oh." Sirius reached out for Remus, needing to touch him. "I'm sorry." He drew him in, until Remus was fully in his arms. "I love you, you know? I'm just an asshole."
"Yeah, you are." Remus sighed, but let Sirius kiss him. "Are you sore? I have some more of this ointment—"
"I am dying, but that can wait. Really!" Sirius added when Remus raised an eyebrow at him. "I can totally put myself aside for a bit to pay attention to my beautiful husband instead, you know."
"No, you can't."
"No, I can't," Sirius admitted. "But I want to? Honestly, how long have you known me? Grab the stuff and let's go to bed. I promise I won't complain about my body falling apart for at least ten minutes."
Remus lips quirked. "If you make it to five minutes I'll consider forgiving you."
"Okay, so...ten minutes and you'll forgive me?"
"Mmh." Remus grabbed the tube of ointment and steered Sirius out of the bathroom and back into bed.
Sirius clamped shut about the creak in his hip as he climbed back in, but it was loud and hurt like a fucking curse, so he grit his teeth and didn't utter a sound.
"Was that your hip?" Remus paused on his side of the bed. He'd shed the robe.
"Yeah." Sirius flopped down, more stiffly than he'd have liked. He held out his arm. "Come here and tell me about your students' numerous accomplishments, or something."
"Ointment time first, I think," Remus said, crawling over. "That sounded nasty."
"Nope, you time first. I'm giving you all my attention." Sirius poked his bicep. "Talk to me, sweetest husband on earth."
"Don't be a martyr about this, please. I don't want you to be in pain just to prove a point."
Sirius dragged a pillow over his face so he wouldn't have to look at Remus' disapproving face. "You are too good for me."
He heard the cap of the tube snap open, then Remus tugged down the waistband of Sirius' underwear and then his cool, slick fingers were massaging his hip. The ointment sent tendrils of heat and magic into Sirius' hip, relieving the pain and patching up the worst damage. Sirius could've sobbed with relief, it was so good.
"Talk to me while you're doing that, at least?" Sirius said, removing the pillow from his face at last. He hugged it.
"Charlie can do triple loops now." Remus removed his fingers from Sirius' hip and gently pulled the waistband back up in place. He went for the knee next. His hip was a blazing beacon of warmth and now his knee was pulsating, as if the pain was being pushed outwards. "He's almost ready to move up to juniors."
"Is that the one with the mum?"
"Yup. Avery has been practising spins this week. He's got an excellent doughnut spin."
"I am suitably impressed." Sirius pulled his knee up, testing it after the gentle treatment Remus had been giving it. It was almost completely pain free, but still puffy. "Are they in any competitions this season?"
"They're both doing Skate Southern. In October they'll go to a training camp in Scotland for two weeks, so I get a bit of time off. After that, we'll see." Remus shuffled to the foot end of the bed, kneeling by Sirius' feet. He squeezed a generous amount of ointment into his palms and then wrapped his hands around Sirius' ankles.
Sirius brought the pillow back up to his face so he could breathe into it. "So—" breath "-how do you like it?" Sniffle. "Moulding younguns into your image-" sharp breath "- and all?"
"Are you crying?" Remus' fingers had moved from Sirius' ankles to his feet.
The bliss and relief was overwhelming. "No," he sobbed. His feet might possibly be made out of fire, a warm and gentle cleansing fire that was somehow also marshmallows and, like, a perfect serving of peanut butter ice cream with chocolate sauce on top and one of those crispy little wafers with hazelnut filling in the centre. They'd had that for dessert the day Remus had publicly announced his retirement from skating. "My feet are peanut butter," he said, sniffling.
"Is that so?" Remus' fingers left. "Can you sit up? Let me do your shoulders next."
"Maybe." Sirius drew in a deep breath, then put the pillow down. Remus helped him up, then moved to sit behind him. "Give me a bit of warning? This stuff is strong."
"All right." Remus got more ointment, then snapped the cap shut. "Last round. Are you ready?"
"No. Do it anyway." Sirius held his breath, but when the first tendrils of hot magic sank into his sore shoulders, he keened anyway.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Just. Having an out of body experience." Sirius wiped his eyes. His hip felt okay now, as did his knee, but the ointment was still working on his feet and now his shoulders were dissolving. "You never answered my question."
"I'm happy with it," Remus eventually said. "It's a different kind of rewarding feeling seeing your students succeed at a difficult jump or spin than mastering it yourself." He tapped Sirius' shoulder gently, sending mild shocks through him. "I'm also very okay with not having to deal with this anymore in addition to my transformations."
"Yeah." Sirius nudged Remus to move to lie down. They settled with Sirius draped half on top of Remus, who despite being rather bony and sharp-edged, always radiated heat and comfort. "Do you think it was a mistake to switch to magic skating?"
"Do you want the honest answer or the coddling answer?"
Sirius thought about this. "The honest one."
"I think it was reckless and impulsive and...not the right decision, at the time." Remus voice was soft, however. "But if this is what you want to do, I'll support you. We're here now."
All of a sudden Sirius felt like crying for reasons other than magic ointment side effects. He buried his face in Remus' neck, breathing him in. "I'm really sorry I've been a terrible husband since we came back here," he said, voice wavering. "I want you to know that I appreciate everything you do for me, even if I'm a shithead who doesn't know how to show it. How can I make it up to you?"
"Buy me a castle and make me the Duke of Your Arse."
"I would punch you right now if it weren't for the fact it would completely ruin my apology, and also I'm too comfortable to move," Sirius said. "But—oh! Actually. I can't do anything about the castle, but I do stand to inherit a lordship. We can be lords. Or, if you prefer, I'll just gift the lordship to you, and you get to be lord all on your lonesome."
"So...what you're saying is I can be Lord of Your Arse instead?"
"Sure. If you want. It'd be a better use of the title than whatever the fuck it was used for when it was purchased," Sirius sighed. "I don't know what to do with the lot of it. I was going to get rid of everything, but Regulus...do you think that charity is legit?"
"I don't know. I don't know what kind of person he is. Did you look into it?"
"I hardly know what kind of person he is either. He was ten last I saw him. A sweet kid, really. Followed me everywhere." He pulled the duvet closer. But he didn't follow me to France, he wanted to say, and didn't.
"But he didn't follow you to France," Remus said.
Sirius closed his eyes. "No." He felt very, very small. "Should I have abducted him? Would you have minded if I'd dragged him with us?"
"I don't know, and that's the truth." Remus adjusted his arm so he could put his hand in Sirius' hair. "But I do think you should stop dwelling on the past and start looking at what you can do with the future. What do you want from him?"
"I want...I want him to ditch it all." Sirius sighed. "I know that's stupid? I'm not...we're both adults now, we're the only ones left. I'm not...going anywhere, you know? He doesn't have to follow me anymore. But I still want him to." He huffed. "I don't even know him anymore! He's...I look at him and I just see them, you know? All bitter and angry and, and—I don't know if I even want to know him, you know?"
Remus shrugged. "I don't really. But you know—you can still let him have what he wants and allow him to make his own decisions. If you want a share of the money, you're entitled to it, and Merlin knows this place could use some sprucing up. Signing the inheritance over to your brother instead of liquidating it entirely will still have the same effect of it not being yours."
"Yeah, but… It'll still exist."
"And so? Isn't your name still Sirius Black?"
Sirius grumbled. "Regulus said something about making the name good."
"Well…" Remus shrugged again. "That doesn't sound too bad to me."
"I suppose not," Sirius said, reluctantly. "I'll think about it. I'll decide after the competition."
"Okay. Do you want me to hold you to it?"
"...Yes. That'd probably be for the best, or I'll never actually do anything about it. Gellert is liable to poison me if I don't." Sirius got up on his elbow so he could look down at his husband. "Remus, honey, husband sweetest. Love of my life. I'm changing the topic because I do not want to talk about Gellert in bed, and don't look at me like that, I know that I brought him up. Shh! Just tell me something: do you want to have sex?"
Remus cracked up. "I always want sex."
"Yes I know, that's not the point. I mean right now. It has occurred to me that I have also neglected that part of this marriage lately, and you know how blind I can be about it, so just tell me straight up if you want it now, because I am ready to give you however many orgasms you want—"
"Okay! Yes. But you look like you're about to pass out from exhaustion, so—"
"I should think I can manage to blow you without falling asleep in the middle of it!" Sirius pointed out, somewhat indignantly.
"I believe you," Remus said, but it sounded like yeah right, you tell yourself that. "But what I would love is you in the morning." He pulled Sirius in for a kiss. "How does that sound to you? Morning romp?"
"Mmh, okay." Sirius kissed him back. "Do you want me to surprise you?"
"You have managed to wake up before me exactly three times in all the years we have known each other."
"Okay, fine, but I want you to know that now I will wake you up at five am with a blow job just to spite you." Sirius settled down and tried to a suppress a yawn. "Just you wait."
"Good night, Sirius."
"I mean it!"
Sirius glared at him, but Remus just gave him one of his infuriating overbearing smiles and reached over to turn the light off.
~ • ~
~ • ~
It was the first time he would be performing this programme—his programme in public. Nguyen had all but screeched when Regulus had shown him the chart detailing his choreography and jumps, calling him a madman and other words in French that Regulus had not been familiar with. He had taken careful note and added them to his arsenal of insults.
Despite his protests, Nguyen had approved the programme anyway, refining some of the rougher bits but generally allowing Regulus to do as he wanted. Nguyen would never admit it, not when Regulus was pushing as hard as he could against the limits of his endurance, but Regulus could see the excitement in his coach's eyes anyway. Granted he fucked nothing up and his stamina didn't fail him, this would easily be the best performance in Regulus' career so far.
"Ready?" Nguyen had already charmed the water out of the barrels and Regulus pulled it around him before stepping into the rink.
Regulus nodded. This place was his; outside of it he was one of the scions of the powerful Black family, fighting over the inheritance with his estranged brother. In the rink he was just Regulus, and the only thing he needed to think about was his skating. Sirius had almost everything: a place where he belonged and people who loved him. He wasn't going to take this away from Regulus.
The rink was his.
A lot of it was about control: the movement of his body, the way the water flowed around him—even his damned breathing. His mind mapping out each step, each jump, each time the water had to change colour in time with the music; crowding out any and all extraneous thoughts. There was no time to worry about landing badly or even breaking his fucking leg; that had happened before and while Regulus wasn't particularly looking for a repeat experience he certainly wasn't going to let that stop him.
For now he was pulled along by the choreography, the music, the magic. And the emotions.
Because none of it was worth shit if his programme told no story. He could perform a technically perfect programme and still leave the audience cold—years ago he would have scoffed at that. Awe at the exhibition of skill would have been enough for him, but not now. This time he wanted them to know.
This time he was willing to let his heart show through his skating, just as Nguyen kept telling him. And if that equalled to throwing ice-cold water at the audience's faces, that was just too bad.
He felt like his heart would burst out of his chest from the exertion; he had spread his jumps out evenly across his programme to match the music and the progression of his narrative, but that also meant he had to keep an even level of energy for everything. He couldn't afford to let his strength flag in the second half, not when he still had a triple Lutz to get through near the very end of his programme.
Each breath felt like someone was stabbing his lungs with a knife made of ice. Regulus moved on from his choreography sequence, thigh muscles finally relieved of the exaggerated slowness of his chasses. The water around him turning dark velvet blue, sparkling like stars where it caught the light. And then he jumped, moving, spinning, releasing enough of his hold on the water so that it fell in a gentle cascade around him like the thinnest of veils. His skates made contact with the ice again just as the water finished falling, dyeing a wide circle around him in uneven spirals of blue.
He glided forward several feet before raising one leg above his head, hands grabbing the tip of his skate. He was spinning, he spun, he was spent.
Regulus collapsed to his knees, trying to catch his breath. His clothes were soaked with sweat and they felt suddenly cold against his skin. He was so tired he could just lie down the ice for hours.
He almost didn't notice the crowd going wild around him.
~ • ~
"The newspapers love you," said Nguyen. He had dropped by Regulus' hotel room that night to pick him up for dinner; probably to make sure Regulus actually ate. He had a bad track record of not eating after a particularly tiring day. Fuck magic and Merlin's hairy bollocks, he couldn't even be arsed to raise his wand to summon a piece of bread to whatever surface he had poured his body on. Going out of his hotel room and getting lost in the streets of Regina looking for food wasn't exactly his idea of a good time.
"Never mind that," said Regulus, gulping down his fruit juice. He had a half-finished fish on his plate still but he didn't think he could handle all the chewing it required. Maybe he could ask the staff to wrap it up for Mr Darcy later. "We still have a week before we find out how my brother did."
"I'm still surprised they actually invited him to take part."
Regulus snorted. "Of course he's not going to do qualifiers. Not after all those medals he's won Muggle skating."
"That is a very different thing to what he's trying to do now, however?" Nguyen's tone made it sound like a question. "I already mentioned that he's good, but this is magic skating. It has been a long time since he left. Taking only a few months to re-learn the basics sounds very hazardous, no?"
"He'll survive," said Regulus, drily. "And probably win some more medals while he's at it. The question is more like what fucking gormless thing he'd do to get to the finals."
Nguyen might think he was being too harsh on his brother, but Regulus knew Sirius. Sometimes he felt like his brother was a stranger, there were too many years and too many harsh words exchanged between them, and it was hard to accept that he was the same person Regulus had known and grown up with. But this was ice skating; Regulus might never understand the passions that powered his brother's love for his little friends and his half-breed husband (who deserved more than Regulus' dumb brother, to be honest), but he understood the love for skating. And the extent of what Sirius would do just to stay on the ice.
But Nguyen was right: Sirius had spent too much time away from magic skating. Regulus' brother was good, but he'd been good in all the wrong ways for a long time.
By the time Regulus had entered Hogwarts, his brother had already buggered merrily off to France and Beauxbatons with his werewolf boyfriend (it probably helped that the Beauxbatons headmistress was an unapologetic half-giant; they didn't care about halfbreeds over there), but Regulus had heard of his brother's reputation. Sirius wasn't too good with plans: carrying them out yes, but not actually sitting down and thinking about whether said plan was a good idea or not.
He must have trained like a madman to even skate on the same level as the other skaters in the event. Figure skaters who hadn't spent ten years of their lives doing Muggle skating just to spite their family. Regulus was far from feeling sorry for his brother, but he was glad not to be in Sirius' shoes—or skates—at that moment.
~ • ~
The consequences of Sirius' rash decision became apparent the day after his event in China.
Regulus read the newspaper account over breakfast, frowning at the Daily Prophet's description of his brother's programme. From what it sounded like, and judging from the concerningly chaotic bit of it captured on the photograph, the whole thing had been a mess. The China competition had began right on Sirius' birthday; trust Regulus' brother to celebrate in the most perplexing way possible.
Regulus couldn't even begin to tell what was going on in the photograph; the fact that the sports writer for the Prophet actually managed to detail even half of it should have earned her a fucking medal.
Going with the bits that made sense, Regulus decided it had technically not been a bad programme and was rather ambitious if one could pull it off, but Sirius' performance had been much as if someone had taken a top Muggle figure skater and forced them to skate with magic. Which to be fair was pretty close to what had actually happened. There was no rhyme or reason to it. With a lesser skater the results would have been disastrous, but with someone of Sirius' caliber it had simply been bizarre.
Regulus was almost sure some of those moves were illegal. But the judges seemed to have decided the programme was good enough to award Sirius bronze.
He could say many things about his brother—had in fact said most of them whenever the opportunity presented itself—but Regulus couldn't say Sirius wasn't entertaining. By the time the Grand Prix Final rolled around he probably wouldn't be flopping around the ice like a fish out of water.
He would be a worthy opponent by then.
Chapter 5: Pivot
Chapter Five: Pivot
A two-footed movement in which one foot is flexed with the toe anchored in the ice and the other foot circling around it on an edge, mimicking a drafting compass. The pivot can serve as both an entrance into and an exit from a spin. When mastered, the pivot is executed in a fast sweeping movement across the ice.
There were several frying pans on the stove containing enough sausages, eggs, bacon and beans to feed a small army, and a questionable liquid in the coffee pot. It smelled like dish soap and rotten coffee grounds and looked just as unappetising.
Remus wasn't complaining, but he was curled in on himself in his robe, still streaked with dust and dirt. An empty juice box sat on the table in front of him. "Why didn't we just buy a new coffee maker?" he asked. "We didn't strictly have to bring this one over from France."
"It's a fundamental part of our lifestyle," Sirius said, flipping the sausages with a flick of his wand. Eleven sausages rose and flopped back down at once. Another flick of his wand saw tomatoes neatly halved and floating into the pan with the bacon; the bacon in turn marched itself off the pan and onto a plate. Mushrooms followed the tomatoes soon after. "Do you want toast?"
"Not really." Remus pulled the straw out of his juice box and licked the last remaining drops of juice off the end of it. "How did it go yesterday?"
The fire in the fireplace in the kitchen flared up, and Yulia stumbled out of it. For a moment, the two of them were so flabbergasted by this unexpected event that Sirius almost forgot about the eggs, and Remus belatedly pulled his robe tighter around himself, lest she get an eyeful she wasn't ready for.
Yulia brushed soot off her coat and then glared at Sirius.
"How the bloody hell?" Sirius blurted. "How are you here?"
"I took the bloody Eurostar, thank you very much! At ass o'clock! Next time you're going to run off on me, you're taking me with you!" She took her coat off, then fetched a mug from the cupboard and turned towards the coffee maker. She paused. "Why the fuck haven't you replaced this monster?"
Sirius ordered all the food off the stove and onto plates, then levitated the plates over to the table. He gave Remus a peck on the cheek and a fork. "I didn't mean that," he said, to Yulia.
"Oh, you meant that?" She gestured at the fireplace. "That's just throwing shit in the fire. I've seen you do it at the rink, so I went there to get here without taking three buses and a trek through a sodding field. It's November. I'm not trekking through a field for you, ever, but especially not in November."
"You...activated the Floo at the rink?" Sirius asked, feeling faint.
"It wasn't difficult. Any harebrained child can do hocus pocus bullshit like throwing shit in the fire." She opened the top of the coffee maker and took a sniff. "Can I have some real fucking coffee or do I have to yell at you without caffeine in my bloodstream?" She seemed to notice Remus for the first time. "And what the fuck is wrong with you?"
Remus didn't answer as his mouth was full of sausage.
"Full moon last night," Sirius said. "Which is why I left Paris early. Here, let me," he added, pointing his wand at the coffee maker. It gurgled and the liquid inside vanished, then the coffee maker restarted itself, rapidly re-filling the pot.
"I'm not sure that's an improvement," Yulia commented, after a while. The liquid in the pot smelled like coffee, but it was a deep navy blue in colour.
Sirius shrugged. "I can't find the screwdriver. Do you want breakfast?" He took a seat by Remus' side, forking over some eggs and mushrooms for himself.
"I want to know what the everlasting bloody fucking hell that was, yesterday," Yulia said, abandoning her (still empty) mug and taking the seat opposite Sirius and Remus.
"Did it not go well?" Remus asked, concerned. He'd already put away three large sausages.
"I took silver," Sirius told him. "I've got a spot in the Final." Squeaked in by the seat of his pants, more like; if he'd taken bronze again he wouldn't have made it.
"Yes, do leave out the part where you nearly killed yourself doing a death-defying quad toe loop off an icy peak!" Yulia screeched. "I thought I'd been clear when I told you to not do that! Will wonders ever cease! Let's just transform the bloody rink into a jagged ice landscape to impale yourself on! How can it even be legal?"
Sirius finished his mushrooms before answered. "There's nowhere that says it's illegal," he said, ignoring Remus' mutters that the WSU was likely going to ban that kind of magic next season. "And I had it under control."
"Yes, that is totally what it looked like, with the ice moving around like that!"
"It was fine."
Yulia's mouth was a thin line. She grabbed a sausage off the plate and took a large bite, chewing angrily. "I'm angry with you."
"I can tell."
"You aren't skating so much as you're...pulling dramatics," she said, cuttingly. "Your jumps are flawless. Your spins are perfect. Somehow you even manage to execute an impeccable step sequence...on undulating ice. But your choreography falls short when you have to focus on keeping your balance while also apparently controlling the fucking elements, and it doesn't look good. It looks like a pile of horse dung baked into a cake. Fucking nobody wants a goddamned horse dung cake."
Sirius didn't say anything to that. She was right. It was taking everything he had in him to wield magic simultaneously with his body, on this level. It hadn't been easy when he'd done it in juniors, before switching, but on junior level magic skating was mostly just about visual effects. Incorporeal birds and shit like that.
This wasn't juniors anymore.
Not that Sirius wanted to admit that he'd taken on a challenge too big for size. It was too late to turn back now. He was going to get that gold medal if it killed him, because he'd said he would, and Sirius wasn't prone to going back on his word.
The fact that Regulus had gotten gold at his first competition and Sirius had finished both his competitions of the Series with only silver and bronze was inconsequential. Didn't smart at all.
"I am better," he said instead. "I'm improving. It's getting easier and easier to hold it all." He summoned up all the confidence he could possibly muster and continued: "Four weeks from now, I'll take gold at Fukuoka. I'll be the champion at the Final. I'll win this thing."
"You really believe that, don't you?" Yulia sighed. She chomped down on the last bit of her sausage, then licked her fingers. "I'm not saying it's impossible. You have all the technical elements in place, though I'm not happy about the jump distribution. I still think you should move the triple flip to after the spin combination in the first half, but it does fit the music better as is..." She sighed. "You are lucky that your fancypants magic skating only has one programme. Imagine the steaming fucking pile of shit you'd be in if you had to pull this shit off for both a short programme and a free skate."
"I know." Sirius couldn't quite meet her eyes. He focused on his husband instead, who had been quietly making his way through most of the feast Sirius had cooked up. He was looking better now; colour was back in his cheeks. He also looked exhausted.
About now Sirius would've usually run Remus a bath so it'd be ready for when he finished packing in calories. Sirius really, really, wanted to leave this conversation so he could go run a stupid bath and then get in the bath with his husband and wash his hair and kiss him a lot, and whatever else Remus was in the mood for. Usually a good slick rub in the tub.
"You have four weeks to up your game," Yulia said, pulling Sirius out of his train of thought. "And right now, your brother is in the lead. He's expected to take gold next week."
"I'm catching up to him," Sirius said, but it came out flat and not fierce and not at all competitive. "I will catch up to him."
"Okay." Yulia shrugged, feigning disinterest. "As your coach I feel compelled to point out that beating your brother at his own game doesn't really seem to hold the same...power, anymore. You've seemed distracted since China. Are you sure that what you're doing is really what you want?"
"Yeah," Sirius answered, but he knew he sounded unconvincing. Trying not to lose face wasn't quite the same as beating Regulus.
He still wanted to win, just out of principle, because winning is what he did. But maybe...beating Regulus to the gold wasn't the right way to win.
There was still that blasted inheritance. Sirius had ignored it, and Grindelwald's letters, and his brother's silence—as if they'd spoken since Sirius had gone to see him at Black Cottage, now almost two months ago—and put his head down while he worked on improving his routine, and his body, and his command of magic, and...
Maybe, just maybe, letting Regulus have the inheritance was what he needed to do to win. If he freed himself from it, he could focus on his skating, and his presentation, and going for that gold in Fukuoka.
"I'll see you at the rink tomorrow," Sirius said to Yulia, standing up. He held out her coat, gesturing towards the fireplace. "We'll get cracking then. But for now I'd very much like to give my husband a bath and some tender loving, if you don't mind."
Remus let out a long-suffering sigh at this. Yulia just stole a bacon rasher before getting up.
"I expect you to pull yourself together." She gave him a stern look. "Make it worth my while. I'm not doing this for the shit and giggles."
"Of course." Sirius held the bowl of Floo powder out to her.
She took a handful of powder, and then—as if she'd been travelling by Floo her entire life—she threw it into the fireplace, stepped in, and vanished with a whirl and a clearly enunciated address.
"Tender loving, hm?" Remus asked, a small sparkle in his eye.
"Nothing less," Sirius answered and swooped in for a kiss. "But first I have a letter to write."
~ • ~
~ • ~
Mr Darcy was going bonkers next to the kitchen window, pawing at the glass panes and hissing angrily. Regulus, who was trying to decide whether to start unpacking or just sit down with a cup of tea, was glad of the distraction. It was already dark outside and the panes were the antique sort that were produced before people mastered the art of making clear glass; it was hard to determine what the dark shadow that was driving Mr Darcy into such a tizzy actually was, but Regulus could hazard a pretty good guess.
He opened the window with a sigh, making sure to scoop Mr Darcy up before he could pounce on Grindelwald's owl.
It gave Regulus a short note before flying off and away from Mr Darcy's hungry reach.
Please come at earliest convenience
The man didn't even have the time to end his note with a full stop. Deciding it was probably urgent, Regulus magicked his appearance into some sort of tidiness—he wasn't exactly slovenly, but he had just returned from his competition in Russia and was looking rather rumpled—and Floo'd himself to Grindelwald's office.
He knew he'd made a mistake before he could reach his destination. He could hear them echoing off the magically connected flues of their respective chimneys; dirty old man moans accompanying Regulus' swirling descent into hell. He stuck his arms out by reflex: his panicked mind's desperate bid to stop this ill-timed transit. Losing a limb was a risk he was willing to take, what with the alternative being another eyeful of that. He yelled when his elbow struck a brick, getting one hell of a bruise and lungful of ash for his troubles, but at least the moaning had stopped.
"Ah, Regulus." Dumbledore was still breathing heavily but at least he was dressed. "Good evening."
Regulus would have very much liked to crawl back into the fireplace, but it was rather hot in there.
Not that the atmosphere in Grindelwald's office felt much different.
"I was just about to leave," Dumbledore continued, hurrying towards the door. "I'll be seeing you. Good luck at the finals in Japan; a beautiful country if I do say so myself."
Regulus tactfully kept his eyes on the door, allowing Grindelwald the time to get himself sorted out.
"A heated discussion," said Regulus, "was it?"
Grindelwald snorted, but his voice sounded amused when he said, "Quite so. Please sit down."
Taking that as a cue that Grindelwald was now decent, Regulus turned to look at him. "I assumed it was an urgent matter."
"So it is." Grindelwald cleared his throat. "I didn't think you would be so er, prompt about it. You have just returned from Moscow, yes?" At Regulus' nod, Grindelwald went on, "Congratulations are in order, then."
"Thank you." Regulus hesitated for a moment before sitting on the chair in front of Grindelwald's desk. The man poured a glass of firewhiskey for him, which he accepted gratefully. "But you didn't call me over just for that."
"Your brother sent me a letter while you were away."
Regulus fought to keep his expression neutral. "And?"
"He has agreed to refuse the inheritance." Grindelwald leaned forward. "Therefore making you Orion's legal heir."
Regulus sipped at his drink thoughtfully. "Did he say why?"
"You don't look very happy about it." Grindelwald's raised eyebrow might as well have driven the question home: this is what you wanted, right?
And it was. Regulus already had plans and a list of talented skaters to sponsor. He could put the money to good use as soon as Grindelwald finished with the paperwork.
But somehow it felt like a hollow victory.
Had it actually been a battle to begin with? His brother always had the upper hand; throwing him a bone now out of some misplaced pity perhaps. A bloody letter; Sirius couldn't even be arsed to meet with Grindelwald directly. The man had the nerve to make a grand gesture out of it, when he had no need for the money in the first place.
It was almost like a slap in the face. Or maybe a challenge. Sirius might think relinquishing his rights as Orion's heir balanced out the abandonment of his responsibilities, and so be it. For now they were equals.
And they would meet on the ice as equals.
"For what it's worth," said Grindelwald, softly. It was a tone of voice Regulus has never heard from him before. "I do believe this is a better way to make use of the property. And the family's reputation."
"Oh?" said Regulus. His tone was cold, but he was actually rather curious; Sirius had implied more than once that Grindelwald was favouring him. And despite his brother's unsavoury assumptions, Regulus was quite sure it wasn't for amorous reasons. Regulus was at least forty years too young for that. "You think so?"
Grindelwald smiled. Regulus was almost relieved to see how calculating that smile looked; he had no idea how to react if the man was going to act like some mentor all of a sudden.
"I would prefer not to bring about the dissolution of such an old and illustrious house." Grindelwald tapped two fingers against his desk. "Some things don't need to be destroyed in order to be rebuilt, you understand."
Years ago, before Regulus was born, the plaque in front of Grindelwald's office had borne two names. It had been a bit of a scandal, something even Orion—who was very much uninterested in the affairs of anyone not himself—had taken note of and mentioned in passing to Regulus during his first visit to the solicitor's office.
The official statement was that Grindelwald and Dumbledore had broken off their partnership because of irreconcilable differences, but Regulus had also heard it had been because of some illegal affair that Grindelwald had been involved with. Whatever reason it had been, Regulus had seen more than enough to know that while the two men had stopped working together professionally, they had certainly managed to maintain some sort of relationship.
"Yes." Regulus finished his drink and stood up. "I think I understand."
~ • ~
Fukuoka in December was fairly mild compared to the other countries Regulus had gone to for his qualifying events. At least Nguyen wasn't complaining as loudly about his aching joints; a good thing because Regulus wanted to go have a look around after the finals. He reckoned he could buy Mr Darcy some new jumpers and Nguyen, being Muggleborn, was more used to navigating Muggle places.
Regulus brought it up on the way to their hotel rooms. He usually packed as lightly as possible for these trips, but Nguyen had brought his usual multitude of luggage that Regulus now had to deal with. He didn't know which he hated more; Muggle hotels where he couldn't levitate Nguyen's carryall up to the man's room, or his cursed ‘gentlemanly' upbringing. Good thing the Japanese staff were a helpful and attentive lot, carrying most of the luggage and leaving Regulus to deal with a single bag (which somehow still weighed as if Nguyen had stuffed it full of Galleons). That said, Regulus felt it was just fair for Nguyen to help him with his search in return.
"I hear there is a company that sells the armour of samurai made especially for cats and small dogs," said Nguyen, showing Regulus a photo on his mobile phone. Regulus and his coach had had many an argument about the usefulness of these Muggle gadgets, but while Regulus would admit that mobile phones were indeed convenient, he wasn't going to let Nguyen convince him to get one himself. It was bad enough that owls always knew where to find him; the thought of carrying a device that could be used to track him down just wasn't something he wanted to live with. Not even for photos of cats wearing samurai armour.
"Where can we get those?"
"I think we need to place an order online," said Nguyen, frowning. "Remember when I mentioned credit cards?" he said, to Regulus' blank stare. "Never mind, I cannot read this; the website is in Japanese."
Regulus sighed. It seemed like he would have to live with the disappointment of not seeing Mr Darcy in armour. But cute jumpers were definitely a must.
"How will we be able to find anything if everything's in Japanese?"
"Never worry," said Nguyen, waving his mobile phone in front of Regulus' face. "I am sure we can just search it in Google."
Not for the first time, Regulus thought this was probably what Muggles felt like when wizards started talking about magical things in their hearing. It all sounded like clip-clop and whirligig to him.
"All right," he said, his tone making it an almost question.
"I will take care of Mr Darcy's wardrobe, don't you fear," said Nguyen. The man might have packed his whole household in a pile of travelling bags, but Regulus did appreciate how he treated this shopping trip with the seriousness it deserved. "For now, you will think about your skating for tomorrow."
As if Regulus could forget. There was a knot of emotions in the pit of his stomach that he didn't really care to untangle, which was why he'd rather focus on the problem of shopping for cat clothes in a foreign country with nothing but Nguyen's mobile phone to guide them.
"Are you nervous?" There was a craftiness in Nguyen's eyes that Regulus didn't like very much. Fortunately they had reached the floor where Nguyen's room was located; if he was lucky, Regulus could leave for his own before the man could mention Sirius.
"Everyone feels nervous before the finals," said Regulus. Even he, who had won two gold medals in the Series so far. In fact, with expectations being what they were, the pressure was even greater than before.
"This would be the first time your brother would see your full programme, no?"
And there it was. Regulus hadn't mentioned his brother since his first win in Canada; he knew it would only be a matter of time before Nguyen brought the subject up himself.
"Yes," said Regulus. "It is."
"I wonder what he will think of it."
They had finally reached Nguyen's room. Regulus heaved a sigh of relief as Nguyen used his keycard to open the door.
"I guess we'll see," said Regulus, handing Nguyen his bag. "Soon enough."
~ • ~
~ • ~
"What if I change the triple loop in the second half to a quad loop? It elevates my base value with six points—or maybe I upgrade the triple Lutz? That's an additional seven point six points—"
As if on cue, Yulia barged into the hotel room. "You are not adding a fifth quad to your programme unless you want to actually kill yourself."
She had clearly not heard what Sirius was talking about, or else she would've also yelled about his inability to pull off quad loops in the first place. "It's really uncanny how you always do that," Sirius said, sitting up. Remus didn't move.
"You are predictable," she said, dropping into the chair by the desk. "Like clockwork." She pointed at the clock on the wall, which read 9pm. "Every year, you do this."
"I'm not predictable," Sirius protested. "Remus, tell her I'm not predictable."
Remus still didn't bother moving. He rarely did, once he found himself comfortably horizontal. "You are predictable, husband dearest."
Sirius huffed. "Forgive me for trying to improve my programme last minute."
"Oh god, I have to do a speech," Yulia groaned. Remus made an assenting noise. "I fucking hate speeches, especially when jetlagged. Un-fucking-believable."
"Shut up and listen, you little shit," Yulia said, standing up. She stepped onto the chair, so that she was towering over the two of them. "Four months ago you were putting together routines for the normal fucking skating season. You were going to Skate America in October, you were on track. Everything was peachy. Just another day in the life of golden champion Sirius Fucking Black, right? Then you dropped a fucking bomb on everyone and their kitten and suddenly it was all magic this and magic that and you had to re-learn what the fuck that was all about. I have never in my life—outside of cheesy Hallmark movies—seen anyone rebuild themselves the way you have. Four months ago you were fucking Bambi on ice. Today you are a goddamn champion. Today you are living up to your fucking name, so quit your whining and second-guessing and skate the fucking programme we've worked so hard to refine these past months!"
Sirius drew in a deep breath. "B-"
"Blast the fucking base value!" Yulia yelled. "Your technical composition is perfect! Focus on the goddamn presentation of your fucking programme and forget the quads—the last thing we want is for you to screw up an element because of last minute changes!"
"She's right, you know," said Remus. "You don't have to add another quad to win. You just have to skate a perfect programme."
"Do not waste all the time I've put in this," Yulia added, climbing down from the chair at last. "I had to quit too, you know. I followed you here because I thought you could do this. Prove me right."
"Did you mean what you said before?" Sirius asked. "About the...rebuilding stuff."
"When have I ever said something I didn't mean?" Yulia fired back. "I meant every word of it." She sighed. "I do wish you wizarding folks had gotten with the times, though. It would make my job a lot easier if I had videos of the other skaters' performances."
"Magic-electricity interference," Remus said, tiredly. This wasn't the first time he'd had to explain this to her.
She shrugged. "Whatever. For the record, I am still not quite over the fact that you are a goddamn werewolf. How has this never been a problem in your skating?"
"It has, though," Sirius said.
"I retired early because of the physical stress," Remus added. "Also, Trophée de France, three years ago? The full moon was right between the short program and the free skate...extremely inconvenient. I flubbed all my jumps in the free skate and fainted afterwards. Good times."
Sirius took Remus' hand and squeezed it.
"I see," Yulia said. "Well, that's terrible. She stood up, then addressed Sirius: "Are you going to promise me to be a good boy and practise your planned skate tomorrow, and not add any last minute changes?"
"Yeah," Sirius answered. "I promise!" he added, at Yulia's glare. "I will not add a fifth quad and mess up or kill myself."
"Good." She headed for the door. "Good night, boys. Get some rest."
She left and Sirius flopped back down on the bed. "I have ruined my career in muggle figure skating, haven't I?"
"Probably." Remus rolled onto his side so he was facing Sirius. "But you'll have a career in magic skating. After this there's Nationals. Then the World Championships. And if you really wanted to...Winter Olympics. You could make Olympics happen if you wanted to."
"Merlin's saggy balls." Sirius rubbed his face. "I hadn't considered what's next. I've been so preoccupied with making it through the Grand Prix Series and now we're here, and in two days that'll be over and...of course there's Nationals, after that."
"For now all you have to think about is the Grand Prix Final," Remus said, leaning in to kiss Sirius' cheekbone. "I might be biased, but...what you have made out of this mess you started out with in September is amazing."
Sirius was quiet for a bit. "Yes," he said. "I have a solid programme. I'll win this."
"Mmh," Remus said and kissed Sirius again.
~ • ~
The men’s singles were set three days after they arrived in Fukuoka. Regulus had dropped by the rink on the second day for practise, and then met up with some GPF regulars who wanted to have a look around town before their events. It wasn’t easy resisting the temptation to overindulge with the sushi and sashimi, but he reckoned stuffing himself the day before his event wasn’t exactly the best idea.
There was no sign of Sirius so far, although Regulus did catch sight of his husband carrying a number of shopping bags and hurrying after a small woman down the streets of Kayanomori. Regulus had heard his brother's Muggle coach had crossed over to magic skating with him, but he'd never actually seen her before. Looking at her sharp face and no-nonsense stride, he made a mental note to make sure she'd never meet Grindelwald. The world would probably not survive such an encounter.
The knot in the pit of his stomach seemed to have settled in there for the long haul, feeling only heavier as time passed. Of course this wasn't new to Regulus; like he'd said to Nguyen, it was only natural to feel nervous before the GPF. And the added pressure of actually competing against his brother certainly wasn't helping. There was nothing more to do now but wait until he could go onto the ice; no room for apprehension when he had a programme to skate.
Until then, he could sit back and watch the other skaters perform. Regulus had drawn the fifth slot the day before, which meant he was going to skate last. Time enough to observe his brother, who was going third and whom he hadn't seen skate for a very long time. Not unless one counted that mess in the Daily Prophet months ago.
First and second were Ivan Mikhailov and Kenta Orikawa. Orikawa had taken gold back in Beijing, where Sirius had his first competition—he had a very refined programme, a stark contrast against Sirius' own flashy concoction; judging from the photos and newspaper accounts of it anyway. Regulus appreciated the aesthetics, but Orikawa really needed to step up the magical elements to his programme or he'd be scoring mostly with his skating. Which wasn't a bad thing, but one could do Muggle skating for that. Mikhailov on the other hand was certainly trying. One might even say he was trying too hard; the magical elements of his programme seemed to be working at a cross purpose to his skating.
"Now there is someone who didn't think things through," said Nguyen.
Regulus laughed softly. "Aside from my brother, you mean?"
"I hear he has improved much." Nguyen nodded in the direction of the rink, where Sirius was waiting for his music to start. "He did get silver in his second competition."
Regulus nodded, keeping his eyes on his brother. It was easy to see why Sirius had so many fans; on the ice he seemed like an entirely different person. There was almost an ethereal quality about him, as if he had stepped out of a storybook.
And it looked like he knew that. Today's outfit looked deceptively simple; a solid colour of white with restrained ruffles. It didn't look like a very Sirius choice at first glance, not while he was standing still. But it only took a subtle movement for the colour of the fabric to change; shades of blue and purple, then the very palest green. Magic or not, it was very cleverly done and accentuated every movement Sirius made as his song finally started.
As far as beginnings went it was a very strong one; the music was thunderous, almost overpowering Sirius' slim form as it glided across the ice. The rink was of course the standard size, which wasn't small by any means, but Sirius somehow managed to make it seem several times bigger than it actually was as he spun and jumped—that quadruple Salchow was flawless—over ‘rivers' of water, magically made by reforming the ice on the rink itself. Towers of ice rose and fell as he moved away from them; everything in the rink seemed to be working against him, pushing him back even as he moved through it all in dramatic suffering and unfeigned grace.
"Come now," said Nguyen, as the whole rink started to undulate. Sirius managed to keep his balance even with his complicated step sequence. Regulus thought Nguyen would have whistled at that if he knew how.
The music, which had very few calm moments to begin with, spiked as the action picked up. Sirius had pulled off two of his quads in the first half of his programme, the second one was a lot more jumps of course, but if he aced all of those it would be one of the strongest performances Regulus had seen this season.
The crowd gasped as Sirius jumped across two chasms; a quadruple toe loop to clear the first one, landing briefly on a sliver of ice in the middle, and then once more in a triple toe loop.
Fuck that, it was probably the strongest performance Regulus had seen in three years.
"He is a madman." Nguyen sounded suitably awed. Regulus bit his lower lip.
The chasms had started to feature spikes as well—honestly, the man just kept on pushing it. Whatever this terrain was that Sirius was moving across, it must have fucking wanted to keep him from his destination.
Another quadruple Salchow, this time over spikes. The jagged edges of the ice seemed to reach out for Sirius as he did a combination of triple Axel, a loop, and a triple Salchow over them. He was magic of course, but it definitely required more than that to make sure he landed on the smooth surface of the ice instead of impaling his foot.
The music was almost drawing to a close, thundering string section giving way to the horns, and the ice had mostly settled down, drawing back to form a forked river. Sirius did a triple loop over the first one. It wasn't as clean as his first few jumps, but at this point he was probably feeling the quads. A triple Lutz finished it off, that one decidedly much better.
"Morgain," said Nguyen. "I would not have been able to tell he has spent ten years skating without magic from that."
Sirius had now brought up a snowstorm; a visual one at least, heavy winds would have blown him off the rink—symbolised by him doing a sit spin the middle of all the fake snow. He revived, did a passable imitation of a man fighting through the storm, his arms moving up to shield his face from the rough winds, until he finally left it behind, transitioning into his combination spin as the snow stopped falling and at last, he was finally home.
"Indeed," said Regulus, softly. He knew his brother wouldn't be able to pick him out from the crowd, and so he kept looking as Sirius threw his hands up, his cheeks wet from tears and a smile lighting up his whole face. "Looks like he's back."
~ • ~
He was near collapse. Remus was blurry through the tears, but he was there, waiting, and Sirius stumbled off the ice and into his arms. "Are my ears ringing?"
"That's applause," Remus said and helped him get his blade guards on. "You were perfect."
"I under-rotated that triple loop," Sirius protested, but it was difficult to be upset about it. For the first time since he'd taken on this challenge it felt like he would make it. He wiped his eyes on his sleeves, trying to regain some sense of calm. It was impossible. He was lightheaded and his chest was fit to burst with pride at what he'd just accomplished.
"Yes you did. That was a terrible triple loop," Yulia said, but she also didn't sound upset, even if…
"Are those tears?" Sirius stared at her.
"No." She ushered him towards the kiss and cry. "Shut up. If I'm crying it's only because you're an asshole."
"Sure." Sirius grinned at her, but shrugged into the jacket she threw at him and sat. Remus sat on his other side.
The votes were still being calculated. Sirius grabbed Remus' hand, then Yulia's, ignoring the photographers in favour of staring at the scoreboard hovering over the rink. The next skater to go on the ice, Fabrizio Abbadelli, was jumping in place, but Sirius ignored him as well.
When the score was announced, it felt like he'd forgotten how to breathe.
Thirty points ahead of Orikawa, who'd beaten him—by quite a big margin—in Bejing. Sirius was currently first. He was in the lead.
"Is that a record?" Yulia whispered behind his back.
"No," Remus whispered back. "Missed it by point twenty-four points."
Sirius remembered how to breathe. "This is—I'm going to—"
"Throw up?" Remus suggested.
"No! Maybe." Were his hands shaking? They were definitely shaking. What were the chances that both Abbadelli and Regulus would overtake him? Abbadelli he didn't know, but he'd done well in his competitions, silver and gold, if memory served, and then there was Regulus… "Where's my shoes? Let's go find James."
By the time Sirius had changed into shoes and the three of them had located James and Lily, who'd saved them seats, Abbadelli was stepping off the ice. He placed second, a few points ahead of Orikawa. Sirius was still in the lead by approximately 28 points.
Regulus stepped onto the ice and Sirius shushed them—not that he'd been listening to anything anyone around him was saying, not even Remus. "This is it," he said, leaning forwards in his seat, watching intently as Regulus did a few laps around the rink and then got into his starting position.
He'd seen a few photos in the Prophet so he knew that Regulus was doing something with water, but he hadn't expected…this. The water rose out of the barrels in glittering sheets, wrapping around him like fabric—then it streamed outwards, changing colours and glittering like stars, forming intriguing patterns. It was a bit like northern lights, if northern lights were made out of water and magic.
Sirius was so focused on the water that he almost missed the first jump; as Regulus pulled off a flawless quadruple loop, the sheets of water formed into...creatures of a kind, shapes of people and animals and trees. He drew in a surprised breath. Not even he could pull off a quadruple loop, but here Regulus had gone and done it.
Regulus transitioned into a combination spin following a quadruple salchow, the water sprites around him performing their own dance.
"This is a ballet," Sirius said, realisation dawning. His brother was performing a freaking ballet on the ice—no, he was conducting a ballet. He was puppetmaster and prima ballerina in one, and he wasn't even breaking a sweat.
This wasn't Swan Lake or The Nutcracker or any other classic ballet as Sirius knew them, but something else. This ballet was about a prince and a dog—perfect triple flip—and their search for a family...abruptly, Sirius realised he knew this story. He knew how this story usually went.
In the book the prince and the dog had been cursed, and when they leapt into the sky the curse broke and they became their true selves: stars. They'd lived happily ever after with their family in the sky. There'd been a picture, a painting of the sky with stars forming the outline of a boy and a dog.
Regulus had been dissatisfied with the picture. He'd said that the stars didn't really look like that, and the story couldn't be true...so Sirius had told him something else that was true. He'd told him about the little prince in the sky who had the same name as his little brother did, and he'd told him about the dog star, which had the same name as he did…
The remaining jumps went by in a blur; Sirius didn't register them other than to note that they'd been perfect: a series of combination jumps ending in a beautiful sit spin. He was watching the ballet, the choreography, holding his breath to see how Regulus was going to play this out...how would this story end?
The dog and the boy leapt into the sky with Regulus' triple Lutz, where they dispersed into a brief constellation-like pattern, not unlike the one from the story book. Regulus transitioned seamlessly into a combination spin, drawing the remaining water sprites in and turning them back into sheets of water, star-strewn fabric fluttering around him. The water finally returned to the buckets as Regulus drew to a stop, one arm raised towards the sky.
"Jesus fucking Christ," Sirius breathed.
"Muggle swears?" somebody said, James probably, but Sirius wasn't listening. His little brother was standing in the middle of the rink, alone.
Had he really...had he really skated an entire programme about them? Was this Regulus' emotionally stunted way of saying hello, brother? Was this how he said I missed you?
Somebody was rubbing circles into his back. Only one person would do that. Sirius turned to his husband, but he didn't know what to say, or how to say it. "That was my brother," he eventually said, voice shaky.
"I know," Remus said, and his voice was a soft rumble in the wild racket of the audience as they applauded—how long had they been doing that? How much time had passed?
Sirius looked back, but Regulus was gone. For a mad second he thought he might've vanished, that he'd been an illusion, that he'd lost him—but then Sirius realised Regulus was just sitting in the kiss and cry with his coach, and his score was being calculated. "I need—"
He was interrupted by the booming voice of the announcer: Three hundred and thirty six point twelve points, Regulus Bla… the rest of it was drowned out by the audience who'd risen as one to cheer.
Remus was whispering something in his ear, something about silver and great achievements and other comforting nonsense like that. It didn't matter. There was something going on with his heart, it was thumping madly and Sirius felt like he'd throw up if he didn't do something.
"Remus. I love you and cherish you, but right now I don't give a flying shit about that fucking medal," Sirius said and stood up. He had to get to his brother.
~ • ~
He had done it.
Regulus could feel Nguyen thumping him on the back, hear the man unleash a stream of French praises Regulus was too tired to translate and the clicking of the cameras punctuating the roaring of the crowd. He felt like a bowl of jellied eels someone had poured over the bench in the kiss and cry.
Three hundred and thirty six point twelve. He was a full four points ahead of his brother. Merlin, he was four solid points ahead of the record he'd set himself two years ago.
He had done it.
Nguyen was still congratulating him, handing him a slim paper bag which Regulus accepted with a raised eyebrow.
"It appears you have a lot of fans here in Japan," said Nguyen, beaming as Regulus looked inside the bag. "They were able to help me in placing an order for Mr Darcy's armour."
Regulus pulled out the samurai armour from the bag. It was very light and made of some bendy material—which was good, he didn't want Mr Darcy to hurt himself in these clothes—and right now it was protecting what looked like a bottle of wine.
"The saké is a bonus," said Nguyen. "We should have a taste after dinner later."
"How did you manage that?"
"You really must try to understand the power of twitter." Nguyen patted his pocket, where Regulus assumed his mobile phone was. There would be no point in pulling it out, since the thing didn't work in magical places. "You are never truly on your own, when there are so many ways to connect with people."
Regulus snorted at that, but the photographers were calling his name and he reckoned he could always argue about the problems of relying too much on Muggle gadgets later. Turning towards the members of the mass media clamoring for his attention, he gave them a sweet smile and held out his armoured bottle of saké.
The Daily Prophet might not be able to use that photo; forget about product placement, Regulus was sure there were rules about showing off some public figure carrying off a whole bottle of alcoholic drink. It might be a bad influence to the children and offend their parents.
They could go fuck themselves. Some other publication could pick it up. The people who had helped Nguyen buy the cat armour, and who'd generously thrown in some saké with it: Regulus could at least share this moment with them.
He didn't feel so weak anymore. At the very least Nguyen wouldn't have to drag him off the bench to prepare for the awards ceremony. The bottle was a reassuring weight in his hand.
"Regulus," said Nguyen, placing a hand on Regulus' shoulder. "Let's go."
~ • ~
There was a bit of a commotion before Regulus and the rest of the winners stepped back on the ice. He had no idea what was going on, but he thought he could hear his brother's voice. He turned back to have a look, but they were already calling his name and he had to skate out to the middle of the ice. He faced the audience and they cheered him on as he bowed his thanks for their support. Just like all the awards ceremonies he'd been to in the past.
But this time was different. This time, his brother would be on the ice with him. His brother would stand just one step below him. Perhaps for the very first time.
Regulus hopped onto the dais and waited for the others to be called. Sirius glided onto the ice amid loud cheers, seeming to soak up the admiration as he gave them a series of gallant bows. That was the difference between them, Regulus thought. Where he would sometimes get overwhelmed by all the attention (he was not above ignoring the fact that the audience existed), Sirius was in his element when he was performing for the public. There was definitely something charismatic about him, even if he was an arsehole.
Regulus was half-smiling as Sirius approached the dais. See, he wanted to say. You didn't win gold after all.
Whatever words he might have said died on his tongue when Sirius smiled back. For the first time in a very long while, Sirius was looking at him, Regulus—not just some brat of a brother he left behind or the stranger they had become to each other. And he was smiling.
Regulus shook his hand, and then Sirius was pulling him down for a hug, Regulus making an indignant ‘Oi!' as he tried to keep his balance, but Sirius was supporting him, making sure he didn't fall down.
"Well done," said Sirius, "brother."
And just like that, it finally caught up with Regulus. What had happened, what was happening; he had won the Grand Prix Final. He had faced his brother in the rink and won. But more importantly, he had skated his programme flawlessly, and he had done so with his heart on his sleeve.
Perhaps there was something to what Nguyen had said after all.
Regulus pulled away from Sirius, wanting nothing more than to turn around and have a good cry in some corner where no one could see him. But what did it matter? Everyone in the damned place already knew how he felt. Silently, almost defiantly, he started to cry.
"I'm sorry," Sirius added, as he stepped on the dais next to Regulus. He rubbed the back of his neck. "I didn't invite you to the wedding."
"Not even for all the croissants in the world," Regulus scoffed, ruining the effect by sobbing. "I fucking hate France. Why couldn't you have gotten married somewhere civilised?"
"Like charming Kettlewell, you mean?" Sirius was grinning, but his expression became more sober as he gave it some thought. "You're right, though. Maybe me and Remus should get married again. You could even bring your cat."
Regulus glared at his brother, fighting the urge to kick him back down the ice. Of course his brother couldn't stand not being in the spotlight for long. Merlin help them all if he actually decided to get married in Kettlewell.
"A bottle of Pétrus," he said. "And I'll consider it."