They were at the beach. The sun was shining brightly and it was a nice, warm day. Regulus watched the water lap against the sand. He shivered.
“Are you alright, Regulus?” Asked Narcissa, fork raised half-way to her mouth. She was wearing a light blue skirt and a silk blouse, the top three buttons of which had been subtly worked out from their holes throughout the day.
Andromeda, who looked up from the journal she was writing in at her sister’s question, seemed to have gotten away with five buttons.
This is, of course, was because their parents (Regulus and Sirius’ aunt and uncle) – Cygnus Black and Druella Black – and Regulus’ mother (Walburga Black) as well, had went off twenty minutes ago to retire to the large estate that they owned just outside of the village.
Bellatrix had forgone her blouse altogether and was running after Sirius in an enraged fit, skirts bunched up in her hands as she stumbled along the sandy expanse of land.
If Walburga had chosen to stay, then she would have likely been steaming at the ears from the sheer amount of skin the girls were showing. But as it was, Orion was a much more relaxed parent. Just as long as Bellatrix chose to wear a shirt in public, Orion couldn’t find fault in her taking it off around family. It wasn’t like there were any lecherous men around who would want to stare at his niece, and she was wearing a bra.
The only way that Orion could find fault in his children and extended family was if they publicly brought shame on the family.
As it was, he also couldn’t appreciate any of them, because he simply did not care. As long as he had an heir and a spare, everything was going well.
“I’m fine.” Regulus said shortly.
“You’re not fine,” Sighed Andromeda, who looked to have grown tired of her journal “what’s bothering you?” she shut the journal with a quick snap and shoved it into her skirt’s pocket.
At this point Sirius ran over, kicking sand up all over the picnic blanket and scrambling around Regulus to hide behind him. He clutched tightly at his shoulders, which made Regulus seize up uncomfortably.
Bellatrix stopped short of the picnic blanket, huffing out annoyed breaths.
“You brat.” She growled.
“You can’t hurt me,” Sirius laughed “not without hurting Reggie first. And everyone likes Reggie so you won’t hurt him.”
Regulus’ face scrunched up in distaste at the underhand move. It was Sirius that had dumped seaweed in Bellatrix’s hair earlier, and he had no right to pull Regulus into the resulting fight.
At least Bellatrix didn’t look like she was about to murder him on her way to Sirius. She sneered at Sirius and sat down on the blanket with a loud thump.
“One day…” she muttered, eyeing up Sirius like one would a cockroach.
“You two, stop fighting. We have a problem here.” Said Andromeda, glowering sternly at Sirius and Bellatrix.
“Who put you in charge.” Bellatrix scoffed, idly picking her shirt up from the crumpled heap she’d left it in earlier.
“I’m the eldest.” Andromeda said importantly.
“Only by twenty-three minutes.” Said Bellatrix, but no one paid her any attention.
“What’s the problem?” asked Sirius grinningly “Did you see mum?”
“Don’t say that about your mother.” Orion droned from the other side of the blanket, eyes trained on the page of the book he was reading.
Andromeda spared Orion a glance and then turned back to them.
“Something’s wrong with Regulus.” She said.
“Yes,” said Narcissa “he looks a bit peaky.”
“It’s nothing really.” Protested Regulus.
“No,” said Sirius, propping his chin up on top Regulus’ head (which was really very annoying) “what’s wrong?”
Andromeda and Narcissa looked at Regulus promptingly while Bellatrix swung her shirt up onto her shoulders, paying Regulus the bare minimum of attention. It all made Regulus squirm.
“I…the water’s just- I don’t like it.” He admitted sullenly.
“Then why didn’t you go back to the townhouse with mum, you dummy.” He complained.
“I don’t like mother.” Regulus pouted.
A silence came over the five of them as they all turned to look at Orion. Orion said nothing. There was the sound of a page turning.
“We all know Reggie is his favourite.” Sirius muttered under his breath, rolling his eyes over at his father.
“Well, what is it about the water, Regulus?” cut in Narcissa “You’ve never been afraid of it before.”
“I don’t know,” said Regulus. He bit at his lip and eyed the water heavily “it just feels wrong.”
“Urgghhhh,” moaned Sirius, removing himself from Regulus’ personal space and falling back against the sand “is this about that nightmare you had? The one with the water?”
“What nightmare?” asked Andromeda.
“The one with the water.” Said Sirius pointedly.
“There might not have been water.” Said Regulus hesitantly “I mean, there could have been- I thought there might have been. But I don’t really remember it very well.”
“Was there water or was there not water?” Sirius huffed, kicking sand at Regulus’ back.
“I don’t know.” Regulus snapped. He turned around and grabbed Sirius’ bare foot, pushing it away from himself.
“Well make up your mind.” Said Sirius. He removed his foot from Regulus’ grasp with one, quick pull.
“I suppose there must have been.” Regulus decided, turning back around so that he didn’t have to look at Sirius’ annoying face.
“Was there anything else?” asked Narcissa.
Regulus shook his head, then stilled, a frown coming about his face.
“There might have been a cave?” he said indecisively “No. There was a cave, and you could only get to it during low tide, because otherwise the water covered up the entrance.”
“Like that cave over there, then.” Said Bellatrix. Everyone looked back at her to see that she had now tied the ends of her shirt together so that there was a knot sitting on top of her skirts (her under-skirts to be precise. Because, while she had decided to be a bit more civil and put her blouse back on, she had also decided that her over-skirts were too heavy and too dark and attracted too much sunlight). She was pointing in the direction of a far-off pile of rocks.
“That’s not a cave, Bellatrix,” said Narcissa, rolling her eyes “that’s the boundary between our beach and the public muggle one.”
“I know that, you brat.” Bellatrix spat “But I went to one of those muggle pubs the other day and I overheard some muggles talking about a cave at the beach that’s said to be haunted.”
“What were you doing at a muggle pub?” asked Narcissa. There was a wrinkle about her nose that told everyone she found the words ‘muggle’ distasteful. Andromeda looked a little disapproving at this.
Bellatrix’s eyes lit up.
“I was messing with them!” she said excitedly “Threw a couple of hexes around! There was an annoying couple in the corner and they wouldn’t stop kissing and now they’re going to have ears as big as their heads for the rest of their lives!”
“That’s not ‘messing with them’,” said Andromeda, a fierce look on her face “that’s a hate crime.”
Sirius, Regulus, and Narcissa all looked a bit uncomfortable, though Bellatrix just looked annoyed.
“Yes, well, there’s the cave, isn’t there? Maybe we should take Sirius and Regulus to it, I’m sure they’d find it enjoyable.” She said, gaining volume as she went on. By the time she finished saying these words she was smiling horridly – a smile full of teeth and malice.
“That’s enough, Bellatrix.” Snapped Andromeda.
“How about it, Reggie, Sirius? Would you like to see the ghosties?” Bellatrix laughed, paying her sister no heed.
“We don’t want to go anywhere with you.” Said Sirius, more bravely than he felt “You’re mean.”
“See,” said Andromeda, hands at her hips “they don’t want to go.”
“I want to go.” Said Regulus. Narcissa frowned at him and Sirius sat up hurriedly.
“No, you don’t.” said Sirius, a scowl on his face. He glared over at Bellatrix, but it wasn’t intimidating in the least, especially not when Bellatrix sent a mean smile back at him.
Regulus shrank away from Sirius, moving closer to Narcissa.
“I don’t know why exactly, but I want to.” He said quietly “I think we’re meant to go to the cave. I think there’s something we have to find there.”
“And now you’re talking like a nutter...” Sirius muttered under his breath, and then louder he said “Maybe it’s your brain that we have to find, cause apparently you left it at home.”
“Sirius.” Chided their father, though he still did not look up from his book.
Regulus just scowled and said something very insulting about Sirius’ brain.
Andromeda sighed, her arms crossed over her chest “We can go if you like, Regulus,” she said “but you must consider the obvious scheme that Bella’s cooking up.”
“I’ve considered it.” Regulus said determinedly “We can go now.”
“We’ll be going now, uncle Orion.” Andromeda sighed. She only received an acknowledging hum in reply.
Beyond the barrier of rocks (which were absolutely covered in muggle repelling charms) was the muggle part of Brighton beach.
Regulus had been hesitant to step into the shallow water and make his way around the rocks, but Andromeda told him that if he couldn’t walk all the way to the cave then they wouldn’t be going at all, and that had been sufficient motivation.
The muggle beach wasn’t very crowded, seeing as the sun was just beginning to set, but there were a few muggles dotted about here and there.
Regulus’ attention wandered from his brother and cousins and towards two muggle children who were playing with a ball.
There didn’t seem to be any purpose to their game, but they continued on, kicking the ball between the two of them.
“Come on.” Said Andromeda kindly, and Regulus felt her hand cover his own. She tugged him along, following after Narcissa, Bellatrix, and Sirius (who had gotten impatient and walked on without them).
“They seem just like us.” Regulus said, sneaking a glance over his shoulder.
“That’s because they are.” Said Andromeda.
Regulus scrunched up his nose.
“They don’t have magic,” he said “and mother says that they’re bad.”
“You mustn’t repeat this to anyone, Regulus, but your mother’s a wretched old hag who should really look the word ‘bad’ up in the dictionary. I feel quite positive that she’ll find a picture of herself there.” Regulus looked up at his cousin in astonishment. Her shoulders were set straight and her jaw clenched, eyes hard.
“I know mother’s bad,” he frowned “I’m not stupid just because I’m a child.”
It was Andromeda’s turn to look surprised. She smiled suddenly.
“I’m glad to see that someone else with a brain managed to be born into this family.” She said.
“Are you calling me clever?” Regulus beamed “No one ever calls me clever!”
“Well you are clever, you’re very very clever. And I’m going to have to help you over these rocks because, while you’re very very clever, you are also very very short.”
True to Andromeda’s words, the rocks were very big. They were just a bit taller than Regulus and he didn’t feel confident in his ability to climb them.
“Hurry up!” Sirius called from the other side of the rocky expanse. Narcissa was standing beside him, skirts bunched up with her hands so that they didn’t touch the sand, and an annoyed expression on her face. Bellatrix was a bit further away, bent over a rockpool.
“Come on, then.” Said Andromeda “We’ll make quick work of this."
They managed to climb the rocks with some level of difficulty, but soon enough Andromeda was helping Regulus down from the last rock.
“The cave’s over there.” Sirius informed them, pointing in the direction of the cave. It was across the ocean, set into the cliff face, hard to see because of its small size.
“And just our luck,” said Bellatrix, menacingly “it’s low tide.”
“Oh, shut up.” Andromeda snapped.
Still, even if it was low tide, it looked much too deep for either Regulus or Sirius to swim, and none of the girls would want to go swimming when dressed as they were anyway.
Narcissa was quick to bring this up.
“There’s no point anyway,” she said “we’ll get soaked if we swim out there, and I wouldn’t like to ruin my skirt, especially not with how new it is. That ocean looks horribly deep, and it must be even worse at high tide.”
“I think…” murmured Regulus, a confused expression coming about his face.
“What?” Andromeda asked.
“Well, it’s just…” Regulus frowned and then wandered further along the stretch of sand, water lapping at his feet. He stopped moving and surveyed the rocks for a second, before starting up again and circling around a large one, trailing his hand across the black stone.
The other four followed after him and peered around the stone too. There was a moment of silence.
“Now that’s just creepy, Regulus.” Sirius commented, though he seemed amused.
Because right there, behind the rock, was a small wooden boat, just about big enough to fit four adults if they sat very tightly together.
Bellatrix looked down at Regulus with a scowl “How did you know it was there?” she said nastily.
Regulus shrugged, looking down at his bare feet.
“It just happened in the dream.” He whispered.
“I thought you didn’t know what happened in the dream.” Andromeda commented. It wasn’t said accusingly, but there was a hint of curiosity in her voice and she looked vaguely concerned.
“It got clearer just a minute ago.” Regulus admitted.
“You have weird dreams.” Said Sirius with a roll of his eyes.
“Well,” said Narcissa “there’s only room for four people in there, so I might as well leave. I don’t trust that boat and I definitely don’t trust that cave.”
“Alright then, goodbye.” Said Andromeda.
“I’m going too,” Bellatrix said while glaring daggers at Regulus “little Reggie is obviously playing a prank on us. I bet he’s planning on pushing us all into the sea when we’ve gotten into the boat.”
“Reggie wouldn’t do that,” Sirius scoffed “he likes doing good things like reading books and painting pictures. He’s never pranked a girl in his life.”
“I thought Regulus was involved in that prank at Christmas,” Andromeda objected “when aunt Walburga found herself throwing up snails.”
Sirius immediately countered that by saying “Mum isn’t a girl, she’s too mean.”
Regulus, however stayed silent.
“I think she is a girl.” He admitted after a while, looking bewildered at the thought.
“Okay,” said Sirius “Reggie’s never pranked a girl who isn’t mum. Although, I still don’t think she counts.”
Despite Sirius’ adamance that Regulus wouldn’t ever prank a girl (although, if Regulus was asked then he would say that he wouldn’t prank anyone unless they wronged him first, boy or girl) Bellatrix wasn’t convinced. She and Narcissa, who was very against the idea of smelling like salty water, set off back down the beach.
Both Sirius and Regulus felt relieved at this; they were both sceptical at the prospect of going into a dark cave with Bellatrix.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go back as well, Regulus?” Andromeda asked the seven-year-old, looking down at him hopefully. It seemed that she also didn’t want to go across the water, but it was rare for Regulus to tell people when he wanted to do something and she would definitely go through with it if he was sure that he wanted to go into the cave.
Regulus nodded his head determinedly and when Andromeda turned to ask Sirius the same question he told her that he wasn’t a baby and if Regulus, who was scared of everything, wasn’t scared to go into the cave than neither was he.
So Andromeda reluctantly waved her wand at the boat, sending it out to shore with a simple levitation spell.
All three of them got into the boat, Andromeda at one end, and Sirius and Regulus at the other. Both of the young boys were very interested when she used the same charm again, letting the boat glide gently through the water and towards their destination.
Sirius ran his hands through the waves, laughing excitedly as the water rushed past him, though Regulus seemed to be distinctly uncomfortable. Though neither Andromeda nor Sirius knew this, Regulus was slowly remembering the details from the dream that he had had and was beginning to think that this journey across the water was possibly not a good idea.
After several minutes the cliff face loomed closer and Andromeda brought the boat the a stop. She clambered up onto the rocky surface before the cave and then helped both of the boys up too, though not before asking one more time if they were both sure they wanted to go in the cave. She had noticed that Regulus had grown more and more shaky the closer they got to the cave and was very concerned.
Still, Regulus was adamant that he had to go into the cave. So they went into the cave.
He looked very confused when they reached the entrance, as though he was unsure of whether or not they would be able to walk through it without doing something first, but he quickly shook off the feeling and hurried after his brother and cousin.
The cave was very dark so Andromeda had lit up the end of her wand with a lumos charm.
“So why did you want to come here anyway, Regulus?” asked Sirius as he gazed around the cavern in wonder. The further they went in the larger it seemed to become. It was so tall now that Regulus almost couldn’t see the ceiling, and the walls looked to be covered in diamonds. They were salt crystals, Andromeda had informed them, which formed inside caves when a certain kind of liquid solution flooded a cave for around a hundred thousand years.
“I just…” said Regulus, and he still had a confused and curious look about him, despite his obvious fear of the cave “…I think there’s something in here that I have to find.”
Sirius scoffed and muttered a nasty comment about children and playing games, momentarily forgetting that he was only a year older than Regulus and much more prone to playing games than him.
Eventually they made it to the largest part of the cave, which was filled almost entirely with a humongous lake. There was a small, rocky island in the middle of it, covered in salt crystals just like everything else.
Regulus jerked a little when he caught sight of the water but then calmed down upon realising that it was just water and there was nothing moving inside of it. For a moment he had imagined something else, a part of his dream that was slowly becoming more vivid.
“This is probably the liquid solution that formed the salt crystals!” Andromeda exclaimed in a hushed, enthused voice “I should take a sample, Ted will be ecstatic.”
She dug into her skirt pocket and produced a glass vial, topped with a snake-themed stopper. There was an entire set of them and they had once belonged to Elladora Black (who had used them to store blood for less than legal purposes) but had since been passed down the family line. Andromeda had received them from uncle Alphard on her and Bellatrix’s birthday, back in April.
“Who’s Ted?” snickered Sirius “Is he your boyfriend?”
Andromeda paused and looked down at him, her brow furrowing “No.” she said, though it sounded like a lie.
“Only an idiot like Reggie would believe that lie.” Sirius told her.
Regulus wasn’t listening. There was something about the water, he knew it. Something important. He inched a bit closer, slowly.
“Regulus isn’t an idiot.” Andromeda huffed. She turned around and brushed past Regulus before kneeling down above the surface of the water. Regulus watched her uncap the stopper and fill the vial with the water. His mind stuck on it for some reason and a frown came about his face.
“Well, yeah,” said Sirius, rolling his eyes “but he’s really – Reggie what’s that word that-“
“Gullible.” Regulus replied automatically. It barely required thought at this point to supply Sirius with the words that he needed (and it should be noted that Regulus only knew so many words because he was a boring person who thought reading a dictionary was fun).
“Yes, that. Reggie’s really gullible, so of course he believes you.”
The vial was full. Andromeda lifted it from the water, putting the stopper back into place. She held it up to her lit wand and the light shone through, glinting off of every surface available, casting watery shadows.
Something in Regulus’ head told him that the light was supposed to be green, and then afterwards it told him that the light was meant to be shining from the island.
“That’s pretty.” Said Sirius.
Regulus felt his breath leave him. He walked a step forward, standing at the edge of the lake. Regulus gazed down into the depths of the water, feeling that if he looked long enough he might see something important. There was nothing there, though. Absolutely nothing.
“Regulus?” Andromeda said tentatively.
“Where’s Kreacher?” Regulus asked in a small voice.
“We left him at home, remember?” said Sirius.
“No, I mean. He was here in the dream, I can remember that now.” Regulus looked around the cave hopelessly, confused beyond measure.
“Are you okay, Regulus?” Andromeda asked. Regulus turned around to look at her.
“I’m fine.” He said, though he didn’t quite feel fine.
“Well you’re being strange.” Sirius pointed out in that rude way of his.
“Not as strange as you.” Regulus found himself muttering. He brought his hand up to rub at his forehead, feeling slightly dazed.
“Seriously, Regulus, is something wrong?” Andromeda tried. She sounded a bit on edge.
“I just…” Regulus muttered. His legs felt weak, he tried to move them. Bare feet shifted backwards.
There’s nothing under my heel, Regulus thought with a frown. And there really was nothing under his heel. Regulus pressed his whole foot down where there should have been ground and felt air rush past him, water rush nearer.
“REGULUS!” both Sirius and Andromeda yelled.
Regulus’ body dropped into the water with a great splash.
They grabbed at him and pulled him under. Regulus felt his breath leave him and opened his eyes to see writhing, squirming bodi-
He opened his eyes to see dark water, all around him. Regulus tried to breath but there was only water. His eyes stung.
His hands pushed helplessly at the bodies, fingers scraping against dead skin, feet kicking at bone. Regulus held his breath; he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t let the water in.
The water was in his lungs. Regulus choked on it.
And then hands were grasping at him, pulling at him.
No, thought Regulus, I don’t want to die.
But the hands didn’t push him down – they pulled him up. Regulus surfaced, coughing and choking on water, Andromeda’s arms clutching him tightly to her body.
She swam to the edge of the lake and pushed him up onto the rocky flatform, where Sirius was waiting with a horrified expression on his face.
“Are you okay?” he asked, rushing forwards to drag Regulus further onto the cave floor. Regulus just wheezed, filling his lungs with much needed air.
His eyes were wide and his hands were shaking. Every bit of Regulus was soaked, from his curly black hair to his toes.
Andromeda hauled herself up onto the ground, water pouring off of her.
“Regulus?” she asked worriedly, looking just a bit shaken.
“I know what happened in my dream now.” He whispered. He wrapped his arms around himself, trying his best to warm up.
“What happened in your dream?” Sirius asked slowly, hesitantly, hands reaching forward to rub at Regulus’ quivering shoulders.
“I died.” The words were uttered with sickened horror.
Over there, Regulus wanted to say, by that rock – the sharp, pointy one. I banged just about every part of my body against it and it really hurt, but not as much as drowning.
“Come on,” Andromeda said softly, laying a hand on his back “let’s get back. Everyone will be wondering what’s taking us so long.”