Regulus hadn't really meant to be in the library. It sort of just happened. His DADA class, which he shared with Evie and the Ravenclaws, needed a parchment on Patronus Charms and he didn't know much about them. He had just wondered through the library looking for a book to help when he physically bumped into the last person he had expected to see in the library: James Potter.
Now, if you asked Regulus what he hated the most about James, he would tell you some made up bullshit like he's annoying or the Potters are blood traitors, what he actually hated, or rather thought he hated, about James was his ability to be everywhere. James was always in the corridors between lessons, he was always at meals at the same time as Regulus and now James was in the library. The library for Salazar's sake. What was James freaking Potter doing in the library?
Regulus stumbled back and mumbled a quiet, "Sorry." before trying to move past James.
James being James stopped him by blocking his path with his body. "Regulus, what happened at the Astronomy Tower that other day?"
Straight to the point. No subtleties with this one.
"I don't know what you're talking about." The reply was immediate, practised and rehearsed a million times over. Almost a reflex at this point.
"No. What happened?" James's stare hardened a little bit.
"I don't want to talk about it." Regulus held his stare.
James smiled a little and said, "Ok. just help me find this History of Magic book for house elves and I'll stop harassing you."
Regulus frowned before scanning through the bookshelves for House Elves and Wizards: A Longstanding History so that he could find a book on Patronus Charms and study. He found it without too much trouble and turned around to hand it to James. The spectacled boy was stood directly behind him and so Regulus turned right into James's chest and walked into him for the second time that afternoon. James let out a light chuckle before holding a book out to Regulus.
The younger raised an eyebrow before taking in cautiously and looking over it. An Expert's Guide to Patronus Charms. Regulus felt the breath catch in his throat because James did something for him. James did something for him without Regulus even having to ask.
"Figured we could help each other out." James spoke quietly and shrugged nervously. Regulus held out the book on House Elves to him and James muttered a small, "Thank you." before turning to leave. Regulus leapt forward and grabbed his arm, "Don't leave." The words were out of his mouth before he could even process what he was doing.
The Gryffindor looked shocked but nodded and let himself be pulled to a table next to them. James watched as Regulus pulled out a parchment and started scribbling away, allowing himself to smile before doing the same and starting his essay. The two boys sat in a comfortable silence trying to study, of course they were both thinking about the other but that was ok; they could just be study buddies or something, even though they both knew that study buddies didn't think about each other like that. It could be ignored.
After a few hours, both boys had finished their respective essays but neither wanted to move. Not a single word had passed between them but there wasn't any tension, much to Regulus's dismay. He had thought if James was annoying enough that these feelings would just go away and now that they hadn't, Regulus was even more worried and confused than before.
Eventually, James spoke up, "I have Quidditch practise."
Regulus looked up at him, "Then shouldn't you be going?"
"I need help with Potions." James blurted the words out.
Regulus smirked a little, "And?"
James rolled his eyes, "I need your help. Slughorn never shuts up about how amazing you are at Potions and I think I'm failing. And so, Merlin help me Regulus, you are going to be my tutor."
Regulus nodded and bit the inside of his cheeks to keep himself from smiling, "How are Saturday afternoons? I'm thinking from lunch to dinner."
"Thanks Reggie." James winked as he stood up and tucked his chair in, he shoved the essay into his bag and walked away. James glanced back at Regulus and this time he couldn't stop the grin that spread across his cheeks.
Glancing at the clock, Regulus knew Evie would be studying in the Room and so he gathered his things and slung his bag over his shoulder before making his way there.
When he arrived, Evie looked up and smiled. "Hey Reg." He shook his head at the nickname before replying,
"Hello, good day?"
"Bloody Ferguson set Em on fire during Charms and then tried to put it out but using the water charm. Let's just say it didn't work quite how he thought it would and the entire class was both singed and soaked by the end of it. How was your day?"
"Ran into Ja-" He cleared his throat, "Potter in the library." Evie grinned widely.
Regulus only hummed in response, unable to stop the blush creeping up his neck.
"You two would be great together, I'm telling you. He's handsome and you're stunning. Controversial too, I mean nobody would expect it."
Regulus had grown accustomed to the things Evie said, she seemed so ok with the whole gay thing even though Regulus had never mentioned any liking for James or any boys in fact, he hadn't said anything to her about this at all. When he had asked how she knew a few weeks back, she had replied simply with, "It's easy to see when you know what you're looking for."
And it made sense. Of course, it did, the pair had grown much closer after what they were referring to as 'The Incident' and their lives had somehow become muddled together. At first, they had studied together mostly in silence and usually in the Room. But after a few days, they started exchanging pleasantries. After a few more, they started helping each other with homework and before either of them realised, they had become friends. They wouldn't be too friendly outside of their safe place but people, mostly in their year group, had known them to be studying together and it was no secret that they spent a lot of time together away from classes.
The Slytherin boys had accused Regulus of being in a relationship with her and he had scoffed, they then went on to tell him about how Evie was hopelessly in love with him and even though he didn't believe it, a part of him was terrified that it could be true. She did say things from time to time which made Regulus overthink their entire friendship but, in the end, they always found a way back together.
A comfortable silence had enveloped the room and as Regulus sat on a desk, Evie scribbled on her parchment furiously opposite him. The essay they had to write on Patronus Charms proved to be more interesting and in depth than she thought it would be.
Regulus had finished his essay about ten minutes ago and knew he should have been reading through it whilst Evie was doing hers, but he kept finding it harder and harder to keep one line of thought. He felt like he was starting to lose his grasp on reality and it was scaring him. Regulus tried to take a few deep breaths and focus on the sound of Evie’s quill, but in the end, he heard the familiar ringing in his ears and was back at Grimmauld Place.
It was always the same. Regulus had been tied to the wall and forced to watch as Sirius was beaten and cursed into unconsciousness. His parents called it ‘teaching’ for both brothers. The first few times these so-called lessons had been trialled, Regulus had been intervening much to his parents’ dismay. He would always find an excuse to leave or stop them, hence why they had taken to binding him or tying him down to watch.
He hated every second of it. That night had been particularly bad; Walburga had used the cutting curse so many times that by the time she was done, Sirius was lying in a pool of his own blood, Orion had kicked and punched Sirius so many times that Regulus had lost count. And of course, they had been going back and forth using other dark curses on his brother. At first, Sirius would stand up after every punch and curse was thrown at him, until he was too weak to. Walburga and Orion would torture him until he passed out, use a spell to wake him and continue this process for hours on end. Eventually, Sirius’s body would give out and the spell wouldn’t wake him, it was always at this point that Regulus worried his brother had finally been killed. His parents would unbind him and go upstairs, presumably to bed.
Sometimes, Regulus would summon Kreacher to help. Other times, he would be too scared to move and so he would stand there staring at Sirius’s body until something snapped inside of him and his muscles started working again. But most of the time, he would rush to his brother’s side and cry until Sirius woke up, Regulus would treat the wounds to the best of his ability and then help Sirius up into his room. The brothers never really spoke after these nights. They were just too awful to discuss.
Regulus felt trapped, he was staring at his brother’s body, lying on a pool of his own blood and he was completely helpless to do anything about it.
Evie looked up from her parchment to ask Regulus a question; she wasn’t sure what to write for the ending of the essay and, since he hadn’t been writing, she had assumed Regulus had finished his. But, instead of his usually soft grey eyes, she was met with a distant gaze from him. She bit down on her lip to stop herself from panicking too much. Evie stood slowly and slipped her arm under Regulus’s. She gently pulled him from his seat on top of the table and led him over to the bed that had appeared in the corner.
Evie moved Regulus so that he was lying down and she settled down next to him. She tried to stay as calm as possible and give him space, but she soon caved and slid into his arms. Evie rested her head on top of his chest so that she could hear his heartbeat very clearly, the Ravenclaw took his hand in her own and started tracing patterns following the lines on his palm.
Regulus felt like his hand was being tickled, that was impossible of course; he was tied to a wall and his brother being tortured in front of him, who could be tickling his hand. A few minutes later, he became aware of a soft weight on his chest, like someone had rested their head on top of it. He really tried to focus on it, he tried to let himself feel it. Regulus shut his eyes and the sounds of his worst nightmares faded away and a comforting silence followed. When Regulus realised where he was and that his parents weren’t nearby, he felt safe. The boy let out a breath he hadn’t realise he was holding and started stroking Evie’s hair.
Evie felt Regulus’s slender fingers start to work their way through her hair and she instantly relaxed. “There you are.” She breathed, “I was getting worried.” Evie felt Regulus bring her hand to his lips and place a small kiss on it, his way of saying thank you.
“I’m sorry for worrying you.” Regulus spoke quite clearly and meaningfully. It dismayed Evie because of how serious he sounded, he knew she wanted to help him like he had been helping her but he always apologised.
“No need. It can be my new job Reg.” She smiled and buried her head deeper into his chest. Both friends felt slightly more at ease than they had done for days.