Snacks And Letters - Part 75

Authors: [info]valkyriekat and [info]sionna_raven
Title: Snacks And Letters - Part 75
Word Count: 2919
Rating: PG 13

~Severus~

It's been quite a long day, what with Lucius looking like something the cat dragged in. Remember the talk of power? True magic? Welcome to what became of your ideal world, old friend.


Seeing him gaunt and sallow reminds me of a broken toy soldier. Well, reap what you sow, and allow me to sneer in Lucius' general direction. The same face I give Potter's self-stirring cauldron. There were good things about today? How do I loathe thee, let me count the ways...


I'm preparing for the worst and expecting even worse. The funeral will be darker than retrieving Reg's body from the underground lake. Worst case scenarios rush through my tired brain. The unpredictable Theo Nott is a problem; should he act up, others will take advantage of it.


Sanity in the form of Andromeda and Narcissa and I believe Draco and Horace should help. I'll pull Draco aside and give him a task. He likes tasks. My finger clench into fists and back again several times.


Sirius what the hell do you think, that I want to police the shabby gathering, that I should somehow know how to deal with Death Eaters former or half-present? Great Salazar, I do not want to be babysitter to a load of adults, politically correct or the opposite. Why is there rarely middle ground? The nature of the ideology? I think for a bit.


I think through a shower and lie wet and still once more on Reg's bed, covered in his cloak once more. I'm going to take this cloak if Sirius agrees. I'm going to use it or keep it in my closet. Sentiment. Sappiness. Potions masters and Headmasters can have it too.


I sit bolt upright. Noise at the door. It's just the cat Alexi scratching at the door to come in. I let her in and she hides under the bed. I growl and throw the pillow hard across the room, and though light it knocks over Regulus' aspidistra and the pot loses half its soil. How lovely. I restore it with a sharp jab of my wand.


What I am, what I know, never shines though in what I show. Except irritable sarcasm. I could change but why in Merlin's name should I or would I want to?


Sirius is an arrogant pureblood, and such a battle-scarred Order lackey, Gryffindor. Yet I am closer to him now than I have been to anyone save my mother. Like having a brother. A real one, one you can fight with but you're still family.


I think darkly of this. How much more exposure to Sirius and in front of Sirius can I take? He has shown me trust in several ways but try as I might I cannot trust ... anyone. If I did, he'd be first choice.

I get out of bed and pace in furious circles. Why should I spy on old friends, control them?


Because I was a damn fool ever to sketch Regulus. And now making him speak aloud. I am a glutton for punishment, or just don't think through all the implications.


One is as bad as the other. I stand stock still, and let my own fire scorch me. I will do it for my memory of Regulus far more than for a body or a sketch. I stretch on the bed, then curl under the cloak again. His prefect badge digs into my side-- is nothing ever right?


It seems it takes me two hours to fall asleep. I imagine Richard and want to offer him the nearest poison with an unknown anti-venom. The rest of those attending... they're sooo much better. The only one I wouldn't hex if I could get away with it is Andromeda. And she was the opposite of her sister Bellatrix. Do I hate my own house, my own former decisions? I curl more tightly under the cloak. “I hate all of you!” I snarl aloud. Luckily there is no answer from the service lift.


Exhausted and burning with anger, I attempt to rid myself of all emotion. I drift...and sleep engulfs me a last.


~Sirius~

We have retreated to bed early. We're both getting nervous about tomorrow. I know I'm acting stubborn, listening to the wishes of a portrait. Sirius Black arranging a meeting of Death Eater vets, unheard of folly.

I feel confident that I – that we – can handle the situation, but do I really want to? How many times have I sneered at the fact that the name of Black graced with a handful of galleons could make people do whatever we want them to do? Now I'm taking advantage of it.

I can hear Severus pacing next door. He must feel cornered, used. If only I could get it through to everyone that I am responsible for the mess I got us in. I don't want anyone else to be in trouble, because of me.


The pacing has stopped. Has he gone to sleep? Can I risk to do what I've been waiting for. I should.

Sneaking out of the bedroom at night is a skill one never loses. Avoid the creaking floorboards. I've known them by heart for years. The door of Father's study opens without a sound. Kreacher is there again standing guard at his master's body. He looks at me with affection. It hurts to understand that he loves me, probably has loved me all those years. Maybe we need to love to hate so much.


The elf's magic has preserved the roses around the body, but I vanish them anyway and replace them with fresh ones. Too many roses around the slender body of a young man who almost looks like a boy. He was even younger than Harry is now. Children given the tasks of men and then blamed for failing to make the right choices. I feel a pang of guilt at the thought that things were easier, if there was only the heap of bones I had expected to find in the cave. Regulus looks like he's only sleeping. Untouched, calm, peaceful...........unreal.

I gesture Kreacher to leave. It's my turn to hold the vigil tonight.

He hesitates to obey. For a moment I think that he doesn't trust me with his beloved master, but then as he grabs my hand with both of his I understand that he is worried about me. I try to tell him that I'll be fine, no need to worry. The words don't come out. I slide down to the floor and Kreacher hold me in his arms like he used to do 30 years ago. I cry into the folds of the green pillow case. No need to be strong, because Kreacher will protect me. He kept the ghoul in the toilet quiet; he knew a spell to stop the snake door handles from moving in the dim light of the street lamps and every night he checked under the bed and in the cupboard for boggarts. He's stroking my hair and softly humming an old elf song, magic without words.

I can see the three dark scars on his left forearm. I caused them. He had cut himself with a large knife, when I accidentally had locked myself up in an old oak chest in the attic for more than an hour. I think Bella had her hands in it. We'd been playing hide and seek, all of us. The boggart from my cupboard had moved into that chest, after Kreacher banned it. I still get a bit nervous when locked in alone.


Kreacher's song is not strong enough to put an adult to sleep. However it makes me feel safe. I reach for my wand and cast a Patronus charm. The bear cub jumps around and Kreacher smiles.


You can stay, if you like. Just let me talk to him, will you?” Kreacher retreats into a corner. I sit down in Father's chair and put my hands on Reggie's. I wonder why I don't go downstairs to talk to the portrait. It's the Regulus I knew, frozen in time shortly after I left him, but it's not real. The sketch is a magic echo of the Regulus we remember. This here on the desk is my real brother. He can't give me answers, but I want to tell him anyway.


“I don't know where to start... at the beginning perhaps. I didn't want to leave you. I really intended to write to you like I promised, but the moment the train left the station it was as if a curse was lifted. I felt free for the first time and there were the other boys, James and Remus and that little rat Peter. Normal boys, excited like me , curious, trying to hide how scared they were by acting cool. Just like me. I had never met anyone like James before. Do you remember? He was the boy who got the third racing broom. He laughed his head off when I told him how I panicked when they took it from the shop window and his father walked away with 'my broom'. I think I was almost spellbound and we talked about Quidditch and all those things. Nobody recited family trees or cared for pureblood lineage. James cared for houses and I made my choice. I wanted to be all right for James whatever it costs. I had no idea that it would cost you in the end. I took for granted that you'd follow me to Gryffindor. When you didn't I felt abandoned. James did everything to cheer me up and you turned your back whenever I tried to make you join us. I couldn't understand why you didn't like James. No wrong, I knew why you didn't like him. I just refused to accept it. I thought, if you just got to know him... instead you kept to your own lot as I kept to mine. And I saw you with Severus. I thought he spent time with you to spite me or you were with him to punish me. Do you notice I call him Severus now. You were right about him; I was wrong. He really is good company, best company I had for a long time.

He's here to help me bury you. In style, just the way you'd want it. He went with me to the cave . Without him it would have taken me months, perhaps years to find you. It was almost like being with James again... no, better, because we didn't do it just for the thrill. Unfortunately he's just doing it for you.

I'm jealous. I've always been a little bit jealous of you. You were liked by everyone for being just you. I was a disappointment. To Mother and Father which I don't really regret. To you when I left you alone for them to drag you into darkness. To James and Lily when I failed to protect them and finally to my godson. I wasn't there to be a godfather when he needed one. I tried to fulfill James' expectations, too often against my own judgement. My fault not his, not really.... I know you always thought otherwise. He didn't make me leave the family, leave you. It was my decision. I enjoyed it most of the time. I liked showing your idiot house mates, our stupid inbred cousins and I liked fighting Severus. I thought he did, too and I still think there were moments when he enjoyed it. Or maybe not, because to him it was real. To me it was a game, a challenge. I missed the point when it went too far. All that was left was mutual hatred. The greatest disappointment is perhaps that I didn't even have the decency to stay dead. I should have ended up like a good Gryffindor war hero a smiling image in a silver frame on Harry's mantelpiece. All I am is a pain in the back. I'm really good at it!

Isn't it funny I came here to tell you the things I should have told you when you were still alive. That I miss you, that I never stopped loving you, caring for you, no matter how much I pretended to hate you. Instead I tell you of my present troubles. It's always been like that. I was supposed to be the big brother, the strong one, but in fact you were looking after me. I have to rely on my own judgement now. I can do it. I will remember all the things you once told me and follow your advice. I do remember them. I did listen. I've always been good at pretending not to listen, haven't I? I guess you were the only one who noticed. Will you continue to look after me? You did all those years. Have you seen my Patronus? Even Kreacher forgave me when he saw it. Severus said yours was the same. You did trust in yourself, didn't you? Confident enough to see your errors and act to make up for them. It took me 20 years to do the same. Do you think Severus can forgive me? I'm asking too much, don't I? I don't just want him to forgive. I want him as a friend as he was yours. I'm wondering did he ever tell you that I nearly killed him in 5th year? Your portrait self said you didn't know what happened. He had promised not to expose my friend Remus, but I think you had believed his words without any details and would have really hated me. How many times did he act more decently than we did? I didn't mean to kill him, but that doesn't matter. He could have died and only survived because James wanted to protect Remus... and me. Did anyone ever care about him?

You did. Now that I took the time to get to know him I do, too. You told me I would like him. We roasted Gryffindors over the drawing room fire. Yes, we did. Can you believe it? Your portrait was there and later Mother came looking for you. Mother's portrait, she died while I was in Azkaban. She believed in my innocence and tried to get me out. She was the only one and I really thought she hated me. I thought I hated her; I don't know what to think anymore. Grandfather Arcturus said I was like her, too much alike to get along. How did you and Father manage to endure our constant fights? Her portrait doesn't talk anymore. It's better that way. I fear we would be screaming at each other again. We did, when I returned here the first time. She went mad when you died.”


“No, Kreacher's mistress didn't go mad when Master Regulus died. She tried to find my young master and went into mourning when they told her he was dead. Kreacher couldn't tell - couldn't comfort her. Forbidden! She waited for you to come and find my master. She waited for months, for years. It was the letter, the letter from the Ministry that made her ill. Her heart broke that day. My mistress went to bed and never got up again.”


The quiet voice of the elf sends chills through my spine. No! That can't be true! I hardly dare to ask...


“Which letter? When?” I bite my lips not to scream, but I can't stop the tears, when the answer I dread comes.


“Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Bartemius Crouch, heartless bastard.” Kreacher spits out the name with a hatred only matched by my own. I bury my head on Regulus' chest and cry without restraint. I don't hear that Kreacher moves closer and flinch when I feel his warm little hands on my shoulders. He doesn't speak, just holds me as I lie there trembling, sobbing. I don't know how long. After a while I get quieter and hear a strange noise. Somebody else is crying, too. A woman??? There aren't any portraits in the study. Phineas said so. The noise is faint as if it comes from far away, very far away. I look to the door. No, wrong direction. Not from far away, the crying is here, in this room, muffled, coming from inside the desk. I open the drawers, one after the other. The crying gets louder. In the last there is a locket decorated with the family crest. I open it, a miniature portrait of my mother as a young woman. She lifts her face and smiles at me under the tears. I smile at her.

I show it to Kreacher. He nods.

“It belonged to Master Orion.“


We've never been a normal family, but a crying man, an old elves, a portrait in a locket and fresh corpse which had been dead for twenty years may be the strangest family reunion this house has ever seen.


***


I wake up from steps on the stairs, Severus on his way to the kitchen. I still hold the locket. Kreacher is still sleeping cuddled in my lap. I regret to wake him, but I can't move any other way.


“Go down to the kitchen and make breakfast. Tell Severus I'll be there in ten minutes.”


Kreacher hurries out.

I say goodbye to Regulus and return to my room to take a shower and get dressed.


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October 2013

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