With October came the first Quidditch game of the year, and Lily and Celestine pushed along with the crowd of other students down to the Pitch to watch Ellery and the Hufflepuff team play against Gryffindor House. The two girls, accompanied by Remus, Sirius, and Peter, slid into the end of a row in the stands, settling themselves in next to a few Ravenclaws who had apparently chosen their side.
“Good day for a game!” Sirius said happily. “James’ll wipe the floor with them.”
“Padfoot!” Remus hissed, taking care to ensure that the girls were not listening. “Ellery is on the Hufflepuff team, in case you’ve forgotten.”
“It’s not Ellery he needs to impress,” Peter pointed out with a grin.
“I don’t need to impress anyone,” Sirius replied. “She’s quite impressed, I think.”
Meanwhile, Celestine was busy seeking advice from Lily. “…I’m just saying, I’ve seen the way that James looks at you, Lily, and Snape used to hang on your every word…”
“Stop, please,” Lily said, blushing brightly.
“If anyone can tell me how to charm a man, I would think you’d be a good choice.”
Lily sighed. “You don’t need my help. Sirius already went out with you once.”
“Yes, well, I’d like there to be a second date!” Celestine protested. “He was just acting so strange when we got back to the castle, like he didn’t want to talk to anyone.” She picked at the chipped red polish on her fingernails. “Perhaps a different dress?”
“Oh, Celestine, no one could be that shallow,” Lily said, rolling her eyes.
Just then, Madam Hooch waved her wand, setting up a temporary platform in the middle of the stadium. She stepped upon it, holding the Quaffle lightly in her other hand. “Heads of House, please, if you would come forward?”
Professor McGonagall, clad in celebratory robes of deep scarlet, stepped down off the stands and moved toward the center of the Pitch. From the other side, Professor Sprout walked toward her, wearing a shimmering gold scarf that looked enchanted. They paused before Madam Hooch’s platform, shaking hands with friendly smiles, and then each of them moved back to their respective seats as the students cheered.
Madam Hooch blew the whistle, tossing the Quaffle up into the crowd of players.
Though he had been watching Lily from above, James quickly diverted his attention to the red ball rising through the air, and he grabbed it away from a Hufflepuff boy. From her position by the goalposts, Ellery glared at James, gripping her broom tightly. However, she swerved the wrong way, and he scored the first goal for Gryffindor. Sirius applauded loudly, and James took a small bow for the audience.
Lily was trying not to laugh when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned, coming face to face with a first year Ravenclaw she did not recognize. A few rows up, she caught a glimpse of – no, it couldn’t be – but there Regulus was, sticking out like a sore thumb in his plain school robes and Slytherin scarf among the ocean of red.
The first year handed her a crumpled piece of parchment with a nervous smile.
So, make any progress on our deal yesterday?
R. A. B.
Lily frowned, digging into her pocket. Apparently she’d left a quill in there from class yesterday, nestled up against her wand. She pulled it out, checking to make sure that Celestine was busy watching the game, and scribbled on the back of Regulus’s note.
I tried, but I don’t think it worked. What about you?
She folded the note back neatly, slipping it to the first year, and turning back around. A moment later, though, the familiar tap returned to her shoulder.
Has he said anything about me?
R. A. B.
Lily turned, catching his eye, and shook her head at him. She looked back at the note.
Did Severus mention me?
And why are you sitting on our side?
Regulus smirked when he opened the note, quickly scribbling a response.
No, not really.
Oh. Well, anything’s better than Hufflepuff, I think.
R. A. B.
Lily’s head jerked toward Celestine. Thankfully, the boys hadn’t heard her.
“More love notes from admirers?” Celestine pressed, smiling.
“No. Just – something for class.”
Celestine rolled her eyes. “You’re so damn lucky, Lily. I really hate you sometimes.”
Up above, James scored another goal. Lily noticed that the tally was now 90-120, with Gryffindor in the lead. Ellery looked like she might explode, and the two Seekers had begun to look for the Snitch more directly, suggesting that they were also tired of watching James’s repetitive displays of victory. Lily, however, found herself continuing to watch James. She found it difficult to not
watch him as he followed the Quaffle like a hawk, zipping to and fro along with the other Chasers. It reminded her of a game of chess, except that he seemed to be a step or two ahead.
Stop it. He is the opposite of cute,
she thought, crumpling the note angrily in her fist.
As expected, Gryffindor won the game, though Sirius had to concede to Remus that Hufflepuff had put up a good fight for the Snitch at the end. The students filed back toward the castle, talking animatedly amongst themselves about the day’s events. However, just as Sirius had moved to request a more private after-party with Celestine later in the evening, Professor McGonagall halted the flow of foot traffic. “Mr. Black, I’m sorry to interrupt, but you’re to come with me to the entrance hall.”
“What for?” Sirius said loudly, frowning.
“A family matter, as I understand it,” McGonagall replied. “Come on, then.”
Sirius sighed. “See you lot later, then. Have a Butterbeer for me.”
He dug his hands into his pockets, staring at the floor as he followed McGonagall through the corridors of the castle. Sirius had become convinced over the years that his family purposefully tried to ruin everything for him. They had stolen the joy of his sorting and his first day of class by sending a Howler to accompany his breakfast. They had refused to acknowledge his “Exceeds Expectations” O. W. L. score in Transfiguration, as well as his “Outstanding” in Defense Against the Dark Arts, choosing instead to focus on the “Acceptable” he’d scrounged for in Herbology. Now, when all he wanted to do was enjoy a Butterbeer and celebrate another gorgeous Quidditch victory with his best friend, he had to attend some sort of family event.
As the two of them entered the room, Sirius looked up to see his younger brother standing with Professor Slughorn, who was talking pleasantly with the headmaster. On the other side of the room, his mother stood, pursing her lips unhappily.
“You’re late,” she remarked, avoiding McGonagall’s eyes.
“Sorry. Quidditch,” Sirius muttered.
“Wait,” Regulus said. “Why are we going home?”
“Your cousin’s engagement party is tonight,” Walburga said. “Didn’t Sirius tell you?”
“No,” Regulus said, looking over at his older brother.
“Forgot,” Sirius said softly.
“Hurry up. I need to ensure that the house elves are on task,” Walburga said with a frown. “Dumbledore, I’ll drop them back off this evening after the celebration.”
After a few moments, they made it to the edge of the grounds and were able to Apparate. When they landed in the parlor of Grimmauld Place, Sirius immediately stormed upstairs, sounding as if he meant to make as much noise as possible.
“You’d best have straightened your clothes and combed your hair before you make another public appearance in my house, young man!” Walburga screeched.
“Mother, do you need help getting things ready for the party?” Regulus asked, attempting to defuse the tension before Sirius began returning fire.
“No, sweetheart, the elves will take care of everything,” Walburga said, her face softening as she looked upon her favored son. “Have a cup of tea with me.”
They sat down in the parlor, and Regulus couldn’t help but feel happy to settle into the familiar surroundings of his home. Sometimes it was hard to decide where he felt more comfortable – here, or back at Hogwarts. A small elf pressed a cup of tea into his hands, and another prepared Walburga’s with sugar atop a china saucer.
“So, have you made any new friends?” his mother asked gently.
“Yes, a few of the older students in Slytherin,” Regulus replied.
“Good, your father will be pleased to hear it,” Walburga said, smiling and sipping her tea. “None of the boys that your brother runs around with, I trust?”
“No,” Regulus said. Changing the subject, he asked, “Where’s Kreacher?”
“The elf?” Walburga chuckled. “I’ll never understand the way you treat that thing, like it’s your teddy bear. Your father always said you should have had a Puffskein…”
“Master Regulus takes cream in his tea,” Kreacher said, ambling into the room with a cup of white liquid. He looked disapprovingly at the other elves as he poured it into Regulus’s cup, stirring it without uttering an incantation, and then returned the cup.
“Thank you, Kreacher,” Regulus said, taking a sip of the tea and finding the taste much more to his liking. “Please prepare clothes for me for the party tonight.”
“As you wish, Master,” Kreacher said, leaving the room and heading up the staircase.
“I suppose I should sort out what I’m to wear as well,” Walburga added. “I’d rather pass the time catching up with my baby boy, but if I’m to look as good as Druella…”
“Why did Narcissa and Bellatrix want to have the party here?” Regulus queried.
Walburga stood up with a smirk. “Our home is the nicer one, of course.”
As expected, Bellatrix put on quite the celebration for her little sister, whom she had doted upon in increasing amounts since Andromeda’s departure from the family. Members of all the prominent wizarding families filled the corridors and rooms of Grimmauld Place. Walburga and Druella were beside themselves trying to keep the house-elves on task with the diminishing platters of food and goblets of wine. Orion took advantage of this distraction by pouring himself a Firewhiskey and offering some to Regulus, though the boy quickly declined. Instead, he wove through the crowd, trying to avoid being trapped talking to one person for very long.
His first stop was the obligatory congratulating of Narcissa and her husband to be. He received bony hugs from his aunt and Bellatrix and then waited patiently for the crowd in front of Narcissa and Lucius to thin out. When a space opened up in front of him, he stepped forward, and Narcissa immediately grasped his hand.
“Regulus,” she said softly, pulling him in and kissing him on the cheek.
Regulus blushed, having noticed that she had maintained her distance from the majority of the guests, as was proper. However, he and Narcissa had always been close, despite their age gap, and he supposed that her reaction was to be expected. “Congratulations,” he said, giving her a smile. She smelled of expensive perfume.
“Thank you,” Narcissa replied, beaming. This girlish expression, so different from her mature behavior thus far in the evening, reminded Regulus that she was barely into her twenties. She turned, diamond earrings catching the light, and gently touched Lucius’s arm. “Here, Lucius, have you met my cousin Regulus?”
Malfoy turned, his cold gray eyes falling upon the younger boy, though a polite smile quickly appeared on his face. “Ah,” he said simply, shaking Regulus’s hand firmly. “Regulus, yes, Evan Rosier has spoken highly of you.”
“Is that so?” Regulus asked, feeling nervousness creep into his stomach.
“A time or two, I believe,” Lucius replied. “You are Sirius’s brother, correct?”
“Yes,” Regulus replied.
“If you see Sirius, Regulus, please tell him that I’d like to say hello,” Narcissa cut in, though her expression indicated that she did not look forward to talking to Sirius.
“Of course,” he said, stepping back and allowing another throng of hands to reach in. Regulus turned, glancing around for Sirius. Narcissa’s comment had reminded him of his agreement with Lily, and he thought it would be easier to talk to Sirius when the two of them were in the same house and Sirius’s friends were out of the picture. Unfortunately, his older brother was nowhere to be found, at least not at first glance.
Suddenly, he looked up and noticed that Sirius’s bedroom door was closed. This would not be terribly extraordinary, given that Walburga had long since given up trying to get Sirius to clean his room and had resorted to simply hiding his existence, but Regulus could see what looked like lantern light bobbing about under the door. He moved up the stairs, quietly opening the door without bothering to knock.
Inside, Sirius was moving about with a lantern in his hand, piling things onto his bed. Regulus craned his neck, spotting a handle underneath the pile of clothes and possessions. It looked like a suitcase, albeit one too small to accommodate the pile.
“Did you forget something when we left for school?” he asked.
Sirius nearly dropped his lantern, though he continued putting things onto his bed. “You’ve really got to stop sneaking up on me like that. You’re worse than Wormtail.”
Sirius swore under his breath. “No one.” He turned around. “What do you want?”
“Nothing,” Regulus said. “Narcissa said she wants to say hello to you.”
Sirius rolled his eyes. “I’ll bet,” he said, setting the lantern down and beginning to fish under his pile of old Muggle magazines for something.
“What is this about, Sirius?” Regulus asked, frustrated to have lost his attention.
“What are you doing hanging around with Mulciber and Avery?” Sirius shot back.
Regulus shrugged, leaning back against the door. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I mean, we’re just friendly, I guess. We’re just all in the same House.”
“I know that, genius,” Sirius said. “It was bad enough that you made friends with Wilkes, but now Snivelly’s friends, too? Rosier
, even?” he said angrily.
“Snivelly?” Regulus frowned. “You mean Severus? What’s wrong with him?”
“I’m wagering a personality disorder,” Sirius deadpanned, trying to stuff his things into the suitcase. Apparently he would need to start playing favorites a little more.
“You didn’t answer my real question,” Regulus pointed out, his voice hardening.
“I’m leaving,” his brother said simply, holding up two shirts and then tossing one of them onto the floor near his bedside table. Next, he moved to the wall, unpinning his Gryffindor pennant. Regulus stood still, trying to absorb this announcement.
“Where are you going?”
“James’s house,” Sirius said. “I’ll be gone before Christmas. I’m just getting a head start.” He took a break, breathing heavily. “Good timing, I think, this little party…”
“You’re actually moving out?” Regulus said, closing the suitcase abruptly. “Why?”
“In case you haven’t noticed, this place hasn’t exactly been paradise for me.”
“Of course I’ve noticed. I’m not stupid. We’re still your family, though, Sirius.”
“Family?” Sirius barked out a laugh, and it was the coldest, most hollow thing Regulus had never heard. “James and Remus and Peter are my family.”
Regulus backed up against the closed door, visibly stung. Inexplicably, he thought of Severus – is this what he feels like every time he talks to Evans?
It hurt, perhaps more so because he now knew that he could not anticipate anything that Sirius might say.
Sirius looked over at him, and for a moment, Regulus thought he saw something like pity pass over his brother’s face. In an instant, honed through years of practice, it was gone. “Don’t cry,” said Sirius’s cold eyes, stony face, and fully packed suitcase.
The patronizing note in his voice was too much, and Regulus finally left the room.
Sirius did not have to tell his brother not to let the secret slip to Orion and Walburga. When the party was over and it was time to return to Hogwarts, he did not even carry a suitcase, though his pocket bulged with an overly large package. Regulus deduced that one of his true family members had taught him a spell for it.
By the time they returned to the castle – Walburga delayed them long enough to give Regulus a kiss and Sirius a lecture on not paying enough attention to the future bride and groom – Regulus had made up his mind to send a note to Lily. Right now, she felt like the only person he could talk to, since his so-called friends would most likely congratulate him on eradicating the Gryffindor stain from his home. He frowned just thinking about their misunderstanding smiles. Maybe Sirius was right.
However, on his way out of the Great Hall, an arm yanked him into a stairwell. Regulus turned, pulling out his wand and casting a quick lighting charm. The small beam fell upon the unmistakable face of Severus Snape, who was holding a textbook.
“Snape?” Regulus said. “Whatever it is, not now, I—”
“Come on, I have something to show you.” Severus turned, leading the way.
Regulus sighed. Well, it was late anyway, and Lily was probably the type to fall blissfully into bed right after dinner, cozied up to parchment and fresh quills. He followed Snape down the corridor, taking turn after turn deeper into the dungeons. Finally, Snape stopped outside the entrance to Slughorn’s classroom. He pulled out his wand, whispered something under his breath, and pushed the door open.
The classroom was a bit creepy after dark, Regulus observed, particularly when he and Snape were the only people occupying it. It was almost like Slughorn’s jovial personality gave the room all the life it possessed. They moved over to a mostly clean table, and Snape brushed aside some beetle wings and a dried-up caterpillar. Then, he set a cauldron on top of it and began to fill it up with water.
“Last minute homework?” Regulus asked, smirking.
“Hardly. I did mine before class last week,” Severus said, waving his wand and watching the water begin to boil. Another wave, and a large wooden spoon hopped into the water, beginning to stir it counter-clockwise at an even pace.
“What do you need me for?”
“It’s easier to do this with two people. You’ll be my ingredient boy.”
Regulus rolled his eyes. “What are we making?”
“See if Slughorn has some powdered Griffin beak in there.”
“Isn’t that stuff expensive?” Regulus protested, but he looked anyway. Surprisingly, there it was, tucked in the back. He passed it to Snape, whose eyes lit up.
“I figured as much,” he commented, measuring it out atop his note-sprinkled book and dropping it into the water, which turned the color of a sunset. “Leave it to Slughorn to be stupid enough to leave his private ingredients in his classroom.”
“No wonder you aren’t in Slug Club,” Regulus said wryly.
“Yeah. I think he believes that I won’t amount to anything. In case you haven’t noticed, he only accepts the beautiful and famous into his little association.”
Regulus thought he detected a hint of resentment in Severus’s voice, but he shrugged it off. If he was beautiful and famous, so be it. “What next?”
“Gillywater. It’s the base.”
Regulus brought him the vial of clear liquid. “What is this, Severus?”
Snape paused, putting down the vial and looking over at him. “Veritaserum,” he said. “It forces you to tell the truth, no matter what you’re asked.” He consulted the ingredient list once again. “Have you noticed how often Lupin misses classes?”
“Of course,” Regulus said. “Isn’t his mother ill?”
“Yes, but he’s always gone at the same time each month. He looks a little ill himself, in the days preceding his absence and right after he returns. It’s just… it’s odd.
Regulus frowned. “Maybe a bit. What’s it to you, though?”
“Well, Lily hangs around with him. They’re both Gryffindor Prefects,” Severus said, measuring out the Gillywater. “I’m worried about her. I don’t want her getting mixed up in whatever he does when he’s gone, or catching some disease from him.”
“So you’re going to figure out what he’s doing for yourself,” Regulus deduced.
“It takes a month to mature, though. The waiting is going to kill me.” Severus stared down into the boiling water. “I need to do it before Slughorn starts teaching this for N.E.W.T.s, though, or else he might figure out how to detect it in his pumpkin juice.”
Regulus leaned on the table. “You really care about her, don’t you, Snape?”
Severus looked down at his textbook, and his heavy sigh echoed in the dark, chemical-filled space they occupied. “I just wish it was that obvious to her.”
Welcome to the end of another chapter! I hope you liked this one and will tell me what you think down there in the review box. Pretty please? :)
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