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Wonderwall by Jenna822

Format: Novella
Chapters: 10
Word Count: 34,546
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Contains Slash (Same-Sex Pairing), Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Romance
Characters: Lupin, Sirius, Lily, James, Regulus, Pettigrew, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing, OC/OC

First Published: 01/15/2012
Last Chapter: 03/04/2012
Last Updated: 03/11/2012

Summary:
Banner by Caren @ TDA + Summary and Banner Lyrics "Wonderwall" by Oasis


There are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don't know how.

...what could have become a James/Regulus...
if it were a different time; a different place; a different world


Chapter 1: Chapter One
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Chapter One


Regulus Black hated the piano.

Regulus hated having to spend his summers and holidays doing repetitive tutoring to make him a proper man. Math, writing, poetry, art, penmanship: he hated every single one of the lessons he was forced to endure with snide tutors who believed in archaic forms of punishment if their lessons were not learned. But the worst of all, he believed, was the piano lesson. Regulus had no rhythm, he couldn't feel the music the way his tutor wanted. He could spend hours on a single stanza, only to have the man insist that it was still not correct.

“Enough!”

Regulus slowly withdrew his fingers from the piano keys, fresh off his sixth failure to the opening of Caprice. He dragged his sweaty palms down his trousers and cast a reluctant glance up at his tutor.

“Paganini would throttle you, himself, if he could hear what you've done to his work.” The older, distinguished man laid his fingers on the sides of his glasses to adjust them and took a long, soothing breath. He cursed Regulus under his breath and slowly got up from the piano bench. “I expect that intro to be perfect by our next lesson.”

“I'm trying.” The young boy rubbed at his face and gripped the front of the piano bench to keep his fifteen-year-old attitude in check.

“You're not trying hard enough.” With that, the tutor swept his robes from the stand by the door and turned his nose to the ceiling. “Or you're just completely hopeless.”

Regulus looked away from his tutor while the man took his leave from Grimmauld Place. He slammed his hands down on the piano keys, sending a garbled sound through the room. “You're not trying hard enough.” He mimicked the tutor's tone and facial expression spot on. “Maybe I am just hopeless.”

“You can say that again.” Sirius Black bounded down the stairs and threw himself onto the piano bench beside his brother. “I take it that your lesson is over? Good thing too, I think the neighbors were ready to call in the police on account of murder.” He flashed Regulus a huge smile and nudged him in the ribs. “You know, because you murdered that song. Don't you get it?”

“I got it, Sirius; it just wasn't funny.”

“Take it back. Say I'm hilarious.” Sirius' fingers wiggled in the air, making a slow approach towards Regulus' neatly groomed hair.

The younger Black covered his black strands protectively. “I take it back! You're bloody hilarious. Don't you dare touch my hair.” Identical grey eyes held each other, gauging who would break first.

A soft laugh caused both boys to turn towards the stairs. James Potter was leaned against the railing, arms folded, watching the brothers with an amused expression. “Sirius, stop picking on him. You can't muss up his precious hair; what would mummy say?” Despite the almost cruel nature of James' words, his tone remained light and playful. “You know I'm joking, Regulus. Scoot over.”

James slid onto the piano bench to Regulus' free side, crowding the too small space. Regulus found himself uncomfortably squashed between the Gryffindors. The tight space didn't bother him as much as James did. Having the older boy pressed up against his side, giving him such a sweet grin, staring straight into his eyes...it made Regulus' heart jump into his throat.

“Let me out.” Regulus' words were lost in mumbles as he forced his gaze anywhere other than James. It was becoming a harsh routine for his brother's best friend to have that effect on him. He didn't like it. At least, he told himself he didn't like it, but the fact was, he did like it. Very much. Too much, in fact. And because he liked it too much, he didn't like it. It made his head spin just to think about.

Regulus couldn't even pinpoint when James' presence started making him feel...funny. He'd been around the boy for years now. Sometimes, Sirius invited him over during the summer because unlike his other friends, James was a Pureblood, and therefore their parents didn't object. He'd been around James plenty of times at school when Sirius would allow him to sneak up into their Gryffindor dorm.

But there was something different about this summer. Every time James got within ten paces of Regulus, the boy's heart started to race and his hands got twitchy and his mind went blank. He couldn't talk properly or think properly around the older boy. It was wonderful and horrible at the same time and it was so confusing, Regulus could barely stand it.

The younger boy pushed against his brother in an effort to escape his awkward situation, but Sirius, ever the stubborn Gryffindor, remained in place.

“I don't know why you always sound like you're torturing this poor thing,” James mused, calling all attention back to him. He placed his fingers on the piano, having to lean slightly against Regulus to do so, and began to move them gracefully across the keys, properly recreating what Regulus had been failing to do all afternoon. His timing and technique were flawless and by the look in his eyes, he very well knew that.

Regulus huffed and closed the sheet music that lay open on the stand. James merely grinned and carried on, finishing the song without any need for guidance.

“Show off.” Sirius reached behind his brother and thumped his friend in the side of the head just as the boy finished the last note.

“Oi, easy Black. You'll damage something in there.”

“I think there's plenty of damage up there as it is, Potter.”

“Could you two go away?” Regulus shoved his elbows into Sirius and James, attempting to pry the boys away from him. “I need to practice this or I'm never going to get it right.”

The Gryffindors conceded to get off the bench, but James was not finished. “You can practice all you like, but it's never going to be right, Regulus.” When the younger boy shot him an angry look, he held up his hands in surrender. “That wasn't an insult. I'm telling you...you just don't have the heart for it. Music isn't like math or potions, it's gotta be inside of you.”

“Well, as charmingly poetic as that was, James, I don't think my tutor would take lack of heart as an excuse not to get this right.” He let out a small sigh and opened his sheet music once more.

“Come on, Prongs, let's get out here before he starts playing that thing again. My ears can't take it.”

Regulus hated the little nicknames that the quote-unquote Marauders used. He didn't understand them and any attempt to ask was always met with laughter and a flat out refusal. But the nickname wasn't what caused Regulus to fluster at that moment. “Get out of here? Where are you going? Did mum say you could leave tonight? I had plans tonight and mum said I couldn't go, there's no way she said you could go somewhere.”

“You're right. She didn't say I could go anywhere. Because I didn't ask her.” Sirius barked a laugh and checked his reflection in the mirror beside the door.

“You can come if you want.” Sirius and Regulus both looked at James with a slow wonder. Neither spoke for a moment, making him shift his feet and look between them. “What?” he laughed. “He can come. He's old enough. You're sixteen, right?”

“He's fifteen.”

“We'll say he's sixteen. They won't check.” James shrugged and turned towards Regulus with his hands out. “Wanna go?”

“I can't go with you. I don't know where you're going and I just said that mum told me I can't go out.”

“Well now wait.” Sirius pushed James out of his way and hovered over his brother. “What exactly did you ask mum?”

“I asked if I could go to Rosier's.”

“And she said no?”

“Are you hard of hearing?”

“Don't be a smart ass, I'm trying to make a point.”

Regulus sighed and threw up his hands. “She said I don't want you going over there tonight.”

A sinister grin pulled across Sirius' lips. He exchanged sneaky glances with James before looking back to his brother. “So she didn't say that you couldn't come out with me and James, right?” When Regulus looked as though he were going to continue arguing, Sirius waved him off. “Fine, just stay here then. Sit on your little bench and play your little song and be a little mummy's boy.”

“Wait!” Regulus twisted his hands in his lap and chewed his bottom lip. “I wanna go.”

A smug smile flashed onto Sirius' face. “Well come on, you have to change clothes first.” He looked back at James and held up a finger for the other boy to wait before dragging his brother upstairs.

Regulus was in near disbelief at his own actions. He'd never defied his parents' wishes before. Despite Sirius' insistence that it wasn't directly disobeying because their mother had not forbidden them to go, Regulus knew that she wouldn't like it. So he knew that he was going against her. But he couldn't stop himself. He didn't even know where James and Sirius were taking him, all he knew was that he'd never wanted to go somewhere so bad in his entire life. And why? Just because James invited him?

The younger Black felt weird and out of place in Muggle clothing even though he blended in perfectly on the slightly crowded London pavement. Perhaps it was just the fact that Sirius' clothes were a bit too big on him that was making it all so uncomfortable. Or perhaps it was because James wouldn't stop smirking at him.

“What?” Regulus was thankful for the late hour; the buildings cast enough shadows over him to hide the faint tint of red that flooded to his cheeks.

“Nothing. You just look so....” James sighed and shook his head, he couldn't even begin to explain what he was thinking.

“So what?” Regulus looked down at himself and started tugging at the hem of his shirt.

“He thinks you look like you're going to be sick.”

James swatted the back of his hand against Sirius' arm and frowned. “I didn't say that. I don't think that. Not...exactly. You just look like you're gonna pass out or something.” He shoved his hand into his hair and tangled the already messy strands around his fingers. “Just forget I said anything, alright? You need to relax; have fun. This'll be great.”

“Come on, I see the place.” Sirius grabbed onto James and Regulus' arms and began dragging them along behind him, paying no mind to the people he was forcing them both to bump in to.

Regulus attempted a few apologies and pried his arm from his brother's steel grip. “Gods, Sirius, slow down. You almost made me knock into a kid back there.”

“He's just excited.” James offered up a crooked grin while also freeing himself from his friend's hand.

“Excited about what, exactly? You still haven't told me where we're going.”

“Music, Regulus! I'm excited about music.” Sirius rounded on his little brother and grasped him by the shoulders. “And not that lullaby nonsense that you were playing earlier, I mean real music. The kind of music that crawls inside of you and screams everything that you have bottled up inside, everything that you can't say for yourself. That kind of music.”

Regulus gritted his teeth and put his hand over his brother's wrist. “You're hurting me a little.”

“Sorry.” The older boy quickly removed his hands from Regulus shoulders and watched as the boy rubbed over the spots his fingers had dug in to. “I just get worked up sometimes.”

“This is nothing.” James snorted and put his arm on Sirius' shoulder. “You shoulda seen how mental he got over the new Centipedes record last Christmas.”

Sirius' entire body stiffened up and he put his hand to his mouth to restrain himself. “Beatles, James. They are not the Centipedes, they are the Beatles.”

“Same thing.” James widened his eyes and took a step back from his friend's death glare. “A bug is a bug, Sirius. They're all the same to me.”

Sirius put his hands to his head and groaned. “Hopeless, you're both bloody hopeless.”

The three boys filed into the small bar and pushed their way towards a table in the far corner. James was right about the place not checking for ages and that was a relief considering Regulus had no Muggle identification. Getting in was no trouble, but Sirius was outright denied alcohol and returned from the bar with three Coca-Colas.

“I told you they wouldn't sell you beer.” James wore a teasing grin as Sirius handed out the drinks.

“Had to try.”

“I'm glad they didn't.” Regulus cradled his glass and scooted closer to the table.

Sirius flicked a scrap of goodness-knows-what laying on the table, hitting his brother square in the chest with it. “Don't be a baby. Just because you can't drink, doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to.”

“I can drink, I choose not to.” Regulus frowned as he dusted off his shirt and threw a quick glance towards James. “I don't like the idea of drinking, don't look at me like that.”

“I'm not looking at you like anything.” James laughed and leaned closer to the younger Black. “I don't think there's anything wrong with that. You don't have to drink if you don't want to.” He offered up a smile that made Regulus flush red. Even in the dark lighting of the bar, James could tell, but he didn't comment on it. Instead, he pointed towards the stage and tapped Sirius on the shoulder. “Show time.”

Regulus was sure he would hate the band the moment they stepped onto the stage. He had never been more wrong. From their opening note to the final chord, he was entranced. He felt like a complete rebel sitting in a Muggle bar, listening to a Muggle band, enjoying music that would make his parents tear their hair out. He smiled and clapped and cheered right along side his brother. He couldn't remember having that much fun in...ever. By the end of the night, a permanent smile was etched across Regulus' face, a mirror of his own brother.

“I'm getting the feeling that you had a good time!” James was still speaking a little louder than normal as the three stepped out of the bar into the London night. He threw his arms around Sirius' and Regulus' shoulders and pulled them closer. “I haven't seen you two get along so well since his first year.” He nodded towards Regulus and grinned over at him. “You should come out with us more often.”

“I um...I....” Regulus swallowed back a lump in his throat and shrugged, feeling the weight of James' arm around his shoulders twofold. “Yeah, that would be...um...uh -”

“Stop stuttering over there.” Sirius pulled away from his friend's embrace and hurried up to the nearest coffee shop window. “We need coffee, a lot of it. Who else wants coffee?”

Regulus bit his lip and cut his eyes up towards James. “I like coffee.”

Even though Sirius had pulled away, the older boy had yet to drop his arm from around the younger Black. He gave the boy a squeeze and steered him inside the shop. “Then coffee we shall have. What time do you two have to be home?”

“Doesn't matter. We'll be in trouble regardless of the hour.”

As the three took a seat with their coffees, Regulus found it odd, but pleasing, that James chose the seat next to his. His mind kept drifting back to those few moments that the older boy had his arm around him. He longed for it to happen again, but couldn't understand why. Had Sirius felt the same turning in his stomach when James' arm was around him? Did James enjoy the minor show of affection as much as he did?

Regulus sat in silence, watching James and Sirius talk about the band they'd just seen and decide if they'd be going to another show. The two Gryffindors shared a cigarette that the younger boy declined. Regulus had always found smoking to be rather disgusting, but the longer James held the cigarette to his mouth, the more appealing the idea became. He didn't realize that he was staring at James' lips until a pair of fingers snapped in front of his eyes.

“Regulus? Damn, did you fall asleep?”

Regulus started and looked over at his brother. “What? No. ...what? What do you want?”

The older boys sniggered behind their hands and exchanged cryptic glances. “I asked you if you were ready to go about six times,” James pointed out. “You were just...lost in space or something.”

“Oh, sorry. I just have a lot on my mind, I guess.” Regulus ducked his head to the table and shifted in his seat. “But yes, I'm ready to go whenever you two are.”

“Alright, I just have to do one thing before we go.” Sirius pushed away from the table and made a line towards the bathrooms.

Silence laid over the table for a minute before James put his arm on the back of Regulus' chair, making the boy jump. “Sorry.” The older boy laughed quietly and patted the younger boy's back, letting his hand rest there. “Didn't meant to startle you. So...did you have as much fun as you were putting on, or was all that for your brother's sake?”

“No, I did.” Regulus found it hard to concentrate with the other boy's hand on him, but he tried not to let it show. “It was a lot of fun. It was.”

“Not worried about getting in trouble?”

“Oh, I am. I'm completely terrified about what kind of trouble is waiting for me, but there's nothing I can do about it now.”

“Well let me ask you this -” James put his hands on the table and leaned against it, looking back towards Regulus with a big, goofy grin. “Whatever trouble you get into...was it worth it?”

Regulus met the older boy's hazel eyes and tangled his fingers around the hem of his shirt. “It was very much worth it.” He dropped his gaze to the table and batted the handle of his coffee cup between his hands. “You had fun? I mean...you didn't seem to like it as much as Sirius did.”

James gave a small, uncaring shrug that Regulus couldn't see. “I had fun. It's all a bit new to me. I'm not used to that kind of music yet, it's really Peter and Sirius' style. I'm learning to love it though.”

“What kind of music do you usually listen to?”

“I don't. Not really. I've never been too much of a music person, I think it's because I had to go through so much tutoring when I was younger.”

“You had tutors?”

“Of course.” James snorted and relaxed back into his seat. “All good Pureblood boys must have the proper tutelage.” He laughed again and nudged the younger boy when he spotted Sirius heading back over to them. “If you want, I can help you with the piano.”

Regulus opened and closed his mouth silently for a moment, but before he could work up any proper response, Sirius was upon them. The three gathered themselves and headed back towards Grimmauld Place. James stayed behind, bidding the Blacks goodbye at the end of the pavement rather than walk to the house and risk any backlash from the discovery.

Sirius was first through the front door and was instantly met with his mother's harsh gaze.

“Where have you...?” Walburga's words trailed off at the sight of her younger son sneaking into the house behind the elder. “Regulus? You...you took – Your brother?” She rounded back on Sirius and narrowed her eyes. “You dragged your brother into one of your filthy adventures?” The woman put her hand to her heart and turned away from the sight of her sons. “And he's dressed like a Muggle. Dear gods, my Regulus.”

“Oh, stop being so dramatic.” Sirius rolled his eyes and started for the stairs, but his mother instantly blocked his path.

“You. Into the sitting room. Your father is waiting. Regulus....” She held her hands towards the younger boy and tightened her lips. “What has he done to you?”

“He hasn't done anything to me. I wanted to go.” Regulus shrunk into himself with fear, but his mother's expression of sadness did not change. “I'm...I'm just going to go to bed.”

Walburga nodded and let out a shaky breath as she watched her son vanish up the stairs. “Burn those hideous clothes!”

Regulus wanted to laugh at his mother's dramatics where he was concerned, but he was too worried. True, he'd gotten off with no punishment due to the sheer fact that Walburga was convinced Sirius had dragged him along, but his brother was far from in the clear. The young boy slipped into his brother's room and sat in the center of his bed to wait for him. He glanced up at the photos on the Gryffindor's wall, hugged his knees to his chest, and let his eyes settle on James' smiling face. Once again, he felt that awkward, heart racing, stomach turning confusion. “What's wrong with me?”



Notes: The piano piece mentioned in the opening scene is Caprice by Niccolò Paganini.

Chapter 2: Chapter Two
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Chapter Two


James knew that Sirius would get into trouble after their little adventure, but he never imagined it would lead to his best friend running away from home. He had always wanted Sirius to come live with them, but he hated that it had to happen that way. He tried not to see the sadness in Sirius' eyes as he helped the boy unpack what little clothes he'd brought along.

“I'm worried about him.” It was the first words Sirius had spoken since arriving at the Potters', bag in hand. The look on the boy's face said enough for Harold and Audrina Potter to understand. “Regulus. I'm worried about him. I should have brought him with me.”

“You don't have to worry about him.” James quietly folded one of Sirius' shirts and laid it inside a drawer inside the boy's new bedroom. “Your parents don't act the same to him.”

“I don't mean that. They don't get angry at him because he does everything and anything they tell him to. He's a little sheep. How's he supposed to get by without me there to...remind him to think for himself?” Sirius let out a heavy sigh and dropped onto the bed.

“That doesn't even make sense.” James took a seat beside the other boy and put his hand on his back. “He's smart, Sirius. And he isn't as much of a sheep as you think; he came with us to the bar didn't he? Besides, school will back soon and he'll be out of there.”

“You really think he'll be alright?”

James was going to reply, but a soft knock on the door silenced him. Audrina Potter poked her head into the room and offered the boys a tender smile. “Are you hungry?” She walked over and laid her hand on Sirius' shoulder, bringing a smile to the boy's face. “I've got some cookies downstairs. Why don't you two come down and have a snack?” She pushed her auburn hair from her eyes and tugged on Sirius' shoulder to get him moving.

Nothing short of Audrina's cookies could have gotten Sirius to trudge downstairs. The two boys followed the woman out of the room and into the kitchen. They took a seat at the island counter and watched eagerly while James' mother fixed them both plates of cookies.

“What day do you two want to go to Diagon Alley for your school supplies?” The woman slid two identical plates in front of James and Sirius, then went to grab them some milk.

“Um....” Sirius took a small bite of a cookie and cleared his throat. “Do you think we could go on Thursday? I sort of...made plans to meet up with someone for tea. But we don't have to if that's g-”

“Thursday sounds perfect.” Audrina put the milk in front of the boys and gave them a joint hug before going back to her baking.

James raised his eyebrows at his friend and pursed his lips. “Who are you meeting?”

Sirius put on a nervous smile and looked at his plate. “Mary.”

“Mary?! You're kidding me right? She spends three years asking you out and now you agree to get tea with her?”

Sirius let out a laugh and nodded. “Yes, okay. I said yes. It's just tea, it isn't like I agreed to marry her.” He dipped one of his cookies into his milk and smirked. “Hey, it goes to show that persistence pays off. Maybe you'll have a chance with Evans after all.”

James only frowned. “Yeah, right.”

“Oh, what's wrong? James, don't even pull that face on me.”

“It's nothing.” James shrugged and broke one of his cookies into tiny pieces. “Alright, it's something. She...well I saw her with Davey last week. They were all holding hands and kissing and it was sickening.” He pushed his plate away and hung his head. “Can't believe she'd date a stupid Hufflepuff.”

“James.” Audrina threw her son a warning look; she wasn't fond of House bashing.

“Sorry.” The boy put his head in his hand and sighed. “Maybe I should go on a date with that Ravenclaw girl who used to stare at me in Potions all the time. What was her name? Eliza or something like that.”

“Or -” James' mother tipped her head and grinned “- you could stop thinking about girls so much and try to focus on improving your Potions grade this year.”

“You're right, mum.” The woman looked near shocked at her son's declaration. He laughed at her astonishment and shook his head. “About the girls thing, not the Potions thing. I'm just gonna back off for a while. Maybe if I give her some space, Lily will see how much she misses me being around.”

“Yeah, good luck with that, mate.” Sirius clapped his friend on the shoulder and went back to his cookies in silence.

Thursday was on them before they knew it. James and Sirius broke with Audrina and Harold the moment they arrived at Diagon Alley, going off on their own to do teenage boy things while the adults browsed the shops of their choice. Sirius wasn't meant to meet up with Mary for another two hours, so the boys decided to take a slow stroll up the alley to do some window gazing. What promised to be a nice, leisurely afternoon was instantly tarnished at the sight of three specific boys who had also chosen that day to visit the shops.

Regulus, Evan Rosier, and Severus Snape were walking alongside each other, chatting away mindlessly. They almost didn't see Sirius and James until they were right on them. Hostile glares were exchanged, followed by a few dozen heated words, topped off with some exaggerated threats. And in true rival fashion, the small spat soon grew into a loud, angry tussle.

Sirius was in no mood to deal with Evan's bad mouthing and made the first move. Before anyone had a chance to register what was happening, the elder Black pounced on Evan and took him to the ground. The two boys rolled around, throwing swings and snarled insults, calling attention from all of the passing shoppers.

“Sirius, stop!” Regulus tried to grab his brother twice, but the fighting boys were moving so fast, he couldn't get close. “James, make him stop.”

“James?” Severus narrowed his eyes at his fellow Slytherin and curled his lips back. “Since when were you on a first name basis with a toerag like him?”

Regulus just scowled at the other boy and returned his attention to stopping the fight. Unfortunately, he got a bit too close in his effort and ended up pulled on top of the brawl. He let out an oomph and groaned as the scuffle tossed him onto his back. “Guys, stop. There's an Auror coming.” He pushed himself onto his knees, wincing slightly at the pain in his side from being elbowed in the toss.

“Sirius, get up! He's not kidding. There's an Auror coming.” James reached down and grabbed Regulus, pulling him up off the ground in one quick, not-so-gentle move. He dragged the boy back from the fight and shoved him inside the nearest shop. “Si-” He didn't have to call out again.

Sirius and Evan rolled apart, sprang to their feet, and bolted off down the alley in opposite directions before the Auror got to them. Severus stood his ground, only offering up a shrug and clueless expression when questioned about the fight. James rolled his eyes and ducked into the shop where he'd shoved Regulus.

“You didn't have to be so rough.” Regulus dusted off his robes and gave James a cheeky grin that showed he was only kidding. “Thanks....”

“You don't have to thank me. I was just doing what Sirius would want me to.” James rubbed the back of his neck and turned away from the younger boy. His eyes widened when he realized they were inside of Quality Quidditch Supplies. “I love this store.” He hurried over to a new display of leather gloves and started eying them up.

“I'd spend hours in here if I could.” Regulus stuffed his hands into his pockets and stood beside James at the glove display. “You should consider getting these for your whole team. Maybe you guys could hold onto the Quaffle then.” He smirked up at the older boy and tried not to laugh.

“Oh, ha-ha.” James shoved the other boy's shoulder and put his nose up. “We'll have no problem beating Slytherin this year. Especially since your Seeker can't see three feet in front of his face.” He gasped dramatically and looked over at Regulus with a wild-eyed expression. “Oh wait...you're the Seeker for Slytherin, aren't you?”

“Very funny, Potter.” Regulus acted like he was going to jab James in the side.

“Potter? I'm back to being Potter?” The taller boy pouted at the other and shoved his hand into his hair. “What happened to James?”

“You're only James when you aren't making fun of me.”

“Oh, I see. I didn't realize there were rules.”

“Yes, very strict ones.”

The two chuckled and faded into a serious conversation about the gloves they were looking at, which turned into a discussion about Quidditch moves, which led to Quidditch history. They stood in the shop, talking Quidditch, for almost an hour before the shop-keep tossed them out for being loiterers.

“There you are!” Sirius charged up to James and Regulus the moment they stepped out of the shop. “I've been looking everywhere for you. What were you doing?” He cut his eyes between his friend and his brother. “Have you been in there the whole time?”

“We hid there when the Auror came. I should...I should go.” Regulus stared at his brother for a moment, considering what to say, but chose silence instead. “Bye.” He gave a half-wave and started off down the alley in search of his own lost friends.

Sirius folded his arms over his chest and kicked the dirt. “I should have said something more to him. It's just so weird now, what with...leaving.” He glanced back in the direction Regulus had gone and sighed. “Was he alright? We knocked him down pretty hard.”

“A little sore, but he's fine.”

“What were you two doing in there for so long?”

“Talking about Quidditch.” James couldn't keep the slightly goofy grin off his face. “Lost track of time. The owner threw us out.”

“I see....” Sirius thumbed behind him. “Let's go have a smoke before I have to meet Mary.”

James nodded and followed along behind his friend. They shared a cigarette in the side alley between two shops, then Sirius went to meet his date, leaving James to wander Diagon on his own. He took his time, just enjoying the fresh air and spending some time at the off-beat stalls that Sirius usually didn't want to stop and look at. He was playing with a model of a dragon when he spotted someone familiar out of the corner of his eye.

Lily Evans and Davey Gudgeon were standing across the street, hand-in-hand, chatting happily with another couple from their year. James felt like his heart was being clamped in a vise as he watched the girl laugh and put her head over on Davey's shoulder. He dropped the dragon back onto the stall and stormed off in the opposite direction of the happy couple.

The boy wasn't sure where to go, his peaceful walk just didn't seem so fulfilling anymore. He wandered over to Florean's Ice Cream Parlour and dropped himself down into a table with a treacle sundae that he wasn't even hungry for. He stuffed his hands into his pockets, his fingertips brushing against the smooth gold that was a constant in his pocket. He pulled the tiny Snitch out and placed it on the table, letting it roll back and forth between his hands.

Suddenly, a hand darted in front of James, making him jump back. In that moment, his Snitch was gone. He looked up and met the eyes of a smug looking Regulus. The Slytherin turned the Snitch over in his hand and took the seat opposite James. “I couldn't help myself. Seeker instincts and all. It's like a compulsion.” He chuckled and tipped back casually in his seat.

“Compulsion for thieving maybe,” James teased. “That's my property you have there.”

“Well, technically it's Hogwarts' property isn't it?” Regulus held up the Snitch and wiggled it a little.

The older boy frowned at being beat. “Well I took it, therefore it's my property now.”

“And now I've taken it. So by your theory, it's mine.”

James huffed and folded his arms. “I'm going to get that back.”

“So sure of yourself.” Regulus put the Snitch on the table and rolled it across into his awaiting hand in a taunting fashion. “Where's my brother?”

“He's on a date.” James pulled a face and grabbed his sundae. He moved his spoon around in the melting mixture for a minute before pushing it away once more. “So I'm stuck by myself for the next hour.” He put his head in his hand and sighed. “Unless you wanna sit here and keep me company.”

Regulus bit his bottom lip and looked at the table. “Well I would but I have...a...date.”

James didn't mean to laugh, but he did. “A date? You have a date?”

The younger boy gaped and dropped his chair back to the ground. “What the hell is so funny about me having a date?”

“No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it to be offensive.”

“I'm offended.”

“Well I didn't mean to. I just meant that you don't...seem the dating type.”

“Is that meant to sound less offensive?”

James held out his hands and growled in frustration. “Regulus, I don't mean it that way. I -”

“Save it, Potter.” Regulus tossed the Snitch back to the older boy and got to his feet.

James caught Regulus' arm when the boy tried to pass him. “Would you lis-”

“Just leave me alone.” Regulus pulled his arm away and frowned. “I have to go anyway, my date is here.” He straightened out his shirt and turned his back on James, then made his way over towards a short, blonde girl.

James scoffed loudly and spun back around in his chair. He shoved his Snitch back into his pocket, snapped up his sundae, and stuffed a huge bite into his mouth. “Wasn't trying to sound like that. So bloody sensitive,” he muttered over his ice cream. He shifted in his seat and tried to swallow down the same heart clenching pain he'd gotten when seeing Lily with Davey. It made no sense for him to be upset anyways, he didn't even know that blonde girl.

“Uh oh.” Audrina walked over and pulled out the chair in front of her son. “I could see that frown from down the street. What's wrong, honey?” She put her hand on his and gave it a comforting squeeze.

“Nothing's wrong, mum, and I'm not frowning.” James shifted in his seat and shoved another too large bite of ice cream into his mouth.

“Sirius is off on his date?” When her son nodded in answer, Audrina just smiled. “And I'm guessing you're a bit lonely.”

“I guess.” James sighed and glanced up at his father as the man walked over to the table with two sundaes. “I'm bored and all, but it's just that I saw Lily and then I came here and had my Snitch and Regulus took it but then he got mad and I don't even know that stupid blonde girl but she looks like a little bi-”

“James!”

The boy flushed red at his father's scolding and pushed his sundae away. “Sorry. I'm just tired, I think.”

“Well perhaps we should get your school supplies and head home soon.”

“Yeah, that sounds good.” James put his head on the table, groaning loudly when he realized too late that it was sticky.

After finishing their treat, the Potters all pushed through Diagon Alley, collecting James' and Sirius' school supplies. By the time they were finished, Sirius was saying goodbye to his date. He couldn't say thank you enough to Harold and Audrina when they insisted that he couldn't pay them back. The four headed back to the Potter home with arms full of packages and hearts full of ease. Except for James...whose mind was still back at that table at Florean's, going over the hundreds of things he could have said to Regulus other than you have a date.

“So, I've been thinking.” Sirius pulled the wrapping off his Potions book and laid it with the others.

“Don't hurt yourself, mate.” James gave his friend a wink and waved his hand for him to continue.

Sirius pelted the other boy with a pillow and shoved him into the floor. “Like I was saying! I've been thinking that you, me, Peter, and Remus should go out this weekend. Have one last night of fun before school starts back up.”

“Oh yeah? That sounds like a good idea.” James settled against the bed, choosing to make himself comfortable in the floor rather than make an effort to get back up.

“Of course it is, I thought of it.” Sirius chuckled and laid in the floor at his friend's feet. “Gods, I could use a smoke right now.”

“Don't you dare light up in here. Mum would kill us both.”

Sirius rolled his eyes and covered his face with his arms. “Yeah right, she'd probably just refuse to bake you cookies for a week. I don't know how you keep from weighing two-hundred pounds with her feeding you like that.”

“It's hard! I always end up with tight trousers by the end of the summer.”

“I still want a smoke.”

“Too bad.” James put his feet on Sirius like the boy was a footrest. “Where did you have in mind for this last night of fun with the guys?”

Sirius shrugged. “Maybe we could go see a band, somewhere they'll let us drink. Hey -” he peeked out of his arms and smiled hopefully over at his friend “- would it be okay if I invited Regulus? He had fun last time and it would be good for him to be around people that aren't that sniveling little grease ball.”

James nodded excitedly and twisted his hands. “Yeah, you should. He had fun last time like you said and he could use some better friends...like you said. Yeah, you should invite him. It would be good for him to get out and have a little fun and spend some time with you and me. And Remus and Peter of course. Not just you and me.” He put his fingers to his lips to physically restrain any more words from spilling out of his mouth.

“Are you feeling alright?” Sirius quirked a brow at James and sat up.

“I'm fine.”

“You su-?”

“I said I'm fine, Padfoot, now drop it. I think it's time for dinner. You can have your smoke outside after dinner, come on.” James clambered to his feet and hurried out of the bedroom before Sirius could say another word on the matter.

Rather than going downstairs for dinner, James headed into his bedroom and through to his own personal bathroom. He closed the door tight and leaned over the sink. The boy laid his glasses over on the counter, ran some water into his hands, and splashed himself in the face. “Get it together, you're acting like a complete nutter,” he hissed at his reflection.

“James?” Sirius' tentative call was followed by a knock on the boy's bathroom door. “Are you sure you're alright? You're acting kinda funny, mate.”

“I'm fine! I think I might have had too much sugar at Diagon Alley or something. Just...wait for me downstairs.” He leaned against the counter and listened for the sound of Sirius' retreating footsteps. The boy splashed himself in the face again and patted dry with a fluffy white hand towel. He slipped his glasses back on and eyed himself in the mirror. “What's wrong with me?”



Chapter 3: Chapter Three
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Chapter Three


The bar was small and smokey. It was dimly lit and the tables all had a slight layer of sticky on them. It was perfect. Sirius and James smiled their ways inside without a single ID requested. They headed straight for the back and kept their eyes peeled for Remus and Peter. And Regulus, though they weren't sure if he'd actually show up.

“James, I should tell you something before it's too late.” Sirius settled into their chosen table and pulled a chair closer to himself for James. “I didn't – Too late.” The boy pulled a face and hung his head.

“Too late?” James was confused. He turned around to see what Sirius had been looking at and gawked. Two girls were walking in the door: Lily and Mary. “You invited Lily?” He grabbed his friend's shoulder and shook him. “Are you mental?”

“No, I didn't invite her. I promise. I...invited Mary and Mary asked if she could bring Lily and I said yes. I'm sorry, Prongs.”

“Uh uh. You can't call me Prongs right now. I'm mad at you.” He narrowed his hazel eyes and folded his arms over his chest like a sulking child.

“James, come on, mate. Look at it this way, you can test your ignoring her theory. You said that you were going to just back off and stop flirting with her. Go the night without asking her out. It'll be the first step in getting her to miss you.” Sirius put his hands together in front of his face and pouted at his friend. “Please James? Don't be mad at me.”

The other boy huffed quietly and pursed his lips. “Fine. I'm still mad that you didn't give me any warning though.” He slapped on a fake smile as Mary and Lily approached the table. “Ladies, I didn't know you'd be joining us tonight.” He got up and allowed Mary to take his seat.

“Thank you, Potter.” The girl tucked her short brown hair behind her ears and took her place beside Sirius. “You didn't tell him we were coming?” she asked, scooting against the boy.

“I didn't have a chance.” Sirius shrugged and pointed towards the door. “M-Remus and Peter are here.”

“Good. Remus can get us some drinks.” James fell into the seat next to Mary and frowned.

Sending Remus to get alcohol was commonplace with the boys because he always looked older than his real age. Even though he hated doing it during the school year—especially since making Prefect—he didn't seem to be as bothered by it during the summer. Sirius caught Remus and Peter's attention and waved the boys over. Peter instantly pulled over a seat next to James and Remus took the empty side of Sirius. Lily happily fell into place beside Remus, but looked highly uncomfortable with where she was in general.

“What band is playing?” Mary looped her arms around one of Sirius' and grinned up at him.

“They're called Sonar. Apparently it's some kind of bat reference. The name's stupid but I heard their music was pretty good.” Sirius patted the girl's hands and smiled back. He was getting a clingy sort of impression off Mary already, but he wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. She had been asking him out for three years; a few clingy moments up front could be tolerated as long as it didn't persist.

James cleared his throat and kicked at Remus under the table. “Wanna go get some drinks, mate?” He fished his wallet out and slid a note across the table to the other boy. His love for Muggle shops meant that he always had Muggle money at hand.

Remus frowned a little, but took the note and got to his feet. He didn't bother asking for orders; they'd take what he got them without complaint, they always did. He headed up to the bar, trying to compose himself as maturely as possible. Luckily, the bartender was rushing around and didn't look twice at Remus before handing over five beers and a Coca-Cola. The boy was trying to wrap his fingers around six drinks when someone tapped him on the shoulder.

“Need a hand?” Regulus flashed the older boy a smile and pointed towards the drinks.

“Regulus? What are you doing in here?” Remus laughed at the very sight. For a minute, he thought he was imagining it. “You do know where you are, right? You're not lost are you?”

“Such a comedian.” Regulus rolled his eyes and picked up two of the drinks. “Sirius invited me.”

“I see.” Remus called over the bartender and pointed towards Regulus. “We need one more -”

“Just a coke.” Regulus was thankful that the older boy didn't tease.

Once the drink arrived, Remus collected the remaining bottles and led the way back to the table. “Look what I picked up at the bar.” He tipped his head back towards Regulus and chuckled. “Seems they're giving out free Slytherins with every five drinks you buy.” He placed beers in front of Sirius, Mary, and his own seat, then handed Lily the Coca-Cola.

“Hey....” Regulus offered a smile to Mary and Lily and put beers down in front of James and Peter, then looked around for another chair. He snagged one from another table and squeezed it in between Peter and Lily. Seeing Lily with a soda as well made him feel slightly less childish amongst the drinkers.

“I was afraid you weren't going to come,” Sirius directed at his brother. “How'd you do it?”

“I told mum that Daphne had a violin recital and I wanted to go support her.”

“That explains the clothes.” Sirius leaned up a bit to critically glance over his brother's choice of wardrobe. “You look really out of place.”

Regulus looked down at his own nice trousers and pressed dress shirt. “Well I couldn't exactly leave the house dressed like that -” he thrust his fingers towards his brother “- or she would have suspected something.” He frowned and pulled at his shirt until it was fully untucked. “Better?”

“Slightly.” Sirius barked a laugh and picked up his beer. “Wait...who the hell is Daphne?”

Before Regulus could answer, James tapped on the table and spoke up. “Daphne is the girl that you had the completely-not-surprising date with, right?” He flashed the younger boy a big smile.

Regulus cut his eyes over at James and scowled.

“Oh, come on, you can't still be mad at me. You know I wasn't trying to....” He sighed and shook his head, then put his hands up in frustration. “I give up.”

Regulus licked his lips and shifted uncomfortably in his seat; he didn't like the way everyone at the table was staring at him like they were just waiting for something to happen. “Yes, that was Daphne,” he answered simply. He dropped his eyes to the table and tapped his fingers on the side of his bottle. “She's kind of my girlfriend, I guess.”

“She's kind of your girlfriend?” Mary giggled at Regulus. “How can she be kind of your girlfriend?”

“I think sonar is how bats fly around at night since it's dark!” Everyone at the table slowly turned towards Lily and gave her curious looks. The girl smiled nervously and pulled her hair over her shoulder. “Well it is. They...use it to see and find...food. Okay I was just trying to change the subject.” Her cheeks flushed red, though it was almost too dark to tell, and she combed her fingers through her coppery strands. “It was just really tense. Stop looking at me like that.”

“They emit some kind of sound and it bounces back. That's how they keep from flying into trees and getting hurt.” Remus nodded and picked up his beer. “Quite amazing, really.”

Everyone at the table let out a laugh and the tension began to melt around them. The band was dreadful, that was something they could all agree upon. They stayed despite that.

Sirius and Mary spent the night gradually getting closer and closer until Mary was eventually seated in the boy's lap. He still thought she was being a bit clingy, but the more he drank, the less he cared. And Mary was just glad to be getting that sort of attention off him after waiting so long.

Peter spent the night drinking and telling rather obscene jokes. He had the table laughing so hard at one point, the people next to them made him retell the joke just so they could get in on the laugh. Remus was just glad to be out, the full moon had been the week prior and up until that morning, he'd been too sore and miserable to even consider going to a bar, let alone having such a great time.

Lily and Regulus spent the part of the night in deep conversation—what depth was possible in a loud bar surrounded by drinking friends. Blood status and politics meant nothing to the two as they discreetly discussed their shared love for Charms class and Lily filled him in on everything he could look forward to in class the coming year. Trying to keep Muggles from overhearing was quite the challenge and half their conversation required whispering directly into each other's ears.

James spent most of the night sulking. He laughed and chatted with the rest of the table, but every smile he gave was forced. The more Lily and Regulus whispered and laughed, the more sour James' mood became. He smoked far more than he would have if it were just the guys that night. He was the only one not in a great mood by the time they were ready to leave.

It was nearly three in the morning when the group of seven emerged from the bar, red-eyed and stumbling. Mary and Lily told the boys goodbye and Lily led away her slightly tipsy best friend. Remus and Peter headed off for a quiet spot where they could catch the Knight Bus, telling the other Marauders they'd see them again on the train.

Sirius threw his arms around his brother's neck and hugged him tightly. “I am so glad you came tonight. You had so much fun, I could tell.”

Regulus laughed and shrugged his drunk brother off him. “I had a good time. I just hope I don't get busted for lying.”

“You'll...you'll be okay. Just tell mum I kidnapped you and forced you to spend the night with a bunch of dirty Muggles.”

“She'd believe it.” Regulus smirked and turned back towards Grimmauld Place, shocked at the fact that James and Sirius turned with him. “What are you doing?”

“Just walking you home. It's dangerous out here.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“Shush. I'm being a good big brother.” Sirius shoved the younger boy's shoulder and gave him a warning stare. “Let me walk you.”

“Fine.” Regulus laughed at his brother and fell into step behind him.

James hurried ahead and started walking alongside Regulus. “So...you and Lily seemed to hit it off pretty well, didn't you?”

“Yeah, she's really nice.” The younger boy nodded and looked up at James with an obviously forced smile. “I can see why you...like her so much.” He stuffed his hands down in his pockets and looked back to the pavement. “You still like her, right? You weren't really talking to her much tonight.”

“Well I couldn't get a word in with you taking up all of her time, now could I?” James looked a bit frantic as he waved his hands to accent every word. “You know she has a boyfriend, right? Yeah. She's dating some loser Hufflepuff. So you really shouldn't waste your time there.”

“James I -”

“She's a Muggle-born, ya'know?”

“I know that.” Regulus scowled up at the older boy and tried to ignore the pain in his chest. He knew that James was crazy about Lily—the entirety of Hogwarts knew that James was crazy about Lily—but seeing the boy so jealous and mad about them talking to each other was too much to stand. “I'm not interested in Lily,” he finally spat out.

“What?” James dragged his fingers through his hair and nodded. “I know that. I'm not stupid, Regulus. I know that you aren't...aren't interested in her. I was just making conversation.”

“Right.”

The two went silent. James kept cutting his eyes over towards the shorter boy as they walked, but Regulus wouldn't look at him. The Gryffindor hated the way he was behaving; he knew that he wouldn't be so erratic if he hadn't drank so much, but it didn't make him feel any better. He couldn't push the images of Regulus and Lily whispering and laughing out of his mind. The very thought that they could end up together made him sick to his stomach. Every time the idea flashed into his mind, he wanted to grab Regulus and scream at him to stay away from Lily. But also...he wanted to demand that Lily stay away from Regulus. He reached for his cigarettes and wished that he could just shut off his mind for the rest of the night.

“I should go alone from here.” Regulus stopped at the corner down the street from his house and turned back to his brother. “If they see you, they might get angry.”

“Yeah, you're right.” Sirius pulled his little brother into another hug and patted his back. “Don't get near mum, she's going to know you've been drinking and smoking if you do.”

“I haven't been drinking or smoking!”

“But you smell like you have been.” Sirius grinned at the younger Black and sighed happily. “Just stay away from her. Go straight to the bath. You'll be alright.” He grabbed the boy by the shoulder to add one last thing before he could walk off. “Wait. You should sit with us on the train to school.”

“Oh....” Regulus rubbed the back of his neck and shifted uneasily. “Yeah, I'll think about it. But, I do have friends, you know, that right?”

“Well yeah, but I just figured that...nah, it's fine. I'll see you there though.”

Regulus gave a nod and glanced at James quickly before heading off down the street to his house.

Sirius sighed and snagged the cigarette out of James' hand. “Give me that. You've had half a pack already.” He took a drag off the cigarette and started back the direction they'd come from. “What was with you tonight? You're in a bad mood.”

“I am not.” James made a grab for his smoke, but Sirius held it out of his reach. “I would have been fine if you didn't invite Lily.”

“I didn't in-”

“If you didn't let Mary invite her then.” James lunged for the smoke once more, giving Sirius an elbow to the gut to distract him. He freed his property from the other boy's fingers and moved far enough away that Sirius couldn't take it back. “And Regulus. The way those two were acting...I swear we'll all be getting wedding invites in no time.” He sneered at his own words and kicked the ground.

Sirius snorted so hard he started coughing. “James...are you...jealous?” He took a moment to stop laughing and get his breathing back to normal. “You can't honestly think that my brother and Lily would ever....” The boy waved his hands, unable to even say aloud what he was thinking. “No. Just no. My brother is the last person that you would ever have to worry about going after Lily.”

“I'm not jealous,” James argued. “And you don't know that. Lily is amazing. Just because she's a Muggle-born that doesn't mean Regulus wouldn't go after her. You saw how well they got on. It was sickening. Getting all close and -” He cut himself off and shuddered. “I don't wanna talk about it anymore.”

“James, honestly, I think you're overreacting. My brother is not going to date Lily.”

“And you're so sure of this?” James spun around, making Sirius nearly crash into him with the sudden stop. “Huh? You're just so sure that he isn't interested in her! You were sitting there; you saw them.”

“I saw two people getting along and talking. You're reading too much into it.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I just...I just know!” Sirius growled and pulled at his hair. “He's my brother, James, I can tell these things. I know him better than he knows himself sometimes. He's not going after Lily. He's way too caught up in...someone else to even consider that.”

James made a questioning hum and resumed walking. “Yeah, that Daphne. What kind of name is Daphne anyways? Sounds like a spoiled little princess. You shoulda seen her too. She was all blonde and...pretty. But she looked like a complete bitch.” He took the last drag off his cigarette and stomped it into the pavement. “And who calls someone their kind of girlfriend? She's either his girlfriend or she isn't. That's rubbish, saying she's kind of his girlfriend. Your brother can be a real arse sometimes.”

Sirius widened his eyes slowly as he listened to the other boy rant. “Um...yeah, he can be.” He twisted his hands in his pockets and kept his gaze straight ahead of them. “So that band was awful. We should...we should not see them again, ever.”

“I completely agree. Who sings about a pet hamster?”

“Pet hamster?”

“Yeah, that one song was about a hamster. The one that went oh, you're so fuzzy sitting there in your cage.”

Sirius burst out laughing and shook his head. “Prongs, mate, that was oh, you're so funny sitting there with your rage.”

James looked utterly confused. “But they said hamster.”

“They never said hamster.”

“Are...you sure?”

“I'm very sure.” Sirius wiped his eyes and put his arm around the other boy's shoulders. “Come on, you are drunk and you reek of smoke and we have to be back at the house in half an hour.”

James nodded sadly and allowed himself to be led down the street. “I swear they said hamster,” he mumbled.

Meanwhile, Regulus was hurrying back to his house, careful not to make any noise as he approached the front steps. Before he could get the key out of his pocket, the door swung open and a tiny hand grabbed the boy's arm. Kreacher yanked Regulus into the house, closed the door, and began pushing him up the staircase.

“What are you -?”

“Mistress is in the kitchen. Master Regulus should go up to his room right away.”

Regulus didn't need pushing after that, he bolted up the stairs and slipped into his bedroom without a sound. The boy grabbed some night clothes and peeked out of the door. “Kreacher?”

“Yes?” The house-elf looked up at Regulus with wide eyes.

“Can you run me a bath?” He waited in his room for the elf's signal that his bath was ready, then darted across the hall for the bathroom, hoping that he could get inside without anyone stopping him. The boy leaned against the bathroom door and breathed a sigh of relief. He stripped out of his clothes and eased into the hot water. The warmth was relaxing and made quick work of easing his frantic mind.

A smile crossed his lips as he thought back on the night. He hadn't expected to have that much fun. He was used to enjoying himself when he spent the day with Sirius, and as of this summer, he was finding James' company much more pleasant, but he had never enjoyed time with the rest of Sirius' friends. Remus and Peter had always treated him as a slight outcast during the school years, but that night, they welcomed him as one of their own. And both of the girls had been so nice to him. Lily especially.

The boy shuddered thinking of what his mother would say if she saw him earlier, getting along so well with a Muggle-born girl. It wasn't as though he went with the intention of enjoying her company, but how could he not? He'd never met anyone who enjoyed Charms and History class as much as he did.

His happy thoughts of the potential friendship with Lily were quickly tainted by memories of James' anger. Regulus sighed and sank lower into the water, allowing it to cover his head. He had never made James mad before. His heart clenched painfully just thinking about it. How could James think he was interested in Lily that way? Just because James worshiped the ground Lily Evans walked on, didn't mean every bloke around had to also.

Regulus groaned and emerged from under the water. He dragged his fingers back through his black hair and closed his eyes tightly. “I need to stop thinking about him.” He shook his head and laid against the back of the bathtub. His eyes moved to the ceiling but didn't focus. All he could see was James. James getting upset and jealous. James being shocked that he would actually have a date. James laughing and smiling. James putting his arm around his shoulders. James. James. James! He couldn't make it stop.

The boy rubbed his hands down his face and whined. “This can't be happening, it's not fair. This cannot be happening to me.” But all the denial in the world would not change the fact that Regulus knew he had feelings—inappropriate feelings—for James Potter.


Chapter 4: Chapter Four
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Chapter Four


It was the first time that Regulus had to go to the train station alone. His first four years, Sirius had accompanied him, but now he was on his own. The idea of Orion taking a day off work to escort his children was absurd and Walburga wouldn't go within a block of the Muggle-ridden station. Deep down, he felt a bit nervous being alone like that, but the boy held his head high and kept his face calm. He dragged his trunk through the masses and looked both ways before vanishing onto the platform.

Regulus shook himself off—he always felt weird sinking through the wall—and glanced around. He hoped that he'd spot his brother before any of his friends. The last question Sirius posed to him still weighed on his mind. Part of him really wanted to sit with his brother and Ja—not James, he shouldn't be thinking about James—his brother's friends on the train, but he knew it was a bad idea.

Sirius just didn't understand. Spending time with a bunch of Gryffindors and Muggle-borns during the summer was one thing; but to ignore his Pure blooded, Slytherin friends during the school year...he'd be shunned, disgraced, or worse. He had seen the kind of abuse Sirius took off people for being a blood traitor. But Sirius had the safety of the Gryffindor common room and his friends to help shield him from attack. Regulus had nothing. He'd be a target in his own House, fear his own bed, have to watch his back in every class, every Quidditch match. He wasn't brave, not like Sirius.

The boy handed over his trunk to the wizard beside the train and stepped aboard. He didn't have to go far before he found his friends. Severus and Evan were already seated in a compartment to one side. They greeted him happily as he slipped inside and took his seat opposite them.

“Where's Daphne?” Evan looked to the door.

“Honestly, I've been here for about two minutes, I haven't seen her.”

“I heard my name.” A short blonde appeared in the door and giggled. “I saw you get on.” She dropped into the seat beside Regulus and threw her arms around him. “You never answered my last letter.”

Regulus laughed and pried Daphne from around his neck. “It arrived last night, I didn't have time.”

The girl pouted and batted her lashes, her dark brown eyes staring straight into his. “Well did you at least think about what I asked?”

“Can we talk about it later? In private.”

“I guess.” The girl huffed and crossed her legs, fidgeting with the hem of her skirt over her knee. “But I think that a simple yes or no wouldn't be such a big deal. If the answer was yes then you already spoke to your parents and I -”

“Daphne, please.” Regulus put his hand to his head and sighed. “We can talk about it later.”

Daphne put up her hands and pursed her lips. “Fine. Fine. But I won't forget.”

Severus and Evan exchanged glances and laughed quietly at the girl's dramatics. Since the last member of their compartment had arrived, Evan reached out to close the door, but a hand caught it before he could get it shut completely. The boy leaned back and glared as James Potter pushed the compartment door open once more and poked his head inside.

“I found him.” James looked back down the train aisle and pointed into the compartment. “Regulus, I thought you were going to -”

“Get out of here, Potter.” Everyone turned towards Severus at the sound of his sneered demand. The boy narrowed his dark eyes and got to his feet.

“I wasn't talking to you, Snivellus. Sit the hell down and mind your own.” James tightened his lips and glared over at the Slytherin for a moment before turning back towards Regulus. “Like I was saying before someone decided to interrupt me...I thought that you -”

“He said get out, Potter.” Evan rose from his seat, hand moving to his pocket, eyes locked cold on the intruder. “Now.”

“That's enough.” Regulus jumped up and pushed James out of the doorway, then blocked it with his own body. “What do you want?” He kept his voice low and his hand up so James wouldn't try and move towards the compartment again.

James scoffed and tried to look around the younger boy to see back inside, but Regulus continued to block his way. “I thought you were going to come sit with your brother today.”

“I never said I would. I said I'd think about it.”

“Well...did you?”

“I did. But -”

“You're gonna stay with them?” James tipped his head towards the compartment and rolled his eyes. “I can't believe that you're going to choose them over us.”

Regulus frowned at the older boy's attitude. “They're my friends, James. And I'm not choosing anyone over anyone else. It's just a train compartment.”

“No, by choosing to sit there, then you are choosing them over us.”

“Then you come sit with me.”

James started at the other boy's words and looked completely baffled.

“That's what I thought. You wouldn't choose to sit here over sitting with Sirius and Remus and Peter, so don't get on your high horse and act like I'm doing something wrong by sitting with my friends.” He put his gaze to the floor and took a deep breath. He hated getting angry with James but the way the Gryffindor was acting made his blood run hot. Did James expect him to just pick up and leave his entire life behind over one or two nights listening to some music? And never mind how painful it was just to be around James.... Ever since his realization, he was doing all he could to make the feelings go away. But being around James made it impossible.

“I'm sorry.” James twisted his hands and shoved them into his pockets. “I just....”

“You don't like them. I'm not stupid, I know that.”

“No, that's not what I meant.” The older boy shook his head and leaned back against the door of another compartment. “I was going to say that I just want you to come sit with us.”

“You do?” Regulus bit his bottom lip and peeked up at James.

“Yeah.” James shrugged and looked off down the aisle. He was about to say something else when a red-head flashed into view. “Hey!” He waved down the train to Lily and pushed his hand into his hair.

Lily moved around some of the first years, pointing them in the proper direction, and made her way to Regulus and James. “James, Regulus.” She nodded to each as she spoke their names. “I was just making sure the aisle was clear before we left the station. You two should take your seats.”

Regulus offered Lily a smile, but his expression began to fade into a frown the longer James stared at her. “Right.” He turned his back on the Gryffindors and started to walk back into his compartment. He paused before closing the door, hoping, just hoping for a single moment that James might try to stop him. Nothing happened though. So he closed the door behind him and dropped back down into his seat.

“You've been acting awful friendly with Potter lately.” Severus leaned towards the younger boy and twisted his lips. “It's a bad idea.”

“Bugger off.” Regulus dug into his robe pocket and pulled out the book he'd brought along for the train ride. It was a copy of Dracula, but the cover was torn off and replaced with a different one. To the rest of the compartment, it looked as though he was reading December Charms, a book written by a wizard author. Even though most Slytherins didn't care what sort of books were read, be they Muggle or wizard written, things were not that way in the Black household. Therefore, Regulus, with his pension for Muggle literature, had taken up the habit of swapping covers years ago.

Severus would not go without his say, though. He pushed the boy's book down so he could see his face. “I'm telling you, getting mixed up with Potter is a bad idea.”

“I don't really give a damn what you do or don't think is a bad idea.” Regulus pulled his book from under the other boy's fingers and moved it in front of his face to block the view. “And I'm not doing anything. He's my brother's friend, that's it. Of course I'm going to know him.”

“Why?” Evan snorted a laugh. “It's not like you have to deal with your brother being around anymore. Didn't he get singed right off that old Black tapestry?”

“That's not your business.”

“Don't be such an arse, Regulus. Evan's right. You should do your best to stay far away from your brother and that toerag Potter.” Severus practically had to force the words past his clenched teeth.

Regulus tightened his jaw and lowered his book only far enough to see his eyes over the top of it. “Both of you need to stay out of it.”

“Regulus....” Daphne tentatively put her hand on the boy's arm and caught his attention. “They're just trying to help you.”

The boy let his arm drop from under Daphne's hand and frowned. “I don't need help. I need you to all leave me alone so I can read my book.” He shifted in the seat and put his feet up on the cushion between himself and the blonde, then leaned back against the wall. His eyes fell back onto the page and he moved the book to block his view of everyone else in the compartment.

Just outside of the door stood a confused Lily Evans. She pointed at the compartment door the moment Regulus closed it and sighed. “Did I say something?”

“Of course not; all you said was hi.” James folded his arms across his chest and started down the aisle back towards where he'd left Sirius, Remus, and Peter. “Back at school now, he's got to go back to being a complete arse where you're concerned.” He threw a sympathetic smile back at Lily.

“I'd almost forgotten.” Lily rolled her eyes and followed James into the compartment. “Hey boys.” She nodded to the other Marauders and waved over at her fellow Prefect. “You ready to go up front, Remus?” She stepped back out of the way while the boys all shuffled around.

Remus nodded and made his way through the group to join Lily in the aisle. “I'll see you guys after the meeting.” With that, he and Lily took off to the Prefect car, leaving the other three Marauders alone.

“I thought you said that you found Regulus.” Sirius stuffed his bag into the overhead rack and plopped into a seat. He stretched his feet across the cushion, forcing James and Peter to sit opposite him.

“I did. He didn't want to sit here.” James scrunched up his face and tried to shrug it off like he didn't care, but his eyes were still angry and disappointed.

“Are you really surprised?” Peter couldn't help but laugh at the other two. “I was surprised to see him at the bar Saturday, I don't know how you two can be surprised that he isn't here now. He's a Slytherin, remember? Doesn't matter who his brother is, doesn't matter how much he got along with us over the weekend, he's still a Slytherin.”

“My cousin Andromeda was a Slytherin and look at her now; she's married to a Muggle-born and has nothing to do with the rest of her family. Not all of them are bad.”

“Here's an idea!” James clapped his hands together and put on an overly large smile. “How about we stop talking about your brother and just...move on.” He gestured wildly and slammed the compartment door closed before throwing himself down onto the seat beside Peter.

The other two boys stared at him in silence for a moment before Sirius spoke up. “Alright, how about we discuss...Quidditch?”

“No.” James shook his head and glanced out of the window as the train began to ease out of the station.

“You always wanna talk about Quidditch.” Peter stared at his friend, gobsmacked.

“Well I don't right now.” James leaned against the seat and let his fingers pass over the Snitch buried in his pocket. “You went to Germany over summer, right? To see your grandfather?” He glanced over at Peter and waved his hand. “Why don't you...talk about that or something.” The boy leaned over against the wall and watched King's Cross disappear out of the window and fade into countryside.

Peter spent about half an hour talking about his trip before Remus arrived back in the compartment. After forcing Sirius to move his feet, the Prefect took the spot beside him and gave the other Marauders the run down of the new Prefects.

“Doyle? How could they make Doyle a Prefect?” Sirius scoffed at the Ravenclaw choice for the year and rubbed his fingers over his lips. “He used to follow us around back in third year, remember? Bouncing around and trying to see what we were up to. Bloody pest, he was.”

“Yeah well now he's go- What the hell?” Remus sprang up out of his seat at the sound of a loud commotion erupting in the aisle. He flung the door open and jumped back when a body nearly collided with him. “Rosier! Get up!” He reached down and grabbed the Slytherin by the collar, then hauled him off the ground. “What's going on here?”

Evan squirmed out of Remus' hold and pointed down the aisle to where Regulus was. The accused stood there, red faced, lips so tight together they were pale, hands still curled into fists. The moment Remus' eyes met his, Regulus went white.

“He started it.” The young Black held up his hands in surrender and nodded towards Evan.

“Like hell!” Evan started towards Regulus, but Remus grabbed onto the boy's robes and pulled him back. “If you weren't such a sensitive little arsehole this -”

“Oh, I'm sensitive? Well I just sensitively kicked your arse!” Regulus didn't care that his comeback made very little sense, he was angry. “If you didn't have such a fat mouth.”

“Both of you shut up!” Remus demanded. He glanced around at all the faces peeking out of their compartments and pushed Evan further away from Regulus. “Everyone back in their seats. There's nothing to see here.” He pointed at Regulus and caught his words before he said something too harsh. “I don't care who started this, I'm ending it. Black...get in here.” He thumbed over his shoulder into his own compartment and gave the younger boy a don't-even-think-about-back-talking-me look.

Regulus glanced towards the compartment and back to Remus. For a moment, he considered arguing, but when he spotted Daphne out of the corner of his eyes, he met the Prefect's demand. The boy stepped into the compartment and looked over the wide-eyed faces of Peter, James, and Sirius. “Don't ask.” He took the seat beside his brother and dragged his fingers back through his hair to straighten it.

“Don't ask?” Sirius barked out a laugh and grabbed his brother's chin. He forced the younger boy to look at him and shook his head. “Your eye's gonna be black for sure.”

Regulus swore and touched under his eye, his anger building again.

“Calm down. James, do you have that cream still?” Sirius glanced at his friend before looking back to his brother. “We get bruised up sometimes...extreme Quidditch. It'll help. But you're going to tell me what happened.”

“I'd rather not.”

“You'd rather not? Oh well in that case, you're still going to tell me.” Sirius snatched the cream from James when the boy held it out and began applying a thin layer to the underside of his brother's eye.

Regulus hissed as his brother poked at him and waited for Remus to come back into the compartment to speak. Once the Prefect closed the door and took a seat between James and Peter—since Regulus had stolen his—the Slytherin shifted and hung his head. “I don't know why you care. We just...got into it. It's not a big deal.”

“Your eye argues that.” Sirius closed the cream and handed it back to James.

“He was bad moufinkewe,” Regulus mumbled, turning away from his brother.

Sirius rolled his eyes and forced the boy to look back up at him. “I didn't understand a word of that.”

“I said -!” Regulus curled his hands into fists and sighed loudly. “I said...he was...badmouthing you.”

The older Black sat a little straighter in his seat and folded his arms smugly. “You got into a fight because your friend was badmouthing me?” He chuckled softly and clapped the boy on the shoulder. “I don't know what to say, little brother. I'm proud of you.”

“Yeah, thanks.” Regulus rolled his eyes and turned away from Sirius, leaning on the back of the seat.

“What's wrong?”

“What's wrong is I just beat the crap out of my friend for talking about a bunch of Gryffindors. I'll be lucky if the whole House hasn't turned on me by the time we get to school.” The boy gathered up his robes and picked his feet up into the seat beside him.

“Someone is being a little over dramatic.” Remus snorted.

“He gets that from our mother.”

Regulus turned around and glared at his brother for the comment. “I'm not being over dramatic. And don't you ever compare me to mum like that again.” He punched his brother in the shoulder, though at the angle he was sitting at, he barely got any force behind it.

James got to his feet and shoved his way between the brothers. “I know how to cheer him up.” He fished his Snitch out of his pocket and held it out in front of Regulus. “Wanna play?” When the Slytherin shook his head no, James wiggled the Snitch closer. “Come on, what about those Seeker compulsions? You know you want to.”

“James, I don't feel like it. I just got into a fight.” Regulus had to keep his eyes focused on the Snitch because nothing could save him if he dared to look at James' face. “I said I don't want to play.” He reached out to push the boy's hand away, but James dodged the attempt. “James....” He whined softly at the Gryffindor's persistence and tipped his head back onto the cushion.

“Please?” James got on his knees on the seat beside Regulus and looked down at him. He caught the younger boy's eyes and offered him the sweetest smile he could conjure. “This lot is never any good. They can't even see the Snitch half the time, let alone catch it before I do.”

Regulus let out a shaky breath the moment James' eyes met his. “That's because of flesh memory, you ponce.” He slapped his hand over the Snitch in an attempt at taking it from the older boy, but James held on tight to his golden treasure. “You know that this thing is gonna come right back to you.” His heart raced at the feeling of James' warm hand beneath his, unflinching.

“I've never heard of such a thing.” The lie was obvious on James' face, betrayed by his ever-growing smile. “I think you're just making an excuse because you don't believe you can catch it before me.”

“In your dreams, Potter.” Regulus leaned up, his words teetering on the edge of a laugh. He managed to work his hand around and take the Snitch from the other boy's fingers, though James didn't take his hand away.

James gasped and tried to pull his Snitch from the younger boy's grip. “Potter? I must really be in trouble now.” He grinned and threw part of his weight against Regulus in an effort to recover his property from the boy's tight hold.

A loud, throat-clearing cough broke through the compartment, sending a cold chill down Regulus' spine. The Slytherin immediately released the Snitch back into the older boy's hand. James whirled around in the seat and looked over at Remus like he was just remembering they were in there as well. He slid down off his knees and calmly settled into the seat between Regulus and Sirius, turning the Snitch over in his fingers and staring down at it.

“What's flesh memory?” Remus asked in the most casual tone imaginable.

Regulus shifted in his seat. “It's something that happens with a new Snitch. The first person to touch it kind of leaves their...imprint on it. It's a fail-safe in case there's a close call on the catch.” When Peter, Sirius, and Remus continued to look at him with slight confusion, he waved his hands and tried to elaborate. “Basically, it memorizes who you are by your touch...and it sort of...bonds with you. I mean, have you ever noticed how easy it is for James to catch that thing? He's not even a Seeker. I bet if you let it loose long enough, it would fly right back into his hand on its own.” He let out a laugh and threw James an apologetic smile.

“James...?” Sirius turned in his seat and looked at his friend with bewilderment. “Is that true?”

James put on an innocent smile. “Flesh memory or not, you guys are still dreadful at the game.”



Notes: The book Regulus has on the train is Dracula by Bram Stoker, the Wizard book, I made up.

Chapter 5: Chapter Five
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Chapter Five


The start of term feast was not as tense or dreadful as Regulus feared it would be. He was one of the first to arrive at the Slytherin table and took his usual seat. Evan and Severus, being trailed by Daphne, approached the younger boy carefully and took their places opposite him.

“Look, Black....” Evan leaned forward on the table and dropped his voice as low as possible. “The way I see it, if someone was bad mouthing my little sister, even if she was thrown out, I'd give them a good thrashing too. So...I don't blame you for getting mad.”

Regulus quirked a brow and flashed the other boy a tight, forced smile. “Right.” It was hardly an apology, but Regulus hadn't expected even that much from Evan. He was just grateful that the matter was done with and he wasn't going to be spending the start of his year in an argument. “Are you going to sit down?” He looked up at Daphne, who was standing behind him, and pointed to the place on the bench beside himself. “Or did you plan on standing for the Sorting?”

The blonde tucked her hair behind her ears and took the offered seat. “I just wanted to make sure there wouldn't be anymore fighting. It was intense, watching you two go at it like that.”

“Let's just drop it, alright?”

The other three nodded in agreement with Regulus and they shifted back into their pre-fight routine. As the First Years passed through the center of the Great Hall, the three Slytherin boys sat up a little higher to look them over. “That little one in the back, five Galleons says he's going to be a Puff,” Evan said, but Regulus shook his head. “That's Jugson's nephew, he'll be at this table for sure.” Severus pointed to the jittery blonde boy in the center of the group. “Gryffindor for that one, I just know it.”

The private Sorting of the students continued until Professor McGonagall began the actual Sorting by calling up the first child. Regulus, Evan, and Severus whispered amongst themselves, celebrating their successful guesses and taunting each other for the wrong ones, until the final student was placed and the feast began.

Regulus raised his eyes from the table and glanced across at the Gryffindor students. In an almost knowing way, Sirius' head turned towards his brother and the two shared a smile. The older Black made a face at his brother and chuckled silently, earning a rude hand gesture in response. Regulus let out a small laugh, calling the attention of his fellow Slytherins. The boy cleared his throat, ducked his head, and kept his eyes off his brother until the others stopped looking at him in confusion. With his head still pointed to the table, the boy peeked back across at his brother, but their moment had passed.

As soon as his brother had looked away, Sirius scoffed under his breath and started stabbing at his potatoes. “Idiot.”

Peter looked up, mouth full of food, and stared wide-eyed across the table. “Wha-I-do?”

“Not you.” Sirius rolled his eyes at the other Marauder and flicked a stray pea off his plate. “I'm talking about Regulus. He can't even...look over here without getting all paranoid.”

“Do you blame him, though?” James grabbed a dinner roll and looked across the way to where the younger Black sat. “He has to live with those blokes all year.”

“So now you're going to defend him?”

“I'm not defending him. I'm just...I'm just saying that I can kind of see where he's coming from...in a way. I don't like it either. It's a little understandable in the smallest way. Okay! Fine. It's completely ridiculous and stupid and paranoid and I'm going to shut up now.” The boy stuffed the bread into his mouth and looked down at his plate.

Sirius, whose scowl had grown more prominent through James' ramble, turned away from his friend. “It is ridiculous.”

James nodded and kept his eyes on his food, only daring to glance up once. His gaze fell onto the Slytherin table just as Daphne was throwing her arms around Regulus' shoulders and hugging against him. The Gryffindor lowered his fork to his plate and pushed aside the last of his chicken. His lips tightened and his stomach turned. The boy rubbed his fingers against his eyes under his lenses and kept his head down for the rest of dinner. Maybe he'd eaten something bad? He wasn't sure why he suddenly felt so sick, but he wasn't going to sit around and think on it.

“I don't feel so well. I'm going to bed.” The other Marauders were shocked that James didn't plan on sticking around for desert, but none of them stopped the boy as he left the Great Hall. By the next morning, James was back to his old self, sure that he'd simply eaten something funny the night before.

It didn't take long for that summer high to wear off and the weight of school-time responsibilities to set in for all of Hogwarts. Students found their routines and patterns, specific library tables were laid claim to for the duration of the term, study groups were formed, class partners were chosen, and most importantly—at least in some people's minds—Quidditch try-outs were scheduled.

The Gryffindor Quidditch team had three spots that needed filling—both Beaters and the Seeker—and James was determined to make the best choice. He had to prove himself; it was his first year as Captain and he was following a third place loss from their previous Quidditch season. He assembled the current team opposite those trying out and began to sort everyone into groups. The pressure was on.

Meanwhile, up in the stands, the other three Marauders sat in support. They were in the midst of several other Gryffindors, all come out to cheer on their friends or significant others in the try-outs.

It was when the first group took to the sky that Sirius looked across the stands and spotted someone who was very much not a Gryffindor. The boy excused himself and moved quickly through the stands. He dropped onto the bench beside his brother and cast a very angry scowl towards him. “This is a closed try-out, Regulus.”

Regulus shook his head at his brother and continued to watch the group of fliers. “Everyone always says that they're closed try-outs. That's just a formality.”

“It's not a formality, it's a rule.”

The younger Black grudgingly took his eyes off the try-out long enough to glare at his brother. “Look, you see that bloke right over there?” He pointed towards a boy sitting down the stands. “That's Ravenclaw's new Keeper. And the girl beside him, she's a Ravenclaw too.”

“They're in Gryffindor ties!”

“Of course they are. So is he.” He indicated to another boy across the stands and grinned. “Hufflepuff.”

“Bloody hell, are Gryffindors the only honest lot left at this school?”

Regulus put his hand to his mouth to control his laughter. “You're joking, right? I can guarantee you that someone off your team will be at our try-out tomorrow. And I know for a fact that Kirke was at Ravenclaw's try-out. I sat behind him.”

Sirius shook his head and folded his arms over his chest. “I don't believe that. Kirke wouldn't spy.”

“Sirius, it isn't spying. No one cares.” Regulus waved off his brother and turned his attention back to the new group of Gryffindors taking to the air.

But the older Black would not give up his position so easily. Spotting the crimson and gold tie wrapped around his brother's neck was enough to rekindle his upset. “You're wearing our tie too!” He reached out and yanked on the boy's tie. “If it's not spying then why are all of you in disguise?”

Regulus frowned and freed his neckwear from his brother's hold. “The teams don't care, but the staff isn't so lenient about it. It's better to be safe than sorry, we do it to blend it.” He held up his hand when Sirius' mouth opened again. “Look, if you're going to complain can you at least wait until after they're done. I need to pay attention.” He moved down to the bottom level of the stands to get away from Sirius and focused back on the drills the Gryffindor team was running their potentials through.

Sirius followed his brother down to the next level, but stayed quiet. He gritted his teeth and watched painfully as Regulus took notes on each of the players. By the end of the try-out, Sirius was red in the face from trying to hold back his snide comments; not just in regards to his brother, but the other Houses' spies as well.

After dismissing his team—which now consisted of the full seven members and an alternate—James got on his broom and flew up into the stands where he knew the other Marauders to be waiting. He spoke to Remus and Peter for a few minutes before inquiring to Sirius' whereabouts. James chuckled at their missing Marauder and hurried down the stands to retrieve him, leaving his broom under Remus and Peter's safe watch.

“Sirius, what are you doing down – Oh.” He fell silent when he spotted Regulus, understanding the reasons without needing to finish his question.

Regulus looked up at the sound of James' voice and felt his breath catch in his throat. The approaching boy was covered in a thin layer of sweat and his hair was even more a mess than usual. His practice uniform was wrinkled from exertion and his shirt was already untucked to be more comfortable. He put one hand on his hip and dragged the back of the other hand across his forehead to rid it of the collected sweat at his hairline. He gave Regulus a crooked smile that made the young Slytherin's heart race.

“I was considering detaining this spy.” Sirius put on a smug face, sure that James would instantly side with him on the matter.

James only laughed and leaned back against the railing to face the brothers. “Spy? That's a little harsh don't you think?” He reached out and snagged the tiny notebook that Regulus had been writing in. “We all do it, mate. I have Kirke watching the other teams try-outs for us. He has a way of sensing a player's weak spots.” He gave an uncaring shrug and started flipping through the Slytherin's notes.

Regulus slowly turned towards his brother and gave him a cheeky grin. “Kirke, did you say?”

“Shut up.” Sirius punched his brother in the shoulder, instantly wiping the smirk and attitude off his face. “You're all a bunch of sneaks then.”

The younger Black whimpered and rubbed at his shoulder, recoiling back from his brother.

“Hey, what's this seven for?” James thrust the notebook under Regulus' nose and pointed to seven tally marks beside their new Seeker's name.

Regulus snatched his notes back from the Gryffindor and shoved it in his pocket. “It's the number of times the Snitch was within grabbing distance and she missed it.” He flashed the older boy a smug smile and leaned back against the stands. “You made a lousy choice.”

“She caught the Snitch.”

“It isn't always about the final catch, James. You had two others out there that had more potential than her. She only caught the thing because a Bludger nearly took off one bloke's arm. Which wouldn't happen if you had a couple of proper Beaters.”

“Regulus, don't be an arse.” Sirius flinched to hit his brother again, but the younger boy scooted out of his reach. “The team is fine. And you're just jealous.”

The Slytherin sniggered at the thought. “If you say so, Sirius.”

“Well I say so,” James interrupted. “It's a good team and you'll see, that Cup is ours this year.”

“Care to make a wager on that?” Regulus quirked a single brow at James and licked his lips slowly.

James was intrigued. “A wager?”

“Don't humour him, James.” Sirius sighed loudly, but the other two boys completely ignored him. The boy huffed and slouched back in his seat, watching James and Regulus flex their Quidditch egos.

And a bet was made. If James' new Seeker caught the Snitch in their first match against Hufflepuff, then Regulus would have to clean the entire Gryffindor changing room without magic. If the girl failed to deliver the game, it would be James on his knees, scrubbing out Slytherin's changing room. The two shook on their wager, both wearing arrogant little smirks.

“I can't wait to see you folding our towels.” James laughed and let his eyes wash over Regulus. He lifted his eyebrows slightly when he spotted the Gryffindor tie, and curled his fingers around it. “Look at you, Mister Gryffindor.” He pulled on the silk and chuckled. “It suits you. Too bad you weren't Sorted into our House like your brother.”

Regulus let out a shaky laugh and tried to keep his face steady. His hands started to shake at James' closeness, so he shoved them into his pockets to hide the effect the older boy was having on him. “You only say that because you wish I was your Seeker.”

“I do wish you were my Seeker.” James' face tinted with red at what he'd just blurted out. “I mean our Seeker. Gryffindor's Seeker.” He swallowed hard and pulled his hand away, letting Regulus' tie unwind from his fingers slowly.

The Slytherin was fairly sure his heart stopped beating at James' words. He stuttered out some syllables that weren't even close to actual words and ducked his head. His eyes focused on the tip of his shoe and he just hoped to all that was holy that his face wasn't as red as it felt.

“I should go shower!” James dragged his hands down his shirt and tugged at the hem of it. “I probably stink from sweat and I really should talk to the others before they leave the changing room.” He cleared his throat and looked towards Sirius, though he couldn't quite meet his friend's eyes. “I'll meet you guys in the dorm in an hour.” He gave a curt nod and rushed off to retrieve his broom from Peter and Remus.

The two brothers sat in silence for a while until Regulus made to stand up. Sirius caught his arm and gave him a strained smile. “I'm...sorry that I didn't...believe you about the whole spying thing.”

“Oh? It's alright. I don't blame you.” Regulus tried to stand up again but Sirius held on tight.

“I miss spending time with you.” Sirius patted the boy's shoulder and cut his eyes in the direction James had run off in. “We should go to Hogsmeade together next month. Have some of that brotherly bonding time that we don't get at school. We have fun together over the summer, don't we?”

“Yeah.” Regulus nodded and finally got to his feet. “I'll think about it. What with Daphne and all, she might be....” He pulled a face and looked a bit exhausted just thinking about the girl. “She enjoys having all of my free time, let's leave it at that.”

Sirius barked out a laugh and smiled up at his brother. “Well, see what you can do. I know I'll have more free time from now on. You heard about Lily and Davey, right?” When his brother just shrugged and held out his hands, the elder Black went on. “They broke up last night. I just heard about it right before I came down here.” He looked off across the Pitch, unfocused. “Once James hears about it, he'll be back to his schemes. You should see him, following her around, trying to show her how nice he can be. One time he paid a first year to trip and fall in front of her just so he could help the kid up.”

“That's...a bit pathetic.”

“Well that's James. Where Lily is concerned at least. She makes him a complete nutter.” Sirius looked up at his brother and gave him a tight smile. “It's just a matter of time though.” He stood up and met his brother's eyes. “Lily acts like she isn't interested, but really, she's just waiting for James to...grow up. She thinks he's immature, but she likes him.” He ruffled his brother's hair and smiled. “They'll be together in no time, I guarantee it.”

Regulus ducked his head out of his brother's assault and frantically combed his fingers through his messed up black strands. He swore under his breath and watched his brother walk back over to where Remus and Peter awaited him. He didn't understand why Sirius was suddenly so eager to talk about James and Lily, but he couldn't get the boy's words out of his head. The short time he'd spent with Lily was enough to see how nice and charming the girl was. She certainly wasn't bad to look at either. He tried to force the thought of James and Lily out of his head, but the more he fought it, the stronger it became. James and Lily. Lily and James. Talking. Holding hands. Dating. Kissing.

Regulus put his hand to his throat and tugged at the knot in his Gryffindor tie. He pulled the silk from around his neck and wrapped it between his fingers as he made his way down from the stands and back to the Slytherin common room.

The moment the boy stepped into the common room, he was pounced on. Daphne bounded up to him and linked her arms around one of his. She pursed her lips up at him, but Regulus turned his face away from her. Sensing her run rigid at his rejection, the boy laid his free hand gently on her cheek and offered the blonde a sweet smile. The girl relaxed and slid from his arm, then took him by the hand and led him over to one of the tables at the edge of the common room.

“I was just finishing a letter to my mum.” Daphne cast her dark brown eyes up at Regulus and glanced towards the seat beside hers. Once the boy conceded and sat down, she continued. “She was asking me about the tickets again. She needs to know very soon so she can book them.”

Regulus groaned and put his head in his hands. For the last two weeks, Daphne had been on him about Christmas holiday. She wanted him to go to Genoa with her and her family for the winter break and hadn't stopped pressuring him about it. He had to admit, the trip sounded amazing, it was just the company that had him hesitating.

He raised his head and met Daphne's eyes. Why couldn't he feel it? He wanted to feel it. He wanted his heart to race and his palms to sweat and his mind to go numb just looking at Daphne, but he felt nothing. He knew it wasn't the girl's fault. True, she could be a tad needy, and liked to cling to him, and once she got something in her head, she wouldn't drop it, but those things paled in comparison to the girl's good qualities. Daphne was beautiful, anyone with working eyes could see that; she had a natural and innocent look. She was brilliant and funny and dedicated. She was everything that a guy would want in a girl...but Regulus couldn't make himself want her. And he had tried. He'd tried many times to force those same feelings for her that he got when he was around – He wouldn't think it.

The boy snagged a sheet of Daphne's stationary and one of her extra quills. “I'm going to write my parents right now and ask permission. I keep forgetting.” He chuckled at the excited squeal that erupted from his girlfriend at his simple statement. He scratched out a quick letter to his mother, asking for permission to go away with Daphne's family for the holiday, making sure to note their blood as Pure and the girl's father's high standing with the Ministry. He laid down the quill and folded over the letter, then passed it to the blonde. “Will you send it off for me?”

The girl eagerly snatched the letter from Regulus and slapped a seal on it. She gathered up her stationary and shoved her belongings back into her bag. “I'm going to take them right now.” She leaned over and aimed a kiss at Regulus' cheek—though with his attempt at dodging it, she ended up kissing his hair just above his ear—and hurried out of the common room for the Owlery.

Regulus watched Daphne disappear from view and slumped over the table. He felt rotten inside for the way he was behaving towards the girl. She didn't deserve to be strung around and made to believe that he had feelings for her that he didn't. She didn't deserve to have her kisses avoided or her requests left hanging. She didn't deserve any of it. The boy rubbed his hands roughly over his face and dragged his fingers back through his hair. He would have given anything just to feel something for Daphne.

He had spent the last two weeks trying to convince himself that he was imagining his feelings where James was concerned. James was nice to him, they had a lot in common, he enjoyed talking to him, all of the things that could set a solid friendship with the boy. But he couldn't ignore the other signs. Try as he might, Regulus couldn't ignore that his eyes were always drawn to James. He couldn't ignore that pleasant sensation he got every time James touched him, even if it was just a quick pat on the back or a shove out of the way.

And he certainly couldn't ignore that longing he felt when James was around. No matter how close James was, Regulus longed to be closer. He wanted to touch him. He wanted to kiss him. He wanted James to look at him the way he looked at Lily. He often closed his eyes and fantasized that James returned his desires. Regulus would smile at the idea that James could be lying in bed, unable to sleep, with thoughts of him running through his mind. But he knew it was foolish. He knew that James' feelings towards him would never be anything but platonic.

As painful as his unrequited feelings were, even more prominent was the fear. Regulus was terrified that someone would realize he had feelings for another boy. He felt like he carried a heavy sign around his neck every single day and it was dragging him into the ground. What would happen if someone found out? What would his parents say? What would Sirius say? What would his friends say?

Regulus brushed his hand across his cheek and pulled away the small traces of tears that managed to escape from him. He glanced around the common room at the small groups of Slytherins and hurried to his dormitory before anyone could spot him.



Chapter 6: Chapter Six
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Chapter Six


“Don't worry, we're not going to get caught.” Many of the Marauders' plans started with that sentence and ended with two weeks of detention. But Sirius was confident that they could pull off their latest venture without the resulting punishment. “All we have to do is make sure that Peter is -”

“I can hear you.” Remus didn't look up from his book, he merely flipped the page and continued to wear a tired frown. “In fact -” he peeked from under his lashes and eyed Sirius across the table “- I'm fairly sure half the library can hear you.” The Prefect shifted in his seat and nodded towards James, who was half laying on the table. “He isn't even listening.”

“Yes he is. Aren't you James?” Sirius scoffed and clapped his hand on James' back.

James jumped up and looked around, his heart near stopping with fright. “What?! What happened?”

“You weren't listening to me?” Sirius gaped at his friend and folded his arms. “I can't believe you weren't listening to me.”

“He's been staring at Lily for the last half hour.” Peter closed his Charms book and pushed it away with an undignified snort. “You were talking for half an hour without noticing that he wasn't answering you.” The boy gave Sirius a little so-there smile and grabbed his History book.

“I'm sorry Padfoot, I'm just distracted.” James laid his glasses on the table and rubbed at his eyes. “I know I said I'd back off a little but...look at her.” He pointed towards a table across the library, where Lily sat doing her homework, and sighed. “She's been single for over a week now. If I don't ask her, she's going to end up with someone else.”

“She's been single for a week James.” Remus sighed. “Don't you think you should give her a little time to...recover?”

“No, I'm going over there.” The boy shoved his glasses back on and got to his feet.

Sirius threw up his hands and groaned. “No, don't mind me. I'm just going to go over my plan again later, when you're actually paying attention. It's fine. I don't mind that one bit.” He didn't skimp on the sarcasm, but it didn't matter, James was long gone.

The bespectacled boy slipped into the empty seat opposite of Lily and offered up a smile. “Hey.”

“Hey yourself.” Lily didn't glance up from her work.

“So...Hogsmeade is coming up soon and I -”

“Let me stop you right there.” The girl laid down her quill and took a long breath before looking up at James. “Davey and I broke up a week ago. I'm not even close to being ready to date again. And even if I was -” she held up her hand, sensing James' hopeful expression “- I wouldn't go out with you.”

“I see you're going with harsh and straight to the point today.”

“Harsh? You think I'm being harsh?” Lily closed her book and pulled over her bag. “You know what I consider harsh? Charming someone to the ceiling because he ran into you in the halls.”

“Now Lily wait.” James put out his hands and held onto the girl's book so she couldn't pack it away. “I didn't do that just because he ran into me.”

“So you admit you did it?”

“Well, yes, but there were other reasons.”

“I don't care what your reasons were.” She jerked her book from under James' hold and stuffed it into her bag. The girl got to her feet and pointed a finger at James. “Did you know he was afraid of heights?” When James' lips twitched into an involuntary grin, Lily scowled. “You did! And you put him up there anyways. That's sick James.”

“You don't even care what he did to deserve it?” James jumped from his chair and gave the girl a pleading look.

“No one deserves that.” The girl held up her hands and backed away. “No one. And I don't want to hear any more about it. I'm going to be late.” She shook her head in disappointment and turned her back on James, then walked out of the library without another word.

James felt his heart sink into his stomach and trudged back over to the table where he'd left his friends. The boy dropped into his seat and let out a loud whine as he laid over on the table. “She hates me.”

“She doesn't hate you, Prongs.” Sirius gave his friend a pat on the shoulder. “What's she mad about?”

“She found out about what I did to Donovan.”

“Donovan? That arse deserved everything he got!” Peter clapped his hand over his mouth, not having intended to be so loud in the library. He dropped his voice and leaned closer to James. “Did you tell her why? If she heard the reason -”

“No, she doesn't care about the reason.” James folded his arms under his head and put his face down towards the table. “What am I gonna do? She's going to hate me forever.” The barrier of the boy's arms made his words muffled and low, but luckily the other Marauders could understand the gist of it.

Sirius pushed on the sulking boy's shoulder to get his attention and moved his plans within the boy's sight. “Come on, help me with this, it'll take your mind off everything.”

“Before you do that -” Remus closed his book and picked his bag up off the floor “- let me leave. I have patrols tonight.”

“With Lily?” James gave the other boy a hopeful smile.

“Yes with Lily, and yes I will casually talk you up and try to explain what you did, so on and such forth.” He packed his bag and slung it over his shoulder. “Careful if you're going to the kitchen tonight, Slytherin's on patrol there.” He gave the other boys a simple nod and headed out of the library.

“I'm so glad he's on our side. Can you imagine trying to get things past him if he was a proper Prefect?”

“Peter, don't say that. Remus is a proper Prefect.” James frowned over at his friend and shook his head in a slightly scolding way. “He just...he knows where his loyalties belong is all. Puts his mates over the rules.” He sat up straight and pulled Sirius' plans over to examine them. “This isn't a bad idea. And with Peter standing guard, we shouldn't get caught. Of course, they'll assume it was us despite that.”

“But if they can't prove it -”

“They'll probably punish us anyways.”

“You're right, I suppose.” Sirius took his plans back and folded them up. “If you don't want to do it....”

“Hey.” James snatched the plans back from the other boy and smirked. “I never said we weren't doing it. This is too good to pass up.” He picked up his bag and got to his feet. “Shall we continue this in the dorm where we won't be overheard?”

And so, the remaining Marauders made their way back to the dormitory to finish their scheming. It was a simple plan but held several complicated charms. The goal was to essentially shake the spirits of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team by painting them crimson and gold at their next practice. The colouring had to take place somewhere that none of the team would miss it, so the showers were chosen. It would require sneaking into their changing rooms and tampering with the taps. But it wasn't as simple as that, for if coloured water began to pour out, the players would simply avoid it. Thus the colouring had to be clear in nature and react only after skin contact was made. However, that created another problem. Unless every member of the team was under the tap simultaneously, only one member would be affected before the others knew to stay out of the water. Therefore, a time delay had to be added to the colouring process. Only then could they successfully paint every member of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team in Gryffindor colours.

“We should turn them green. Or blue.” Peter tossed his bag onto his bed and kicked off his shoes. “If we made them green or blue, then everyone would think that Slytherin or Ravenclaw pulled the prank.”

“You know...that is not such a bad idea.” Sirius dropped his robes to the floor and flopped back on his bed. “But honestly, who on the Slytherin or Ravenclaw team would be genius enough to come up with something like this?”

“Careful Pads, you keep talking like that and you might not be able to fit that big head through the door in the morning.”

Sirius grabbed his pillow and flung it across the room, pegging James in the back of the head with it.

James froze when the pillow made contact. He slowly lowered his bag to the floor and picked up the pillow. “Did you just...hit me with a pillow?” The boy's eyes narrowed and he turned towards his friend. “You know what this means, right?” He snatched his glasses from his face and tossed them over onto his bed.

Sirius' eyes widened and his fingers closed around the edges of his remaining pillow. He knew to be prepared because when James Potter removed his glasses, something was going down. The boy barely had enough time to raise his pillow before the other was upon him. James bolted across the room, used the side railing of Sirius' bed to get himself into the air, and came flying down on top of Sirius. The attacker pinned his victim to the bed with one knee to the chest and began to unleash a barrage of pillow swats onto the boy's head.

Sirius squirmed and let out muffled cries. He swung his arms and manged to clock James in the side of the head with his own pillow. James toppled over into the floor and groaned as his back slammed into the hardwood. But the minor flicker of pain was not enough to quell his fighting spirit. The boy was back on his feet instantly, poised to lay another pillow strike against Sirius.

But Sirius would not go down so easily. His body lurched forward and in a matter of moments, black, fluffy paws began to emerge from the arms of his jumper. The dog shook out his fur and stretched before lunging towards James. Padfoot's large front paws landed square on James' chest, knocking the boy back into the floor. James put up his arms, but it was too late. The boy whined and wiggled beneath the creature as a large pink tongue dragged across his face, leaving a long trail of slobber from his neck to his forehead.

“Sirius, no! Down! Bad dog.” James made a retching sound as he attempted to wipe the slobber away with the sleeve of his robes. “That's disgusting. I hate it when you do that.”

James tried to sit up, but Padfoot would have none of it. The dog pinned him back to the floor, using the boy's distraction over the slobber to get the advantage. Padfoot turned around and began to wag his fluffy black tail frantically, slapping James back and forth across the face with it.

James spit and whined, shoving the dog off of his chest. “You got fur in my mouth.” He rolled over and got on his knees, desperately trying to get the strands of fur off of his lips. “You play dirty, Pads! It isn't fair. I could easily change and...and kick you in the head or something.”

Padfoot lowered the front of his body and stared straight up at James with his big grey eyes. The dog wiggled his butt in a taunting fashion and crept closer to the boy.

“No. I'm not doing it.” James held out his hands and backed away from the advancing creature. “Sirius, no. I can't. Do you see the size of this room?” When the dog continued to edge closer, James climbed up on the nearest bed—which happened to belong to Remus—to get away from those pleading puppy eyes. “I cannot change in here. Stop looking at me like that.”

A loud squeak erupted from the bed side table, calling James' and Padfoot's attention. Wormtail sat on the top of Remus' night time book collection, balanced on his back haunches, front feet pawing at the air. He let out another squeak and ran around in a circle, then scurried down off the night stand and over to the window.

“Not you too.” James pulled his hands through his hair and gagged when he felt another glob of slobber. “Guys, you know I'm too big.”

Suddenly, the door swung open and Remus rushed into the room, looking like he was in a hurry. Everything froze. Remus stiffened up as he surveyed the situation: James standing atop his bed, a hunkered down Padfoot looking ready to pounce, a rat squeaking in the window sill. It disturbed Remus to note how unsurprising all of that was.

“I feel left out. It's playtime and I wasn't invited.” The Prefect rushed across the room, opened his nightstand drawer, retrieved his Prefect badge, and made his way back to the door. “I'll see you guys later and James...you'd better make my bed back up when you're done with...whatever you're doing.”

James nodded, Padfoot yipped, Wormtail squeaked, and Remus took those as signs of compliance. The Prefect closed the door behind him, instantly sending the room back into chaos.

That night, as James lay in his bed ready to turn in for the night, he couldn't help but smile on the evening's memories. Yes, he'd gotten a tongue lashing from the love of his life, but the fun he had being chased around by Padfoot was enough to ease that sadness. James knew how lucky he was to have a friend like Sirius. He knew that he could count on the other boy for anything, he'd lay his very life in Sirius' hands if he needed to. He didn't consider him to be a friend so much as a brother.

Sometimes, James felt selfish thinking that way.

After all, Sirius had a brother, an actual brother. And the two had been so close when they were younger. Throughout the first year of school, Sirius would spend hours telling James, Remus, and Peter stories about his and Regulus' adventures. Granted, those adventures took place beneath blanket forts or in the backyard of their home, inside the depths of their imaginations, but that didn't take away from Sirius' love for them. Together, Sirius and Regulus were pirates, traversing the seas in search of English ships to sink; they were Knights of the round table, battling to save their kingdom; they were curse breakers, making safe the tombs of Egypt for Gringotts; they were anything and everything they wanted to be.

James remembered watching Regulus' Sorting. Sirius had been so hopeful that his brother would be filed into Gryffindor along side him. The elder Black cried himself to sleep that night...James never told him that he overheard him. And as the years dragged on, Sirius and Regulus had less adventures; they developed separate lives, separate friends, separate ideas. After a while, Sirius simply stopped talking about his brother.

It was only over the summers that the two Blacks were together. A brief few months to share in old memories and desperately hold onto the bond that was once so unbreakable. Having Sirius for the school year wasn't enough for James, though, and he began to take the boy from his brother more and more. Over the years, he'd tried to be fair. James tried to encourage Regulus to come along with him and Sirius when they went out or even when they were just in Sirius' room listening to music.

Even though Sirius never talked about it, James could tell that he missed his brother. Sirius' parents had strong objections to their first born's way of living and their views were often shoved onto Regulus. There were times in the past that James was sure Regulus would give up on his brother completely. But this last summer...things had changed.

The young Gryffindor placed his glasses on the nightstand and stared up at his blurry crimson curtains. A tiny smile pulled across his lips as he thought back over the summer. The usually tense and standoffish Regulus had been different this year. James wondered if he was just growing up, starting to realize that his parents weren't flawless in thought. It had been quite unexpected when Regulus agreed to go out to a Muggle bar with the group of Sirius' friends, but things were different even before that.

James would be lying if he said that he didn't feel like he was in constant competition with Regulus. As much as he loved Sirius and wanted him for a brother, Regulus would always have something James couldn't offer: the childhood memories. And those childhood times between the brothers was something that James couldn't change, no matter how much he was there for Sirius, Regulus would have one over him. James found himself always trying to outdo the younger Black. When Regulus would tag along—even on James' request—he would try to make sure that Sirius paid more attention to him than Regulus.

It was greedy and wrong, but James couldn't stop himself.

But the past summer had been different. When James invited Regulus to tag along with himself and Sirius, it wasn't simply for his friend's sake...he wanted him to go. Being around Regulus didn't seem like a chore to him any longer. They laughed, they shared interests, they had silly little fights, it was like they'd become friends.

James never—not in a million years—thought that he'd be lying in bed, considering Regulus Black as a friend. But there he was, staring up into nothing, thinking about how much fun he had with Regulus. The boy kicked his feet together beneath his bedsheets until the socks peeled away, it was far too warm in the room for them. He pushed the sheets down and rolled onto his side, his eyes settled onto Sirius' face, the slim moonlight casting just enough glow to make out the boy's haughty features.

Even when he was sleeping, Sirius looked like a portrait. He was the perfect portrayal of how a dignified, Pureblood, aristocrat should look. His handsome features had earned him more than his fair share of female attention over the years, even when he was too young to appreciate it. Without prompt, James' mind jumped back to Regulus and how much he resembled his brother. On the surface, the two were very similar in appearance. They both had those light grey eyes and animated eyebrows that seemed to be Black family traits all on their own. Both Blacks had the kind of good looks that came from money in the blood and arranged marriages.

But James knew how to look deeper. Inside those identical grey eyes held two different souls; Sirius' were riddled with horrors and punishment from his youthful misdeeds while Regulus' were alive and innocent. While both brothers had black hair, Sirius seemed bereft of a comb—not that James had much room to talk on that matter—and lacking the desire to tame his. And Regulus...so persnickety that every strand stay as he wanted it. He kept his hair in line much as he kept himself in line. So afraid to break routine, so naïve of all the possibilities that came with allowing yourself the freedom to step outside of line.

He wondered what Regulus would be like had he been Sorted into Gryffindor.

James caught himself and forced away his train of thought. He'd let himself get carried away and it wasn't appropriate. The boy closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep, but every time his mind relaxed, his thoughts jumped back to Regulus. It was frustrating. He didn't like the idea of being unable to control his own mind.

The boy tossed back the sheets and climbed out of his bed. Quietly, so as to not wake the others, he crept over to Sirius' night stand and pilfered one of the boy's cigarettes. He didn't want the smell to bother anyone, but the idea of sneaking outside at such a late hour was ridiculous, so he eased open the window and took a seat on the sill, one leg dangling recklessly over the edge.

James tipped his head back and lit the cigarette, leaving the lighter laying in front of him. He let the smoke do its job; it seeped into his lungs and smothered unwanted thoughts and ideas. He took another long drag and closed his eyes, bathing in the quiet ambiance of the room.

A hand fell gently onto James' shoulder and made him flinch. He snapped open his eyes and put his hand on his chest. “Regulus?” He felt stupid the moment the name left his lips. “Sorry, Sirius.” He waved his hand and took a long breath to steady his racing heart. “What are you doing?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” the boy whispered. He picked up the lighter from the window sill and lit a cigarette of his own. “Did...did you just call me Regulus?”

“Yes. Sorry.” The boy ducked his head, feigning interest in a stray string poking from his pajama bottoms. Honestly, he didn't want Sirius to see the heat that had risen to his face. “I got confused, you startled me. And I was lost in my own thoughts.”

“About my brother?”

“No. No....” James shook his head and shoved his hand into his hair. He twisted the messy strands around his fingers and yanked on it, punishing himself for his bad choice of words. “Quidditch. I was thinking about Quidditch and your brother plays Quidditch and I...I got confused, alright?” He shifted so he could lean against the edge of the window without Sirius seeing his face.

“Are you worried about something?” Sirius climbed onto the sill beside his friend and cast a worried glance over at him.

“Worried about your brother?”

“About...Quidditch.”

“Oh....” James started to shake his head, but stopped in favor of nodding. “Yeah, I've got a new play to try out next practice and I'm just not sure it'll work out.” The boy rubbed his fingers over his lips and closed his eyes. He felt a gut-wrenching shame inside himself.

He'd never lied to Sirius before.



Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
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Chapter Seven


As October drew to a close, the students of Hogwarts gathered themselves for a trip to Hogsmeade. Since Lily had turned down all six of James' invitations and Regulus had turned down Sirius' invitation in favor of spending the day with Daphne, the two Gryffindors were on their own for most of the day. As for Remus and Peter, they had dates with two of the Moore triplets, but planned on meeting up with James and Sirius afterward.

It wasn't that James and Sirius didn't enjoy spending time in Hogsmeade together, but they were both feeling a little down at the rejections they'd gotten. They wandered around for a while, no real destination in mind, stepping in and out of shops without much of a desire to make any purchases. As the two passed by the large window of Gladrags Wizardwear, Sirius' jaw dropped.

“That little arse.” The boy pointed through the window, his eyes focused on his brother's figure inside the shop. “He refuses to spend the day with me so he can shop for clothes? This is ridiculous.” Sirius grabbed onto James' arm and dragged the protesting boy into the clothing shop. “Regulus, what are you doing in here?” He looked around for any signs of his brother's girlfriend.

Regulus was startled to see his brother. “What does it look like I'm doing?” He kept his voice low and glanced behind him. “I'm waiting on Daphne.”

“You're spending the day waiting on your girlfriend to shop for clothes? Regulus, that's pathetic.”

The boy scowled over at his brother and moved towards a rack of scarves. “Not exactly. We're only in here for a few things. Apparently, I need a new coat.”

“What's wrong with the coat you have on?”

“I...I don't know.” Regulus held out his hands and shrugged. “You'd have to ask Daphne that.”

As if summoned by her very name, the blonde in question rounded the corner with a large coat in her hands. “Ask Daphne what?” She smiled between Sirius and James, then held up the coat towards Regulus. “I don't know, this one may be too long.”

“I was just asking what was wrong with the coat he has.” Sirius leaned around the blonde and frowned at her choice.

“The coat he's wearing is fine, but he needs something nicer for the holiday.” She shook her head and laid her selection over her arm. “This one won't do. I'll be right back.” She laid her hand on Regulus' shoulder and pointed towards the scarf display he was standing near. “You should get a new one. The ends of yours are getting worn. Get something blue, my mum loves blue.” She kissed the boy's cheek and walked back off in the direction of the coats to select another.

Regulus looked up at his brother and held out his hand. “Not a damn word. She's just excited.” He sighed and picked up the nearest scarf with blue on it.

“What's her mum have to do with the scarf you wear? And why do you need a new coat just for the holiday?” Sirius snatched the scarf out of his brother's hands and threw it back on the display. “You're not actually going to stand there and let her dress you, are you? You don't even let mum pick out your clothes and you're a little pushover with her.”

“I've let you pick out my clothes before,” Regulus pointed out. “You didn't have a problem with it then.” He picked the scarf back up and twisted it around his hand. “And I don't really care if she wants me to wear a certain coat or scarf. I just want to make a good impression on her parents. They're taking me to Genoa with them on holiday.”

James scoffed unintentionally and took the blue scarf away from Regulus. “You're going away with her family? You've only been dating for a couple of months.”

“I know that but....” Regulus would have continued if he had a valid argument on the matter.

“Here, this one.” James lifted a light purple scarf with dark purple stripes from the side of the display and put it around the Slytherin's neck. “Blue doesn't suit you; this is better.” He kept his eyes on the scarf as he looped it around and properly secured it.

Regulus felt like his heart was going to pound right out of his chest and jump onto the floor. He brushed his fingers down the ends of the scarf, just barely grazing the side of the older boy's hand as he did so. “Purple?”

“It's my favourite colour.” James met the boy's eyes and flashed him a crooked smile. “And it goes better with your eyes than blue. Trust me, I'm an expert on these things.”

“You're an expert in scarf selection?” Regulus let out a nervous laugh and dropped his gaze to the boy's chest; looking up into his eyes was almost too much to handle.

“I'm an expert in everything, really.” James tugged at the ends of the scarf to straighten it out and leaned down so he could see Regulus' face. “What's wrong? You don't like purple, is that it?” he teased.

The younger boy chuckled and put his hands over James' wrists without thinking about it. “I have nothing against purple.” He could feel his face growing hotter with every word. “Only...well Daphne said I should get a blue one....”

James frowned and looked over the boy's shoulder just in time to see Daphne making her way back towards Regulus with a new coat in her arms. He waited until the blonde was within hearing distance to speak again. “To hell with what Daphne said.” He dropped his hands from the ends of Regulus' scarf, pulling out of the boy's light hold. “What does she know about picking out nice clothes?”

The girl froze in place and gave James a glare that would shrivel a weaker man. “I happen to know a lot about fashion, thank you very much.” She grabbed onto Regulus' sleeve and pulled him back away from James, her eyes never leaving the Gryffindor. “Come on, I want to show you something over here.” She glanced at the purple scarf around Regulus' neck and sneered at it. “That's not blue.”

Before Regulus could protest or even comment, he was dragged off into the back of the store by his irate girlfriend. James just huffed and stormed out of the store, ignoring Sirius as the boy slipped out after him. He started off towards the Shrieking Shack and searched his pockets for his cigarettes.

“Prongs, slow down, mate.” Sirius caught the other boy's arm and forced him to walk a little slower.

“Sorry, I'm pissed off.” James reluctantly made an effort to walk in step with Sirius. “She might as well put him on a damn leash. Did you see her? Oh he needs a new coat and a blue scarf. Bloody twit.”

Sirius kept his mouth closed as the two approached the Shrieking Shack. Most of the students and residents of Hogsmeade stayed far away from the building on account of thinking it was haunted. But since the Marauders knew the truth behind the shack, the place was their own private hiding ground. It was the perfect location to nip away for a smoke if they didn't want to get caught. James threw himself onto the ground behind the shack and cleared away a patch of snow so he would have a place to sit without getting a wet backside.

James put two cigarettes between his lips to light them, then passed one over to Sirius as the boy took a seat beside him. Normally, they would have simply shared one, but James was feeling more on edge than usual. In fact, he'd been smoking a lot more than usual for the last few months.

“James....” Sirius put one hand in his hair and frowned. “You trust me, right? You know that I wouldn't tell you something if I didn't believe it. I wouldn't lie to you about anything, especially something important. I need you to listen to me and just...believe what I have to say without arguing. Can you do that? For me?”

“Of course, I trust you. That's a bloody stupid question, Pads.”

“I know!” Sirius hung his head and took a long drag to calm his nerves. “James...I don't think you should be around my brother any more.”

James looked taken aback at the other boy's words. “Why?”

“He likes you. Alright?” Sirius rubbed at his face and kept his eyes on the ground while he spoke. “And I don't mean the way I like you, I mean he really likes you. I should have told you sooner but....”

“I don't understand.” James pulled off his glasses and wiped them on his shirt hem. “Are you trying to tell me that Regulus has a crush on me?”

“Exactly.” Sirius finally dared to look over at his friend and gave him a sad smile. “I've known for a while now and I should have told you before. I should have told you when I first started noticing it, but I thought maybe...maybe I was just imagining it and then it got worse but I kept telling myself it was just some kind of phase and he'd get over it and everything would be okay, but he's not getting over it, it's getting worse and you're making it worse and he's not going to be able to move past it if you keep on like this.”

James pushed his glasses back on and stayed silent. Several times, he tried to speak, but couldn't think of what to say. What was he supposed to say? What did Sirius want to hear? Did he want James to argue, to tell him that he was seeing things and it wasn't true? He took another drag off his cigarette and stared at the ground. He would tell Sirius that if it was what the boy wanted to hear, but the problem was, James would be lying. Hearing Sirius confirm what was already weighing on the back of his mind was the final straw. As much as James wanted to pretend like he wasn't aware of Regulus' feelings, he couldn't lie to himself any longer, not now that Sirius brought it to light.

“James...you can't date my brother.”

The boy gaped at his friend's words and started shaking his head. “Sirius, I'm not interested in dating your brother. That's...I'm not. He might have feelings for me that way, but I...don't? I don't.” James twisted his fingers around in his hair and kept slowly shaking his head. “Why would you even say something like that? Just because he has some kind of crush on me, that doesn't mean that I'm going to feel same way. Because I don't. I don't feel that way...I don't feel anything for him. He's just....”

“James.” Sirius gently pulled the boy's hand out of his hair and looked straight into his troubled hazel eyes. “You cannot...date...my brother.”

“Why do you keep saying that?” James jerked his hand out of the other boy's grip and turned away from him. “I just told you that I don't want to date him. I don't. Can't you hear me?”

“Oh I can hear you alright.” Sirius snorted and pushed the end of his cigarette into the snow to snuff it out. “I can hear you sitting there trying to convince me and yourself that you're not interested in Regulus. And it's not bloody working.”

“I'm in love with Lily! Has that little tidbit escaped your brain somehow? Or do you think I'm just putting on that I like her? Do you honestly think that I'm going to just stop being in love with her because your brother has a crush?”

“I never said that.” Sirius put up his hand and made a fist, trying his best to keep his temper in line. “I never said any of that. I know how you feel about Lily, I don't doubt it one bit, but James...I'm not stupid. I can see the way you act around him. It's worse than with Lily because he actually responds to it. You smile at him and you touch him and -”

“Oh, is that all? Well I smile at you! I touch you all the time, does that mean I'm in love with you too?” James got to his feet and patted the dirt off his backside. “This is mental, Padfoot, and I'm not going to listen to another minute of it.”

“You're going to listen!” Sirius jumped up and grabbed his friend by the shoulders. “But first, you're going to stop acting like I'm not justified in everything I'm saying.”

“You're not.”

“I'm not? So it must all be in my imagination, then huh? Is that it?” Sirius bared his teeth at his stubborn friend and took a step away to restrain himself. He knew how bad his temper could get and the last thing he would ever want would be to have an actual fight with his best friend. “I am not blind, James. I know you. I know you. I would not be standing here saying these things if I didn't believe wholeheartedly that it was true. You can stand here and lie to yourself all day long, but you cannot lie to me.”

“I'm not gay.” James tried to step around his friend, but Sirius blocked his path. “Are you even listening to me? I am in love with Lily. I do not have those kinds of feelings for your brother.”

“I never said that you were gay, James. And I know how you feel about Lily.”

“Then why are you saying this? Why are you...?” He shook his head and tried once more to walk away.

Sirius blocked James' way again and put his hand up. “Just because you're in love with Lily, that doesn't mean you can't have...feelings for someone else. It happens all the time, and no one could blame you for looking elsewhere. She practically spits on every request you make. And Regulus...well he's not exactly telling you to get lost, now is he?”

“You're doing my head in right now, Padfoot. You're standing here telling me that you know I'm in love with Lily and you know that I'm not gay, but then you're saying that you think I have some sort of crush on your little brother and it doesn't – it doesn't....”

“I don't know, James! I mean maybe it's possible to like girls and guys at the same time, I don't know, the only thing I do know is that where my brother is concerned, you are getting pulled in. You're letting him get inside your head with his Quidditch talk and his flirting and blushing and you...you are egging it on. You are making it worse.”

“I'm being nice to him because he's your brother.”

“No! No, you used to be nice to him because he was my brother, but now....” Sirius shook his head and turned his back on James.

James put his hand over his mouth and kicked at the dirt. “What do you want from me? What is the bloody point in all of this?”

“What do I want?” Sirius rounded back on James and stared at the boy in shock. “I want you to be honest with me! That is the bloody point. But apparently you can't confide in me anymore.”

“No, don't you dare make this about me not – not trusting you. This is not about you.”

“Then what is it? You used to tell me everything and now you're standing here lying to me!”

“I am not gay, Sirius!” James' face flushed with red and his hands curled into fists.

“But you like my brother! Tell. Me. The. Truth.”

“Fine!” James' hands started shaking and his eyes glossed over. “You want the bloody truth? You're right! You're completely right. I...like...him. And I know I'm not supposed to, but I can't help it. I feel like I'm losing my damn mind because I keep telling myself to stop but it won't stop! It won't! And I can't -” The boy's words caught in his throat and he dragged his hands back through his hair. “I can't do this.” The tears he was desperately trying to hold back threatened his eyes and James dropped back onto the ground. He buried his head between his knees and clasped his hands behind his neck.

Sirius reached towards his friend, but recoiled his hand when the boy sat down. “James, I...I'm sorry.” He hugged his arms around his stomach and lowered himself onto the ground beside him. “There's nothing wrong with it. Liking other boys...I don't think there's anything wrong with it. And Remus and Peter, they wou-”

“Don't you dare tell them!” James looked up with wide eyes. “I swear, if you tell them -”

“I won't!” Sirius held up his hands and shook his head. “I promise.”

“Can we just forget all about this? Please?” James pulled off his glasses and wiped away the faint traces of tears that his lashes had streaked across his lenses. He sniffled loudly and let out a nervous, broken laugh. “I feel like an idiot. I never cry.”

“I think it's excusable right now.” Sirius put his hand on James' back and pulled the boy closer for a side hug. “You're my best friend, James, and I didn't mean to be so hard on you, but I....”

“I know. You just don't want me dating your brother, you made that perfectly clear.” He slid his glasses back on and gave Sirius a tight smile. “I understand though. I act like the things that Lily tells me just bounce right off, but I hear her. I'm...immature and cruel and I don't respect -”

“James stop.” Sirius held up his hand. “You think I don't want you with Regulus because there's something wrong with you?” He almost laughed at the idea. “You've never been more wrong. If things were different I wouldn't have any problem with you two being together, but...” he licked his lips and tried to arrange his thoughts “...do you know what would happen to him if people found out? Our parents aren't like yours; they wouldn't understand, they wouldn't allow it. Not everyone is so accepting of it. I've seen the kind of trouble that people get into for being....”

“For being gay?”

Sirius just nodded and rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. “If anything ever happened to him, I couldn't live with myself. He isn't stupid, but sometimes I think he's so...naïve that he's going to get himself into serious trouble.”

“I think he's a lot smarter than you give him credit for. And a lot stronger.” James twisted his lips and pulled up his sleeve to check his watch. “We're late. We shoulda met Remus and Peter fifteen minutes ago.” The boy climbed to his feet and helped Sirius off the ground too. “Let's just put this all behind us, okay? Regardless of how Regulus feels, regardless of how...confused that I feel, it doesn't change the way things are. I have Lily -”

“- that's a bit presumptuous -”

“- and he has a beautiful girlfriend -”

“-who you are insanely jealous of.”

James punched Sirius in the shoulder and gave him a stern look. “Put a lid on it. Let's go before the guys come looking for us.”

Sirius rubbed at his shoulder and laughed as he followed James back into the village. The two headed into the Three Broomsticks and spotted Remus and Peter at a back table, waiting. After getting themselves some butterbeer, they joined the remaining Marauders.

“How did the dates go?” James dropped into the seat beside Peter and gave the boy a worried look. “I have a feeling not well. You both look in a foul mood.”

“Well the dates went fine at first.” Remus scooted over to let Sirius sit down and pushed away his half-finished drink. “And when I say at first, I mean the first five minutes or so.”

“Uh oh.”

“Uh oh is right.” Peter frowned. “Then they started asking the strangest questions.”

What kind of candy does Sirius like?” Remus continued, using a slightly higher tone to mimic the girls. “And what is Sirius' favourite colour?”

“Then there was does Sirius like girls who wear their hair up...or down?”

“And after about ten minutes, they got to the prize! Do you think Sirius would go out with our sister?”

“Whoa, wait?” Sirius chuckled into his butterbeer and looked between Remus and Peter, sure they were joking. “Those two asked you out so they could ask you questions about me?” When both boys nodded sadly, he slunk into his seat and shook his head. “So their sister wants to go out with me?” Peter and Remus nodded simultaneously. “Well which sister? I can't tell them apart to save my life.”

“Olivia.”

“Which one is that?”

“Does it really matter?”

“No, I guess it doesn't.” Sirius laughed and took a long drink. “So you guys said up right? Because I can't stand when a girl has her hair all in her face and it gets in the way and – What?” He balked under the angry stares of the other three Marauders and held up his hands in surrender. “Alright, sorry. What I meant to say was that they are a couple of twits for playing you guys that way.”

“That's better,” James snapped.

And the Marauders put aside thoughts of the Moore triplets to enjoy the rest of their day in Hogsmeade.



Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
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Chapter Eight


Light rain put an end to Regulus' Hogsmeade visit. Never mind that he and Daphne had hoods on their coats to protect them. Never mind that the shops were all warm and inviting. Never mind that Regulus had yet to visit either of his favourite shops. Daphne wanted to return to the school and allowing her to go alone was not an option. Regulus thought her desire to leave had less to do with the rain and more to do with James' insults towards her.

The two made their way back towards the school—Regulus carried her bags like a gentleman, of course—and headed for the dungeons. Once inside the common room, Daphne insisted she needed to change out of her wet clothes and left Regulus to tend to himself for a while. The boy was thankful for a few moments of peace and trekked to his room to put away his purchases.

His bed was the neater of the two in the dormitory. There had only been two boys Sorted into Slytherin his year and try as he might, he'd never been able to bond with his roommate. It wasn't as though he particularly disliked Declan St. James, but Regulus was in to Quidditch, literature, and preferred to keep his surroundings tidy. His roommate, on the other hand, was constantly tracking dirt cross the floor and trying to sneak exotic animals into the room—as though Regulus could not hear them in the middle of the night. They'd established long ago that the idea of being friends was a little farfetched and since then, kept completely to themselves.

Regulus dropped his bags onto his bed and immediately hung up his new coat. He actually liked it, even though it was a bit too formal for every day wear. Despite Daphne's pushy nature about it, she did let the boy have a say in his choice. It was the scarves that made him feel shame. He'd purchased two: the blue one that Daphne picked out and the purple stripped one that James had chosen. He wasn't sure which scarf made him more pathetic.

The boy tucked both scarves into his trunk and shed his slightly damp robes. The sound of his name being called from down the hallway pulled Regulus out of the dormitory and back to his waiting girlfriend. And though his body and conversation were with Daphne through the day, while they had tea, while they discussed Genoa, while they finished their History essays, his mind and wishes were back at Hogsmeade. He wished he'd taken his brother's offer, he wished he'd been brave enough to tell Daphne that he didn't want to come back to school with her.

But what would he have said? He couldn't exactly tell Daphne that he'd rather spend the day with his brother than her. Things were already so complicated. She was already making comments about how much their classmates were kissing and sneaking around. Regulus wanted to be respectful...so far, she'd believed that, or pretend to at least. How much could he expect her to believe though? Any sign of wavering interest in his girlfriend could mean the end of him. People would talk. People would point fingers. People would know.

Or maybe they wouldn't. Maybe the entire school would pass it off as just another typical breakup and not a single eye would bat at the situation. Regulus couldn't risk it. He already felt like he walked around school with a giant neon arrow flashing above his head. Every time someone looked at him in the hallways his mind raced. Do they know? Can they tell? What if I can't keep hiding it?

“Regulus, are you listening to me?”

Daphne's voice pulled the boy from his musings. “What? Sorry, I must have gotten lost in thought or something. What did you say?”

“I asked if you were ready for dinner.”

“Yes, I am.” Regulus got to his feet and held out his hand for the blonde. “Come on.”

As the two made their way to the Great Hall, they couldn't help but notice the soggy students headed back from Hogsmeade. The rain had only gotten worse since they left the village and it persisted through the night, leaving a layer of damp over all of the Hogwarts grounds.

The clouds threatened a new shower the following morning, much to the Gryffindor Quidditch team's sorrow. James promised the lot a short practice. He didn't like flying in the rain anymore than they did. As the potential shower began to look more and more promising, James reigned in the team and dismissed them. The last thing he wanted was lightening coming down while they were on the Pitch. The Captain lingered behind, as he always did, to make sure the changing room was cleared. After the final Gryffindor left, James gathered up his bag and started for the exit.

A flash of movement caught James' eye right when he reached the changing room door. He peeked out just in time to see a figure disappear inside the Slytherin changing rooms. The boy hurried after the unknown person, holding his hands over his head to shield himself from the heavy raindrops that were coming down, and ducked into the changing room. “You're not allowed to be in – Oh!”

Regulus whirled around at the sound of James' voice and put his hand to his chest. “You scared me.”

“Sorry.” James put his eyes to the ground and backed towards the door. “I thought you were an intruder or...something.”

“We've taken to locking the changing room after that unfortunate incident with the Hufflepuff team.” Regulus put on a cheeky grin and started searching through his Quidditch bag. “You heard about that, right? Entire team painted in crimson and gold.”

“Yeah...yeah, I heard something about that.” James rubbed the back of his neck and chuckled. “Rather unfortunate. Can never be too careful these days.”

“No, you can't.” The younger boy looked over at James and smiled.

James met his eyes for a moment and quickly turned his back on the Slytherin. He hated how easily he could get pulled in to the situation with Regulus. He didn't want to be rude and just take off without another word...actually he didn't want to take off at all. He wanted to stay and talk and laugh and enjoy the short time he had with Regulus. But he knew he shouldn't. James knew that he should walk out of the door and not say a word. “So what are you doing down here? Early practice?” He felt weak.

“No, I'm looking for my Charms book. I've checked the whole dormitory and common room. I was hoping that I left it down here, but no such luck.” Regulus chewed his bottom lip, wondering why James was so averse to looking at him. “Everything alright?”

“Everything's fine.”

“You...sure?” Regulus twisted his hands and moved closer to the older boy.

James turned around to face the Slytherin and flinched at how much closer he'd gotten. “I'm sure. I should probably go.” He thumbed over his shoulder but made no advances to leave. He could practically feel the younger boy watching him. He knew better than to look into his eyes, he'd be done for, same as every time before. He stared at the floor, the ceiling, the bags across the room, Regulus' shoes, Regulus' shirt, Regulus' scarf...Regulus' purple stripped scarf! “You bought it.” He reached out without thinking and brushed his fingers along the edge of the scarf.

Regulus instantly flushed red. “Um...well you are the expert. I couldn't exactly ignore your advice.”

“Wise decision.” James' mind was no longer in control of his actions—his sane mind at least. He grabbed onto both ends of the boy's scarf and pulled him closer. “You wear it well.” The smile on Regulus' face was almost too adorable. James laughed quietly and continued to pull the younger boy towards him. “I didn't mean to make your girlfriend so mad.”

“It's alright. She got over it.” The young boy was sure his heart had stopped beating ages ago. He didn't understand why James was holding onto his scarf, he didn't understand why James was pulling him closer, he certainly didn't understand why James was wearing such a big smile. For a moment, Regulus was sure he had fallen asleep. How many dreams had he gone through like that? Him, James, alone in the changing rooms, the playful banter, the slow advancing towards each other, next would come the kiss, and then he'd open his eyes to find that he was still tangled in his own bedsheets.

A loud rumble of thunder sounded in the distance and James instinctively stepped towards Regulus, blocking him for the boy's protection. He whipped his head towards the door and put one hand on the boy's upper arm as if he were comforting him from some false threat. “It's really starting to come down out there.” He frowned at how wavering his voice was. The sound of the rain picked up, matching the manic speed of James' heartbeats. “We should get back to the school before it gets too bad.” He rubbed both his hands down Regulus' arms and let out a nervous laugh.

“We could always stay here.” Regulus' words were barely audible. He peeked up at James and bit down lightly on his bottom lip. His hands ran along the openings of James' coat and his fingers closed around the edges. “Until the rain stops.”

“You really want to be stuck in here with me? I'm a dreadful pain in the arse when I get bored.” James grinned down at Regulus and let his eyes fall onto the boy's lips. What had Sirius said? You can't date my brother, James...nothing about kissing him. James paled at the thought. When had he allowed himself to start thinking that way? When had he decided that kissing Regulus was something he even wanted to do? But in that moment, there was nothing he wanted more.

Regulus licked his lips mindlessly and tightened his hold on the edges of James' coat. “I guess I'll have to make sure you don't get bored then.” Where had that come from? It was like his brain and his mouth weren't working in synch any longer. And then, all he could think about was his mouth. And James' mouth. And James' lips. And James' lips on his own lips. He could feel his skin tingling at the mere thought of kissing the older boy. Yes, it was something he'd dreamed about, wished for, longed for, but never in his wildest imaginings did he ever think it possible. But James was so close. So very close.

The approaching storm sent another crack of thunder echoing through the changing room, but neither boy cared any longer. The storm, the thunder, the flash of lightening just outside the doorway, none of that mattered. James smoothed his hands up Regulus' arms and moved closer to him. He tried to cut off his own frantic breathing, afraid that he sounded like some exhausted animal. He met the younger boy's eyes and rubbed his lips together. He could see worry—maybe fear—reflected in the Slytherin's gaze. Or maybe it was his own insecurities mirroring back at him. James had never kissed anyone before and he felt ignorant. He was older. He was supposed to know what to do.

Regulus wanted to throw his arms around James' neck and take every drop of affection he could get. He kept thinking on all the couples he'd seen kissing around the common room over the years. He didn't know if he could kiss like that. What if James expected him to kiss like that? What if the moment their lips touched, James realized how immature and inexperienced Regulus was and walked away from him? What if it was awful? What if he was awful? The Slytherin let out a shaky breath and twisted his hands over James' coat. He was terrified. Even more, he could see that James was terrified. The boy felt his stomach turn and clenched his teeth together.

James squeezed the younger boy's shoulders and tried to speak, but only silence emerged from between his parted lips. He didn't know what to do, how to start, where to put his hands, if he should take off his glasses. Was kissing meant to be so bloody difficult?! The Gryffindor pulled his hands away from Regulus' mildly shivering body and dragged his fingers back through his hair. He closed his eyes and dropped his head to the floor.

“I'm sorry.” Regulus jerked his hands away from the older boy's coat and turned his back on him. “I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to.”

“Regulus -”

“I'm sorry!” The younger boy rubbed his hands down his face and made a beeline straight for the door.

“No, Regulus wait.” James tried to catch the boy's arm, but Regulus was too quick for him. He watched the boy vanish from the changing room, another flash of lightening illuminating his escaping form. He couldn't just let Regulus run off that way. James tore out of the changing room and into the pounding rain. The drops were fierce and each one felt like a sting to his face and neck. But he wasn't going to give up. “Regulus, stop!” He charged ahead, easily gaining on the younger boy, and grabbed his shoulders. “Please, stop.”

“I'm sorry.” Regulus' body went weak under James' touch. He turned around at the older boy's guidance and looked up into his eyes. He could barely make out the soft hazel behind James' rain streaked lenses, but he could tell the boy was not angry with him.

James wanted to say something comforting, but there were no words to explain how he felt. He didn't even know how he felt at that moment. There was only one thing he was sure of and it was that he wanted to kiss Regulus. He put his hands around the younger boy's neck and pulled him closer. James didn't think. He didn't over analyze. He didn't try to make things perfect. He just let his body be the guide.

The older boy crashed his lips against Regulus' and closed his eyes. Regulus was shivering and his knees near gave out at the contact. He instantly forgot about the fear and the insecurities. He slid his arms around James' neck for support and leaned up into the kiss. It was rough and messy and their teeth clicked together more than once. It tasted of faint cigarette smoke from James' pre-practice sneak and mint from the gum he'd used to conceal it from his teammates.

Regulus parted his lips and yearned for more. He pushed one hand into the older boy's hair and held him in their kiss. He feared if he let James go now, he'd never experience it again. They were freezing. The rain felt like ice against their skin as it continued to shower them. James' hands shook violently as he grabbed the front of Regulus' coat and pulled him closer. And the kiss continued, despite the cold, despite the escalating thunder, until they were both shivering so hard they couldn't take it any longer.

James pulled away with a halted breath and laid his forehead against Regulus'. “So...cold.” He tried to laugh, but the temperature made it painful.

The younger boy reluctantly pulled his hand away from James' hair and clung to the boy's chest. “You kissed me.”

James grabbed onto Regulus' coat sleeves and started tugging him back towards the Slytherin changing room. “Yes, I did. And if you get out of the damn rain...I'll do it again.” He half-shoved the younger boy into the changing room and shook himself off as he stepped in after. “I feel like I'm frozen!” The boy bent over and shook the water out of his hair, then shrugged back out of his soaked coat. He tossed it over onto a bench and grabbed the front of Regulus'. “You'll freeze in this.” He pushed the boy's coat back from his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor with an uncaring thud.

Regulus shook his wet hair out of his eyes and stared at the ground. “You kissed me.”

“I see you've mastered that sentence. Now for the next one,” James teased. He unwound the soaked scarf from around Regulus' neck and laid it over the nearest bench.

“I'm just having a little trouble believing it, is all.” The younger boy laughed nervously and rubbed his hands together. “Gods it's cold.”

“Well we wouldn't be so cold if you hadn't run off into the bloody rain.” James laughed and grabbed a green towel from the rack beside the doors leading to the showers.

“I was scared. And you were...I thought you were mad.”

The older boy pursed his lips and stood behind Regulus. “I wasn't mad.” He rubbed the towel against the back of the boy's neck and up through the back of his hair. “I was...scared too.” He bit his bottom lip and kept rubbing Regulus' neck with the towel until the younger boy turned around. “It was my first kiss and I didn't know what to do.” He felt foolish with his honesty.

“It was my first kiss too.” Regulus took the towel from James' hands and moved behind him to return the favour.

“Daphne...?”

“I've never kissed Daphne.” The Slytherin let his arms fall to his sides and tossed the towel over into their laundry bin. “I don't feel right when I'm with her.” He dropped onto one of the benches positioned by the wall and leaned back against it. “I've tried to. She is an amazing girl but I...I don't – I don't feel like I'm supposed to when I'm with her.”

James lowered himself onto the bench beside Regulus and turned to face him. “How do you think you're supposed to feel?”

Regulus met the older boy's eyes and pressed his lips tightly together. “Well...” he shifted on the bench and leaned towards James a little “...I don't – I didn't know. I was just waiting to feel right. Waiting to feel like I do...now. I wanted her to make me feel the way I do when I'm around you.” He released a breathy laugh and covered his head with his hands. “I'm sorry. I can't believe that I'm saying all of this to you. You must think I'm mental.”

“I don't. And don't apologize.” James pulled the boy's hands away from his head and held on to them tightly. “I've been kind of confused, myself, lately.”

“You have?”

“Yeah.”

“Because of me?”

“Because of you.” The boy nodded and stared down at their joined hands. He brushed his thumb over the top of Regulus' fingers and smiled. “I'm not really good at all of this emotional talking stuff.” He laughed and squeezed the boy's hands. “Mostly because I don't have a clue what I'm doing or how I feel or what I want.”

“We don't have to talk.” Regulus felt his face warm and gave the older boy a little smirk. “You did sort of offer me something if I came back in here.”

“I offered you something?” James put on an innocent face and looked towards the ceiling. “Wow, I don't remember offering you something. You might be a little mistaken. Are you sure?”

“Don't you play dumb with me, Potter.” Regulus tugged on the boy's hands, calling his eyes back. “Or maybe you're not playing.”

“Did you just call me dumb?” James gasped. “And Potter? Oh, you're in for it now, Black.”

“Is that a threat? I say, it's a rather lousy one. A bit vague.” The younger boy grinned and moved a little closer.

“But vague threats are the best because you never know what's coming.”

“Am I supposed to be afraid now?”

“Oh, you should be very afraid.” James laughed and got up on one knee.

Regulus bit his bottom lip and looked up at James with the sweetest, most innocent face he could manage. “I'm absolutely terrified.”

The older boy shook his head in amusement and tried to pull the overwhelmingly large smile off his lips. He rested his hands on the boy's neck and leaned down until they were so close he could feel Regulus' breath on his lips. “Are you terrified now?” he whispered.

“A little bit.” And he was a little bit terrified, but all the playful banter between them had done wonders for calming his nerves. They were right back to how things were over the summer. It was times like that one that caused Regulus to start having feelings for James in the first place. The boy grabbed on to the front of James' shirt and leaned up towards him, taking the initiative. He pressed his lips softly against the older boy's and smiled into the kiss.

A clap of thunder echoed loudly through the changing room, making James flinch. He rolled his eyes at his own skittishness and kissed Regulus once more. The lightening and thunder and incessant rain continued for well over an hour. Neither boy was in any hurry to get out of the changing room and it was rather disappointing when the time came to make their way back to the school.



Notes: The “kissing in the downpour” scenario was developed by Astoria Viana for her wild romance challenge.


Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
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Chapter Nine


“Sirius...I have to tell you something.” James took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “I kissed your brother.” He gave a little nod then groaned loudly. “No, no, that won't do at all.” The boy kicked at the base of the bathroom sink and glared at his own reflection in the mirror. “Okay. Sirius...I made a mistake. No! Mistake sounds like I regret it. I don't regret it. I just....” The boy sighed loudly and stared down into the sink. Did he regret it? He didn't want Sirius angry with him, he didn't want to ruin Regulus' relationship, he didn't want to get either of them in trouble, he didn't want to give up trying to be with Lily...but did he regret the kiss?

Even though he knew it was the wrong thing to do, nothing about kissing Regulus had felt wrong. Not then, not in the moment. But now, he wasn't so sure. He gripped the edges of the sink and met his own hazel eyes in the mirror. “Sirius, I've done something that you won't be too happy about. I didn't mean to; it just sort of happened. It was an accident.” The boy scoffed at himself and turned his back on the mirror. “Yeah, I just accidentally kissed someone. About fifty times. That's real believable, James.” He shook his head and started pacing the bathroom floor.

“He's going to kill me. He's going to kill me, bury me, dig me up, and kill me again.” The boy dragged his hands through his still slightly damp hair and took several long, soothing breaths. “Maybe not. Maybe he'll understand. If I just explain it gently enough, then he won't -”

“James!”

The boy ran rigid hearing Sirius shout his name from the bathroom door. He barely turned in time to see the other boy before he was engulfed in a hug.

“Where the hell have you been? We were looking everywhere for you. We were afraid you got hurt or something!” Sirius shook James a little and stared into his eyes. “James, are you alright?”

“Yeah, yeah.” James let out a shaky breath and nodded. “I'm fine. Why were you all looking for me?” He peeked around Sirius to see a relieved Remus and Peter in the doorway. Guilt lurched in his stomach and made his mouth line with saliva. The others had been out looking for him, Sirius had been worried about him, and he was hiding away, betraying his best friend's trust.

“Your practice ended over two hours ago.” Remus held up his watch, looking a bit put out.

“We were afraid you got caught in the storm or something,” added Peter. “We checked the hospital wing even.”

“I was – the map?”

You have the map, James.” Sirius hit his friend's shoulder, a mix of anger and relief on his face. “You think we're that stupid?” He shook his head and rubbed his hand through the boy's wet hair. “Where were you?”

“I got stuck at the Pitch. I didn't wanna walk back with all the lightening.”

“You weren't at the Pitch.” Peter widened his eyes and folded his arms. “I checked there first for you. And you weren't in the changing room or the equipment shed.”

“I wasn't in the...um, Sirius can I maybe talk to you...alone. For-for just a minute.” James ducked his head and kept his eyes on the tips of his shoes, not daring to look at any of the Marauders. Their worried tones only made his guilt double. “Please?”

Remus and Peter frowned but didn't argue the matter. They left the bathroom and closed the door behind themselves.

“James, what the hell is going on?” Sirius leaned back against a sink and stared over at the other boy.

James took a minute to compose himself before turning to his friend. “Sirius, I did something....” He sighed heavily and looked down into the boy's confused grey eyes. “I did something that you're not going to like. In fact, you're going to very angry with me and I just hope that you won't hate me when I tell you what it is.”

“I could never hate you, but you're starting to scare me a little.” Sirius folded his arms and raised an eyebrow at James. “Come on, out with it. What's so bad that you could think I would hate you?”

“I....” James stepped closer to Sirius and put on his most apologetic face. “I was at the Pitch...when it started storming. I was down there, just not...not in the Gryffindor changing room.”

Sirius shifted in place and pursed his lips. “Go on.”

“Look, I didn't plan for this to happen, okay? I thought there was an intruder and I went to check it out and I should have left, I know that I should have just turned around and left but I couldn't because...I don't know. Maybe I'm just weak, I don't...know. But I know that I messed up.”

“James...what – did – you – do?”

James swallowed back the lump in his throat and covered his face with his hands. “I kissed Regulus.”

Sirius let out a sharp laugh and tilted his head. “You're putting me on, right? This is some kind of joke?” When the other boy didn't answer, he stiffened up and stepped away from the sink. “James, tell me that you're only joking. You wouldn't do something like that. We just talked about this. I just told you how dangerous it was to let him keep falling for you and you – you go and...and I can't believe this. James tell me that you didn't!”

“I'm sorry.” His apology was a mere whisper, barely able to leave his lips.

“I can't believe you.” Sirius balled his hands into fists and held them in front of his face, doing everything he could to reign in his temper. “Dammit, James!” The boy grabbed onto the front of James' robes and pushed him against the bathroom wall, hard enough to make a point, but not enough to actually hurt him. “How could you do this?!”

“Sirius....” James curled his fingers around Sirius' wrists and looked him straight in the eyes. “I messed up. I know that. Please just....”

“Please what? What? Just get over it? Just forget what you said? What, James?”

“Just don't hate me.”

“I have never been this mad at you.” Sirius clenched his teeth together painfully and brought his face nearer the other boy's. Each word he spoke was pointed and teetering on the edge of a yell. “I kind of want to hit you right now and I've never felt that way before. Ever. But as mad as I am...I could never hate you. I love you -” he loosened his grip on the boy's robes “- the same way I love Regulus.”

“I didn't mean for it to happen.” James pulled off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. “I really didn't. I would never go behind your back on purpose. I feel like a complete arse.”

“Well, you are a complete arse.” He turned his back on his friend and leaned over the sink, holding on to the edges to keep himself steady. “How could you let something like this happen?”

James did his best to steady his shaking hands as he replaced his glasses and moved closer to his friend. “Like I said before...I didn't know it was him, I thought there was someone breaking in and I went to stop them...but it was Regulus. It's not like I walked in there thinking that I was going to kiss him. We started laughing and joking around and it just happened.”

“Everything I told you yesterday, the warning I gave you, what I said about our parents, none of that mattered? Do you not even care what this could do to him?” Sirius kept his eyes down as he spoke. “He isn't prepared to deal with this.”

“Sirius...he's not a little kid. He can handle being kissed.”

“Can he?” He looked up at James and quirked a brow. “So then what happens now? Are you two together or something? Was it a one time thing or did you plan on sneaking around behind my back for the rest of the year?”

“No!” James grabbed the boy's shoulders and shook his head adamantly. “It was never the intention to betray you, Sirius. I told you what happened. Right away.”

“That doesn't answer the question.” Sirius pushed James' hand off his shoulder. He was his best friend, and he loved him dearly, but he couldn't control his temper well enough to have James touching him at a time like that. “Was it a one time thing?”

“I don't know.”

“Does he know?” Sirius held out his hands and backed away. “You're telling me that you kissed my brother but you didn't tell him whether it was a one time thing or not?” He dragged his hands back through his hair and let out an angry growl. “What if he thinks it means more? What if he runs out and breaks things off with Daphne? Did you even think about that? She's good for him, you know.”

“I know, she's...nice.”

“No, she isn't just nice. She's a good girl. She might be a Slytherin, but she isn't one of those Pureblood, elitist fiends. I've asked around, her father actually works at the Ministry campaigning against anti-Muggle-born legislation. Do you know how good it would be for Regulus to be around her family? Do you even care?” He gritted his teeth again and gripped the edges of his own robes. “You stupid...stupid arse! You're in love with Lily, aren't you?” he demanded.

“Y-yes. But that doesn't -”

“And he might be love with you! Whatever happened out there might not have meant shit to you, but have you even considered what it meant to him?” Sirius didn't bother trying to keep his voice down.

“I never said it meant nothing to me.” James' face flushed red in the heat of the moment. “Sirius, I'm not a complete monster. It did...mean...something. It isn't the same as with Lily, but he...” he licked his lips and shoved one hand into his hair, his entire face contorting in distress “...he matters. I like being around him. I like talking to him and I liked...kissing him. Lily, she makes me wanna be a different—not just different—a better person. But Regulus is different; he makes me feel like it's okay to be me.”

“My brother is not some kind of consolation prize.” Sirius narrowed his eyes. “And he's not some kind of tool to make you feel better about yourself.”

“That's not how I meant it, Sirius.”

“That's what it sounded like.”

“I don't know how to explain it any better.” James swore loudly and unwittingly sent his hand crashing into the small collection of toiletries lined up beside the sink. Bottles of cologne, tubes of toothpaste, and four toothbrushes scattered over the bathroom floor, making James swear again at his own brash actions. He dropped onto his knees and began to collect up the mess.

Sirius crossed over to the door in three large strides. He jerked it open and looked down at his friend. “You fix this.”

“How?”

The boy held up his hands and twisted his lips. “You got yourself into this mess, you can get yourself out. Besides, you've made it very clear that you can't take my advice.” He walked out of the bathroom and slammed the door.

Sirius glanced around, wondering where Remus and Peter had vanished to. Perhaps the two didn't want to overhear James and Sirius' fight once the voices got a bit too loud to be confined to their bathroom. He shoved his hands into his pockets and bounded down the stairs into the common room. Sure enough, the missing Marauders were sitting on one of the couches, talking between themselves. They looked up, wearing matching concerned expressions, the moment Sirius got near them.

“Everything alright?” Peter glanced back at the stairs, wondering if James would be following.

“Not really. But it will be.”

Remus shifted in place, the questions obvious in his eyes, but he stayed silent.

“It was just a fight, okay? Friends fight sometimes. James and I...we'll be fine, Moony.” Sirius didn't want to be standing there when James emerged from the dormitory. “I need to go...handle something. I'll see you guys at dinner, alright?” Without waiting for a reply, the boy turned and dashed out of the common room. He made his way towards the dungeons, which wasn't always the best idea considering who he was. And even worse an idea when he was alone and without James' cloak for protection. Luckily for him, the only two Slytherins he saw were a couple of first years who wouldn't dare pop off to him. “Can you get my brother for me?”

The first years didn't even answer, they simply disappeared behind the wall into their common room. For a while, Sirius wondered if they had just gone off and not bothered to do as he asked, but eventually, Regulus emerged, his eyes alight with confusion.

“Sirius...what are you doing down here?” Regulus pulled his robes tighter around himself and started down the hallway, hoping to get as far away from the Slytherin habitat as possible. “Are you alone?” He looked around, watching carefully for any signs of shifting and listening for possible foot shuffling.

Regulus was very well aware of the existence of James' invisibility cloak. The summer the elder Potter passed it on to his son, James and Sirius took it upon themselves to play practical jokes on Regulus. It had gotten so out of hand, the young Black refused to come out of his room for days, claiming that the house was haunted and he was going to be killed. Sirius had finally taken pity on his brother and the two oh-so-clever Gryffindors confessed their secret. Why Regulus had never told anyone else about the cloak was a mystery even onto himself. His brother hadn't even threatened him to keep it a secret. Part of him thought, maybe he just enjoyed being in the know on one his brother's little secrets, and telling other people would taint the magic of it all.

“Yes, I'm alone.” Sirius chuckled at his brother's paranoia and shook his head. “I promise, Regulus. I'm alone. Would you look at me.” He snapped his fingers in front of the boy's face and called his attention back. “I came alone because I wanted to talk to you.”

“Yeah, but it's not really a good idea for you to be around here.” Regulus stopped searching for signs of other people, though in the back of his mind he still wondered if he was being spied on. The boy continued down the hall, not feeling as though they were far enough away from the Slytherin common room. “What did you wanna talk to me about? Are you in trouble?”

“What? No, I'm not in trouble.” Sirius balked at his brother and folded his arms. “I didn't come for some big reason, I want to see how you're doing. How's class going, how's Quidditch going, how're things with you and Daphne?”

“Oh.” Regulus' face lit up a bit. “Well, class is going alright. I think that I'm going to drop Potions next year though.”

“Mum and dad won't like that.”

“No, but Professor Slughorn will.” Regulus laughed and shared a glance with his brother. “I swear, I almost melted a cauldron last week.”

“And Quidditch?” Sirius tried not to sound like he was in a hurry to get to the answer he truly wanted.

“Quidditch is fantastic. I think we're going to take the Cup this year, but I always think that, so....” He shrugged. “You seem awfully interested in me all of a sudden.”

“You're my brother.” Sirius came to a stop at a window and lifted himself onto the ledge of it. “Mary was telling me that I don't pay enough attention to you. She's right. We're not as close as we used to be.”

“I see.”

“Yeah, so what about you and Daphne? How are things going there?”

“They're good.”

“Just good?” When Regulus quirked a brow, Sirius held up his hands. “I'm only asking. I mean you said Quidditch was fantastic and Daphne's just good.”

“Okay then, things with Daphne are fantastic.”

“Are they really?”

“Yes. Sirius....”

“And this whole Genoa thing, that's still on?”

Regulus huffed a little and leaned against the window sill opposite his brother. “You're asking if my plans have changed since I saw you in the store? Yesterday. No, they haven't changed. I don't typically cancel holiday plans in a span of twenty-four hours.”

“I was only asking, don't get so snippy at me.”

“Sorry, I just think it's weird that you would ask.”

“Regulus, can't a bloke just show some interest in his brother's life without it being suspicious?” Sirius looked out of the window. He pushed the guilt off his face and arranged his features to look as offended as possible. “I miss talking to you about stuff. And we've never talked about girls before. This is like...a right of passage or something, the older brother talking to the younger brother about girls.”

Regulus felt crummy inside for being so harsh to his brother. It was still awkward, the sudden interest in his life, but the last thing he wanted to do was push Sirius away. “I've never had anything to talk about before. Girls have always been your area. I've always been...the other Black.”

“Regulus, you are not the other Black.”

“I kind of am, Sirius. You're the rebel, the bad boy, the Gryffindor. Everyone lines up to fall at your feet. It's a bit sickening, really.” He scuffed his toe up against the stone wall and grinned. “And then there's me. I've always been in your shadow but now....”

“...now?”

“Now...I'm not. I finally feel like someone wants me. That I'm the first choice.”

Sirius cleared his throat before going on. “You're talking about...Daphne right?”

“Of course I am.” Regulus kept his eyes on the ground as he spoke. “Who else would I be talking about?” He regretted the question the moment it came out of his mouth.

“I don't know. You're fifteen, it's kind of soon to get really serious about anyone. For all I know, you have three girls on the side, just waiting for Daphne to bugger off.” Sirius forced a laugh and put his hand on his younger brother's shoulder. “You're not like that though, are you?”

Regulus shook his head and slowly lifted his eyes to meet his brother's. “It's just Daphne.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and twisted them around. “Why would I need anyone else? She's brilliant, she's sweet but...” he let out a soft laugh and started grinning “...she can also be a real bitch when she needs to be.”

“And she's gorgeous.”

“Very.” He nodded in agreement and leaned against the wall. “She's very gorgeous. Mum and dad approve. What more could I ask for?”

Sirius looked out of the window for a minute before climbing down. “I have to go.”

The words stung Regulus. “Already?”

“Yeah...I forgot I had to meet Mary in about ten minutes.” Sirius checked his watch, but didn't even focus on the time. “Sorry. We can talk again later. I promise.” He flashed a tight smile before turning on his heel and jogging off down the hall.

The younger Black stood there, speechless, as his brother dashed away. He wrapped his arms around himself and swallowed back a lump in his throat. The blood drained from the boy's face as he realized what was happening. Sirius knew. There was no doubt in Regulus' mind that his brother knew. He wasn't shocked or angry, it was James' prerogative to confess what had happened to his best friend if he chose, but deep down, Regulus felt disappointed. And most of all, he was afraid.

He took a long breath to compose himself and trekked back to the common room. Everything was as he left it: Daphne was sitting on the couch nearest the flickering fire, her History book spread open in her lap; Evan was sitting across from her, pretending to read his Potions notes while discretely starting at Daphne; and Severus was sitting next to Evan, prattling on about some euphoria inducing elixir. The boy took his place back beside Daphne and pulled his book into his lap.

“Everything alright?” The blonde tucked her hair behind her ear and offered up a sweet smile.

“Everything's fine.” Regulus looked down at his book and reached across the cushion, taking the girl's hand into his own. His treacherous heart longed for James, but his hand stayed steady and resolute. He shifted and pressed his lips against Daphne's cheek. “It's perfect,” he whispered.



Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
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Chapter Ten


The stands were still wet when James escaped to the Quidditch Pitch after dinner. The rain had stopped somewhere around midday, but deep puddles and patches of mud lined all of Hogwarts' grounds. The boy stepped precisely into each puddle he came near, leaving the bottoms of his pants soaked through by the time he reached the Pitch. He swiped his wand over an area of the stands, all the way to the front, to pull the water from it before taking a seat. He would have liked to pretend that he just needed some time to himself, but the truth was, he was avoiding Sirius. He couldn't handle the boy's angry eyes on him; it made him sick.

And he deserved every bit of Sirius' anger. He knew that.

The Gryffindor sat back against the stand and stuffed his hand into his pocket. His fingers brushed against the gold concealed within and closed around the tiny Snitch. A smile threatened his lips as he pulled out his toy and watched its wings unfurl. Fifteen—maybe twenty—minutes melted away from him as he released and caught his Snitch. His attention was focused on one thing only, pushing the rest of the world out of his head. He didn't even hear someone walk up behind him.

The Snitch darted from James' fingers and shot straight up. For a moment, the boy was afraid he might not catch it in time. But it didn't matter, because a new hand closed around the flash of gold before James had a chance to react. He started and whirled around in his seat, his eyes racing up towards the new figure. “Regulus....” His voice failed him after that.

“I followed you,” the younger boy answered to the unspoken question. “I've been sitting back there, trying to work out what to say. I feel like there's a million things running through my mind right now...and I don't know how to tell you any of them.” His grey eyes never left the Snitch captured in his fingers. He waited, possibly to collect his own voice once more or to give James a chance to reply. He cleared his throat and shifted his tone from emotional to factual. “Sirius came to see me earlier. He was asking a lot of weird questions.”

“I told him.” James reached up and laid his hand over the younger boy's wrist. With minimal guidance, he pulled Regulus to sit down beside him. “I couldn't just not tell him. He's my best mate and -”

“You don't have to explain.” Regulus licked his lips and swallowed back his nerves. “I really didn't want Sirius to know about...to know that I'm...that....”

“He already knew.” James looked over and met the other boy's confused eyes. “In Hogsmeade yesterday, he told me that he's had his suspicions since summer.”

Summer?” Regulus let out a sharp breath of surprise and widened his eyes. “He's known since summer and he...well he's been...that day at your try-outs, he was going on about Lily; I can't believe this.”

Now it was James' turn to be confused. He squeezed his fingers over Regulus' wrist and tugged the boy's hand gently over into his lap. “What are you talking about?”

He wanted to answer, but all he could think about was James' touch and the way the boy was caressing his skin. The Gryffindor didn't take his eyes off Regulus' face as the tips of his fingers moved along the boy's palm and traced each of his fingers. The movement was slow and trance-like, his face betrayed no emotion on the matter. And when Regulus didn't speak, James lifted his hands and cradled the boy's neck softly between them. The pads of his thumbs brushed down the length of Regulus' rigid jaw.

The younger boy held his breath and pressed one hand flat against James' chest; the other still held hostage a now-docile Snitch. His fingers curled around the fabric of James' shirt and urged him forward. Their lips met, softly at first, and both closed their eyes to become lost in the moment. And as it stretched on, the kiss grew more passionate. No longer were they sloppy and ill-experienced, the time locked away together in the changing room had been enough to get the proper feel for each other. Fingers tangled into dark strands; breathless whimpers escaped at every chance; bodies pressed together as close as possible.

When the kiss broke, Regulus let out a shuddered breath and clung to the older boy. His nose brushed across James' cheek and the smaller boy nuzzled his face against his warm, inviting neck. “Was that a goodbye kiss?” His words were broken and hot against the older boy's throat.

James pressed his lips tightly together and ran his fingers through Regulus' hair. “I don't want it to be.”

“But...?” the younger boy prompted. He pulled back just enough to look up into James' eyes and gave him a strained, knowing smile.

“But....” James closed his eyes to avoid the boy's stare. “We can't be together.”

“I...know.”

“And it isn't because I don't want to be.”

“I know.”

“Because I do. I really do but there's so much in the way and it's so complicated.”

“James, I know.” Regulus tugged at the front of the boy's shirt and hesitantly pulled himself out of James' embrace.

The older boy made a weak effort at keeping the younger close. He knew better than to fight what was happening. What he would struggle to hold on to wasn't his to keep. It wasn't meant to be his to begin with. He ran his hands affectionately down Regulus' shoulders and met his eyes. “Do you love me?”

Regulus hadn't been expecting such a question, so even he was shocked by his quick reply. “No.” His heart thudded harder against his chest, his eyes searching for wound in James' expression. But he found none. He continued regardless. “I might have. One day.”

James grinned and put his hands over Regulus'. “You and me...we could have had something.” He spoke like he was idly commenting on a lost Quidditch match. “Something pretty good. You know, in a different time. Different kind of place.”

“A different world?”

“Yeah.”

“I don't wanna do this. Play the...what if game. I don't want to sit here and talk about how if things were different, then we could be together because they aren't different. And the best thing for us to do -” he pulled his hands out of James' grip and held up the Snitch to him “-is to forget. Forget that there was ever anything between us. I want to forget it all.”

“You don't mean that.” He couldn't take the Snitch from Regulus. He just stared down at it and shook his head. “I want you to keep it.” He pushed the pilfered gold back towards the Slytherin and gave him a steady look. “Please.”

Regulus stared down at the Snitch, gave a solemn nod, and slipped it into his pocket. “I should go.”

James silently watched Regulus walk away. He stayed in the stands until the sun faded into a bright orange wasteland and darkness took its place. The Gryffindor took a deep breath of the chilled night air and vowed to put it all behind him. He had taken the time to mourn what never was and now...it was time to move on.

He stepped down from the stands and made his way slowly back to the common room. Remus and Peter met his return with excited smiles and Sirius offered up a forced one. The Marauders retreated to their dormitory to discuss the plan for the upcoming full moon. James couldn't help but feel a slight sense of disconnect; like there was something keeping him from the others. Ever since the group discovered Remus' lycanthropy, they promised no more secrets; they would stick together, each helping to bear the other's load. But this was something James had to carry alone. A weight that pressed on his shoulders and kept his head down. Something he could not yet shake off. And even Sirius—the person he trusted more than anyone in the world—could not help him this time.

They never spoke of it. As James struggled to regain a sense of normalcy, they never discussed why. And he did, in time, return to his normal self. The old James broke through to the surface—a bit more thoughtful, a bit more mindful of his actions—but still the same James. When it was tasteful, he resumed his steady pursuit of Lily Evans, this time a little wiser to her hopes for him.

There were days when Sirius would notice a frown on his best friend's face, catch James' eyes on the Slytherin table, sense trepidation in the insistence that he was fine. But he never once asked why. He never doubted James' love for Lily and his trust in the boy never wavered. He knew that even on the days he caught James wondering what if it never changed what was. When the news of Regulus' fate reached the Marauders, he bore the weight alone. He did not dare go to James with his tears on losing his brother to the Death Eaters...and eventually losing him to death. James did not go to him either. He did not ask if it was because James didn't care or because he cared too much.

James would always wonder if something he said that night put Regulus on the path to death.

And as much as Regulus would have liked to blame James for his horrible decisions, he knew better. The night he walked away from James was only the first of many wrong turns in his life. He carried himself back to the Slytherin common room with a sense of relief. No longer would he have to move through life with the idea of James hanging above his head. He arrived back to find Daphne in another's arms but where rage should have been, he only found motivation.

He made her promises. Promises that he soon broke. Time and time again he vowed things would be different until she eventually gave up on him completely. He soothed himself with other girls. And when they grew tired of his detached nature, they moved on and another took their place. None of them lasted for more than a handful of time. It didn't take long for Regulus to realize that he liked it that way.

Regulus buried his feelings where James was concerned. He honestly hadn't given over a single moment's thought to the boy until his face shined out from page three of the Daily Prophet: a wedding announcement, lined in sepia toned roses, boasting the smiling faces of James Potter and Lily Evans. The date and location were—as expected—withheld. So many little Order members in one place would be prime pickings for his lot. He stared down at the would-be hazel eyes and wished so hard that he could feel something once again. Anything. Had he truly become so cold? Become someone who felt no flicker of affection or remorse? He turned the page and had his answer. On page four lay the obituaries. The face he saw this time was put there by his own wand.

In a perfect world, the reality of his love coupled with the reality of his hate should have been the trigger that led to his eventual betrayal and death. But it was not a perfect world. And it would be many months before any such change began inside of him. The only comfort he ever knew was dying before James did.

Fin!


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