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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 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 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.

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