Author's Notes: Written for by_starkiller's quote challenge, quote 32.
Lay Your Sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm:
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.
- W. H. Auden, 'Lullaby'
Both of the Black boys were bright, beautiful children, and there were people constantly around them, offering them sweets and books, and for the more adventurous Sirius, broom rides. Bellatrix laughingly called them the little princes, and she was not far wrong.
Sirius was the one who made the first impression, the charismatic one, but Regulus too was noticed. Some said that he was brilliant, but in reality he was only wise, far too wise for a child his age.
And if Regulus liked his brother a bit too much, no one said anything.
Hogwarts changed everything.
Sirius' sorting came as a shock to his parents, but not to Regulus, who knew everything there was to know about his sibling.
Regulus considered allowing himself to be sorted into Gryffindor as well, but he could already feel a separation coming.
When he came home that first summer, Sirius was vibrant but angry, allowing all of the rebelliousness that he'd previously hidden in his shadow to burst out. Sirius appeared to enjoy provoking their staid relatives, distubing them. Regulus was disturbed as well, but not for the same reasons. Sirius would, after all, always be his brother.
Except that he might not. He'd already left a good portion of himself at that school, and the thought that he might find someone there, someone to cage his wild heart, sent a chill down Regulus' spine.
But it was unavoidable, even more so when their parents, trying to avoid another fiasco like that with Sirius, sent Regulus to Durmstrang.
Regulus moped for a good part of his first two years, while Srius grew even more distant.
It same to head when Sirius left home in Regulus' third year. He'd apparently gone to the Potters' house, but Regulus had no confirmation of that. Sirius had not replied to one of his letters or communicated with him for the past six months.
They were drifting apart, or at least Sirius was drifting away from Regulus.
When their his father sent Regulus a letter informing him that he no longer had a brother, Regulus could not be surprised.
He began to make better progress in school, much to the delight of his parents. After all, if Sirius was no longer a part of his life, then he would have to redefine himself. He was no longer one of the Black princes, but The prince.
But he could not stop the small, bitter ache of his heart.
When Regulus was in his fifth year he was introduced to a man named Tom. Tom had thick, black hair, and piercing eyes, and he was charismatic as hell. Regulus told himself that Tom reminded him of his father, but knew himself to be a liar.
Regulus was uneasy of Tom's rhetoric, but Tom was determined, knowing that the Blacks were a powerful and influencial family. So it was that in his sixth year Regulus introduced Tom to his parents, and in his seventh took Tom's mark and swore himself to the service of his lord, though he had been serving the man in quite another way for a year already.
The first time he watched Tom take the life of another, Regulus knew himself decieved about his lover, the first time he did the same he knew himself decieved about his own nature.
He would have resigned himself to a life at Tom's side, but that very night Sirius appeared.
He came not as a brother, though that was how Regulus received him.
Sirius, it seemed, was part of an organization that opposed Tom, and had suspicions about his true activities. Regulus, who knew all about Tom's true activities, was afraid that Sirius would grow stern if he knew the truth, or at least of Regulus' involvement in it. Sirius, whom he had known for so long as a part of his soul, was now a stranger.
But he was still recovering from the shock of discovering that he was a monster, and old habits die hard. Sirius had been his closest confidante for twelve years.
Regulus confessed all.
And apparently the memory of their younger years was not altogether lost to Sirius, because he cast no blame on Regulus, but listened silently and finally advised him to go to Albus Dumbledore, "One of your people already has," he added.
Regulus winced at the ‘your people,' and utterly refused to go to Dumbledore. Tom's stories about the man stuck in his mind, and even if they had not he would have been highly hesitant about trusting a complete stranger with what remained of his life. It was that that had gotten him into this trouble with Tom, and he had known Tom for two years before Tom had gained his trust.
Sirius had broken his trust after twelve years of close friendship, Tom after three, why would Albus Dumbledore be any different?
Sirius wheedled and cajoled, but Regulus remained firm. He would be happy to meet his brother again, he might even give him information, but he would not be throwing himself at Dumbledore's mercy.
They agreed to meet two weeks later, and as he turned to leave, Sirius said,"You're not actually fucking him, are you?"
Regulus had made himself perfectly clear on that point, but he said only, "Isn't that what you're doing with your werewolf friend?"
Sirius flushed and said, "Well, yes, but that's different, we love each other."
Regulus said bitterly, "Not all of us are lucky enough to have it reciprocated," but he could not look at Sirius as he said it.
A week later Regulus walked in on one of Tom's meetings with Severus Snape, a recruit from Hogwarts.
Severus was an even more guarded person than Regulus was, and Regulus had never been comfortable with him.
Severus' eyes were wide and his breathing was rapid. Regulus might have thought that Tom was taking advantage of him, it was a common occurance with the younger, prettier men in Tom's service, and though Severus was not pretty, he had an intensity about him that was compelling. But Tom leaned back with a low laugh and said, "Our friend Severus has some interesting things in his mind." His eyes gleamed. "There is a prophecy."
Regulus' meeting with Sirius was a week away, and Tom was beginning to look at him strangely. Regulus supposed that he was acting distant, but he couldn't stop thinking of Sirius.
It wasn't until Tom smiled at him and reached for his mind that Regulus realized just how dangerous his distance could be. He had been trained in occlumency, but because Tom was the one who had trained him, his defences were inadequate, and Tom saw everything, including his intention to tell Sirius about the prophecy.
From his cell Regulus considered his chances of survival. He had seen Tom's vengeance, and knew that the only thing that might save him would be his skills in bed. He had just decided to seduce Tom when there was a rustling sound from the corner.
He approached the bars, calling out softly, "Who's there?"
There was movement, and a narrow face appeared in the shadows. And Regulus remembered. "One of your people already has."
He eyed Severus with interest. Neither of them could resist Tom's legilimency, so why was he the one in the cell, or rather, why was he in the cell alone?
"I'm better at it than you think."
So Severus was using legilimency himself. "Then why are you here? You know that he's going to pull it out of my mind."
"Not if it's not in your mind."
Regulus pulled back in alarm, but Severus just looked at him calmly. "I became disillusioned with Voldemort shortly after taking the mark. So did you."
"What's your point?"
"I don't have enough information to stop him, but you might."
Regulus thought that he didn't know anything that Severus didn't know, and his head suddenly hurt.
Severus snapped out, "There must be something!"
Regulus gathered his strength, using his occlumency to push Severus out of his head, and moved forward, saying, "Even if I did know of something, why would I tell one of Dumbledore's creatures?"
Severus came so close that but for the bars between them, their faces would have been touching. "You won't do it for Dumbledore," he breathed, "but you will do it for him."
And Regulus would.
He didn't know any deadly secret that would give Sirius' group an advantage, but he did know who Tom's next victims were going to be, and that Sirius would wish to preserve them.
He closed his eyes.
Even if his planned seduction was successful, this might be the last gift that he could give his brother.
"Take it," he whispered, "and let me not remember." That hurt worst of all.
A week later Sirius waited in a clearing for a brother who would never come, while in a nearby house his best friend was being murdered.
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