GF: So...I kinda dropped off the face of the Earth. I can say, at least, that I have been writing. Just...not this. Writer's block is a thing. So is lack of inspiration. Had a ton of inspiration for Avengers fanfic though (40k+ words of inspiration by the way, #TeamIronMan, #spon). Which you all should go check out if you're in to that kind of thing. I've also been doing a lot of on-fanfic writing, that I'm pretty proud of actually. But I'm here now! And this is an update! Probably a super sucky update, but an update nonetheless. So yay. Fun times. (Also I wrote this Regulus oneshot thing, 7k+, and I'm kinda proud of it. So please go read it, please.)
Anything new with me? I went to Speech and Debate Nationals this summer, also taught vocals for Alice In Wonderland Jr. Started my junior year, going for the IB diploma. Please pray for me and my GPA. Also I might have crush on my best friend. Which is great and fantastic and I want to die because I just admitted that for the first time, please pray for my nonexistent love life.
Alright, I'm gonna respond to as many reviews as I can and hopefully can start writing this.
FairyRave: We are all trash, 100% garbage. Regulus needs more hugs. He needs all the hugs. Sirius and him are...working on it. They will get there someday. Soon. Maybe. Probably. Hopefully.
Fast Frank: Do not underestimate the abilities of one Molly Weasley, Mom Extraordinaire.
Linda and Gerda Willows: I love you two so much, honestly. Of course you can call me Charlotte. Your support means the world to me and I'm so terribly sorry that I took forever to update. You two are twelve now and I'm going to be turning seventeen in two months. That's not terrifying, not at all. (Do not give in to Twilight! Don't you dare!) The Philippines? I'm so jealous! Rip Gerda and her ankle.
LangYao: Aw, thanks man! I'm not sure what "*knot winds*" means but I'm guessing it's positive?
Kageriah: Oh I know. If you notice I never said that the quote meant that, only that it was meant to mean that. Some scholars (because not a whole lot of people choose to study this shit) say that blood was actually meant to mean the blood between brothers on the battlefield. There's also a theory that the phrase came from an Arabic proverb that switches water for milk, meaning that blood brothers (friends, buddies, pals) are closer than mothers (milk, boobs, babies, you get it). So yes, the covenant and womb thing isn't true, but I worded that specifically to say that the original phrase was meant to convey that message, not to have actually been that message. Like I said, I did a lot of research.
xXWinterRoseXx: I didn't abandon this story! If I did you all would 100% know. I just...lost interest, I guess. Gained interest in other fandoms mainly and put Harry Potter on the sideburner. But I'm back now! No worries! Yeah, no romantic stuff. Just not the focus of this story, sorry. Will have a lot of brotherly fluff though. (If you want romantic stuff though you should check out my Avengers fic which has some Stony elements in it along with fifty gallons of angst, #spon)
GF: Okay, so this chapter has a few quotes and shit from different nursery rhymes, and also a few lines from some poems. I think it's pretty obvious what stuff isn't mine, if it's a long thing in italics then it probably isn't mine. I put a list of them at the end author's note, in case you're wondering who wrote them also to give proper credit. If you have any questions just ask. Hope you enjoy!
What Little Boys Are Made Of
Sirius dreamed of running.
Paws hit leaf covered ground and tore grass out from the dirt. Mud coated black fur and a twig hung from a shaggy tail. Tall trees loomed over him, watchful guardians looking over him as he ran through the light they let between their branches. He could hear the soft clomping noise of hooves on wet leaves to his right, and the pitter pattering of tiny paws to his left. Ahead of him a wolf howled. A bark escaped his throat and his legs moved faster, propelling him forward. If a dog could smile he was most definitely smiling.
The guardians that took the forms of trees disappeared from above him, leaving him alone under a starless sky. The sounds of hooves and paws faded into the night and the wolf's howl changed to one of pain and no matter how fast he ran he couldn't seem to catch up to it. Sirius was alone, panting loudly into the quiet around him. He spun around in confusion and fear, he could see the twig hanging from his tail in the corner of his eye. Sirius lay down on the leafy floor, a whine of discomfort escaped him as he pushed his muzzle into the dirt.
Somewhere too far away from him the wolf howled up at the crescent moon that sneered down at him. It shone brighter than it ever had before and Sirius knew that it had stolen the stars.
How can anyone find their way home without the stars to guide them? The question still echoed in his mind when he opened his eyes and found himself human, in Regulus' room, and slouched uncomfortably in a chair. There was no moon, there were no stars that had left him, and no wolves howling. He was once again, alone.
The sound of slurping caused him to correct that thought.
Sirius turned to see Regulus sitting up in his bed, legs crossed and bowl of soup in both hands. His cheeks were still flushed, his hair was even messier, and his sweater seemed to hang off of his frame more than it had before Sirius dreamed of starless skies.
"Oh, you're awake," was all Regulus said as Sirius rubbed sleep from his eyes. The younger brother continued to spoon soup into his mouth, his own eyes tired and red.
"Yeah," Sirius stood up, stretching his legs. "You feeling better?"
Regulus shrugged, swallowing slowly. "I guess." Sirius searched his face but either Regulus didn't remember the night before, or he was very good at hiding it. He's very good at hiding a lot of things, the elder Black reminded himself, walking over to the bed. Sirius sat down, the bed dipping slightly under his weight. Regulus's eyes peered curiously over the bowl, confusion mingling with surprise in those clear, gray irises.
"How are you feeling, really?" Sirius didn't look away from his brother.
Regulus bit his lower lip. "Sick, obviously."
"And...I dunno," his brow furrowed, "normal?"
"Normal for you isn't really normal," Sirius pressed.
"How would you know?" Regulus asked, his voice accusatory.
"I know more than you think I do," the elder sibling brushed his hair out of his face.
Regulus slurped some of his soup. "Like what?"
"Like that you're not okay," Sirius finally said, the words felt like tears shed in the rain. "You always say you are, but you're not."
"I told you, I'm sick," Regulus placed the mostly empty bowl on the table next to the bed.
"That's not what I mean and you know it."
Gray against gray, eyes piercing into one another. Hooves hit damp leaves in the corner of Sirius's mind, Not him. Not a stag and not a lion. Almost a snake but not quite, slinking under the shadows and through the stars. What are you?
"I just...I haven't been sleeping well, that's all," Regulus's hand shot to the back of his neck.
"So I've noticed," Sirius said. "Noticed again last night."
Regulus sniffled. "What did you notice exactly?"
"You don't remember?" Searching those eyes was like trying to throw a punch underwater, always slower than you want and never quite reaching its destination.
"You had a nightmare last night." Direct hit. No, not a hit. It wasn't like punching underwater, it was like shining a flashlight through smoke. A mess of gray, floating and swirling in no attainable pattern, light reflecting and holding parts but never showing anything until the smoke slowed and there was one moment of clarity, something seen past it, and then it was gone. In an instant. Foggy once more.
"I'm sick, people tend to have nightmares when they're sick," Regulus deflected easily and the smoke masked Sirius yet again. So fake that smile, hide those tears, life is made of smoke and mirrors. "When you have a fever you sometimes have weird dreams because higher body temperature produces hallucinations and vivid imagery. During rapid-eye-movement sleep we have very poor temperature control, so having a fever only increases the chance of nightmares."
"Except you weren't dreaming." When truth sinks in and lies collapse, will freedom finally bridge the gaps? "You were remembering."
Regulus gave no response. The smoke was still there, but it was a thin screen and Sirius could now see through it. Behind it hid a boy. Scared and deathly quiet, very small, and utterly, terrifyingly, alone. How did the old nursery rhyme go? 'What are little boys made of? Snips and snails and puppy-dogs' tails, that's what little boys are made of.' This little boy wasn't. He was made of ice and fire, black smoke that refused to clear, blood and sweat and tears, and all the shadows that other little boys shied away from.
"You didn't just drown, you were drowned." It wasn't a question. It was a statement, one that the shadow boy did not refute.
"So what if I was?" It was clear and cut, almost defiant in nature. Snips and snails and puppy-dogs' tails.
"So what if-Reg!" A small flinch. Whether it was in response to the raise of voice or the use of the name, Sirius did not know. "We were...we were told that Voldemort had you killed. Having you drowned is something else."
It took a moment for Regulus to respond. He drew his sweater around him, pulling it back up on his shoulder. "He didn't."
"He didn't drown me," Regulus didn't meet his eyes. Sirius found himself wishing he could at least see the smoke. "Voldemort I mean. And he didn't have anyone else do it either."
"Then how…?" he stopped myself before the question formed, Fate's words echoing in his ears. "Reg, you've always been a fine swimmer. You always loved it."
"I did," his tone was wistful and far away. For a moment Sirius could see the boy he remembered, one who was made of snips and snails and puppy-dogs' tails. Then the boy made of nightmares returned. "I don't anymore."
(I'll tell you a story about Jack a Nory, and now my story's begun. I'll tell you another of Jack and his brother, and now my story is done.)
"The boggart…," Sirius trailed off, not really meaning to, "it was an Inferius, wasn't it?"
"I'm guessing it wasn't always."
The ghost of a smile, like someone remembering a time when once they could laugh, but couldn't anymore. "No, it wasn't." The ghost vanished. "When I was ten, over the winter holiday, Bella came home from school. She had someone managed to get her hands on a Swooping Evil. They're these large, butterfly-like creatures, they look almost harmless, except their teeth. They feed on people's brains. Bella thought that it would be fun to scare me with it, but it got out of her grasp and went after me. If Uncle Cygnus hadn't walked in I don't know what would've happened."
Sirius had stayed at Hogwarts over that winter holiday. And all the others.
"But it's not a Swooping Evil anymore," Sirius met his brother's eyes. There the little boy was, screaming silently, in the way only a child who's learned the hard way to quiet his pain can.
Regulus shook his head.
"You acted as though you barely remembered."
(Knowing I could make him no reply, I took the gag before he could say more and put it back as tight as it would tie, and locked the door and locked the door and locked the door.)
"We remember everything in dreams," came his response. "They're only wisps of memory, too little to make out a picture, but enough to know to be scared of it."
The two brothers sat in silence, neither speaking of moving. All that could be heard was their faint breathing and the sound of rain. Tears shed in the rain.
In a house like this, Sirius had learned long ago, there were secrets hidden in every corner. Behind every tapestry and behind every vase. Under every desk and on top of every tall shelf. If you knew where to look you could find them. Kept buried in dark corners and in the shadows nestling below staircases. And some secrets, the darkest and ugliest, hid in the corners of minds and behind the eyes of children. Eyes filled with smoke to hide the horrors. Horrors that took the form of boys who learned not to wake the house with their tears.
"You're...you're not going to ask?" Regulus was biting his lower lip again. Sirius didn't have to say Ask what? He knew what he wasn't going to ask, and what Regulus expected him to.
"No, I'm not going to ask," Sirius's voice was barely above a whisper. "You're not ready to answer. But when you are, I won't have to ask. I'll listen."
Regulus didn't say anything.
(The night was dark, no father was there, the child was wet with dew. The mire was deep, and the child did weep, and away the vapour flew.)
"Get some more sleep Reg." And if the nightmares strike, I'll be there, Sirius promised himself, not Regulus.
He rose to leave the bed, a hand stopped him. Lithe fingers gripped his sleeve and Regulus's eyes of smoke did not meet his. The fingers left his sleeve and suddenly there were arms around his middle and Sirius couldn't breathe. For if he breathed what might happen then? Tentatively, with the same care one puts into handling a bird with a broken wing, he wrapped his arms around his little brother's shoulders. He held him close, fearing that if he let him go he would never get him back again.
Somewhere, hidden under the ice and the fire, the black smoke, the blood and the sweat and the tears, and the shadows, there was still a little boy made of snips and snails and puppy-dogs' tails.
Sirius took each step slowly, descending down the staircase at his own, leisurely pace. He had left Regulus in his bed, a blanket drawn up over him and a book on the pillow next to him, so he wouldn't be too lonely when he woke. Kreacher was there, standing guard, with strict instructions to get Sirius should Regulus experience any "weird dreams" again.
He made his way to the kitchen and felt no surprise to see Remus sitting at the table, a cup of tea in front of him.
"I was wondering when I'd see you this morning," he reached for the cup and took a sip of the dark, pinkish liquid. Pomegranate tea, Sirius's mind supplied. "I assume Regulus is asleep."
"Um, yeah, he is," the dog animagus sat down next to his friend.
"He feeling any better?"
"I think so," Sirius nodded. "He at least looks better, not as pale. Still has a fever though."
Remus nodded with them. "Hopefully it's just a twenty-four hour thing and'll be gone by tomorrow at the latest."
"Hopefully." Sirius wasn't looking at Remus, but at the table. His mind traced patterns on the wood. All he could see was smoke.
"Hey, Padfoot, you alright mate?" His head shot up.
"Me? I'm fine," Sirius offered a brief smile that vanished too quickly to have been real.
"Sirius, what's going on?" Remus lowered his cup to the table and leaned forward. Sirius debated answering with the truth for a minute and decided on a vague version of it.
"I'm just worried, about Regulus."
Remus raised his eyebrows, concerned. "Do you think it's serious? I'm sure it's just a bad cold, you really don't have anything to be worried about."
"No, it's not that," Sirius cut in, shaking his head.
"Then what is it?"
Sirius sighed. The smoke was gone now, all that remained was the table. "I...I didn't know him well, before he died. Hell I barely even knew him when I still lived with the kid. But I don't...I don't remember him being like this." He looked up to meet his friend's eyes.
Remus's expression turned to one of sympathy and pity. "Sirius you didn't know him at all during the war."
"But the war's over! Or at least that one is," Sirius started.
"Not for him it isn't," Remus smiled a mirthless smile. "You and I, Sirius, it's over for us. Has been for almost two decades now. Sure, those years haven't been easy on us. I was alone for the majority of them, living off of barely anything, and you were in jail, surrounded by Dementors the whole time. But it was over, is over. We've had sixteen years to come to terms with it all, to get used to life without war. He hasn't."
Sirius found himself picturing Regulus as he was now, eighteen, in dark robes, a Death Eater mask, and a wand clutched tightly with trembling fingers too young to even know how to hold a girl's hand properly. The image terrified him.
Remus continued, "You remember how it was. The constant looking over your shoulder. Whispering defensive spells under your breath out of habit rather than practice. Jumping at every little noise. Reading lists of the dead, hoping no one you knew was mentioned. Going to bed every night thinking today was your last. Not being able to sleep because every time you closed your eyes you saw the bodies of your classmates."
Sirius did remember.
"That was years ago for us," Remus's voice was low, as if he was talking to a small child. And in this moment Sirius almost felt like one. "For him it was practically yesterday. He hasn't had time to adjust to life without war, and he's about to be thrust back into another one. We've had years to come to terms with the deaths of our friends and loved ones. He found out only a few weeks ago. Evan Rosier was one of his best friends. Both his parents died. That's...that's not easy to take, especially when everyone around you is acting like it happened years ago. Because for him it didn't happen years ago. For him it never did."
Remus laid a hand on Sirius's shoulder. He grabbed his cup and rose from his chair. His hand slipped off when he walked away, probably to get some more pomegranate tea.
Sirius was once again reminded of a children's nursery rhyme, one about magpies. It was an old superstition, the number of magpies you saw determined the luck you would have.
One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret, Never to be told. Eight for a wish, Nine for a kiss, Ten for a bird, You must not miss.
Sirius stared at the table, once again seeing smoke instead of wood. Smoke that a little boy, a boy without dark robes and a mask and a shaking wand, hid behind. How many magpies have you seen, Regulus? He was scared to know the answer.
GF: So that was...different. My writing style has developed in my absence. Hopefully it's better now. Heads up, pretty soon I'll be going back and editing previous chapters. The plot and shit will be the same (although I'll probably change a few things in the very first chapter), but I want the style of writing to remain the same throughout the story, if that makes sense. Also, to write this update I had to go back and read everything and fuck was my writing bad. How any of you stuck through this far I will never know. I don't know when I'll change them, but probably before the next update. Which hopefully will not take me almost a full year to post. Hopefully. No promises.
Personally my favorite line to write was "Somewhere, hidden under the ice and the fire, the black smoke, the blood and the sweat and the tears, and the shadows, there was still a little boy made of snips and snails and puppy-dogs' tails."
I hope you all liked the chapter, I wasn't intending for all the brotherly fluff again, but it just turned out that way! Maybe the next chapter will have more plot. Until next time my little birds!
(What's your all's favorite nursery rhyme? Mine was always Hush Little Baby.)
Smoke and Mirrors by E.A. England
What Are Little Boys Made Of? 19th century nursery rhyme
Jack a Nory, old English nursery rhyme
The Lie by Don Patterson
The Little Boy Lost by William Blake
One for Sorrow, 18th century nursery rhyme