Written For

Ultimate Patronus Quest Challenge: Beaver- Write about someone who is ashamed of something.

Heroes' Hunt Challenge: Write about a desire to return to a simpler time.

For Bex, my beautiful partner in crime.

His eyes are wide and full of wonder as Regulus offers him his hand. "But you're a Black," he says hesitantly.

Regulus shrugs. "And you're a Crouch," he notes. "Is there a problem?"

Barty hesitates. Regulus can almost see the gears turning in his head. Regulus' family doesn't exactly have the nicest reputation in the wizarding world, and with Barty's father involved in law enforcement, he can only imagine the stories the boy has heard.

At last, Barty accepts his hand. "No. No problem," he decides.

Barty takes his hand, his grip so tight that Regulus can feel his bones grinding together. He grimaces in pain but doesn't make a sound. He deserves to hurt for what he's done, for what he's turned Barty into.

"Problem?" Barty laughs.

Regulus shakes his head. "No. No problem, my love," he whispers, trying to ignore the blood that stains his lover's hands.

Regulus' hands tremble as he closes the distance between them. "Barty?" he says softly, hating the sudden onset of nerves, hating the way his heart beats so painfully that it feels like it might burst from his chest. "If I did something, would you judge me?"

Barty raises his brows. "What have you done?"

Regulus swallows dryly. "Nothing yet. It's something that I want to do," he says.

"I would never judge you, Reg. We're best mates."

Regulus only hopes he will continue to think that way. With a shaky nod, he pulls Barty close, capturing his lips in a gentle kiss. Barty's eyes widen, but he melts into Regulus' touch, smiling into the kiss.

"I hoped you'd want to do that," Barty admits.

"What have you done?" Regulus asks.

Barty wrings his hands together, madness in his eyes. "She was just a girl," he laughs. "But she was a Mudblood, Reg. Nasty little thing. It had to be done."

Regulus feels his stomach grow sour as he understands. He swallows dryly, taking a step back, but Barty is quick. In a flash, his hands tangle in Regulus' hair, and yanks him forward, pressing a bruising kiss to Regulus' mouth.

Regulus closes his eyes, his heart hammering. It's his fault that Barty is like this. If he hadn't led him down this path, he would have never grown so twisted.

"Don't hate me," Barty whispers. "I had to do it."

"I could never hate you," Regulus replies.

And it isn't a lie. He only hates himself for this.

Regulus falls back on the mattress, his bare chest covered a thin glaze of sweat. A satisfied grin plays at his lips as he glances over at Barty who is still trying to catch his breath.

"That was nice," Barty says, smoothing out his messy fair hair. "More than nice, really. Fantastic."

Regulus laughs and wraps an arm around his lover, pulling him closer. He can still hear the frantic rhythm of Barty's heart.

"Can we do that again?" Barty asks.

Regulus nods. "That's what couples do, isn't it? Fuck like rabbits?" he chuckles, reaching for his cigarettes on the bedside table.

Regulus trembles as Barty collapses beside him.

He can feel the soreness all over his body. Part of him wonders how many bruises will be visible with clothes in the morning.

"Still fucking like rabbits," Barty says proudly. "I believe the spark usually dies after a few years, and that stops. But we're stronger than that, aren't we, Reg?"

Regulus sits up with a wince. His shaky hands reach for his cigarettes. He tucks the filter between his lips and lights it, inhaling deeply. It's the first time the cold menthol and bitter tobacco do not ease his troubled mind.

"Having second thoughts?" Regulus asks with a smile, nudging Barty with his shoulder.

Barty bites his lip, nodding.

Regulus grins and pulls him close, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "I'll be there with you," he assures him, taking his hand. "You and me, Barty. Together."

"Forever, Reg?"

Regulus nods. "Forever, Barty," he agrees before leading Barty to where the others wait to take their Mark.

"You're having second thoughts," Barty accuses.

Regulus takes another drag from his cigarette to keep from answering.

"I can see it in your eyes, Reg," he presses. "You're an open book, whether you want to admit it or not. You don't want to be with me anymore."

Regulus snuffs the cigarette and lays back down beside his lover. "I'm still here, aren't I? I said forever."

"But did you mean it?"

"It's late, Barty. We should get some sleep."

Barty looks so peaceful when he sleeps. Regulus thinks that he could lay like this forever, just watching him, lost in dreams.

He presses a kiss to Barty's forehead, laughing softly when he squirms in response.

"You and me, Barty," he whispers happily. "Forever."

Regulus watches Barty sleep, shame welling up inside of him. The peace, the innocence have been long since been stripped away. Even in sleep, he looks half mad.

Regulus sighs and lights another cigarette. Ruining his own life is one thing. But he'd been so afraid of burning alone, that he'd dragged Barty down with him. Now, the kind, gentle boy he had once known, the soft and sweet lover he yearns so badly for, has been replaced with a monster that Regulus can hardly recognize.

"You and me, Barty," he says, flicking the filter and sending ashes flying. "Forever."

It's a promise he's made time and time again, but now he isn't sure if he can keep it much longer.

"I'll find a way to fix this," he whispers. "I'll find a way for us to go back to how we were."