written for tgs '12 days of christmas' and ilvermorny 'hogwarts at my fingertips'

tgs:

prompt:

5: five golden rings - write about a character who is considered 'rich.'

points: 5

word count: 3706

school, house: hogwarts, slytherin

ilvermorny:

prompt:

(quote) "We look up at the same stars, but we see such different things."

a/n: i got a little carried away and wrote a hell of a lot for this oops

. . .

When Walburga and Orion Black birth their second son, it is in hopes that he will be everything their first is not. The second son is not about love or siblings or anything like that — it's about fixing something that's broken and having a backup in case it's irreplaceable.

They name him Regulus.

"Regulus Arcturus Black," declares Walburga to her husband authoritatively. "He will be our greatness, our little king."

A shining star in the midst of duller ones. Someone to brighten the future of the family.

He's just a kid, a newborn — but the Black family will make him an adult soon. Their eldest is already six, and he has not learned yet; they will make sure that Regulus Arcturus does.

. . .

Growing up, Regulus learns — he learns to try and squash away Sirius's rebellion. When it doesn't work, he tries to stamp it out. "Mudbloods are evil, stealing our magic," he tells Sirius. That doesn't work, either. Then he tries to burn it by its roots: the Marauders.

"Your friend...he's a werewolf, isn't he?" he asks Sirius one day.

"How — how'd you — you're insane, Regulus," Sirius stutters back.

"He's always ill or conspicuously absent every full moon…isn't he?" says Regulus.

"Well, yes, you have me, so what are you going to do? Hmm? Are you going to go and tell Headmaster Dumbledore, go tell the Ministry?"

"He is a menace," Regulus points out. "He is endangering the rest of us just by being in the castle, he's a danger to you — you sleep in the same room as a werewolf, Sirius! How — how do you bear it, knowing he could maul you while asleep? Hmm?"

"Shut up, Regulus," Sirius scowls. "You don't even go to Hogwarts, how do you know this stuff?"

"I have my ways," mutters Regulus vaguely. He stands himself up taller then, warning, "Sirius, this is not going to end well. It's — you need to get away from Remus Lupin."

"Not going to happen," Sirius tells him rebelliously, "you're just parroting darling Mother, and it's not going to work on me, Regulus."

It's fine with him. Regulus is not going to tell, and he knows that nothing is going to work on Sirius, and it is just what he wants. Because everything to his parents is about fixing Sirius so he can be the perfect Black heir. Nothing is ever about Regulus. It's always "Regulus, Sirius is misbehaving again, go put him on the right track," and "Regulus, tell Sirius how terrible his friends are again." Never is it "Regulus, you're going to be the perfect Lord Black," or "Regulus, we've given up on Sirius and we'll focus more on you."

Regulus is that backup copy that you have but don't necessarily need unless the original is out of the picture. Regulus is that shadow that's there, always, but forgotten in favor of the real person.

. . .

His family tries to set him on the right track, anyway. They teach him that his House is the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black and the rights that come with the title. Walburga tells him that one day they will marry him off to some respectable pureblood girl and that Mudbloods are the ones he needs to scowl at and scorn; Orion tells him that business is needed to keep the family afloat and that he must sneer at the Mudbloods and the other purebloods who cannot compare to the greatness of the Blacks.

"Chin up, Regulus, you're not a dirty commoner, are you?"

"Bring Mudblood filth into the house of your fathers and you'll see, darling, your name will burn."

"Now, some of the purebloods are idiots, they're only steps away from dirt, see? So you'll want to marry someone nice, from a relevant family — oh, the Greengrasses have a wonderful girl, you know."

"You'll have to run the business — chin up, don't droop — so we'll teach you how not to make it die."

"Stay pure, Regulus, always pure. Toujours pur, remember! We don't allow Muggles and Mudbloods in this house!"

"Oh, there are rumors, Regulus, of a Dark Lord who will eradicate the filth from society...as soon as you're of age, you shall take the highest effort to join him...he's not a rumor, see, slowly, he rises…"

"How many times have I told you…? Chin up, Regulus, you're not a Mudblood!"

. . .

Nothing takes with Sirius. Regulus is ten when it becomes official.

His mother is sneering all over the place, and Regulus wonders what's going on until she finally sweeps up her robes and glides toward him. "Regulus," she tells him, enunciating his name as if he is royalty, "it has become apparent that there is nothing we can do for Sirius. So when the time comes, it will be you taking over. Do not fail this family."

That is all she says to him. It's all she'll ever offer.

For Regulus, it's enough, because oh, it's all that he's ever wanted. A chance to be the face of the family for once? When he's been the good, mannered, pureblood son all his life, now he can come out of his place in Sirius's shadow.

Is it? Is it really…? It's too good to be true, he thinks, but then stops — it doesn't matter, anyway. Regulus has what he wants.

. . .

Regulus is not a Squib; it is confirmed when the letter arrives, swooping in the house as Walburga and Orion beam proudly — everything about their second son is perfect!

They take him out to buy school supplies the next day. When Regulus finds himself in Diagon Alley for the first time, it is magical and wonderful and more than anything he's ever imagined.

He is taken first to Ollivander's Wand Shop, wherein an old, silvery man with keen eyes takes a good, long look at him, and then says, "Good day, Mr. and Mrs. Black...I assume you are here for the wand of your younger son?"

"Yes, please," answers Walburga rigidly. Then, addressing Regulus, she commands, "Go get your measurements taken."

Regulus steps forward and there's a tape measure that flits over everywhere and measures everything about him; his arms, his legs, his head.

Mr. Ollivander disappears into the back, and arrives with a white box — he withdraws a wand from it, a slight shade of brown with curls at its tip.

He hands it to Regulus. Regulus waves it, and nothing happens but for a small green vase breaking in the corner.

"Oh — apologies, Mr. Ollivander —" Regulus tries to say, but Mr. Ollivander cuts him off with a "No need!" and then waves his own wand at the vase, saying, "Reparo."

Ollivander disappears into the back again, muttering something like "How curious..."

"Mr. Black, try this one." He gives Regulus a black box this time; the white wand inside has zero effect on him.

Three wands later, there's a beech one with a phoenix core, about eleven inches and slightly springy, in his hand; Regulus prepares for it to fail, but red sparks shoot out of the end of it.

"Curious," mumbles Ollivander. "Curious, indeed."

"What?" Regulus asks him. "What do you find curious, sir?"

The man shakes his head, smiling ruefully. "You are young," he says instead. "You will have a chance to learn."

Orion smiles at him. "Thank you for the wand, Mr. Ollivander."

Regulus is rushed out of the shop, and Walburga mutters, "I think he might like Mudbloods — awfully nice wandmaker, though, a shame indeed."

Sirius looks sullenly at them, defending, "A shame for him to have to give you wands…"

It's then that Regulus really notices him. Sirius has been tagging along minutely for the entire trip — Regulus decides it's a nice reprieve when the two brothers switch places.

"Sirius Orion Black!" screeches Walburga indignantly. "You take that back right now!"

Orion puts a hand over his wife's shoulder to restrain her. "Walburga," he says calmly, giving her a pointed look, "it's not going to work. Sirius is not worth it." He gives Sirius a sneer.

Sirius sneers back equally. Regulus tags behind, saying nothing but observing.

"Let's just go to Flourish and Blotts," Sirius says, sounding depressed.

And they do. It's not much of anything, really. All they do is get their respective books, pay, and get out. Sirius is seventeen, and Regulus is eleven — they are both starting opposite years, and so they take opposite books.

"Now — it's time to get Regulus an owl," declares Walburga.

She charges into Eeylops Owl Emporium, and says, "Take your pick."

That is all he's going to get. It's enough for Regulus, because he has what he wants, now, doesn't he?

He walks out of the shop with a nice gray tawny owl.

"Name it well, you're not a commoner Mudblood, are you?" warns his mother. Regulus smiles at her.

"And keep your chin up, Regulus," his father chides. "Again, hasn't your mother told you enough times...you're a Black! Chin up!"

Regulus holds his head up higher.

"Good, now, don't droop the way Sirius does," mutters his mother, "hopeless boy, he is."

And Regulus does not droop: he is a Black, after all, the heir to a massive throne, and is a little posture going to stop him from taking what is his?

. . .

There is another boy in the compartment on the Hogwarts Express; he's a lot older than Regulus, but who isn't? With greasy black hair hanging over his shoulders and a sallow face with a long and upturned hook nose, Regulus is unsure about him.

They sit in silence for a while, each one waiting for the other to speak, as the awkward silence permeates the air.

Finally, he speaks. "Regulus Black, and you are?" in the manner that his mother taught him — a polite, interested look and an outstretched hand, with his chin up, of course. The boy looks at Regulus for a long moment.

"Severus Snape," replies the boy at last. "I know your brother, and he is not very appealing...Gryffindors…" he mumbles with a shake of his head.

"My brother," says Regulus imperiously, drawing himself up taller, "is a fraud of a pureblood. The only reason he hasn't been disowned is because he isn't affiliated with the Mudbloods."

"So you're Slytherin, truly, are you?" asks Severus Snape.

"Yes — well, I haven't been Sorted yet, but I know I will be, I'm the perfect son...but tell me — you are at least half-blood, are you? Snape isn't a pure-blooded surname, I'm sure you are aware," Regulus answers. "If you are a Mudblood, then — well, you're in Slytherin, you've done something right, you have my favor at the very least."

"I am half-blood," Severus confirms. "My mother was named Eileen Prince, and she married my terrible Muggle of a father — well, you'll just see what she did to him when he tried to hit her!" he laughs.

Regulus nods at him firmly. "You will do, then. I think my family will be most pleased to discover I have made acquaintances with someone of the same views — and older, too! Yes, they will be quite pleased, I believe."

Severus gives him an appraising look. "You are different, very much, from your brother. I think I like you better," he decides.

"I'm not like my brother," Regulus informs him. "I'm not weak like Sirius — I know what I want and then I figure out how to get it — and then, I take it."

Severus narrows his eyes at Regulus, not maliciously, but rather inquisitively. He finds what he is looking for a few beats later, and then gives Regulus a wan smile — not quite a happy grin but a little more than a sly smirk. "You are a curious thing, Regulus Black."

"Regulus Arcturus," he corrects. "Regulus Arcturus Black."

"A curious thing, indeed."

"It's odd, isn't it? When I went to get my wand, Mr. Ollivander said the same thing. 'How curious…,' he muttered, as if it was supposed to mean something," Regulus confides.

"Then most likely," deduces Severus, "it did. You'll just have to figure that out on your own."

. . .

When the Sorting begins, Regulus is fifth in the line.

First comes "Aaron, Kevin," ("GRYFFINDOR!") "Abbey, Tiana" ("RAVENCLAW!") and then "Belfry, Thomas," ("SLYTHERIN!") followed by "Benson, Bartholomew," who goes to "HUFFLEPUFF!"

Then, Professor McGonagall calls, "Black, Regulus," and he steps forward onto the stool, as the Hat is placed on his head.
You are a curious thing, says the Hat.

Hello to you, too, Regulus greets.

Now, let's see...you're very cunning, Mr. Black, and also your family has a history in Slytherin! I see a very obvious choice there, but then...you have Gryffindor bravery, and Ravenclaw smarts, and you have the drive for Hufflepuff…

...But all in all, that only contributes to your immense ambition, your immense cunning...better be, "SLYTHERIN!" it concludes.

There is applause from the table clad in his house colors — the snakes, the green and silver, the sly.

Regulus spots Severus Snape in the corner of the table. He's alone, talking to no one.

Regulus takes a seat next to him. Severus turns his head, eyes a little wide, but says nothing, only nodding.

There's a pause between them. No one speaks. It's not awkward as it was before, now companionable silence — the silence that's no longer unknown.

"So," says Severus, breaking the silence, "you did make it in Slytherin, after all."

"I am a Black," Regulus responds. "Did you think me anything else?"

. . .

Regulus eventually finds himself in a dormitory room. It's an odd thing, sharing a room, because it's the kind of thing that should bond people immensely, but will probably end up distancing them from each other even more. Regulus supposes he'll grow sick of his dorm-mates soon enough.

"So," one of them says that night. Regulus can't bring himself to remember his name. "We all probably have no idea who the others in this dorm are, so we should probably make an effort, you know — to get to know each other."

"I'll start," Regulus offers. "Regulus Black. Pleased to meet you all…" Unless you're a Mudblood, he thinks but doesn't say.

"Your brother goes to this school, doesn't he?"

"He does," Regulus replies. "He's Gryffindor. Also highly incompetent at anything but Quidditch...and who cares about that in the long run?"

At the end of the night, he's gotten to know Thomas Belfry, Henrie Jacques (he is quite French and has a thick accent. It is a little straining for Regulus to understand his speech), Xavier Colt, and George Zimmer much better.

It is an odd thing indeed, he muses, to share a room. Regulus doesn't think he'll mind it that much.

. . .

Regulus finds himself in classes the next day; after breakfast, which had comprised of idle chitter and meaningless small talk, he's ready to learn and make his parents proud.

As he thinks of his parents, he remembers he needs to write them a letter, detailing his experiences and, of course, his Sorting.

(He doesn't think he wants to tell them about the Hat's words — the Hufflepuff and Gryffindor bit.)

First, he has Potions class, and the teacher is a pudgy man named Horace Slughorn.

"Hello, class!" he booms. "It's my hope that you will have a good run in this class, and that you will learn the most that you can. We will begin by reading through the first lesson in your Potion-Making: Level One books, I do hope you've brought them...this will prepare you for the work we will be doing in the future. What we will be going through is the basics of potion theory, how to brew, and the most efficient ways to do so...this is the basis of Potions class, so do pay attention…!"

"It's boring, I do realize," Slughorn continues, "but it is a necessary evil so that you do not blow your brains out in this class! Turn to page fifteen, and we shall begin reading as a class...if you need help understanding a concept, please feel free to ask…"

Herbology with Professor Sprout is next. She is surprisingly genial, and they get into work right away.

"I hope that Herbology is a relaxing class for you all," she tells them. "And for this precise reason, I do not assign much homework. However, I expect you to make sure you are putting forth your best effort in class…"

"...We'll begin with a brief synopsis of some of the basic plants you may find in the magical world. For example, take the Venomous Tentacula...and the Devil's Snare...as well as the Mandrake, where it is most apparent that…"

"...Now, if you wish to study more about magical plants, you may go over the textbook. In the next lesson we will be caring for some Devil's Snare, and if you want to you are allowed to read up beforehand...we will mostly be using the books in class for instructions."

Next, Regulus has Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall.

"Transfiguration is a precise art of changing and differing forms," explains the Professor. "I expect you to put your best foot forth in this class, and that you are logical and efficient in the work that you do here. Transfiguration requires a lot of patience and precision, so you must be up for the task...for the duration of your time in this class, I will not be going easy on you. I will work you and I will challenge you, and I expect you to be going right along with me…"

Then, he has Charms with Professor Flitwick. He's a small man, and has to stand on the desk even for the smallest first-year to see him.

"A particularly tall batch this year…" he mutters to himself first. "Ah, hello, class! I am Professor Flitwick, your Charms professor this year, and I will be hoping to have most pleasurable years with you all...Charms is a branch of magic that you will be expected to use everyday. You will not master everything at once, but you will be needing quite a bit of the curriculum in my class post-Hogwarts; I hope that you will be listening to me this year…"

. . .

He ends up in this type of pattern for the rest of his years at Hogwarts. Things change, though.

Severus and the Marauders graduate; Regulus is a little bit out of friends, but who needs friends when there is ambition?

Sirius runs away from home to be with his Muggle-sympathizing friends; his name is burned off the tapestry. Regulus smiles at that — the world is his now, everything he's wanted is his now...he is everything.

Regulus joins up with the Dark Lord in his sixth year. The Lord claims he is immortal ("I have gone further than any to achieve immortality, Regulus; I am your Lord, and I will grant you greatness…") — and Regulus has studied the Dark Arts intensively for no reason but a curiosity. He has wondered of life and death and immortality and knows that the only thing that grants it is the Horcrux. And the Lord certainly seems like the type...especially his inhuman looks and red eyes…

He and his Lord are the same kind of person: they are men who look at something and know. They are men who can look among the stars and find the bright ones.

(It is out of this curiosity that he searches and searches and hides behind his Lord's back and uses his elf, Kreacher, to find a location for his Horcrux; it is for no reason other than a curiosity.)

There are things that don't change, though.

His parents tell him to keep his chin up. Regulus can never seem to do it for extensive periods of time.

Regulus is the perfect son. He has always been. He has always been safe with his family.

And then he looks upon his lord and he is the perfect Death Eater until he sees what his Lord finds in his stars, and it is then that Regulus thinks to himself, We look upon the same stars, but we see such different things.

. . .

Regulus has always been safe with his family, until he isn't, and the Dark Lord begins to start killing, killing, spilling blood —

Regulus has never seen death. He has always had the ambition, and the need to be the best son, but he has never seen the death that the Dark Lord brings in his wake. He can hear the pleas and the screams and he can see the blood —

And he knows that he only way that he can stop the Dark Lord is to spill his own blood —

(Because he knows, now, that the and the Dark Lord are the same but different.)

And there is the only way to kill him, the way with the Horcruxes —

. . .

Regulus is a Black, and there is a little something vain about the blood in his veins still.

Even in imminent death, there is his human desire to sign something and make it known that the person who is going to defeat the Lord will have been aided by him…

Regulus may not be a commoner, but he is a human and he wants the Dark Lord to know a few things. Regulus may not be a commoner, but he is a human and he is proud and he wants someone to know what he's done and how he had been clever enough to figure out the Lord's most kept secret.

Regulus is not a commoner; in death he will keep his chin up.

. . .
To the Dark Lord
I know I will be dead long before you read this, but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can. I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, you will be mortal once more.

R.A.B.