A/N: For Maisie, as part of the GGE 2018. Hope you like it.


Regulus shifted uncomfortably in his seat and tugged at his collar. The late-summer's air was heavy and hot, making his robes cling to his clammy skin. All his family was there, talking about things that his nine-year-old brain could not yet understand. He shot a glance at Sirius, who was absently drumming his fingers on the surface of the mahogany table.

"...they say it could be soon. Sooner than we could have ever dreamt." His Aunt Druella spoke in a way Regulus didn't like, as if everything she said was the most important thing you'd get to hear all day.

"Really?" Bella, his cousin, sat up straighter and leaned forward, excitement glittering in her dark eyes. "How soon?"

Druella tittered nervously. "I think that's enough, darling. This is a conversation for the adults." Even he could feel the growing atmosphere in the room. The air seemed to buzz with the promise of great things to come.

"I have every right as you to know what's going on. I'm not a child anymore mother-"

Crack. His father slammed a hand down on the table, nostrils flaring dangerously.

"That is enough. I think it is time for the children to leave."

With a whoop of glee, Sirius leaped from the table and dashed out of the dining room. Regulus could hear his feet thundering up the stairs and the faint click as his bedroom door shut. Guess he doesn't want to play today, Regulus thought. He'd have to make his own fun.

He sat in the living room for a while, tracing his fingers over the woven, faded names of Blacks long dead. Cissa was sat on the overstuffed green couch, quietly reading a book. He didn't know where his other cousins were and he didn't much care. Bella was far too poised and grown-up to ever deign to talk to him and Andy seemed constantly immersed in school work. With a huff, he dragged himself to his feet and ambled downstairs. Kreacher could generally be counted on to make him a jam sandwich on the sly, and he hadn't eaten since breakfast.

Stomach rumbling impatiently, he pushed open the door to the kitchen. "Kreach...oh."

Andy was shoved up against the wall, Bella pressing hungry kisses to her swollen lips. Andy's fingers were tangled in her sister's knotted hair and she kept making these little breathy moans, causing Regulus to wonder if she was quite alright. Bellatrix had now moved on to nipping her neck with perfect, pearly teeth, and the trail of bruises she left in her wake looked rather painful to him.

He sensed he was intruding on something private and turned to leave. In his haste, he tripped and landed sprawling on the tiled floor. At once, Bella whirled towards him, roughly hauling him to his feet. Her lip curled and she whipped out her wand, digging the tip into Regulus' neck.

"What the fuck are you doing in here?" Regulus could hear the poison lacing her words and feel the heat in her gaze.

"I-I just, I was hungry. I wanted a sandwich." Even he hated how pitifully small his voice sounded.

Andromeda placed a placating hand on her sister's arm. "Look, Bella, he obviously doesn't understand. I'll talk to him, make sure he doesn't say anything. It'll be fine, I promise."

They locked eyes and seemed to have some sort of wordless argument, which Andy evidently won. Bellatrix paused to bend down and whisper in his ear, her sharp nails digging into his shoulder.

"If you say anything about what you saw, ever, I swear to Salazar I'll kill you." Then she was gone, in a flurry of wild hair and silk dress-robes.

Quivering, he turned to face his cousin. Her face was sympathetic, if a little patronising, and when she spoke her voice was soft.

"Do you understand that you can't tell anyone about what you just saw." He nodded, mute. "The thing is, well, we're grown up now and grown-ups sometimes like to do things like that. Bella and I, we love each other very much. Like…" She trailed off, searching for an example that he would understand. "Like you and Sirius. We're just showing each other how much we care. You're a big boy now, I know you know what I'm trying to say. So our secret, yeah?" Without waiting for a response she ruffled his hair, re-adjusted her robes and left.

Those words spun around in his head for the rest of the day, refusing to leave him alone. Like you and Sirius. Maybe the reason why Sirius didn't want to play so much anymore was him. We're just showing each other how much we care. Maybe he didn't let Sirius know that enough. We love each other very much. Yes, that was it. He just needed to show Sirius that he really did love him.

That evening, when everyone had left and the house was eerily still, he crept from his room down the hall to Sirius' shut door. Taking a deep breath, he pushed it open and padded across the room to Sirius' bed. The curtains of his window had been flung open, letting the soft moonlight illuminate the room. Sirius lay haphazardly tangled in his sheets, his too-long black hair splayed over his pillow.

Regulus perched tentatively on the small area of bed not covered with boy or silk. Sirius was still fast asleep, his chest rising and falling in a comforting rhythm. Smiling softly, Regulus lay down on the bed, so close that he could feel Sirius' breath warm on his face. He reached out one small thumb and traced it gently down Sirius' high cheekbones, across his cupid's bow lip.

"Reg?" Sirius murmured, stirring slightly beneath his fingers. "What're you doin'?" His voice was heavy and slurred with sleep.

"I love you," he replied, and placed a chaste kiss on his brother's mouth. They stayed that way for hours, bodies curled together, until gentle sunlight started filtering into the room, bathing it in ethereal light.

xxx

"I hate you, Sirius, I really fucking hate you."

"Don't worry, brother," Sirius spat out the word like it was a curse. "The feeling's mutual."

Regulus looked at him, looked at his narrowed eyes, at his face, twisted by years of bitterness and betrayal and too many shattered promises.

And then he launched forwards, fist flying towards his brother and connecting with a sickening crunch. Sirius was hitting back, desperate and wild, nose still dripping crimson. They didn't stop, not until they were bruised and bloody and, somehow, even more utterly broken.

Regulus couldn't tell when he'd started crying, but he had, hot tears stinging his eyes. He wiped them away furiously, but Sirius had noticed. Of course he had.

"Reg…" It almost sounded like an apology. "How did things get so bloody fucked up." And then he laughed, a wry, humourless sound and Regulus threw himself at him once more but for a very different reason.

Their lips collided and it was safe, it was home, but it was also fire and pure electricity. He could taste Sirius in his mouth and he realised he was moaning, little breathy sounds, and nothing had ever been more alright. Then Sirius was gone from his mouth, unbuckling his belt with quick fingers, like they'd done it a thousand times before, like it was normal. Regulus groaned, couldn't wait another second and pawed at Sirius' chest, ripping the shirt right off him. He closed his eyes, waiting for a release that never came.

When he opened them, Sirius had backed away, staring at him with pure horror in his eyes.

"Fuck!" he said, and then louder, "Fuck, fuck fuck, FUCK!" He punched the wall, hard, and his knuckles were bleeding but he didn't seem to notice. He just stared and Regulus just stared back, because he had never seen his brother quite this broken before, which should have been impossible. Sirius had shattered into countless pieces too many years ago to even remember.

"What in Merlin's name are we doing, Reg? Why is this family so fucked up?" Regulus didn't know how to answer. He didn't think he'd ever have an answer for that.

xxx

Regulus fiddled idly with the chain around his neck. It felt like a noose sometimes, tighter each day, but playing with it distracted him. Salazar knows, he needed a distraction.

"Master Black, Kreacher thinks we are almost at the shore." Once he had looked, he wondered how he not noticed, it was no more than an arm's length away. He stepped out of the boat, his sharp nails creating crescent moon shapes on the palm of his hand. All he wanted was for it to be over. He was fucking done. Had been for a long time, he supposed.

So he took the cup in his hands, raising it in a toast. To what, to who, he did not know. Then he downed it, and all he could see was him.

Bathed in hazy, early-morning sunlight, face fresh with innocence and the promise of a happy life.

Smirking at him from across the table, arching one aristocratic eyebrow in a poor imitation of his mother.

Kissing him, touching him, two hearts racing as one.

And then the fog cleared, and he felt oddly thirsty. He reached towards the lake for a drink, Kreacher's shouts tinny and distant in his ears. Really, he should have known better. Black ideas never end well.

Far above the cave, an owl in mid-flight came to a stop. It realised that the letter in its talons, a letter of hope and new beginnings and being brothers again, a letter of i love you, didn't need to be delivered after all.