A/N: Hello! This is the first one-shot I've ever written, so I'd be super grateful for some feedback. A tiny insight into Regulus's head while he lives his Happy-Ever-After with Luna. This one is not related to Iacta, though that is where the pairing came from (thank-you to you all for giving me the idea). A just-under two thousand word love letter to grown-up Regulus Black.
Disclaimer: I do not own the works herein, all characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling, and all characters, storylines, situations, plots and the like do not belong to me. I make no money from this work.
Varying Degrees of Stupidity
Regulus Black was not a stupid man, but some things were incomprehensible.
For example, the fact that he was now safe, whole, and happy.
He wasn't certain how this had happened, and the why of it was pretty shaky too, but the sum of each spare part was that he was here; feeling emotions, aware of his own self, present in the moment for the first time in his miserable existence. The sheets beneath him were warm and pleasantly rumpled, the cotton blend which was such a startling contrast against the satin ones he was so used to comforting as it brushed his bare skin. The air smelled of salt-water and the barest traces of a flowery perfume – the unique one she had distilled for herself from the petals of home-grown tomato-plants and gillywater, which she brewed in the garden cauldron and dabbed sparingly on her pulse behind her ears, on her neck and the inside of her wrists.
The bed was empty but for himself, though her heat lingered beside him, so that he could reach out with his palm and feel her energy remaining in the imprint of her body. She woke at odd times and slept very little, so it wasn't an unusual occurrence for him to wake up alone, and when she was absorbed in her work he'd often fall asleep alone too, but she was never too far from his side so it wasn't a bother. It was difficult to feel lonely when his lover's warmth was a constant, abiding presence both within and without, just a few yards away, perhaps separated by walls and doors and windows, far enough away that privacy was ensured but not so far that the distance couldn't be breached by the slightest laugh, or a murmur of a request.
Rolling to his side, the French doors that led from their bedroom to the beach entered his frame of reference, and he lay sprawled on the bed watching the waves crest only to break on the sand. She would be down there, wandering as she often would, making the most of the early-morning sun before it got too bright to irritate her over-sensitive eyes and she would have to return to their cottage. If he concentrated hard enough, he could just hear the notes she was humming, uplifting even for all that they were completely out of tune.
It had been a long road to lead them here, to this tiny house on an isolated section of the coast, where few people bothered to visit and it could just be the two of them, basking in their survival. When they'd first come together they'd both been broken, scarred wrecks, so adept at hiding their own turmoil that they barely even recognised it in themselves any more. He'd brought familial baggage, low self-esteem, the emotional scars of a childhood he'd not wish on any person and a dangerously reckless streak that had almost gotten them both killed before he'd even known she existed.
She'd brought a fractured consciousness, alarming bouts of dissociation that had taken them years to overcome, the physical scars from months imprisoned in a dungeon – in his friend's dungeon – and a wild nature which had saved his life even as she'd lay dying.
He wished he could give her something more than the life she lived now in order to be with him. She deserved the world, and should she ask for it, he would find a way to wrap it in paper and lay it at her feet. She never asked, though. He'd tell her what he believed to be her right, what she deserved, and she'd laugh and stroke his face and assure him that she needed nought but what she had – she and him together, on their little farm by the sea.
It would help if he existed, he thought. But by the time they'd been united he'd spent more time 'dead' than he had ever spent living, and his fortune had been absorbed by the Potter scion, his inheritance signed away to the heir of a different house. Bringing him to the Ministry would have raised all sorts of difficult questions at the same time as tempting prosecution, and while there was evidence that he had been a part of the War effort those in charge were less than eager to let yet another Marked Death Eater walk free with a pardon and a medal. It undermined their narrow-minded ideals of evil being black and white and while there had been precedent, Severus Snape had always been in a league entirely of his own.
So he'd let it go, and in the process had given up his riches, his houses, his fancy robes and even his House-Elf. She'd not complained – had suggested it, in fact. Encouraged it. She'd thought their life together would be better without the world encroaching on them, without hearings and obligations and neighbours knocking on their doors. Her friends understood her well enough to know that when she left she would be safe, her sparse letters enough for them not to question her private existence.
Still, he felt he'd failed her, sometimes. That a woman as bright, beautiful and pure as she was shouldn't be tied to a life in the dark with a man whose sins were so many even dying hadn't cured the stain on his soul. The few things he could give her, gestures and gifts, seemed to pale in comparison to what she brought him – freedom, life, awareness, love. He'd often woke in the night sweating and shaking from nightmares that she'd realise her mistake and leave him for someone better, someone worthy.
She hadn't yet. She was still here. She still folded herself around him in the night, pressed kisses to his flesh and gave herself to him with unparalleled delight, as though he was something wonderful, himself.
She appeared on the horizon as he watched, dancing across the sand with her blonde hair trailing behind her like a cape, her skin glowing almost pure white from the reflection of the sun. She paused every few steps and bent down to collect something from the sparse grass or the sand, dropped it in her little basket and ambled onwards, gradually making her way closer to the house. Her hair was loose but for a little crown of grass and flowers in her hair, tangled into knots around the odd earrings she never took off. Sometimes he'd sit in bed with her and spend hours untangling the mass, separating it into sections and braiding it for her so that it was out of her way for when she next took one of her adventures into the nearby forest, where the branches would catch on her and yank until she was stuck. She wasn't very good at remembering to take care of herself; she lived on a plane of reality in which food and water and sleep wasn't a very high priority, not when she could be caring for wild animals or planting her vegetables or whipping up some peculiar brew for one of her sick friends in the nearby village. That was his job, to make sure she remembered that she was human.
Even he would forget that sometimes. That she wasn't some ethereal creature from another world. She looked it now, even, with her body barely covered by a luminous caftan, the wind whipping it tight across her delicate frame as she wound her way absently toward him. She'd looked it the first time he'd seen her, in that cave, when she'd dragged him from the water and given him his essence back. Cold, pale, shivering fiercely as she succumbed to the first stages of hypothermia, she'd still been the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen.
Looking up toward the house, he could tell the second she noticed he was awake. Her entire posture changed, from the airy, barely-there relaxation of seconds before to alertness, a smile sliding over her face, her expression brightening. She'd never know how much that reaction meant to him. Pushing himself up onto his elbow, he admired her as she approached.
"You're awake," she smiled as she drifted across the threshold, placing her basket gently on the dresser.
"Indeed," he replied, pulling his legs under him. She bent down to kiss him, and as he always did, he took advantage of the moment. His arms swept behind her knees, pulling her to him and falling backwards, sending them tumbling down onto the bed. Her laughter was like windchimes on the breeze as he rose above her, forehead pressed close to hers, noses barely touching. "And how are you this morning?" he asked, aware of his own voice deepening.
She smiled up at him, blindingly brilliant. Blue eyes sparkled like the rarest of precious stones. One finger came up to trace the lines of her face, almost against his own will. "We," she corrected gently, taking his hand and leading it to her abdomen, where she pressed down gently. "Will you always forget about our children?"
Huffing a laugh, he fell to the side, careful to keep his weight off of her. "We don't know for sure yet," he reminded her, though he couldn't hide his rising excitement at the very idea of her bearing his children. It was ridiculous, selfish of him, so want to bring children into this unusual situation, but there was something so tempting about the image of a little boy with her eyes and his hair, playing happily in their garden. Or a tiny girl, with her hair and his eyes, solemnly reading a book on one of the many swings they'd erected on the property.
She rolled her eyes at him, waving a dismissive hand in the air. "I know." She reached forward to ruffle a hand through his hair, ignoring his warning scowl. "I knew about you, didn't I?"
Well, yes, but her sixth sense was hardly the most reliable – by all accounts she'd only found him because she'd just happened to stumble across a Remembrall at Grimmauld Place. She was wrong just as often as she was right – while he was convinced on the matter of Blibbering Humdingers, he'd still never seen any evidence that Nargles exist. And likely never would.
Her eccentricity was as much a part of her as her hair and skin and laughter, so despite his serious misgivings, he tugged on a strand of her hair and tried not to offend her too badly. "How many, then?"
She tapped out a tune on her stomach and cocked her head to one side as though she were listening. "Too many," she grinned. "But I love you so I'll bear them."
He barked out a laugh and buried his face in her neck, breathing in her scent. He did love her. Sometimes it felt like he always had. Trying to remember a time before he'd known her was like staring through a grimy looking-glass to a darker, emptier time, where nothing would ever be right.
She'd come to him because he'd made a sacrifice – he'd given up his life to destroy Lord Voldemort – and she'd thought that made him noble and brave and good.
Maybe he had been all of those things, back then, but he wasn't any more. It bothered him to think that, yes, but one mustn't deny what one knows for certain. Now that he had Luna, and his children, and his little cottage, he wouldn't make that sacrifice again. The world could burn down around him and he'd let it, as long as his Luna was safe, alive and with him.
He wasn't a bad person, but he was a selfish one, and while making a noble sacrifice is fine if you have nothing to live for, to do so when you do … well, Regulus thought that was just stupidity.
And Regulus was not a stupid man.