Disclaimer: Own nothing. Love it deeply and religiously, but own nothing.
A/N: Hmmm, well, here's another chapter. Obviously it's not in first person this time; I can never keep that up for long. . . Umm, let's see. Thanks to all my great reviewers-I think I have, like 7 now. Oh, by the way, if you're wondering where Peter is in this story, the answer is: he's not here. I don't like him, I suck at writing his character, so he's no here. If you really need to know where he went, ummm . .. He's on vacation in, like Aruba. Or Manchuria. And he's not coming back for a long, long time.
Regulus took a deep breath. He let it out slowly, trying not to let it sound like a long-suffering sigh. He failed miserably.
Sirius was walking behind him, with his miserable little friends, making snide comments. Loudly. About everything ranging from Regulus's mother to his supposed impotence.
Regulus really did not want to reply and turn this into an all out war. He knew exactly what Sirius was doing (as though he didn't always do it, jealous and angry as he was), and there were enough people watching this spectacle already without Regulus's input.
He had hoped that, after Sirius had left home, that Sirius would leave him alone at school, or at least have the decency to ignore him after leaving him so abruptly. But Sirius, as Regulus was constantly reminding himself, did not have as many positive attributes as Sirius himself claimed to have. He did not have any decency or, as far as Regulus could tell, compassion for his enemies. Regulus was just the teensiest bit annoyed. Maybe a little more than a teensy bit. Maybe a lot. Maybe he was really, really angry and maybe that smug bastard behind him deserved every bit of abuse he had ever gotten or was ever likely to get in the future.
In any case, Regulus was making a monumental effort not to turn around and hex the hell out of his brother and his scruffy little friends. (Although, only one of his scruffy friends was actually scruffy, at least by Regulus's family's traditional definition of the word; Potter was pureblood, albeit one-half Russian, but Lupin was half and half.) If Regulus were to curse them all, there wasn't a judge alive that could convict him. But Regulus had always prided himself on his self-control. He was always in complete command of his emotions and actions. For this reason, he never drank, or did anything outside of moderation. He also, unlike his brother, didn't do stupid things. He couldn't bring himself to, even if doing something stupid, like begging for mercy, or some other such weakness, might save him a lot of pain.
Regulus realized, suddenly, that his brother and his friends (or, to be fair, his friend; only Potter was joining in with the hilarity) were being awfully quiet. Regulus tilted his head to listen. Yes, they were still behind him, whispering. He tensed and listened more closely.
"-and just relax, Moony. It's not a big deal, and you know it." This was Sirius.
"Mangy mutt," Remus growled. "It is a big deal, you're acting like a complete and utter-"
"Come on," James interrupted. "It's just a little payback."
"And what'd he ever do to you?" Remus wanted to know, apparently speaking to James.
Sirius, however, was the one who answered. "He was part of my family?"
Regulus smiled. So Lupin was defending him. Regulus knew he liked him for some reason.
Remus was exasperated. "But what specifically?" he asked.
"Hated me with the rest of them," Sirius said.
At this Regulus paused. He had never hated Sirius. Never. He didn't hate anyone; he wasn't capable of it. But even if he was, it wouldn't be Sirius he would hate.
"And what did he do to demonstrate that?" Remus asked. He seemed to know Sirius vastly better than Sirius knew himself.
Regulus turned around, wincing internally as he did. This was one of those stupid things he never did. "Yeah, Sirius, what?" he asked. He hadn't meant to sound so defensive. He really wanted to know.
Sirius stopped walking and looked at his brother with something resembling hatred. He didn't speak, as Regulus hoped that he would, but only turned away, leading James off to some corner to discuss what prank they were going to pull on him next. Remus stayed a moment. He saw as Regulus turned away, obviously with effort, and walk towards the dungeons as the crowds dispersed off to classes.
And Remus's keen ears could hear Regulus, nearly at his classroom door, whisper, "Sirius," before he, too, had disappeared, and Remus was left in an empty hallway, with the portraits staring at him, and another prefect heading towards him. Remus took off after his friends.
Regulus suffered through class, not listening much to Professor Binns's lecture. But, then, that was nothing unusual. What was unusual was his brother-no not his brother anymore, Regulus reminded himself. Sirius had run away. Sirius had been disowned. Sirius was now living either with James or on the streets with some gang or other during the holidays. Not his brother. Never really had been. And . . . wouldn't be.
Regulus lay his head down on his desk. He felt very young suddenly. It was a strange, unfamiliar feeling, and he didn't know quite what to do. He should just forget Sirius. This whole situation was entirely too sentimental to him. Sirius had never really wanted him anyway, so why was he grieving the loss of a brother who hadn't been around, and who didn't even like him. Yet, he had said, that night so long ago . . .
"Reggie?" That was Sirius's pet name for him. No one else called him that. Or Sirius would call him 'kid.' "Reggie, are you okay?"
Regulus had given him a strange, perhaps even scornful look. Sirius was standing in his doorway, leaning against the expensive mahogany doorframe, with both hands shoved inside his pockets. That pose, Regulus had learned throughout the years, meant Sirius was feeling insecure. He'd answered after a brief, deliberately awkward pause. "Yeah. Why?" He put his leather book away in its drawer and locked it.
"I . . . just wondering," Sirius had said gruffly, looking at the floor. "It's sort of . . . rough here . . . isn't it? I mean . . ." Sirius was having trouble with words, unusual for him.
Regulus had raised
an eyebrow. "'Here'?" he had asked. "What do you mean?"
"Here," Sirius had repeated himself. "Y'know. At home. With mother and Lucius and." The words had been faltering, each one almost a separate sentence.
Regulus shrugged. He didn't want to talk about it. He'd never had as much trouble with the 'character building' as Sirius had had.
"Because, if you need me, I won't leave you," Sirius had told him. "I won't." These words were clear, and it had seemed to Regulus as though this was really what Sirius had wanted to say the whole time. What he had been leading up to with every faltering comment.
Because of this, because of the comment's nature, and because Sirius had never seemed to show much interest in Regulus before, Regulus felt as though he'd been given a gift. "Thank you," he'd said. He felt like he should thank him. He was grateful towards Sirius, after all. But from the look Sirius was giving him, Regulus felt as though he'd failed some sort of test.
The memory stopped there, as Professor Binns dismissed the class. Regulus glanced down and, with surprise, realized that his notes were blank. He always took notes, even when, for the most part, he wasn't paying attention.
Regulus just shook it off and shoved his things into his book bag. He'd read the chapter later. Odds were, he already knew it. He stood, straightened his shoulders, and headed to lunch.