Grimmauld Place. Ancestral home of the Black family. Deathtrap made of mortar and brick.

Sirius stumbled out of the closet, one hand clenched tight in the sleeve of his brother's shirt. The other sleeve was missing, loose threads dangling beside tattered strips of fabric at Regulus' shoulder. The oldest brother was laughing like a madman. His hair was in shambles, tuffs sticking out every which way with cobwebs hanging from the ends. His grey eyes were wide and sparkling from the adrenalin pumping through his veins.

Reg's eyes were wide as well, although it came more from the fact that there was still saliva dripping off his fingertips.

"What—Sirius—My—" He couldn't quite make a full sentence at the moment, and Sirius let go of him to collapse onto the divan. They were in the library, but Regulus could swear that they had gone into his bedroom closet. Portraits stared down at them between rows of books through tiny spectacles, each one wearing an identically disappointed look. They tended to look like that when Sirius was skulking around. Finally Sirius managed to catch his breath and respond to the unfinished concern.

"That, my dearest brother—That was fun." Which was something the elder boy never seemed to have in this house. Certainly not since he had returned from his first year of school, finding his normally distant mother positively frigid.

"That 'fun'," Regulus managed to put all the horror and repulsion he possibly could into the single word, "nearly ate me!"

"Oh, you're overreacting. It was only playing." Sirius came to its defense, although Regulus wasn't having any of it. He sat beside the older, still all goggle-eyed. His mouth opened to reply as he looked at Sirius, although even as he did, the words evaporated into stifled snickers.

"It was, was it?"

"It was. It only wanted a nibble of Ickle Reggie." Sirius managed to keep a tone devoid of humour, and it was all that was needed to break Regulus' lips into a smile. People said that they were as different as night and day, Sirius who was so outgoing, getting his hands on band tees and blue jeans, compared to shy little Reggie who always looked so somber in his pressed slacks and ties. Sirius liked to think they were just two kinds of night; himself the soft breezy summer type, with the man in the moon laughing with you as you chased lightning bugs in the countryside (Sirius had never been to the countryside, and James had neglected to mention the biting bugs, lack of plumbing, and poison ivy when he had told Sirius about it, and if he hadn't then perhaps the view would be a little less romanticized). Regulus was a winter's night, where the air was so cold it burned your lungs to breathe, and you couldn't go out for more than a few minutes before your nose and cheeks turned pink. No smiling moon for him, only a multitude of stars, a heavenly audience watching with disinterest. To Regulus, metaphors were not a part of his vocabulary, and Sirius was like Sirius.

"Don't call me that!" It was hard to sound indignant while you were trying to hold back a laugh, so he gave up when Sirius tossed an aptly named throw pillow at him. "Stop it" was shouted amidst laughter and squeals, and within seconds Sirius was mercilessly wiggling his fingers against Reg's sides, making him shriek. The tickle war (which was make of only one side tickling and the other flailing while screaming in delight) lasted not even five minutes before Sirius relented. Their cheeks ached from grinning for so long, and Regulus' chest was heaving, trying to catch his breath.

The clock out in the hall struck two, and a duo of perfectly enunciated screams told them the time. Another second before that knowledge sobered them a little more.

"We ought to get ready." Sirius mumbled the words, although he didn't move from his place, sprawled half atop his brother and half falling off the sofa. Regulus pulled a face at the idea. An arm draped over Sirius' shoulders lazily, the one without a sleeve.

"I don't want to go visit Auntie." Regulus proclaimed, his hand waved vaguely over Sirius' shoulder, but he, at least, began to sit, shoving Sirius away. The big brother wasn't helping, staying a dead weight and when Reg pushed him to the floor, he gave an 'ooph!' and stayed in place.

"Then… Let's not. We can stay in here. We can go hide in the closet! They'll never look for us, there—" Sirius was cut off by the incredulous look on Regulus' face. Silence reigned for a few minutes, and it seemed as if the boys didn't even need words to communicate brotherly plots and plans, although Regulus shook his head slowly. He was always the sober one, the one who would tell Sirius that wasn't a bad idea and keep his brother in check. Not even James had managed to keep Sirius on such a tight leash, and the youngster gave a sigh and shook his head, looking away.

"Mother would find us, you know that." He didn't have to finish the saddened suggestion; he didn't want Mother angry with him, didn't want her to shout at him, didn't want to be the disappointment.

"So? Don't worry, Reg. Nobody does anything to my little brother, not even foul harpies from beyond the grave!" Sirius said it grandiosely, with a grin and a laugh to hide the fact that he really meant it, but Regulus knew it anyway. He knew it an hour later when they shuffled back in beneath fur coats, snickering and whispering in one of the corners as they heard the shouts from the main room. He knew it a week later, when Sirius dared him to go into Mother's room and bring back the broomstick she had taken as punishment. He knew it a year later, when Sirius would give nasty looks at the other slytherins in his year (Reg got his own nasty look, although it was a special one that could have been knocked down by a stiff wind).

And he knew it almost a decade later, when he was scrambling up the steps to Sirius' flat, cold metal of the locket practically burning his chest and apologies falling out of his lips even as Sirius fumbled to get his coat and running to find where he had parked the bike. He even knew it when They came to Sirius' flat to look for him, although it had been too late by then.

A/N: Grammatical errs have been corrected, thanks to someone pointing it out via Review, making me go and find a Beta.