Four Conversations That Could Have Saved the World (And One That Did)
Rating – PG-13 or T
Warnings – AU (obviously), some darker themes, cursing and intentional abuse of grammar (and the English language in general) for stylistic purposes
Disclaimer –The quote from Remus in the first conversation is a movie which wasn't made yet and they wouldn't have seen it even if it had been, but I felt that particular quote worked well. All rights to that line (and all the characters, and this entire world) belong to someone other than me.
Pairings – Mostly gen, but with some James/Lily and if you turn your head sideways and squint properly you might infer Remus/Sirius
Summary – In the end, it all comes down to the moments we choose to live or don't.
Dedications – Each conversation is dedicated to someone different – 1 is for SeradeBlack, 2 is for rjlupinskat, 3 is for Mariahgem, 4 is for adianavy and 5 is for AnotherDreamer5. Thanks to you five, my betas or inspiration or, in some cases, both.
It's four days until Christmas when Regulus shows up, hollowed and haunted on Sirius' front stoop, unwilling or unable to ring the bell. Sirius can see him through the window, but despite the bitter chill wafting through London, he makes no move to greet (or shoo away) his younger brother. If Regulus has something to say to him, he'll bloody well have to make the effort himself.
"Bugger all," Sirius hears Regulus mutter from outside followed by two, short, sharp raps.
Sirius pauses a moment, leaning against the door with the knowledge that his brother – the real one, not one of those he's assigned the title – is inches away. So, so close, but with distance built into the spaces between them.
It's not until he hears a rustle of feet – a step, a turn – outside that he lowers the wards and opens the door.
Seeing Regulus is like looking at one of those funhouse mirrors he found so amusing when Lily dragged them to a carnival after graduation, only this isn't funny at all. Regulus is the same, except, of course, he's entirely different.
They've always looked a lot alike, a byproduct of centuries of inbreeding he supposes. But now Sirius' sharp, high cheekbones look hollow on Regulus' face and his gray eyes positively pale given the dark circles and bags beneath them. Sirius is the elder brother, but for all his youth, Regulus looks older now.
Sirius almost shuts the door. He wants to. There is so much hurt there, so much bad blood, and he knows, knows he's gotten the short end of the stick. It would feel so good to just give a little back. Just a little. Just for a moment, make Regulus taste what it feels like to be cast aside, thrown out, passed over. He wants to so very, very badly.
But, as he starts to push the door shut, those hollow, haunted eyes catch his. If Regulus had looked angry or sneered or yelled or tried to stick his foot in the doorway, Sirius would have shut that door in a heartbeat, forever locking Regulus on the outside. But he doesn't. Like everything else simultaneously familiar and foreign about the younger Black, Regulus looks at his brother with resignation. And that… that gives him pause.
I deserve this, his eyes say. I do. I deserve this and nothing better.
"What do you want?" Sirius asks harshly, one hand on the doorknob and one on his wand.
"I…" Regulus' voice is raspy and thick with emotion that Blacks don't have and certainly don't show. "May I… Do you think I might come in?"
Of course! Sirius thinks. You're my brother, you daft prat. Of course, you can come in.
Except, of course, it's not alright. It's not alright because even though it's the dead of winter, Sirius knows that Regulus, just six-months out of Hogwarts, wears long sleeves even in summertime and he shudders to think what Prior Incantato might reveal on his brother's wand.
He almost, almost shuts the door again. But those eyes, his eyes, stare back at him with the kind of pain he's only ever seen once in the mirror, after sending Snivellus to that damn tree. And he knows this is real.
He takes his hand off the doorknob and toes the door open, gesturing toward the settee with his wand. Regulus pauses as he crosses the doorway and looks around nervously, like he's sneaking in somewhere he's not supposed to be and could be caught at any moment. Apparently placated by whatever he sees, or perhaps doesn't see, the younger Black moves to the settee, but doesn't sit.
Bearing none of the grace of his upbringing, Regulus fingers the worn, broken threads on the arm of the couch with pale, boney fingers. Sirius watches him carefully, but doesn't move from his place by the door, like standing there might somehow make it easier to reverse his decision and turn Regulus out if he needs to.
Silence pounds in his ears and Sirius, who always has to have the first and last word and most of the ones in between, is drowning in it, but can't seem to find his voice. And so, it's Regulus who finally speaks.
"I've made a terrible mistake," Regulus says slowly, cautiously, and it's like his very words breathe air into Sirius' lungs.
Regulus looks like he did that time when he was nine and he'd come to Sirius' room, but only stood in the doorway, head hanging, as he confessed to accidentally breaking Sirius' broom. Only, it was okay then because it was just a broom and Sirius couldn't bring it to Hogwarts when he started there in three weeks because first-years weren't allowed brooms. And, surely there'd be some better, newer model their parents would buy him by the time he could have one at school anyhow.
So, this is the same as that, Sirius thinks. Except it's not at all.
Sirius nods, because he still can't find his voice. And even if he could, what would he say? You've made so many mistakes, Reg. Which is it you're choosing to acknowledge?
But, its fairly obvious which mistake he means when he rolls up his sleeve and Sirius finds Voldemort's brand staring back at him from the pale flesh of his brother's arm.
He knew, knew it was there. But, seeing that mark on his brother's flesh, his flesh, like he's cattle is too much to bear.
"You stupid fuck," Sirius breathes, unable to wrench his eyes from the sight even as the edges of his vision blur.
Regulus won't look him in the face now, but only stares at the floor making patterns in the carpet with his toes, like he did as a child when he was nervous.
"They'll kill you for coming here," Sirius says in a way that's obviously not a question.
War is old men talking and young men dying. Remus told Sirius that once, said it solemnly after they'd found the Prewett brothers as Peter threw-up in the bushes. Knowing Remus, Sirius is fairly sure he was quoting something, but it doesn't matter because it's true all the same. Only, now it's not the Prewetts – it's Regulus – and that's even less okay. And, he wonders if Dumbledore and Voldemort won't survive them all.
Regulus only nods and continues to toe the carpet purposefully.
"Why the hell did you come?" Sirius asks, anger seeping into his voice. Anger because they're both so, so close to childhood but so very far away from being children. Anger because Regulus is standing here in his living room apologizing for breaking his broom eight years ago and also for killing muggles. Anger because Regulus is his brother, his only sibling, and don't they know this? And doesn't that matter to anyone but him? And how could they possibly kill him if they knew that?
"There's… some things I needed you to know," Regulus says in that quiet voice that always got him out of trouble at school, but never at home because Blacks aren't meant to be ashamed or sheepish.
"I… bloody hell, Reg. I'm not a sodding priest. If you want to confess, find a church," Sirius spits indignantly.
"No," says Regulus looking up, a bit surprised that their silent communication had not been as clear as it once was. "No, it's not that."
"Well, what is it then?" Asks Sirius a bit desperately. "And why the hell haven't you left the country yet, you idiot."
Regulus smiles a bit at this. Quiet Sirius he doesn't know how to deal with. But this he knows. This is Sirius saying it doesn't matter what you've done, you're my brother and of course I love you and please don't die even if he only says it through weak insults.
"Sirius," he says, stilling his foot and looking his brother in the eye. "How much do you know about horcruxes?"