Disclaimer: Nothing's mine, and I'm obviously not making any money with it.
A/N: This is an authorized translation of a German story written by Vistin. You can find the original here: h t t p : / / w w w . h p f f a . d e / v i e w s t o r y . p h p ? sid=2061.
"And now I couldn't recover that music box."
Severus looked up from his glass of wine, surprised.
"What music box?" he asked Regulus. Even in the light of the setting sun Regulus' face seemed alarmingly pale.
"I think Sirius always wound it for me when I was a little child. I only remember this melody and a child's hands twisting the golden key." Regulus closed his eyes and hummed a lively waltz.
"Perhaps Mum threw it out. I've never really seen it, in any case. Since the times I have real memories of it has been gone." Regulus' gaze was fixed on something behind the hedge of the small savaged garden, and when he continued he spoke as if to himself. "I was three years or so and Sirius five when Sirius came into our room someday, emptied the box with the building bricks and started to put his clothes and toys in it. He shouted that he would move out and never come back. And then he suddenly stopped and looked at me and asked why I wasn't packing, as if it were a matter of course. I was supposed to come with him, of course." Regulus gave a bitter laugh.
"I think back then Sirius really liked me. He let me fly his first broom. I crashed headfirst into the wall of our house and broke my arm. I don't know if the broom survived, but I do remember my mother's words when I came to her, tears streaming down my face. Do you know what she said?" Severus didn't reply, because Regulus was not listening anyway.
"She said 'I don't have time for that now'. Well, it was impertinent of me to break my arm on a Tuesday. I remember clearly that it was a Tuesday, because she was late for the 'Witches for Charity Tea' and that couldn't have taken place on a Wednesday." For a moment, the sarcasm that was so typical for Regulus flared up. But then his voice was spiritless again.
"We used to have these cucumber sandwiches for tea, with sunflower seeds and some sort of sweet salad cream. I loved that stuff. When we had guests I always formed a guard of honour for my mother like a good little boy. I was always hoping the guests would find me cute and offer me another of those sandwiches. Isn't that sick? The richest wizarding family in England, and the two heirs of the dynasty didn't have enough to eat. Don't get me wrong, we had plenty of goodies. Sirius lived off chocolate frogs for about three years. He can still eat an ox without looking the part. We were crammed with sweets, but about real food my father was pedantic. Meals were punctually at seven in the morning, at half past twelve and at seven in the evening. At quarter past five we had tea, not a minute later, not a minute sooner. Of course we weren't allowed to enter the kitchen. Up to this day the house elves don't really follow my orders." He shook his head as if he couldn't believe his own words.
"Father still believes that we practically lived in a paradise. That Idiot! At seven o'clock in the morning a child is not yet awake enough to eat. Because our teacher almost always gave us detention because of some trifle, we were late for lunch most of the time. For tea we were rarely allowed to eat in the parlour, so we only got a cup of tea and a sandwich. And at dinner we had guests more often than not and we must not seem greedy or we were sent to our room where we had only sweets. I couldn't stand chocolate since I was six!" He made a retching sound and sipped on his wine. He still didn't seem to notice Severus who watched him with concern.
"And for that Sirius always resented me. Whenever our parents threatened us with food deprivation, I caved in. I couldn't live off Beans of all Flavours. The chances that they wouldn't taste of something sweet were too small. Sirius became more and more convinced that I was against him. To let him have my dessert only went so far. Imagine that, thanks to cucumber sandwiches two brothers become enemies. My parents are brilliant, the Dark Lord should make more of an effort to win them over. With their tactics he wouldn't even need to lift his wand to disunite the magical community in no time at all. But no, my parents chicken out. My mother's long-standing friend from the Roses Club was hunted down. Dolohow finished her off because her son joined the aurors. Last week, when I came to tea – the cucumber sandwiches still have an effect on me – Mum actually saw me off with a 'Be careful'. If even my mother notices what's going on, the situation must really suck. Don't, Sev!"
Regulus suddenly lifted his eyes, awake and alert.
"My brain's not completely addled yet. You know I'm your equal in Occlumency, but I have no desire to prove it. I have my reasons for not telling you. And even if no one else does, you at least should trust me ."
Severus lowered his gaze. He did trust Regulus. He was just worried. Regulus had never before stood on his door step. No one had. At first, Severus had not recognised the sound. Not very many people who visited him knew how an electric doorbell worked.
"Let's have a drink, no particular reason. Let's talk, who knows when we'll have the chance again," Regulus had said and pulled out a bottle of red wine. And now they were sitting in the garden and Regulus was talking about cucumber sandwiches. It unsettled Severus greatly, it almost frightened him. Considering the circumstances they were currently living in, a situation like this, completely common for other people, was so exceptional that it seemed ominous.
"What happened, Regulus?" Severus had asked this question several times already without getting an answer. This time was no exception. Regulus only gave him a faint smile and offered him another glass of wine.
"When Sirius left for Hogwarts, it got really bad," Regulus continued, ignoring Severus' enquiring, bemused gaze. "And then he got sorted into Gryffindor. Generations of Blacks had been faithful students of Slytherin, and Sirius became one of the red ones. The hat's decision sealed my fate. Those four months until Christmas were pure horror. Mum shooed me around all the time. From then on I didn't get a proper lunch again, because I was drilled – day and night – with the values and principles of Slytherin. But I had a goal that helped me through it all. On the first day of December I opened the first three doors of my Advent calendar and fed the chocolate to the owl. That way I counted the days to Sirius' return, not to Christmas. But when he came back he just passed me, without a word."
Regulus emptied his glass in one go and refilled it. Severus wondered at how sunken and bony his friend's face seemed. It had always been rather round, almost chubby. At Hogwarts Regulus had compensated everything he had missed in his parents' house. Now, he looked like an Inferi, haggard and peaked. It was as if hew as dying in front of Severus' eyes.
"When Mum made me wear those stiff festive robes and dragged me with her to this Christmas party of the 'Club of wives of people who have enough money to feed the whole town but would never think of it' or something along those lines and Sirius 'had' to stay at home, he didn't even look at me. Since then we haven't spoken anymore, only yelled. I disagreed with him to spite him. He wronged me. And I gave as good as I got." Regulus' voice cracked, and he rubbed his watery eyes. Then he seemed to get a hold of himself again. "Make sure that he knows, someday."
Severus had put away his glass and stood up.
"Damn it, Regulus! What have you done?" Severus' mind was full of foreboding. With a practised glance he scanned the garden, for it seemed as if the world had suddenly fallen silent. He made a fist on the table. He had to pull himself together not to grab Regulus' cloak and shake him.
"I'm not sure myself. But I have everything arranged, it will all become clear when the time comes. You only need to have faith in me and believe that I'm not a complete idiot. But it is time." Regulus got up, and Severus followed his example.
"Whatever happened, we'll find a way out," reminded Severus, but Regulus shook his head.
"No, not this time. I don't even want to try. It is my sacrifice for our mutual goal. I only want Sirius to know. One day."
"Know what?" Severus asked when Regulus said nothing else.
"Everything. Everything that's happened since he didn't listen anymore," he replied and then disappareted.
Severus didn't want to think about what had just happened. He filled his glass with the copious remains of the wine and let himself sink back into the old armchair.
By now, night had fallen.