Because Love Stories Aren't Really Love Stories
A HariPo fanfiction
Part 5: The Excuse
Regulus stumbled into Dominique, who caught him, but he was heavier than she could manage, and she faltered, landing on her arse. He winced and rolled over in her arms, trying to get steady enough to get up. "Ow…"
Ginny thwacked her husband upside the head. "What the bloody hell did you do that for?"
"Everything!" Sirius hissed. He couldn't tear his eyes off his brother—until Ginny hit him in the arm and forced him to look at her. "Ow! Okay, okay, luv…"
Dominique helped Regulus up and glared at her uncle. "What the hell? He didn't deserve—"
Regulus gripped her shoulder and shook his head. "No, Dominique, he's right. I deserved that, and probably a million more." He stood up and looked Sirius in the eye again. "Brother."
Sirius stopped huffing and stared back. "Brother."
"So you're the Regulus Arcturus Black?" Ginny asked.
Sirius looked at him. "Then answer one question: Fifth year, Gryffindor party. My best mate had firewhiskey—what did he do?"
"Your best of your three best mates, James Potter, got touchy-feely with me when I came to finish an argument you and I had had earlier in the day. He walked off with me after parading me around the room with his arm around my shoulders."
"Ah. Nice. But everyone knew James was my best mate."
"He snogged me in the broom closet near the Astronomy Tower and swore he'd curse me if I told Lily when he sobered up." Regulus raised one eyebrow.
Sirius paled. "I thought James told only me and Remmy about that."
"Then only the real Regulus would know."
Sirius sat down in a chair. Ginny glanced at her niece and then went over and rubbed circles on her husband's back. "What about Regulus' wand?" Sirius continued.
"My wand is right here," Regulus stated. He took the stick out and passed it to Sirius, but the latter only waved it away.
"No, no, I'd recognize it anywhere. I remember going to Ollivander's with you that day." Sirius sighed, and the others settled down. Ginny sat on the arm of Sirius' chair, and Dominique and Regulus seated themselves in the couch in front of the other two. Sirius picked his head up. "How…? After all this time, how? Harry said that Kreacher said you died."
Regulus knit his brow together. "That reminds me—I should tell Kreacher, too."
"You can't," Ginny stated. "Kreacher passed on a decade ago."
Regulus' face fell, and Dominique felt him grip her hand. "Oh. How?"
"He wouldn't listen to me, still considered me a blood-traitor, and Harry and Sirius weren't home to tell him off. But he moved an old piece of furniture, one he said was your mother's favorite, and it crushed him. He couldn't move it physically, but his magic was weak from age, and it fell on him."
"Reg," Sirius said. "How are you still alive?"
"I cheated death. You?"
"Like brother, like brother. Same here. Though being pushed into the veil thanks to our lovely cousin Bella's Stunning Spell was no fun."
"She's dead, isn't she? Her name wasn't in the paper for arrests after the war."
Ginny raised her hand. "That was courtesy my mother."
Regulus gave Sirius a look. "Well. We've both made our beds, then, haven't we?"
"Reg," Dominique said, tugging on his arm. She'd felt him tense, and she knew that tension well. He was ready to either answer everything in questions…or dash.
"C'mon. The real story," Sirius elaborated.
Regulus leaned back and tilted his head back. He stared at the ceiling for a long while. Dominique looked back and forth between her aunt and uncle and him. It felt like forever before he finally said, "Kreacher…didn't know everything."
Dominique opened her butterbeer as Regulus cleared his throat. She was sure they'd be here for a while. By the looks of it, the others had thought the same thing. The blonde witch just wondered what would happen when all the tales were told.
"When I found out You-Know-Who was possible of being killed, I was…ecstatic. I thought it was a little hard to believe, but the way he kept Nagini close to him, the way he hid things in places only he knew, the way he visited the cave on occasion to check the locket's safety—it all added up. He feared something. He feared death.
My visit to the cave was the closest I could make him to come to fear me. I took Kreacher with me, I drank the poison, I took the locket, and then I failed miserably at trying to destroy it. I panicked. I hadn't thought that far ahead. I didn't know that, among all the hexes, curses, and jinxes I knew, none of them would work. I couldn't even comprehend what would destroy such a powerful item of Dark Magic. So I gave the locket to Kreacher and told him to hide it and leave. He didn't want to, but I didn't want him there when You-Know-Who arrived. And I knew he would; he wasn't the type to have a hideout that didn't alert him of disturbances." Regulus paused and took the other butterbeer from Dominique.
"You don't have to be afraid of the name," Ginny pointed out. "He's long gone. I saw him die with my own two eyes."
"Ma'am, when you've seen the horrors I have, you will always be afraid of the name." Regulus resumed his story: "Kreacher did leave me and I waited. The poison potion was already starting to wear me down, but I used the opportunity to put a fake locket in place of the real one and get a better handle on my surroundings. It wasn't just any cave. The ceiling was high and the only light came from my wand; the room was meant to disorient strangers. The water was no less intimidating. The boat that had ferried us across to the island with the locket had actually separated us from Inferi. Their eyes were lifeless, their bodies, corpses come to life. I remember looking at them and thinking that I'd be one of them soon."
"Inferi?" Sirius echoed. He shook his head. "Harry never told me much about that night he and Dumbledore ventured there."
Ginny grimaced. "He never told me either. But I bet Ron and Hermione know," she added, and Sirius nodded.
"Do you want me story or not?" the younger Black son asked.
"Of course," Sirius said.
"I hid when he arrived," Regulus continued. He got up and paced the room—perhaps to calm his nerves from reliving the memory, Dominique thought. "He was happy to play with someone. It was obvious that he hadn't realized his horcrux wasn't there anymore, otherwise he likely would've just brought the whole place down. But he knew it was me that had been sneaking around. After all, how many Death Eaters did research? Other than Snape, that is." He paused at the mantle above the fireplace in the room and crossed his arms. "He threw spells at me, including ones I'd never even heard before. I had a hell of a time dodging and deflecting them and I knew I couldn't evade him for long. I tried uselessly throwing some spells back, but… Well, you both know what that's like," he said to Ginny and Sirius. "The spells lit up the cave and the water, and I got an idea in my head. I knew I might leave there alive then.
I distracted him with a Blasting Curse, which targeted the ceiling over his head. The rocks came down and I dove into the water. The Inferi came after me immediately and I almost didn't make it back to the shore. One of them latched onto my leg, incredibly persistent, and I Petrified it and then burned it to a crisp. I then shot a jet of water at You-Know-Who—and it had the desired effect.
You-Know-Who was one for the phrase 'fight fire with fire.' Not only was he looking to dry himself off, but he was looking to flambé me, as well. He automatically cast Incendio and it was the most powerful version I'd ever seen of it. He scorched the cave and meant to scorch me, but I switched places with the Inferi as he couldn't see past his incantation. He seemed satisfied that it was a job well done and he left, briefly pausing to check on the locket. With him out of the way, I staggered out of there, fully weakened by the potion."
"He was skilled at potions as well as magic, though, wasn't he?" Dominique asked. She looked at each of them in turn. "Old Slughorn is still kicking, and he sometimes tells his classes it used to scare him, Tom Riddle making potions on Slughorn's level."
Regulus grimly smiled. "Slug's right. That potion wreaked havoc on my body. Dumbledore wasn't around long enough for the potion to take its full effect, though." He traced the wood grain of the mantle before dropping his eyes to the ground. He looked out the window then, at something that was not there. "That potion not only poisoned me, but it slowed my aging and growth. I'm sure You-Know-Who's intent was that whoever drank it was going to suffer a long, painful agony only to wish for death. The potion…" He shook his head. "The poison spread throughout my body, and I felt as though I were eighteen, nineteen, twenty forever… I lived with the poison inside of me for twenty years. But then…she healed me."
Dominique's face warmed at how Regulus had said "she." By the tone of his voice, there was no doubt that "she" had meant a great deal to him, even if for a short while. The Weasley stared at the bottle in her hands and focused on Regulus' words.
"You might remember her, Sirius. My Ravenclaw…friend," he stated, almost using the term lightly.
Sirius blinked in realization. "…oh. Yes, I do. How—how is she?"
Regulus' grim smile grew sad. "I'll get to that in a moment." He cleared his throat. "I wandered the world with the poison in me before coming back to England. I'd been keeping tabs; I knew what was going on. Potter and Evans' kid, the Boy-Who-Lived, kept besting You-Know-Who, who was back. But not everyone threw out their old Prophets, so I went to claim one off someone's stoop. Little did I know that the witch to whom the house and newspaper belonged was someone I knew very well."
He shook his head. "She thought she was seeing a ghost. The first thing she did was hit me to make sure I was real, then…" He let his words trail off and he pursed his lips. "She made me tell her what had happened," Regulus said, dropping what Dominique was certain was part of the story, "and when she heard about the poison and took a good look at me, she was determined to fix me." He quietly, softly chuckled. "She tore through all the books she had, and she didn't stop until she was satisfied. Meanwhile, I stayed with her and she took care of me. She took good care of me. Then…she found what she was looking for."
The storyteller stopped there. He drummed his fingers on the windowsill. "She informed me that this poison potion would eventually kill me…unless someone else carried my burden."
Ginny gasped. Dominique knew her uncle had caught on, too.
"She said that she'd extract the potion little-by-little and take it into herself. I did not like that idea," Regulus said gruffly, "but she was as pigheaded as ever when she got the idea in her mind. So in sessions she took the poison for me. I got better and she fell ill. She looked more and more horrible until we were certain it was all gone from me…and all in her." His face was stony. "But the poison worked fast on her. It aged her all the years that had been added to my life and she was gone within a few months. All the insanity I'd been fighting for years, she faced in weeks."
Silence filled the room. "I'm…sorry," Sirius whispered.
A name was dancing on Regulus' lips: "…Aaralyn…" He shut his eyes for a minute and then spoke. "I'm comforted only by the thought that she didn't spend more than a year with it in her system. I won't forget what she did for me."
Sirius looked at his brother. "But if that was years ago…"
Regulus nodded in apology. "I took a long while to heal, even without the poison. So I sat on the sidelines, healing and watching the times change… My life consisted of headlines: 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Defeated.' 'Boy-Who-Lives Now Boy-Who-Won.' 'All Right In Wizarding World As Harry Potter Leads Auror Office.'" He stared back at Sirius. "I decided I had one thing left to do to be fully healed, to have real peace-of-mind: To give you the truth. I knew the error of my ways; it's why I turned on You-Know-Who. But, if you were still alive… If only James and Pettigrew were the dead Marauders… I would find you and tell you. I wandered around Grimmauld Place, but I couldn't find it anymore."
"It was because of the Fidelius Charm. The magic on the house faded when Dumbledore died, but when Harry rescued me," Sirius explained, "I resumed living there and we decided that since not everyone has approved of my innocence, we should cast it again."
"Just family. Remus and his son, Teddy."
Regulus raised an eyebrow. "A son?"
"Nymphadora had a Metamorphmagus baby with him before she died in the war, killed by Dolohov."
"Oh." They let an odd beat pass. "You do realize—"
"—that by telling you I've just included you?" Sirius' grin was brittle, but it was a grin, nonetheless. "I told you, Reg. Just family."
Reg stared at him long and hard. His eyes were wet and he walked back to Sirius. "I'm sorry I didn't try to find you sooner."
"It's—it's understandable," Sirius choked. "But…" He frowned. "It doesn't mean I can forget everything you've done. I feel sorry for you, I do, and I've missed you. Even when I told James and Remus that I hated you, I was lying to myself. You were still my brother. You still are my brother."
"But…" The Animagus shook his head. "But a lot has changed. And you're another change. This will take a long time to get used to."
Regulus nodded. "Sirius…"
"I'll wait for as long as I have to for your forgiveness."
Sirius let out a slow breath. "Reg…welcome home."
Regulus gave him a brief, halfhearted smile and returned to Dominique to claim his drink. He looked at her, and she understood. Everyone, certainly the two brothers, had had plenty of drama for one day. Dominique got up and hugged her aunt and kissed her uncle's cheek. "I'll see you two later," she said. She waved goodbye to them and hurried after Regulus out of the Three Broomsticks.
She caught up to him halfway up High Street. "Thank you, Dominique."
"I didn't do much," Dominique said, touching his arm. "I just… Well, maybe family is as important as my parents and aunts and uncles believe it to be. Love isn't so silly after all."
Regulus removed her hand from his arm and placed it in his own hand, entwining their fingers as they strolled out of Hogsmeade. "It isn't silly," he agreed. He gave her hand a squeeze and tugged her closer to him, and they remained like that for the rest of their outing.
I like creating theories for characters' motives and such, but I'd also like to remind my readers that people aren't dead or alive willy-nilly. Some people were casualties of war, while others survived and some didn't—but this story is AU. Alternate universe. An alternate universe where 2 brothers have been given the chance to reconcile, and one girl realizes there's more to life than good marks and a nice job. Just keep that in mind and enjoy the story. Thank you.
Lordy… I was happy to include Morghen's OC (whom I have exclusive permission to use!), Aaralyn. She originated in Mor's fic, It Doesn't Really Matter, and I still adore Aaralyn. It was why I had to have her here, though I wasn't expecting her to die a hero's death…it was just a tragedy pouring from my finger tips. I can only hope you approve, Mor! Xo
So please review! Reality will hit in the next chapter! :+