A/N: For my darling Laura. Happy 18th birthday, sweetheart. I'm so glad you're finally legal. *insert creepy face here*
I love you, wifey. I hope you know that.
And many thanks to Sam for her beta work!
The worst part about having a dead brother is that you can never get fucking rid of him.
Azkaban rattles your bones with its coldness, its emptiness, and you sit in the darkest corner of your cell. Regulus sits in the brightest, the one that the lone, high window hits with sparse sunlight, because no one else can see him anyway.
Look where you've gone and gotten yourself, brother, he says. Look where you've ended up.
"I shouldn't be here," you mutter. "You should, you fucking traitorous bastard."
Ah, but look around you, Sirius. There were always people around to save me. Where is your Order now?
"I don't know." Your voice is low, cracked and broken, fighting its way past the knot in your throat. "I don't know."
When the nights are too dark – hopelessness dark , Dementor dark, don't look me in the eye dark, we shouldn't be doing this dark– you find yourself keeping your eyes squeezed shut and imagining the sunlight.
It is bright, burning your skin like it hates you, or loves you, or even just notices you. It spills across the grass, so very green, and falls upon flowers of pink and yellow and red and purple and everything in between, and everything is so, so beautiful.
Sirius, he says. Sirius. You never got peace like this before. What makes you think you deserve it now?
"I shouldn't be here. I haven't done anything wrong, Reg. I haven't."
"No, no, not – not now, not here. I – you're not fucking real," you growl, eyes still shut, fingers curling into fists.
"You're dead, Reg. Stop it."
Kiss me again and tell me how you haven't done anything wrong. Fuck me, Sirius. Hold me down and make me yours like you used to when we were younger. When we were free. Still think you haven't done anything wrong?
"Stop it." It is a hiss, low and dangerous, and you hear Regulus' deep chuckle in your ears.
Touch me, Sirius. You feel his hands on your chest, cold and firm and so very real, fingers dancing across your skin. Let's go back to doing what we did best.
Let's go back to pretending it's all okay.
"Get your hands off me," you mutter, but it is lazy and half-hearted and he knows it. His lips find your neck, his teeth grazing your skin, and you hate the moan that rumbles low in your throat.
"Fuck you, Reg."
Don't mind if you do, he says with a smirk, and then everything goes even darker than before.
The sunlight never could reach places like this.
This cave is dark and damp and Hogsmeade lies low before you, full of rickety old buildings and rickety old people, and nothing has changed since before, since –
He's gone twelve years without being caught, Sirius, Reg whispers in your ear. If you don't catch him, no one will.
"I'll get him," you murmur. "I have to."
Funny how you're the one who ended up trusting the wrong sort, eh? Maybe I had it right.
"No." It comes out louder than expected, flying from your mouth and echoing around the cave like a memory, like a promise. "You knew. You knew he was a traitor. Why didn't you – "
Why didn't I tell you that we had a chance of winning? Oh, but, brother...why ever would I do that?
And his hands are on your shoulders, his nails digging deep into your skin. His breath ghosts across your cheek, and there is that familiar scent of longing, of no one can ever know, the scent of maybe this isn't wrong at all that has burnt your nostrils for years now.
The scent of Regulus, and of home.
You should've known, Sirius. You were always so good at knowing who not to trust, eh? Me... Lucius... Severus... Remus...
Your eyes snap open, locking onto those too-familiar grey eyes, and Regulus' laugh is low in his throat as you shove him from you roughly, hands shaking, chest tightening in anger.
"Don't you fucking dare – "
What's wrong? Did I hit a sore spot?
But that smirk plays about his lips, that coy look in his eyes tells you that he knows exactly what he's done, and you are caught between punching his cheeks until his cheekbones cut your knuckles and curling up in the depths of this cave and hoping that Moony will forgive you. Someday.
"Why are you here? Why are you always fucking here?"
Because, my dear brother, he mutters, walking closer until he is inches from you, until you can feel his lips forming the words against your temple, you've never asked me to leave, have you?
You say nothing.
If it helps, he says quietly, smirking once more, I'm not even real.
"That doesn't help at all."
No. I didn't think it would.
He presses his lips to your forehead in a chaste kiss, all soft skin and softer whispers, all the I'm sorrys and the it'll be okays wrapped up into the brief contact of his lips against your skin.
"Reg, I – "
I'm sorry, Sirius. For everything.
And there is a part of you that knows, no matter what they say, no matter what he did, that it's true.
And that is enough.
"Sirius," Remus says. "Sirius."
It falls from his lips gracefully, elegantly, like it has been crafted for him and him only, like it has always belonged on his tongue, and something deep inside you is burning.
With regret. With shame. With love.
"Remus," you whisper, and he winces at the sound of your voice, all sharp and rusty-edged. "I'm sorry for – "
"No. Sirius, no. You have nothing to apologise for; I understand. No one was safe," he says. "No one was trustworthy."
His smile is soft and understanding, but it sags at the edges in a way you've never seen before.
"Twelve years, Moony," you croak. "Twelve years. It shouldn't have gone this way. None of this should've happened."
"But it did, Padfoot," he says. "It did."
It takes you three strides to cross the room and wrap yourself around him, to run your fingers through his greying hair and kiss his cheeks until they start to taste of Remus instead of just tears.
"I love you," you say. "I love you, I love you, I love you."
"I know, Pads. I know."
(And this - this is real.)
He falls asleep with his head on your chest, listening to the steady beat of your heart, to remind himself that you are back. You watch his shoulders rise and fall, his twitching fingers curled up beneath his chin, the light that bounces along his scars – old ones, new ones, fresh ones – and you wonder how you ever spent twelve years away from this.
Away from him.
Beautiful, isn't he? Regulus asks, voice husky and low and wrong.
You look up, and he is leaning against the wall, casually, lazily, and entirely out of place.
"I thought you were gone," you whisper.
So did I. And there is a sadness in his voice that sets an ache in your chest.
"I love you, Regulus," you say, because it doesn't feel wrong anymore, and it's not betrayal because he's your brother and Remus would understand. Wouldn't he?
I know, brother. I know.
Remus sighs a little, snuggles closer to you, and you hold him tighter in your arms, kiss the top of his head.
"I'll miss you, Reg," you whisper, but, when you look up, the room is painfully bare. Everything is still and silent in a way that it hasn't been for so, so long.
He is gone.
And the worst part about having a dead brother is that you'll never fucking see him ever again.