For the Big/Lil' Sis Team Prompts where I had to use 3 of 5 prompts – Character: Fred Weasley, Word: cold, Quote: "Do you think anger is a sincere emotion or the timid motion of a fragile heart trying to beat away its pain?" -Andrea Gibson (If you use the quote, use it as inspiration), Color: red, Item: package.

Companion fic to my dearest Sam (MissingMommy)'s fic, cruelty of the seasons.

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Spring 1976

You really aren't even sure why you bother to come home anymore, you think as you listen to her scream. She hates you; you can see it in her face. She really and truly hates you. She's your mother, and mothers are supposed to love — but not when you're a Pureblood, because the rules are all different. You're supposed to be docile, complacent, Slytherin.

But you can't be, and so she screams at you and you know, deep down, that you're just supposed to sit there and take it but you can't. It's stupid and bullheaded and Gryffindor but it's the only defence you've got so you scream right back.

"I hate you!" you finally scream and without even a moment's hesitation she screams right back,

"I hate you too, you worthless piece of filth!" And you've known it for a long time but that doesn't mean it doesn't fucking hurt to hear her say it.

You stomp off, allowing her to have the last word rather than uttering something else and letting her see how much she's hurt you. Your footsteps quiet as you climb the stairs and you hesitate on the landing for just an instant, staring at the door.

You pass it, slam the door to your own bedroom instead.

The rage simmers inside you, but you know yourself well enough to know that you aren't angry with him — you aren't sure you're really angry at all. Anger is just easier. Easier than hurt. And you can't bear to see him, to see that face so similar to yours but so different in such critical ways, because she loves him and she hates you and none of your family seem to understand that underneath it all, he and you are the same.

You know, deep down, that he's got the same fighting spirit that gets you into so much trouble — he's just quieter about it. And maybe that's clever of him but it makes you furious and you're too damned mad already tonight to go there, to talk to him, to watch as he listens to your words but doesn't believe a thing you say. You make him promise not to be like them, never to be like them, not to follow blindly, every time. And it makes no difference. And maybe it's better that way, because you don't want your brother to ever, ever experience the sort of pain you're feeling right now as you lie awake and stare at the ceiling, replaying her words over and over again and wondering what you did so damned wrong that your own mother can't even love you.

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Summer 1976

You crumple up the red-stained shirt and toss it into the corner of your room, trying to dissipate some of your rage. She always makes you so angry, and you hate how much control she has over your emotions. Your fingers trace the slender line across your chest. The blood flow has already stopped, the skin knitting back together. The pain from the slash is nothing, and the burn in your trembling muscles is already beginning to fade. In a few days, the physical sign of her hatred will vanish.

But time doesn't heal all wounds, and you can still hear her words from the spring, bouncing around in your head like some Muggle pinball machine, slamming into your consciousness again and again and again. I hate you too, you worthless piece of filth!

You've had enough.

You've had enough of being her scapegoat, you've had enough of being her cathartic release. You don't belong here, you never have, and you never will. It's time you accept that.

You slip a clean black T-shirt over your head and don your favorite leather jacket over top of it, smiling as you do. She hates that jacket. You inspect the dark denim of your jeans, but they're clean enough.

There are some things your brother doesn't need to know.

The word strikes something in you and a chill runs down your spine. For the first time, you hesitate. You wonder what they will do to him if — when — you leave.

But he is their golden boy, their angelic Slytherin son. He is everything they want. They wouldn't-

You cut yourself off because you can't, you can't think about it or you might change your mind and you aren't going to do that. You can't stay here in this hell any longer.

You throw open his bedroom door with a crash and his liquid silver eyes blink up at you blearily. He's clearly only just woken.

"What's going on?" he asks you sleepily, but you can see in his eyes that he already knows so you don't bother to answer. Instead, you stride across the room and scoop him into your arms. He's so damned small compared to you.

"It's nothing, Reg," you murmur softly into the top of his head. He knows and you know and there's no point in some soppy goodbye if you both already know.

But he's not going along with it.

"You're lying, Siri. You're leaving, aren't you?" His voice is soft, sad, resigned. You hate yourself just a little bit more. If they hurt him… You can't bear the thought.

"Promise me something, Reg," you say, abruptly, fiercely, looking straight into his eyes. "Promise me that you will do everything they want, that you'll be the son I couldn't be." Because you can't let them hurt him. Not at any cost; it isn't worth it. He doesn't respond and you grab his shoulders, gripping tightly. "Promise me, Regulus." You use his full name and your voice is more… emotional, than perhaps you'd like, but it doesn't matter. All that matters is that he is safe.

"Why?" he asks instead of promising. And you understand why he's confused, because it's a complete about-face for you.

But as much as you want him to be independent from them, as much as you want him to know and act on what is right… You couldn't bear it if he got hurt. It would kill you. But you can't say all of that without shattering the façade you've so carefully built for him. You can't say that without letting him know how far they've gone, and you don't ever want him to know that.

"You don't need to know why," you say. "Just promise me."

He looks deep into your eyes, looking for something. He must find it, because the next words to tumble out of his mouth are, "I promise."

"Thank you," you murmurs gratefully, hugging him again, fiercely. You know it will probably be the last time you ever do. You don't want to let go.

But you have to, or you might not survive the summer. Not mentally, anyway.

You force yourself not to look back as you walk out the door.

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Autumn 1976

You meet his eyes across the train station and the sadness in his nearly kills you, but you know you can't unmake the choices you've made and you won't try. You feel free, for the first time in your entire life. Free to life the way you want to live, instead of the way she forced you to. Your eyes flicker across his face, searching madly, but you see no pain, only sadness, and you breath out a sigh of relief you hadn't even known you were holding in. He's okay.

If they had hurt him because you left it would have torn you apart. His sadness… it is unavoidable, but it is a smaller price, a price you are actually willing to pay. He is sad but safe — he is protected, because he is still a Black.

There is a storm brewing over your world and you know it, you can feel it. And he will be protected from the worst of it by the blood status you so loathe. He will be safe, you think. And that is the most important thing.

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Winter 1976

You are cold, so damned cold — a sudden, abrupt chill despite the fire roaring in the Potter's living room. A shudder of ice runs through your veins and you feel it, you feel that something isn't right but you don't know what it is.

James looks at your from his position flopped across the couch and there is a question you don't know how to answer in his hazel eyes, so instead you just shake your head. James looks back down at his Quidditch magazine but you can't go back to the book you've been reading — one of Remus', of course. You're more shaken than you'd like to admit. You can't pinpoint the sensation, can't put your finger on what is wrong. You just know that something is.

Far away, in a house on Grimmauld Place, your brother screams.