The name came out as barely a whisper, and Regulus smiled to himself as he looked up at his older brother, taking immense pleasure in the shock that was written all over the slightly older boy's face.
"Hello," Regulus said with an amiable expression on his face, even braving half of a wave. For once, he doesn't feel anxiety or anger in the presence of his brother. In fact, he'd gathered up enough courage to say, "It's been a long time, hasn't it, Sirius?"
Sirius sputtered bit, feet glued to the floor, grey eyes wide. "You're dead."
For a moment, Regulus thought that Sirius said that because he wasn't supposed to be inside the Potters' home without permission. He thought that it was half of a threat and then he realized that Sirius was simply stating the obvious.
"Am I?" he replied almost calmly, almost as if this was a fucking joke to him. "I didn't realize."
A brief look of glee flitted across Sirius's handsome face, but it was gone before he could be sure. When he spoke, his voice was, but Regulus studied and he still saw little bit of happiness.
"You're not, though," he said, biting back what was probably a smile. "They were wrong, weren't they? I knew it," he continued Regulus could even say anything. "D'you know how Mum told me that you were dead? A fucking letter."
Regulus opened his mouth to reply with something, anything, but Sirius cute him off again as he walked him. The smile was clear on his now as he lowered himself down onto the mattress.
"It wasn't even really a letter, though," Sirius rambled on, letting out a small laugh. "It was more like – it was a sentence. Can you believe that? A fucking sentence. 'Regulus is gone and don't bother coming to the funeral.'"
"They didn't have one," Regulus said softly, picking at his fingernails. Sirius gave Regulus a strange look.
"Obviously not," he offered his younger brother a small grin. "You're not dead. There's no funeral to hold in the first place."
He reached out to touch Regulus don the shoulder. Regulus, on the other hand, forgot to flinch away. Sirius's hand went directly through him. It was strange sensation – warm, a little uncomfortable, and almost ticklish.
Sirius drew back so quickly that Regulus feared that he would punch himself in the gut. Regulus stared straight ahead as he heard Sirius's breath hitch.
When he finally said, "My hand just went through your shoulder," Regulus nearly laughed.
"Observant," he managed to smirk.
"So you are dead," Sirius mumbled, and Regulus noticed how he stood up, moving to the absolute furthest corner from him. "Are you a ghost, then?"
Regulus paused, thinking about this. It could be perceived as stupid question, because he was obviously dead and if Sirius could see him then he must have been a ghost. But it really wasn't, because he hesitated before shaking his head and murmuring, "No. At least, I don't think so."
"You don't think so?" Sirius snapped. Regulus winced at his sharp tone. "You have a choice, don't you?"
Another hesitation, and then, "No."
"What do you mean, no?"
"That's why I don't think I'm a ghost." It suddenly occurred to Regulus that this was the first normal – well, slightly civil– conversation that he'd had with Sirius in years,and he relished the thought. "I didn't get a choice."
"Maybe some higher power made the decision for you," Sirius mutters. "Maybe they've made a new ruling that Death Eaters are forever damned to Earth instead of moving on to the Great Beyond."
"If that were true," Regulus says. "I'd be at home right now. I'd be haunting the shit out of that place, don't you think?"
Sirius doesn't say anything for a long time. Regulus turned his head away, examining a moving picture of Sirius, James, Peter, and Remus. They had their arms around each other and were laughing. Sirius looked far happier in that picture than Regulus had ever seen him in his life.
"Sirius," Regulus said finally, daring to look his brother in the eye again. "I think I need your help."
"I don't understand," Sirius said, and Regulus knew that he was really confused because he'd never admit that if he wasn't. "What happened to you?"
He was talking about how civil and – well, nice Regulus was being. Regulus dipped his head down and sighed.
"I was stupid, Sirius," he says, and he couldn't really think of anything else to say, but somehow, his mouth kept moving and words kept coming out. "I don't know what happened, alright? I was stupid, and I – I fucked up."
Sirius looked at him, alarmed. "How so?"
"How do you think?" Regulus couldn't help the snap in his voice. "I was a Death Eater, Sirius. I was going to help Voldemort and I –"
His head was suddenly far too heavy for his neck and he dipped down to hold it in his hands.
Don't cry. Don't cry. Don'tcrydon'tcrydon'tyoudarefuckingcry.
"Reg," Sirius said, and the coal-eyed boy thought that might send him off the edge into a burst of tears because it had honestly been so long, so long, since someone had called him by that nickname. "You said you were going to help Voldemort. So you – you didn't? In the end, you didn't?"
Regulus's voice was hoarse when he replied. "I got scared."
Silence. Regulus didn't dare to look up. Then there was whoosh of breath and a quiet, "Oh, thank Merlin."
Slowly, Regulus dragged his gaze from the ground to the corner of the room that Sirius had been standing in, because he had moved to stand in front of him. He was crying. Sirius was crying, which was something that Regulus was pretty sure he'd never seen in his entire goddamn life. Sirius made a move to hug him, but he remembered how his hand had gone through Regulus's shoulder. So he opted for a teary smile which Regulus weakly returns.
"I'm sorry for being such a twat," Regulus apologized quickly, because that was best way he could think of to apologize for not trying to stop his parents when they literally chased his older brother out of their home merely a year earlier.
Sirius let out a laugh, sniffling loudly. Then, he cleared his throat.
"James," he murmured, and Regulus's head snapped at the mention of the name. "James – he'll know what to do."
"Wh – he's here?"
"This is Hogwarts, Reg," Sirius chuckled, still wiping away the tears before straightening up. "Of course he's here. Look, I'll go wake him up, and then he can go – we'll get Dumbledore to come or something."
"Sirius –" Regulus's face fell slightly.
"They'll know how to help you, alright?" Sirius said, already starting towards James's sleeping figure on the bed opposite from the two of them but he looked back as if for approval first.
"I don't think –"
"You came here asking me for help, and I don't have a bloody clue as to where I should start. We can go ask Dumbledore to come and take a look at you. And I know you think I'm stupid because – well, I don't know why, since I'm not– but I can't figure this on my own and I just really fucking need someone's help."
Regulus stared at Sirius for a moment. He'd gotten snapped at by Sirius before. He'd gotten yelled at from him, too. Hell, he'd even gotten a fair amount of punches and he thought that Sirius might have cracked his skull on accident when their houses played each other in a Quidditch match a couple of years back. So this by was far was the nicest kind of angry that Sirius had ever been with him.
And thus, he simply nodded.
Sirius nodded back, practically dragging the other boy out of bed. With a yell, James toppled onto the ground. Sirius muttered something and scampered back towards his bed where Regulus was waiting. With a grumble, James stood and followed him around the bed, towards him.
Regulus stared at James. The boy had gotten taller, more muscular, growing into his tall body rather than being the awkward boy that Regulus remembered school. He still had those famous glasses and the messy hair and the mischievous hazel eyes, though they looked far too tired at the moment to hold any emotion except for exhaustion.
"What the hell are you talking about, Sirius?" James asked, scratching at his bare chest and squinting into the dull glow of the room. Regulus held his breath.
"Look!" Sirius gestured wildly towards Regulus. James's eyes raked over him, but then –
"What am I looking at?" A bit of irritation crept into James's voice. "You woke me up to show me air?"
Sirius positively gaped at him. "Wh – no! Look! He's right there!"
Regulus sighed he had been expecting this. Sirius grew steadily more alarmed because he wasn't.
"Regulus!" he exclaimed, ignoring the warning shushes from James. "He's – he's right there!"
A look of sympathy crossed over James's face.
"Sirius," he mumbled, moving his glasses to rub at his eyes while Regulus watched all of this with slight amusement. "I'm sorry about him. I really am. I know you two ended on…" he pauses, searching for the right word to use. "…bad terms."
Sirius stared. Regulus looked down at his feet. James placed a hand on Sirius's shoulder.
"But he's right there."
Sirius had a look on his face like he was pouting and Regulus couldn't help but chuckle.
James looked genuinely concerned now. "D'you want to talk about it? Sirius, I don't mind staying up a few more hours if you're having nightmares, and -" he peered closer. "- have you been crying?"
Sirius tore away from James's hand, casting a glance at Regulus, who shrugged, because he knew that that would happen.
"I'm fine," Sirius hissed. James looked surprised, but he walked away – or, he began to, because as Sirius was turning away when James came back to hug him from behind.
"I love you, mate," he said before letting go and ambling off. Sirius seemed bewildered, blinking at Regulus. Regulus shrugged again.
"D'you think that now would be a completely inappropriate time to say 'I told you so?'"