Characters: Regulus/James, Regulus/Sirius, Regulus/Bartemius Crouch
Warnings: a bit of timeline fudging for Crouch's age. pre-sixteen undescribed sexual relations.
Disclaimer: these characters are not mine, I make no profit from this.
Summary: Sometimes, the moment you step out of your cage is the moment the cat comes along to devour you.
Author's Note: Thanks for making me write a new pairing, a_shadow_there! I'm a massive multi-shipper, so it's rare something is new. After the fic is a small timeline if you need a bit of help orienting. Thanks to wwmrsweasleydo for the beta.
There are three reasons people leave. People can leave for, leave to, or leave because. All are necessary, none are acceptable.
There are very few moments in Regulus' life that he feels like himself. He knows how to fit into any situation and act as needed, the puzzle piece with all sides. He is meek with his mother, a shadow with his father, a foil for amusement with his cousins, confident with his classmates. It's rare that he's in a position where he can allow himself to connect with his real thoughts, his emotions. It's never safe, everyone he knows looking to cut each other to ribbons. It would hurt, if he could feel.
It doesn't hurt here, that much he is sure of. He's not sure if he feels comfortable because it's what the situation requires or because he truly feels it. He's not sure if the distinction matters.
Like in most situations, Regulus finds himself saying very little. With such an antagonistic personality, it's best to remain silent. Any opinion is at risk of being opposed, simply because he doesn't know what to say that would please the man. Most of the things that leave Regulus' throat are wordless noises during their passion. Those are impossible to argue against, in fact they are met with grunts of agreement.
Regulus is not sure how this thing with James Potter began. It's possible James doesn't know either, because he often looks at him and blushes or looks away. Regulus doubts anyone would approve, but he is a master at concealing information, and James has too much to lose to ever talk.
Afterward, sated, James stands and puts on a record. Regulus tries to stifle his heavy breathing so he can hear the music clearly. After such an event it seems his senses are warring for attention. He can feel the sweat drying on his skin, chest still heaving, legs still quivering. The room is barely lit, but his eyes insist on following the lines between the stones in the wall. He can smell the cigarette James smokes, taste it if he breathes through his mouth rather than his nose. He always gives his attention to the music, for it's something he can carry with him in the long pauses between seeing each other.
If he allowed himself to feel, the primary emotion would be longing. But Mother, Severus, Katrina, people would notice, and that's dangerous. James would notice, and as he has no idea how James feels, James must not know.
In the end, James leaves him for Lily. She doesn't want him, claims to hate him. But she provides him with passion that Regulus can't afford, and James needs it more than he needs a grey room with wisps of smoke and sweat-encrusted sheets where nothing hurts. In his life, nothing hurts anywhere, and Regulus cannot bridge that chasm of differences.
When the knock comes at midnight, Regulus startles. His sleepy eyes clear, his posture stiffens as he stands. He attempts to brush out the wrinkles in his pygamas knowing that both Mother and Father will notice every flaw. Already being in bed is no excuse, not to them. He struggles with what expression he should take, what Mother wants to see is different from what Father does. He decides to stand behind the door as he opens it. The split second that he has to see the cut of robe will give him all the hint he needs.
But it's a bare foot and a hairy leg that Regulus sees, and he hardly knows how to school his face. Brothers shouldn't have to knock. When Sirius was six, and Regulus five, he used to just storm in. But ten years can change a lot, and they no longer have what they had. He settles on indifference, it's the most neutral thing he can think of.
"Can't you just-" Sirius sighs and cuts himself off. Regulus is about say he doesn't know what he wants, doesn't ever know what his brother wants. Sirius is the only person Regulus doesn't know how to mold himself to complement against. Usually he thinks Sirius wants a Slytherin enemy, but sometimes he passes him with a sneer in the hall and Sirius has this forlorn look on his face, like Regulus has hurt him beyond the pale. It's very confusing. Before he can open his mouth, Sirius pounces forward. Sirius is kissing him.
His first thought is that it's some sort of statement about knowing he's slept with his best mate. Severus always says Sirius wants to sleep with James, and hates Lily for taking him, then contradicts himself by saying the Gryffindor louts have disgusting group sex, perverts the lot of them. Regulus listens but never believes anything Severus rants about. But maybe he's right, maybe Sirius is going to take a step back and say he tastes like James, never mind that he hasn't been with James for six months.
But Sirius doesn't say anything when he pulls away for breath, only grabs him by the stiff collar of his buttoned top and looks him in the eye. Regulus can't, won't look away. That seems to be the answer Sirius is looking for. He dives in for another kiss, and this time Regulus is expecting it, and still he lets it happen.
The morning after, what Regulus remembers most are Sirius' hands. Gripping the headboard, pulling off his clothes, clenching the sheets, they were hands made for power. It's not a cliche, merely over-dramatic to say Sirius' fingers were shaking with lightning, but hours later thinking of them still makes him shiver.
It's not a shock to see Sirius is not laying beside him. Regulus knows better than to have a lie in, thinking, neither Mother nor Father will find that acceptable. What he can do is visit Sirius' sanctuary, the single room his brother retreats to for almost every moment each summer. He has no plan, there's something about Sirius -nearly the same as it was with James- that makes it difficult to create futures and carry out the tasks needed to reach that end.
He walks the length of the hallway, mind silent. With any other person he'd be planning his script, but it's Sirius. He stiffens as he turns the corner. Mother is just exiting Sirius' room, closing the door with a light click of the knob. It's not the first time she's intruded on his privacy, but normally it's met with shouts and shrieks. The quiet is enough to raise his hackles.
With a surge of courage previously unknown to him, Regulus walks past her to open the door. He has less than no idea of what he'll say that will be acceptable to Mother without making Sirius hate him, but stepping forward seems his only option.
Sirius is not in his room. Which is a good thing, because there's something direly wrong with the space. Every object in the room is rotting. Regulus watches in horror as a slime of black mold forms on the wardrobe, the bedding, the robes scattered on the carpet, as the black takes over, and as it dries until there's nothing left. Regulus takes a single step into the room and scoops up a handful of dust. He stares at it a moment before spreading his fingers and letting it trickle back to the floor.
"He was never a true Black," Mother says as Regulus joins her in the hallway. He nods his head once, keeping his eyes on the floor.
In September he finds out Sirius left him to go to the Potters'. It's not surprising, but it still hurts.
Regulus reaches up, gingerly pressing on his eye as he contemplates finishing his drink. It's calling to him, but he only has the money for one more, and he's got a whole night of suffering left. His eye throbs with the lightest of touches, and though he could cure it with a wave of his wand -he can't be caught for underage magic in a room full of above age wizards- he's in the sort of mood that he'd rather feel miserable.
It's the same mood that caused him to hit on a rather fit looking bloke an hour ago. Regulus knew split seconds before the ginger reacted that it wasn't going to be good, he might have managed an illegal Apparation had he not wanted to face it. The blow to the face was stronger than he might have thought, but after the first strike the ginger lost interest in his fag-bashing and Regulus had escaped with only a bruised eye.
Like divine retribution, as he's taking his last sip of his whiskey a dark haired bloke sits on the stool beside him. Regulus knows him, barely, a Slytherin that graduated in Regulus' fourth year. Barty buys him another drink, and Regulus doesn't thank him before slamming it back. Gratefulness is not something to show Slytherin brethren. He knows how to hold his face, even if he is allowing himself the rare opportunity to feel.
They talk as they drink, about the job Barty has as a potions courier, about the classes Regulus is excelling in. Regulus can't quite figure out Crouch's angle but doesn't let that stop him from engaging in the petty talk. He'll figure it out soon enough.
It's not the rapidly rising level of intoxication that makes Regulus blurt the truth, it's Barty's eyes. They're dark, pupils mahogany and glinting. But the expression they give, it's like looking into the depths of hell. His eyes are like a photograph of the universe ripped asunder. They speak of seeing horrors, and enjoying them. So Regulus trusts himself to a third person, and tells him how unsatisfactory his sixth year has been, how he's spent his entire life letting people affect him and how all he wants is to affect others.
And Bartemius grins, and his eyes glint. It's all the warning Regulus has before the older man clenches his wrist and apparates them away. In the middle of a fleur-de-lis patterned room, he separates from himself, one part watching as the black haired man sucks his cock, another, more distant part feeling it. His hips rock, his fingers scrabbling for purchase in the closely shorn hair. The part of him that feels loves this, has loved it since the first time with James.
But the difference is, he's in control; Bartemius is letting Regulus use him and it's fucking brilliant. Mouth wide around him, his malevolent eyes are fixed on Regulus', daring him to make him choke. Regulus only thinks about it for a moment before picking up his pace. The action is exhilarating.
He pulls out just before he finishes, just to see how Barty will react. The man on his knees doesn't pull away, not even as the first drops hit his cheek. Still kneeling, Barty begins to tell him of other kinds of power, and Regulus can't help but listen.
It's a month later when Bartemius leaves him, three days before Regulus is destined to return to Hogwarts for his last year. He leaves because, as Barty so succinctly puts it, he already has him. Barty's role in the coming war is recruiter, with a subcategory of seducer. It explains the ever changing hairstyles and varied wardrobe, and why it took him only a half hour to decide to take him home and blow him. Regulus belongs to the cause now, and it's time for Barty to get new people.
Regulus doesn't say anything, just steels his face and packs his trunk. The brand will be an asset during his seventh year, even if he can't manage to thank Crouch for it.
When Regulus leaves, he has difficulty classifying it. He's leaving Grimmauld Place to travel to a distant island. He's leaving for Chambers MacDonald, a muggleborn waiter who has no idea what Regulus does in his free time, when he's not eating dinner and leaving heavy tips in exchange for lascivious winks and crude jokes. He's leaving because he can't know what he does, and not do something about it.
The fear begins to gnaw at him, so he does his best to slip into one of his better blank-faced facades. Kreacher seems to buy it, and that's enough to bolster his confidence. The foul potion makes him cry out, but he continues because just this once he will not let his actions be dictated by others.
In the end, it's not the potion that gets him. Weak, Regulus is unable to pull away from the Inferi, and he sinks beneath the water. It's fitting that all his stinging, open eyes can see is clouded black water. It's like his face is buried in the hair of his past lovers. He doesn't know which one of them to blame for this, though he can think of reasons to hate them all.
But even though he's never had a caring parent to tell him not to go to sleep angry, he knows enough that dying angry sounds a poor prospect. So he tries to think about the good things -James' music, Sirius' hands, Barty's mouth- until it all fades away.
1971 Sirius and James start at Hogwarts
1972 Regulus starts at Hogwarts
1976 Sirius leaves Grimmauld Place
1977 Regulus joins Death Eaters
1978 Sirius and James graduate, Regulus realises he's in over his head
1979 Regulus gets taken by Inferi