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A Dream of a Once Had Been

Chapter Text

They were at the beach. The sun was shining brightly and it was a nice, warm day. Regulus watched the water lap against the sand. He shivered.

“Are you alright, Regulus?” Asked Narcissa, fork raised half-way to her mouth. She was wearing a light blue skirt and a silk blouse, the top three buttons of which had been subtly worked out from their holes throughout the day.

Andromeda, who looked up from the journal she was writing in at her sister’s question, seemed to have gotten away with five buttons.

This is, of course, was because their parents (Regulus and Sirius’ aunt and uncle) – Cygnus Black and Druella Black – and Regulus’ mother (Walburga Black) as well, had went off twenty minutes ago to retire to the large estate that they owned just outside of the village.

Bellatrix had forgone her blouse altogether and was running after Sirius in an enraged fit, skirts bunched up in her hands as she stumbled along the sandy expanse of land.

If Walburga had chosen to stay, then she would have likely been steaming at the ears from the sheer amount of skin the girls were showing. But as it was, Orion was a much more relaxed parent. Just as long as Bellatrix chose to wear a shirt in public, Orion couldn’t find fault in her taking it off around family. It wasn’t like there were any lecherous men around who would want to stare at his niece, and she was wearing a bra.

The only way that Orion could find fault in his children and extended family was if they publicly brought shame on the family.

As it was, he also couldn’t appreciate any of them, because he simply did not care. As long as he had an heir and a spare, everything was going well.

“I’m fine.” Regulus said shortly.

“You’re not fine,” Sighed Andromeda, who looked to have grown tired of her journal “what’s bothering you?” she shut the journal with a quick snap and shoved it into her skirt’s pocket.

At this point Sirius ran over, kicking sand up all over the picnic blanket and scrambling around Regulus to hide behind him. He clutched tightly at his shoulders, which made Regulus seize up uncomfortably.

Bellatrix stopped short of the picnic blanket, huffing out annoyed breaths.

“You brat.” She growled.

“You can’t hurt me,” Sirius laughed “not without hurting Reggie first. And everyone likes Reggie so you won’t hurt him.”

Regulus’ face scrunched up in distaste at the underhand move. It was Sirius that had dumped seaweed in Bellatrix’s hair earlier, and he had no right to pull Regulus into the resulting fight.

At least Bellatrix didn’t look like she was about to murder him on her way to Sirius. She sneered at Sirius and sat down on the blanket with a loud thump.

“One day…” she muttered, eyeing up Sirius like one would a cockroach.

“You two, stop fighting. We have a problem here.” Said Andromeda, glowering sternly at Sirius and Bellatrix.

“Who put you in charge.” Bellatrix scoffed, idly picking her shirt up from the crumpled heap she’d left it in earlier.

“I’m the eldest.” Andromeda said importantly.

“Only by twenty-three minutes.” Said Bellatrix, but no one paid her any attention.

“What’s the problem?” asked Sirius grinningly “Did you see mum?”

“Don’t say that about your mother.” Orion droned from the other side of the blanket, eyes trained on the page of the book he was reading.

Andromeda spared Orion a glance and then turned back to them.

“Something’s wrong with Regulus.” She said.

“Yes,” said Narcissa “he looks a bit peaky.”

“It’s nothing really.” Protested Regulus.

“No,” said Sirius, propping his chin up on top Regulus’ head (which was really very annoying) “what’s wrong?”

Andromeda and Narcissa looked at Regulus promptingly while Bellatrix swung her shirt up onto her shoulders, paying Regulus the bare minimum of attention. It all made Regulus squirm.

“I…the water’s just- I don’t like it.” He admitted sullenly.

Sirius groaned.

“Then why didn’t you go back to the townhouse with mum, you dummy.” He complained.

“I don’t like mother.” Regulus pouted.

A silence came over the five of them as they all turned to look at Orion. Orion said nothing. There was the sound of a page turning.

“We all know Reggie is his favourite.” Sirius muttered under his breath, rolling his eyes over at his father.

“Well, what is it about the water, Regulus?” cut in Narcissa “You’ve never been afraid of it before.”

“I don’t know,” said Regulus. He bit at his lip and eyed the water heavily “it just feels wrong.”

“Urgghhhh,” moaned Sirius, removing himself from Regulus’ personal space and falling back against the sand “is this about that nightmare you had? The one with the water?”

“What nightmare?” asked Andromeda.

“The one with the water.” Said Sirius pointedly.

“There might not have been water.” Said Regulus hesitantly “I mean, there could have been- I thought there might have been. But I don’t really remember it very well.”

“Was there water or was there not water?” Sirius huffed, kicking sand at Regulus’ back.

“I don’t know.” Regulus snapped. He turned around and grabbed Sirius’ bare foot, pushing it away from himself.

“Well make up your mind.” Said Sirius. He removed his foot from Regulus’ grasp with one, quick pull.

“I suppose there must have been.” Regulus decided, turning back around so that he didn’t have to look at Sirius’ annoying face.

“Was there anything else?” asked Narcissa.

Regulus shook his head, then stilled, a frown coming about his face.

“There might have been a cave?” he said indecisively “No. There was a cave, and you could only get to it during low tide, because otherwise the water covered up the entrance.”

“Like that cave over there, then.” Said Bellatrix. Everyone looked back at her to see that she had now tied the ends of her shirt together so that there was a knot sitting on top of her skirts (her under-skirts to be precise. Because, while she had decided to be a bit more civil and put her blouse back on, she had also decided that her over-skirts were too heavy and too dark and attracted too much sunlight). She was pointing in the direction of a far-off pile of rocks.

“That’s not a cave, Bellatrix,” said Narcissa, rolling her eyes “that’s the boundary between our beach and the public muggle one.”

“I know that, you brat.” Bellatrix spat “But I went to one of those muggle pubs the other day and I overheard some muggles talking about a cave at the beach that’s said to be haunted.”

“What were you doing at a muggle pub?” asked Narcissa. There was a wrinkle about her nose that told everyone she found the words ‘muggle’ distasteful. Andromeda looked a little disapproving at this.

Bellatrix’s eyes lit up.

“I was messing with them!” she said excitedly “Threw a couple of hexes around! There was an annoying couple in the corner and they wouldn’t stop kissing and now they’re going to have ears as big as their heads for the rest of their lives!”

“That’s not ‘messing with them’,” said Andromeda, a fierce look on her face “that’s a hate crime.”

Sirius, Regulus, and Narcissa all looked a bit uncomfortable, though Bellatrix just looked annoyed.

“Yes, well, there’s the cave, isn’t there? Maybe we should take Sirius and Regulus to it, I’m sure they’d find it enjoyable.” She said, gaining volume as she went on. By the time she finished saying these words she was smiling horridly – a smile full of teeth and malice.

“That’s enough, Bellatrix.” Snapped Andromeda.

“How about it, Reggie, Sirius? Would you like to see the ghosties?” Bellatrix laughed, paying her sister no heed.

“We don’t want to go anywhere with you.” Said Sirius, more bravely than he felt “You’re mean.”

“See,” said Andromeda, hands at her hips “they don’t want to go.”

“I want to go.” Said Regulus. Narcissa frowned at him and Sirius sat up hurriedly.

“No, you don’t.” said Sirius, a scowl on his face. He glared over at Bellatrix, but it wasn’t intimidating in the least, especially not when Bellatrix sent a mean smile back at him.

Regulus shrank away from Sirius, moving closer to Narcissa.

“I don’t know why exactly, but I want to.” He said quietly “I think we’re meant to go to the cave. I think there’s something we have to find there.”

“And now you’re talking like a nutter...” Sirius muttered under his breath, and then louder he said “Maybe it’s your brain that we have to find, cause apparently you left it at home.”

“Sirius.” Chided their father, though he still did not look up from his book.

Regulus just scowled and said something very insulting about Sirius’ brain.

Andromeda sighed, her arms crossed over her chest “We can go if you like, Regulus,” she said “but you must consider the obvious scheme that Bella’s cooking up.”

“I’ve considered it.” Regulus said determinedly “We can go now.”

“We’ll be going now, uncle Orion.” Andromeda sighed. She only received an acknowledging hum in reply.

Beyond the barrier of rocks (which were absolutely covered in muggle repelling charms) was the muggle part of Brighton beach.

Regulus had been hesitant to step into the shallow water and make his way around the rocks, but Andromeda told him that if he couldn’t walk all the way to the cave then they wouldn’t be going at all, and that had been sufficient motivation.

The muggle beach wasn’t very crowded, seeing as the sun was just beginning to set, but there were a few muggles dotted about here and there.

Regulus’ attention wandered from his brother and cousins and towards two muggle children who were playing with a ball.

There didn’t seem to be any purpose to their game, but they continued on, kicking the ball between the two of them.

“Come on.” Said Andromeda kindly, and Regulus felt her hand cover his own. She tugged him along, following after Narcissa, Bellatrix, and Sirius (who had gotten impatient and walked on without them).

“They seem just like us.” Regulus said, sneaking a glance over his shoulder.

“That’s because they are.” Said Andromeda.

Regulus scrunched up his nose.

“They don’t have magic,” he said “and mother says that they’re bad.”

“You mustn’t repeat this to anyone, Regulus, but your mother’s a wretched old hag who should really look the word ‘bad’ up in the dictionary. I feel quite positive that she’ll find a picture of herself there.” Regulus looked up at his cousin in astonishment. Her shoulders were set straight and her jaw clenched, eyes hard.

“I know mother’s bad,” he frowned “I’m not stupid just because I’m a child.”

It was Andromeda’s turn to look surprised. She smiled suddenly.

“I’m glad to see that someone else with a brain managed to be born into this family.” She said.

“Are you calling me clever?” Regulus beamed “No one ever calls me clever!”

“Well you are clever, you’re very very clever. And I’m going to have to help you over these rocks because, while you’re very very clever, you are also very very short.”

True to Andromeda’s words, the rocks were very big. They were just a bit taller than Regulus and he didn’t feel confident in his ability to climb them.

“Hurry up!” Sirius called from the other side of the rocky expanse. Narcissa was standing beside him, skirts bunched up with her hands so that they didn’t touch the sand, and an annoyed expression on her face. Bellatrix was a bit further away, bent over a rockpool.

“Come on, then.” Said Andromeda “We’ll make quick work of this."

They managed to climb the rocks with some level of difficulty, but soon enough Andromeda was helping Regulus down from the last rock.

“The cave’s over there.” Sirius informed them, pointing in the direction of the cave. It was across the ocean, set into the cliff face, hard to see because of its small size.

“And just our luck,” said Bellatrix, menacingly “it’s low tide.”

“Oh, shut up.” Andromeda snapped.

Still, even if it was low tide, it looked much too deep for either Regulus or Sirius to swim, and none of the girls would want to go swimming when dressed as they were anyway.

Narcissa was quick to bring this up.

“There’s no point anyway,” she said “we’ll get soaked if we swim out there, and I wouldn’t like to ruin my skirt, especially not with how new it is. That ocean looks horribly deep, and it must be even worse at high tide.”

“I think…” murmured Regulus, a confused expression coming about his face.

“What?” Andromeda asked.

“Well, it’s just…” Regulus frowned and then wandered further along the stretch of sand, water lapping at his feet. He stopped moving and surveyed the rocks for a second, before starting up again and circling around a large one, trailing his hand across the black stone.

The other four followed after him and peered around the stone too. There was a moment of silence.

“Now that’s just creepy, Regulus.” Sirius commented, though he seemed amused.

Because right there, behind the rock, was a small wooden boat, just about big enough to fit four adults if they sat very tightly together.

Bellatrix looked down at Regulus with a scowl “How did you know it was there?” she said nastily.

Regulus shrugged, looking down at his bare feet.

“It just happened in the dream.” He whispered.

“I thought you didn’t know what happened in the dream.” Andromeda commented. It wasn’t said accusingly, but there was a hint of curiosity in her voice and she looked vaguely concerned.

“It got clearer just a minute ago.” Regulus admitted.

“You have weird dreams.” Said Sirius with a roll of his eyes.

“Well,” said Narcissa “there’s only room for four people in there, so I might as well leave. I don’t trust that boat and I definitely don’t trust that cave.”

“Alright then, goodbye.” Said Andromeda.

“I’m going too,” Bellatrix said while glaring daggers at Regulus “little Reggie is obviously playing a prank on us. I bet he’s planning on pushing us all into the sea when we’ve gotten into the boat.”

“Reggie wouldn’t do that,” Sirius scoffed “he likes doing good things like reading books and painting pictures. He’s never pranked a girl in his life.”

“I thought Regulus was involved in that prank at Christmas,” Andromeda objected “when aunt Walburga found herself throwing up snails.”

Sirius immediately countered that by saying “Mum isn’t a girl, she’s too mean.”

Regulus, however stayed silent.

“I think she is a girl.” He admitted after a while, looking bewildered at the thought.

“Okay,” said Sirius “Reggie’s never pranked a girl who isn’t mum. Although, I still don’t think she counts.”

Despite Sirius’ adamance that Regulus wouldn’t ever prank a girl (although, if Regulus was asked then he would say that he wouldn’t prank anyone unless they wronged him first, boy or girl) Bellatrix wasn’t convinced. She and Narcissa, who was very against the idea of smelling like salty water, set off back down the beach.

Both Sirius and Regulus felt relieved at this; they were both sceptical at the prospect of going into a dark cave with Bellatrix.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go back as well, Regulus?” Andromeda asked the seven-year-old, looking down at him hopefully. It seemed that she also didn’t want to go across the water, but it was rare for Regulus to tell people when he wanted to do something and she would definitely go through with it if he was sure that he wanted to go into the cave.

Regulus nodded his head determinedly and when Andromeda turned to ask Sirius the same question he told her that he wasn’t a baby and if Regulus, who was scared of everything, wasn’t scared to go into the cave than neither was he.

So Andromeda reluctantly waved her wand at the boat, sending it out to shore with a simple levitation spell.

All three of them got into the boat, Andromeda at one end, and Sirius and Regulus at the other. Both of the young boys were very interested when she used the same charm again, letting the boat glide gently through the water and towards their destination.

Sirius ran his hands through the waves, laughing excitedly as the water rushed past him, though Regulus seemed to be distinctly uncomfortable. Though neither Andromeda nor Sirius knew this, Regulus was slowly remembering the details from the dream that he had had and was beginning to think that this journey across the water was possibly not a good idea.

After several minutes the cliff face loomed closer and Andromeda brought the boat the a stop. She clambered up onto the rocky surface before the cave and then helped both of the boys up too, though not before asking one more time if they were both sure they wanted to go in the cave. She had noticed that Regulus had grown more and more shaky the closer they got to the cave and was very concerned.

Still, Regulus was adamant that he had to go into the cave. So they went into the cave.

He looked very confused when they reached the entrance, as though he was unsure of whether or not they would be able to walk through it without doing something first, but he quickly shook off the feeling and hurried after his brother and cousin.

The cave was very dark so Andromeda had lit up the end of her wand with a lumos charm.

“So why did you want to come here anyway, Regulus?” asked Sirius as he gazed around the cavern in wonder. The further they went in the larger it seemed to become. It was so tall now that Regulus almost couldn’t see the ceiling, and the walls looked to be covered in diamonds. They were salt crystals, Andromeda had informed them, which formed inside caves when a certain kind of liquid solution flooded a cave for around a hundred thousand years.

“I just…” said Regulus, and he still had a confused and curious look about him, despite his obvious fear of the cave “…I think there’s something in here that I have to find.”

Sirius scoffed and muttered a nasty comment about children and playing games, momentarily forgetting that he was only a year older than Regulus and much more prone to playing games than him.

Eventually they made it to the largest part of the cave, which was filled almost entirely with a humongous lake. There was a small, rocky island in the middle of it, covered in salt crystals just like everything else.

Regulus jerked a little when he caught sight of the water but then calmed down upon realising that it was just water and there was nothing moving inside of it. For a moment he had imagined something else, a part of his dream that was slowly becoming more vivid.

“This is probably the liquid solution that formed the salt crystals!” Andromeda exclaimed in a hushed, enthused voice “I should take a sample, Ted will be ecstatic.”

She dug into her skirt pocket and produced a glass vial, topped with a snake-themed stopper. There was an entire set of them and they had once belonged to Elladora Black (who had used them to store blood for less than legal purposes) but had since been passed down the family line. Andromeda had received them from uncle Alphard on her and Bellatrix’s birthday, back in April.

“Who’s Ted?” snickered Sirius “Is he your boyfriend?”

Andromeda paused and looked down at him, her brow furrowing “No.” she said, though it sounded like a lie.

“Only an idiot like Reggie would believe that lie.” Sirius told her.

Regulus wasn’t listening. There was something about the water, he knew it. Something important. He inched a bit closer, slowly.

“Regulus isn’t an idiot.” Andromeda huffed. She turned around and brushed past Regulus before kneeling down above the surface of the water. Regulus watched her uncap the stopper and fill the vial with the water. His mind stuck on it for some reason and a frown came about his face.

“Well, yeah,” said Sirius, rolling his eyes “but he’s really – Reggie what’s that word that-“

“Gullible.” Regulus replied automatically. It barely required thought at this point to supply Sirius with the words that he needed (and it should be noted that Regulus only knew so many words because he was a boring person who thought reading a dictionary was fun).

“Yes, that. Reggie’s really gullible, so of course he believes you.”

The vial was full. Andromeda lifted it from the water, putting the stopper back into place. She held it up to her lit wand and the light shone through, glinting off of every surface available, casting watery shadows.

Something in Regulus’ head told him that the light was supposed to be green, and then afterwards it told him that the light was meant to be shining from the island.

“That’s pretty.” Said Sirius.

Regulus felt his breath leave him. He walked a step forward, standing at the edge of the lake. Regulus gazed down into the depths of the water, feeling that if he looked long enough he might see something important. There was nothing there, though. Absolutely nothing.

“Regulus?” Andromeda said tentatively.

“Where’s Kreacher?” Regulus asked in a small voice.

“We left him at home, remember?” said Sirius.

“No, I mean. He was here in the dream, I can remember that now.” Regulus looked around the cave hopelessly, confused beyond measure.

“Are you okay, Regulus?” Andromeda asked. Regulus turned around to look at her.

“I’m fine.” He said, though he didn’t quite feel fine.

“Well you’re being strange.” Sirius pointed out in that rude way of his.

“Not as strange as you.” Regulus found himself muttering. He brought his hand up to rub at his forehead, feeling slightly dazed.

“Seriously, Regulus, is something wrong?” Andromeda tried. She sounded a bit on edge.

“I just…” Regulus muttered. His legs felt weak, he tried to move them. Bare feet shifted backwards.

There’s nothing under my heel, Regulus thought with a frown. And there really was nothing under his heel. Regulus pressed his whole foot down where there should have been ground and felt air rush past him, water rush nearer.

“REGULUS!” both Sirius and Andromeda yelled.

Regulus’ body dropped into the water with a great splash.

They grabbed at him and pulled him under. Regulus felt his breath leave him and opened his eyes to see writhing, squirming bodi-

He opened his eyes to see dark water, all around him. Regulus tried to breath but there was only water. His eyes stung.

His hands pushed helplessly at the bodies, fingers scraping against dead skin, feet kicking at bone. Regulus held his breath; he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t let the water in.

The water was in his lungs. Regulus choked on it.

And then hands were grasping at him, pulling at him.

No, thought Regulus, I don’t want to die.

But the hands didn’t push him down – they pulled him up. Regulus surfaced, coughing and choking on water, Andromeda’s arms clutching him tightly to her body.

She swam to the edge of the lake and pushed him up onto the rocky flatform, where Sirius was waiting with a horrified expression on his face.

“Are you okay?” he asked, rushing forwards to drag Regulus further onto the cave floor. Regulus just wheezed, filling his lungs with much needed air.

His eyes were wide and his hands were shaking. Every bit of Regulus was soaked, from his curly black hair to his toes.

Andromeda hauled herself up onto the ground, water pouring off of her.

“Regulus?” she asked worriedly, looking just a bit shaken.

Regulus shivered.

“I know what happened in my dream now.” He whispered. He wrapped his arms around himself, trying his best to warm up.

“What happened in your dream?” Sirius asked slowly, hesitantly, hands reaching forward to rub at Regulus’ quivering shoulders.

“I died.” The words were uttered with sickened horror.

Over there, Regulus wanted to say, by that rock – the sharp, pointy one. I banged just about every part of my body against it and it really hurt, but not as much as drowning.

“Come on,” Andromeda said softly, laying a hand on his back “let’s get back. Everyone will be wondering what’s taking us so long.”

Chapter Text

“Master Regulus can’t do this.” Kreacher grumbled.

Regulus pointedly ignored Kreacher’s protests and pulled the string taught across the board before fastening it to a photograph of one Tom Marvolo Riddle with a sticking charm. His face was grim and his hair a mess. Long nights spent investigating the Dark Lord’s origins were really taking their toll.

“Kreacher means it, Master Regulus is treading in dark water here.”

“Don’t you think I don’t know that!” Regulus snapped, finally cracking. His hands clenched tightly around the ball of red string he was holding as he turned to glare down at Kreacher “He left you for dead, Kreacher! He happily left you for dead and I am going to ruin him.”

Regulus was shaking from the rage that it provoked, and he had been shaking from that rage ever since Kreacher had turned up in his bedroom, soaking wet and terrified out of his mind. But Kreacher wasn’t the one that deserved his rage.

Regulus breathed in and out slowly.

“Sorry, Kreacher, I shouldn’t talk to you in such a way. None of this is your fault. But if you think that I’ll let him off easily then you are very wrong. He’s a psychotic bastard and I should have done this as soon as I reali-“

Regulus opened his eyes slowly and turned over in his bed. He frowned tiredly, eyes catching on the blank cork board up against the wall. The room was dark, lit only by dull sunlight filtering through the gap in his curtains. It was early morning, probably about six or seven.

It was one of those dreams again, he realised, one of those dreams where the future turned dark.

Regulus didn’t like them one bit. He also didn’t like waking up.

Regulus turned back over and buried his face in the soft pillows.


 

“-that girl was foul! I always knew it, she was always strange – interested in all sorts of analytical and arithmetic magics, as if it is a woman’s place to do such things. She is exactly what’s wrong with th-“

Regulus pushed his chair back from the table, feeling sick.

The chair scraped harshly against the floor and was loud in the silence it had commanded from Walburga. She slowly looked over to him, eyes set in a cold fury.

“I wasn’t finished, Regulus.” She said dangerously.

Sirius was looking at him with horror, his entire body seized up in fear of their mother’s temper. Regulus looked down, fingers twitching against the dark wood of the table.

“I…like cousin Andromeda.” Regulus said quietly, and he knew that the sudden ability to say such a thing came from his dreams.

“That girl is borderline muggle!” Walburga hissed, her words thick and cloying like running water “She’s a menace.”

Regulus thought back on his dream with a frown.

“If you find someone to be psychotic,” he said lethargically “you shouldn’t follow them.”

“And what is that supposed to mean!” Walburga spat out, raising from her seat to stare down at Regulus from a higher point. Her hands slammed down on the table and she snarled “What is this, Regulus.”

Regulus shifted on his seat, eyes trailing the room dizzily.

“I-“

His brain felt overloaded, like it was going into meltdown. Regulus raised a shaky hand to his head and felt heat against his fingertips.

“Regulus?” Sirius whispered.

─You―thin―I―stop―too―

The voice filtered through, patchy and faint. It sounded familiar. Regulus had heard it before. In a dream. It was trying hard to be heard over a high-pitched tone (and if Regulus knew what radio interference was he would have likened it to that) but it was much too weak to do so, as if it was dying.

What are you trying to say, thought Regulus, what do you want me to know?

The high-pitched tone got louder, the voice no more than a whisper.

“Regulus?” the tone ended.

Regulus blinked and looked up just in time to see the hand coming towards him. His head snapped to the side with a sharp noise.

“WALBURGA!” Orion thundered.

“He was being an insolent brat.” The woman grouched.

Sirius was up and out of his seat, hands already on Regulus’ shoulders, scared and fierce and brave at the same time. Regulus rose a shaking hand to his cheek, which stung.

“Whatever the case, you shouldn’t slap him! It won’t reflect well on us if he goes out into public with a bruise on his face! I have a job at the ministry to uphold for Merlin’s sake!”

Their father was mad, really mad. Neither of the children had ever seen him do more than sit and read passively, almost pretending that he wasn’t there.

Of course, they weren’t stupid enough to think that he was angry for their sake. Their father was a calculated man and he had calculated that letting his wife attack their children would be bad for him. Anything bad for Orion Black was immediately shut down.

“They’re getting out of line! If we allow them to continue like this, they will both most definitely end up in Gryffindor.”

“So have a talk with them! Violence and threats are a good enough push towards the right behaviour in the ministry, but they never work on children. Children are too prone to anger.”

Regulus tuned the rest of the conversation out. He stood from his chair and slipped out of the room. There was a sound of footsteps behind him and he knew that Sirius had decided on the same course of action.

Sirius took a hold of Regulus’ elbow when they reached the second floor and guided him to his bedroom, leaving Regulus at the door. He then rifled through the bottom of his wardrobe, producing something wrapped in fabric.

“Here,” he said, holding it out “I was going to use it for a prank, but you need it more.”

Regulus took it from his hands and found it cold. Ice, he realised.

“Thank you.” Regulus said, pressing it against his aching cheek.

“It’s alright,” Sirius said, falling down onto his bed and taking up an absurd amount of room “you need it more. Anyway, even if you were stupid to say what you did, you were right. I like Andy.”

“She’s nice.”

“Yeah, unlike Bellatrix.” Sirius pulled a disgusted face “I bet they’re gonna start talking her up now, like they did with Andy before today. Still don’t get why she ran off with a muggleborn though.”

“It’s because they’re just like us.” Regulus said, though he didn’t look very sure of his words.

“They’re weird though.” Sirius grumbled.

“Andromeda said they are, though, so they must be. And you saw them at the beach last month – they weren’t any different from you and I.”

“You’re probably right. Mum’s not very nice, so what she tells us probably isn’t true. I still think the muggles are a bit odd.”

Regulus nodded in agreement. He paused.

“Sirius?” he asked.

“Yes?”

“Can I tell you something?”

“Uhh…sure?” Sirius said. He was looking at Regulus with squinted eyes, suspicious of whatever it was that he wanted to talk about.

“I keep having dreams,” Regulus said after about a minute of hesitation “like the one with the water. Only, none of them are as scary as that one.”

Sirius scoffed at that, not taking Regulus seriously.

“You have weird dreams, Reggie.” He scoffed.

“I’m older in them,” Regulus tried, feeling just a bit desperate “and I’m very scared and annoyed. Really annoyed. So annoyed that in my dream last night, I got mad at Kreacher.”

Sirius seemed to find that strange. Not the fact that Regulus had gotten mad at Kreacher in his dream, but the fact that he thought getting mad at Kreacher was unusual.

“He’s Kreacher,” he said “why wouldn’t you be mad at him?”

“I like Kreacher, he’s a bit cranky but he’s very nice to me.”

“He’s a creepy old monster.”

“I’m sure he thinks the same of you.”

“I’m not old!”

“Well, you are a monster, and very creepy.”

“See if I ever be nice to you again.” Sirius teased, an amused air about him.


 

Dear cousin Andromeda,

                              I am writing to you because I wanted to tell you that it’s okay that you lo I hope you are in good health. Mother has been very angry with you and I fear she will send you something

                                                                                                    ^

                                                         (and it’s all very irrational of her, I assure you)

unsavoury in the mail, so I wouldn’t open anything from her if I were you. I don’t mind that you It is no one’s place to mind disagree with your affair relationship with Mr. Ted Tonks and I really do hope that the two of you have a lovely rest of your life. Sirius thinks you should be happy too, and he agrees that cousin Bellatrix is not a good role model, no matter what mother starts telling us.

You actually left a book on muggle ‘science’ behind in the library the last time you visited our house, Sirius found it earlier and told me that since I’m the cleverest I should send it back to you by mail    hello this is SIRIUS and reggy is wrong he is not the cleverest i ambut aneways you are cool and your muggle is cool to mum sucks so does reggy-------------------

Terribly sorry, cousin Andromeda, that was Sirius. He has been dealt with.

Anyway, you’ll find your book attached. I may have possibly taken a peak inside. Is all that information about electricity true? It sounds fascinating.

I have to come clear with you, the book isn’t the only reason I’m writing to you. It’s my dreams. I’ve been having very strange dreams ever since we went to the cave and I’m having quite a bit of trouble understanding them.

In the one that I had before we went to the cave (and I’ve had this one twice since) I drowned in there, and, as you can imagine, it is quite distressing to wake up after drowning. There is a lot more to the dream, and I don’t honestly believe that I can write it down in a letter, but you must no that these dreams are very troubling.

I had another one this morning – one where I was filling up that standing cork board uncle Alphard bought me last Christmas. I was pulling red string across it and there were photographs and scribbled writing. It was as if I was trying to find something out. Kreacher told me that I was ‘treading in dark water’.

There was also the one I had the night before, where Sirius and I were on a train (I think it was the Hogwarts express). He was wearing Gryffindor colours and told me that I couldn’t follow him. I was a lot younger in this dream than the other ones, so I’m not sure if it is right to group it together with them, but it was strange.

I’m sorry for bugging you about my dreams, but if you have any idea why I keep having them could you tell me. As I said, they are quite distressing and they feel very real.

I wish you the best of luck, cousin Andromeda.

Regulus Black


 

Dear Regulus,

I thank you for your concern over my wellbeing. Your mother has indeed sent me some rather horrendous mail, though I was clever enough not to open it.

I am also very happy that I have both yours and Sirius’ approval on my relationship with ‘Mr. Ted Tonks’. He and I are very happy together, though we’ve had to have wards put up by the ministry on account of the rest of our family’s behaviour. You needn’t hope that I have a lovely rest of my life because I’m sure you’ll be there to see the rest of my life. There’s no need to go about things as if we’ll never see each other again, Regulus.

Your mother may take issue with it, but she doesn’t need to know if you and Sirius come to visit me (or if we meet up at an ice cream shop or a café).

Thank you for sending my book back but I’ve decided that you need it more. You said you found it fascinating so I’ve sent five more books over with it. Three of them are on muggle science and one of them is a fictional novel that I thought you might enjoy. The last book is for Sirius, I know he isn’t one for books but I thought he might appreciate this one.

About your dreams, that does sound rather disturbing. I do have several ideas (of which I’ve been pondering on since the cave incident) and I’d be happy to discuss them with you. First I would like to know all the details that you couldn’t tell me in your letter, though.

Would you like to meet me at ‘Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour’ at 10am on Sunday? I know you may have trouble getting out, but your mother always came over for tea then before I ran away and it isn’t like her to break habit. Your father will be too busy reading in the library to make sure you’re home, as well.

You can bring Sirius along if you like, if that makes you less nervous to be going against Aunt Walburga’s will. I’ll bring Ted along, so that if you get scared at the last moment and decide not to come there will be someone there with me. That way you don’t have to feel so bad about not coming.

I hope to hear back from you soon.

Andromeda Black


 

Regulus set the letter down on his desk and reached for the books that had come with Andromeda’s owl. Most of the books were large and hard-covered, glossy front and brightly coloured. On the top of the pile was a small pink book, a bit bigger than a hand. It was called ‘2000 insults for all occasions’. This was obviously the book that Andromeda had sent with Sirius in mind. Regulus pushed it to the side and picked up the book underneath, which was about the same size as it.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew.” Regulus read out.

It was small and green and looked much more interesting than the books in the Black library, which didn’t have illustrations on their front covers. The corners were worn, as if the book had been read a hundred times before but it was in a very good condition despite that.

Regulus opened the book. ‘Ted Tonks’ was written in the upper left-hand corner, scribbly and faded in pencil.

This book had belonged to Andromeda’s boyfriend. Regulus let out a slow breath, not knowing how to feel. He was touched that Mr. Ted Tonks would allow him to touch a book that seemed as treasured as this, but he also had never met the man and didn’t quite feel like he deserved to read the book.

There was only one thing for it, Regulus realised. He was going to have to read the entire book before Sunday so that he could give Mr. Ted Tonks his book back and then tell him how delighted he was to be able to read the book.

Chapter Text

Florean Fortesque’s Ice Cream Parlour was crowded. There were large groups of children and teenagers dotted about the place, obviously excited to try out the relatively new establishment. It had only opened a few months back in May and it had gained a reputation for serving the best ice cream in wizarding Britain since then. Of course, the owner – Florean Fortesque – was a half-blood and, because of this, neither Regulus nor Sirius had stepped foot in the shop before.

Regulus grabbed onto Sirius’ arm as an agitated mother bustled past them, pulling him out of her way.

“Be careful.” He hissed in a quiet voice. Sirius scowled at him.

“How about you be careful.” He huffed, pulling his arm from Regulus’ grasp. Regulus scrunched his face up and turned away from his brother, intent on ignoring him for the rest of the trip. His intent was quickly forgotten when Sirius dragged him up to the counter and distracted him with the promise of ice cream. Regulus, unfortunately, was seven years old, and seven-year-olds were very easily bribed with ice cream.

Especially if they had never eaten ice cream before.

“It’s cold.” Regulus complained after they had sat at an empty table and both tried their first spoonful of the stuff.

“It’s called ice cream.” Sirius pointed out. He, unlike Regulus, seemed to be enjoying his ice cream, of which there was a lot. ‘Death by Chocolate’ the menu had called it, and, as Sirius had played a rather nasty prank on Regulus that morning, Regulus was hoping ever so slightly that there was some truth in the name.

“I don’t like it.” Regulus said. He pushed the small dish away from himself.

“That’s cause you’re a weirdo.” Sirius said. Regulus kicked him under the table. Sirius kicked him back. Regulus glared.

“I hope you two aren’t going to start fighting.” An amused voice called out.

“Cousin Andromeda!” Regulus exclaimed, and Sirius said, “Andy!” at the same time, though it was barely legible because of the spoon in his mouth.

Indeed, Andromeda Black (though she could hardly be called a Black any longer) was standing before their table. She looked quite different from how the two Black brothers had always seen her. There were no heavy skirts in sight, instead Andromeda was wearing trousers, and her hair was cut short, to her shoulders. There was no doubt that Walburga Black would have fainted from the sight.

Behind Andromeda was ‘Mr. Ted Tonks’, or Ted, as most people who weren’t Regulus called him.

“You look really cool, Andy!” Sirius yelled, a beaming grin about him. Regulus nodded his head in agreement.

Andromeda smiled, looking a moment away from laughing.

“Thank you.” She said, and leaned forward to ruffle Sirius’ hair. Sirius fell out of his chair in his attempts to get away from the accursed hair ruffling and scowled.

“I’ve decided you’re not cool anymore.” He said. Andromeda chuckled.

During this interaction between Sirius and Andromeda, Regulus had been awkwardly staring at Ted, unsure of what to do. Ted looked very uncomfortable with the staring.

“It’s rude to stare, Regulus.” Andromeda said, after helping Sirius back into his chair.

“Sorry.” Regulus said quietly. He turned his gaze to his ice cream and stared at that instead.

“Is it rude to stare at ice cream too?” He asked, after a moment. His eyes flitting up to Andromeda guiltily. Andromeda wanted to ask him, ‘why are you like this?’, but then she remembered the fact that her aunt Walburga existed and thought it was probably better not to ask the question.

Instead, Andromeda slid into the chair next to Regulus’ (and Regulus was sitting across from Sirius, so afterwards the only chair left was the one next to Sirius’. Ted sat down in it a little hesitantly (because now that Regulus wasn’t staring at him Sirius was)) and patted him on the shoulder.

“It’s rude to stare at people, but it’s absolutely alright to stare at ice cream, as long as it’s your own ice cream.” She said. Regulus supposed it was fine to stare at Sirius’ ice cream too, because Sirius was his brother and Regulus was morbidly curious about the sheer amount of ice cream that had been put in the glass dish.

“Okay.” Regulus nodded.

Ted coughed, capturing the attention of the table “Uhh, I’m Ted.” He said awkwardly, offering his hand.

Sirius took it eagerly and gave it a shake.

“I’m Sirius!” he said “Are you really a muggle?”

“Muggleborn.” Ted corrected. He seemed to find Sirius’ excitement endearing.

He then turned to Regulus with a smile.

“You’re Regulus then?” he asked. Regulus nodded, though he kept his eyes on his ice cream because it was impolite to stare. Ted was slightly perturbed at this. He looked questioningly towards Andromeda.

“He’s very shy.” She explained.

Regulus frowned at this, because he wasn’t shy. It was just that he had never met Mr. Ted Tonks before and didn’t want to be impolite. Regulus realised then, that refusing to look at Ted might be considered impolite.

Regulus looked up and said “I’m very pleased to meet you, Mr. Ted Tonks. Your book was very enjoyable.”

“Weirdo.” Sirius muttered. He dug his spoon into his ice cream and shoved it into his mouth.

Sirius.” Andromeda scolded.

“I’m glad you enjoyed the book, Regulus,” Ted said “Andromeda told me she was going to send you some books on muggle culture and I think that there’s nothing that screams muggle culture more than the Narnia series. Almost every muggle child has read those books.”

“Oh yes!” said Regulus, forgetting his not-shyness “It’s a series! The books were ordered just inside the front cover.”

Regulus then bent down to retrieve the book from his bag, which he had put underneath the table. He thrust it at Ted.

“I finished reading it just last night, so you can have it back now!” he said quickly.

Ted huffed out a laugh.

“You can keep it.” He said.

“But it’s yours,” Regulus frowned “and it’s obviously very treasured – you must have read it more than a dozen times.”

“Well I’m grown up now,” said Ted “so I don’t read it as often. I’d rather that a kid like you, who appreciates books, unlike my cousin, owned it. At least that way I don’t have to worry about it being ruined.”

“If you’re sure…” Regulus said uncertainly.

“Just take the book, Reggie.” Sirius groaned, making a dramatic show of rolling his eyes. Regulus turned his nose up at Sirius – as he was still mad at him for pranking him that morning – but he still ended up putting the book back inside of his bag.

“Andromeda can send you the next book over by mail.” Ted said afterwards. To this, Andromeda told him that he could send his own owl now that he and Regulus knew each other. Regulus was very excited at the prospect of owling Ted (who, by this point, had managed to convince him not to call him ‘Mr. Ted Tonks’), because he really wanted to discuss the book with someone who wasn’t Sirius and had actually read it.

While Regulus told Ted all about his favourite parts of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew’ Andromeda slipped away to order them all ice cream. Sirius went with her, proclaiming that ice cream was now his favourite food.

“So, about your dreams…” Andromeda started, plucking a cherry from the top of her ice cream with a disgusted look and dropping it into Ted’s bowl.

“Oh, not this again.” Sirius moaned, slumping over the table with annoyance. No one paid him any attention, though Ted looked faintly amused.

“I’m sure there’s something strange about them.” Regulus declared.

“They certainly sound strange.” Andromeda said “Could you tell me anything more about them? Ted wants to know too, don’t you Ted? He’s going to be working on his healer degree at St. Mungo’s in September, so he might have some fresh ideas.”

Regulus thought for a few seconds.

“They all seem very real,” he decided “and I was investigating something in them.”

“Investigating?” Andromeda asked “Investigating what?”

Regulus froze. His gaze shifted to his ice cream.

“It’s…I’m not sure if I should say what, or who?”

“Why not?”

“It’s…” Regulus shifted restlessly. Slowly, he leaned across the seat to whisper in Andromeda’s ear. Ted frowned, and Sirius looked annoyed to be missing out on this vital piece of information (most likely because he wanted to use whatever it was to make fun of his brother, as most siblings do).

Regulus pulled away from Andromeda’s ear nervously, dropping his hands into his lap and fiddling with his fingers. Andromeda had paled and was now looking at Regulus in a scared manner. She ignored Ted’s questioning look and placed a hand on her cousin’s shoulder.

“Think back to the dream about the cave,” she said stiffly “did anything happen at the end?”

“I drowned.” Regulus said with a frown.

“No, but after that.”

“There was nothing after that. I drowned and that was it.”

Andromeda’s lips pressed into a thin line “No, but after you drowned.” She said.

“There was nothing!” Regulus argued, scowling.

“But you could think,” Andromeda protested “how would you know there was nothing if you couldn’t think.”

“Oh, stop fussing!” Sirius scowled “Reggie says there was nothing after that so there was nothing! He woke up after he drowned, didn’t you Reggie?”

“That’s not quite…” Regulus said.

“I’m right, aren’t I.” Andromeda said, rather smugly.

“Now that I properly think about it, I didn’t wake up right away. There was nothing and I didn’t wake up.”

“Could it be something psychological?” Ted asked, finally adding his input to the conversation “I’ve been studying psychological issues in preparation for my degree and dreams usually have something to do with a person’s current state of mind.”

“It’s nothing to do with psychology.” Regulus snapped. He immediately felt bad for it because this was Andromeda’s ‘Mr. Ted Tonks’ and he seemed very nice, but Ted didn’t seem too phased.

“He’s right,” Andromeda said “this has absolutely nothing to do with psychology, Ted.”

“It certainly sounds like it does.” Ted said. He was frowning and looked very confused by Andromeda’s certainty.

“So, you’re saying that Reg has finally gone round the bend.” Sirius said, and he was looking at Regulus concernedly. ‘finally’, Regulus mouthed, because he was very young and the words implied that Sirius had been expecting something like this for a while.

“No, Regulus hasn’t gone mad,” Andromeda said “we’re just not looking at all the facts here.”

“Then what are the facts?” Sirius groaned.

Are there any more facts?” Ted asked.

Andromeda sighed “There are,” She said “and Sirius should know this.”

“Uh, no, Sirius shouldn’t know this.” Sirius snarked “Sirius isn’t a healer, so Sirius shouldn’t know anything.”

“No, but you were there at the cave.” Andromeda said.

Regulus’ head shot up.

“You found it odd too?” he asked.

Everyone found it odd.” Sirius said.

“That’s enough, Sirius.” Andromeda said, then she turned to Regulus “He is right, though, even Bellatrix thought it was odd, and she hardly knows you exist.”

Ted frowned at them.

“I…I’m lost,” he said “what does everyone find odd?”

So Andromeda proceeded to tell Ted the story of their excursion into the cave a few weeks ago (after gaining Regulus’ approval to tell the story, of course) while Regulus fidgeted. Sirius interrupted every now and again to tell them all how ugly Bellatrix had been (and she hadn’t been ugly, just terrifying, but Sirius really didn’t like Bellatrix. The feeling was mutual), or how uptight Narcissa was, or how unfair their father was.

“Well,” Ted said, looking a little shell-shocked “that is odd. Are you okay Regulus?”

Regulus nodded.

“I wasn’t under the water for too long,” he said “Andromeda was very quick about saving me.” Sirius nodded eagerly at that statement and proclaimed that, “Andy’s a right hero! She didn’t even hesitate before she jumped in!”

“That’s Andy,” Ted agreed, smiling lovingly at his girlfriend “a hero.”

“Yes, I am one, aren’t I.” Andromeda agreed, looking very smug for it. The word struck Regulus. He frowned.

“I think that was what I was trying to do, in the cave.” he said quietly “What I needed to find, it was very dangerous.”

“Why would you go near a dangerous thing?” Sirius asked, his nose wrinkled.

“I don’t know,” Regulus rolled his eyes “why would you date a werewolf?”

Sirius’ mouth fell open and he stared at Regulus as if he had lost his mind.

“A werewolf?” he said, finally.

Regulus stilled. He let out a squeak and covered his mouth with his hands, then uncovered it and said “It happened in one of my dreams! I didn’t mean anything by it, I swear!”

“You didn’t mean anything by it?” Sirius yelped “I would never date a werewolf, Reggie! They’re animals!”

“I can’t control what I dream about!” Regulus fretted.

“Well, maybe you should try.” Sirius bit out.

“That’s enough, Sirius.” Andromeda said.

“But-”

“I said, that’s enough.” Andromeda interrupted. There was a stormy look about her and Regulus suddenly realised that she must support werewolves as well as muggles and muggleborns.

Sirius was suitably cowed. He sank into his seat with an upset, if contemplative, expression on his face.

“Right then,” said Andromeda “there is to be no more discussion of werewolves at this table. Right now, the only thing that we should be concerned about is Regulus’ problem, and his problem has nothing to do with werewolves.” She turned to Regulus “Now, do you remember what the dangerous thing was?”

“It was…” Regulus trailed off. He thought for a few seconds and then shook his head sadly “I’m sorry, I can’t quite remember.”

“It’s alright,” Andromeda said “you can tell us when you remember. Maybe it will help if you have the dream again.”

Regulus wasn’t happy at the idea of having the dream again but he had to admit that it was the dream he had dreamed the most, and it would pop up whether he wanted to dream it or not.

“Is there seer blood in your family?” Ted asked then. He had been silent for a while.

Andromeda shook her head.

“There have certainly been ancestors that have tried to see into the future, but they have never been successful. Still, I think that what Regulus has been seeing has something to do with the future.”

“What!” Sirius shouted “But I would never date a-” Andromeda sent him a warning look and he silenced himself.

“How do we know it’s the future?” Regulus asked quietly.

“We already know that it is,” Ted said “because you knew about that boat, and the cave. You saw those in a dream and they really were there.”

“But there were no-” Regulus cut off. He wrapped his arms around himself, feeling suddenly cold.

“No what?” asked Andromeda.

Regulus shivered.

“It doesn’t matter.” He mumbled.

And then he heard it again, the same voice over a high-pitched tone. He felt Andromeda tap at his arm but whatever she said was lost over the noise.

―hear―can―he―I―you―

Then the tone rose in volume, just like last time. Regulus jolted as he the tone ended and he suddenly became aware of the noise in the ice cream parlour.

“-pulse is fast, has he got any medical issues?” Ted said. He was kneeling by Regulus’ chair, fingers at his wrist.

“Not that I know of.” That was Andromeda.

“He did this before – at the dinner table. Do you think he’s seeing the future.” Sirius.

“I don’t dream while I’m awake.” Regulus said. He shifted and Ted let his wrist go. Regulus brought his hand up to rub at his head, which was twinging ever so slightly.

“Are you alright?” Ted and Andromeda asked at exactly the same time. They both blinked at each other and then turned to Regulus, awaiting an answer.

“I’m fine.” Regulus said. Sirius snorted, clearly not believing him. Regulus kicked him under the table. Sirius kicked back. Regulus reached for his cup of ice cream and―

Andromeda’s hand caught his. She heaved the tired sigh of a mother that’s had to break up her children’s’ fights much too often. This said a lot about Regulus and Sirius’ behaviour, considering the fact that she was not their mother.

“I suppose that’s fine enough.” She said. Ted took that as a sign to get up from the floor and sit back on his chair.

They stayed in the ice cream parlour for another hour before Andromeda decided that her cousins had been away from home for long enough and that they should return before their mother returned.

“Oh, and Regulus?” she said, as they exited the shop.

“Yes?” he said.

“About what you were investigating,” she said “you should continue the investigation.”

Regulus frowned.

“But what if mother sees?” he said.

“That cork board you got from uncle Alphard is a cork board on both sides. I’m sure she won’t think to turn it around.” With that, Andromeda and Ted bid them farewell.

Regulus received an owl later that day. There was no letter but there were two books, wrapped in brown paper – ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’, and ‘Breaking Down Prejudice: Werewolves’.

Regulus opened the book on werewolves and a note fluttered out. He picked it up.

It read: ‘Since aunt Walburga is so awful at educating you two, I have taken the responsibility upon myself – love Andy’

Regulus smiled and ran for Sirius’ bedroom.

Chapter Text

“What colour hair does she have?” Sirius asked. He was lounging on top of Regulus’ bed, a muggle comic that Andromeda had sent by owl spread out in front of him.

Regulus paused, the question taking him off-guard. He lifted his quill from the corkboard and mulled it over.

“I…really don’t know.” Regulus admitted.

Sirius scoffed.

“What’s the point of seeing the future if you don’t know what my werewolf girlfriend is gonna look like.” He said.

“If you’re only here to insult me,” Regulus grumbled “then you can get out of my bedroom.”

There was something about Sirius’ words that struck him as wrong, though.

“Are you sure you’re going to have a werewolf girlfriend?” Regulus asked, dropping his quill into the ink pot he’d set on the floor and turning to face his brother.

Sirius pulled a face.

“You’re the expert, aren’t you? Don’t ask me.” He said grouchily.

“Yes, but – a girlfrie-”

“You. Are. The. Expert.” Sirius said, in a way that suggested he thought Regulus was stupid.

Regulus was not stupid (and, when he thought about it, he wasn’t an expert either). He turned back to the corkboard, stooping to take his quill from the ink pot, and vowed to ignore Sirius for the rest of the day.

The corkboard barely resembled the one from Regulus’ dreams, but that was fine. It wasn’t meant to be an exact replica.

The words ‘Lord Voldemort’ and ‘Tom Marvolo Riddle’ were scrawled out towards the top right of the board, a space left below each of the names reserved for photographs. Regulus just needed to send an owl off to Narcissa later to ask her to look through the Hogwarts registry for previous students when she returned there. There was no doubt that the Dark Lord had went to Hogwarts, and Tom was such an English name that it was likely he also went to Hogwarts. And, because of this, there would be photographs of them in the Hogwarts registry.

A line of blue string (which Kreacher had been all too happy to supply) ran from the names to two sketches that Regulus had drawn. They were of the cave – one as it appeared in his dreams, and another as it appeared in reality. He hadn’t been very truthful in his sketch of the dream one. There were things that Sirius didn’t need to know, and that Regulus didn’t want to know.

Regulus had annotated as much as he could, and it had been easy to make the connection between whatever he had been looking for in the cave and the Dark Lord Voldemort.

The only problem was Tom Marvolo Riddle. Regulus had absolutely no idea what connected him to everything. The only thing he had to go on was that his name appeared on the corkboard in Regulus’ dreams.

Regulus was sure that with just another dream, he’d be able to work out the connection, or even what the thing he was looking for was. It always became a blur after the first sip of potion, his mind trying it’s best to skip past the terror of it, but the more he dreamed the clearer it became. Regulus had come very close to seeing what lay inside the basin full of potion last time he’d had the dream.

It was a few minutes later (and those few minutes were tense and quiet) when something else happened, something that had only happened twice before.

Regulus had to admit that he wasn’t all that surprised when a loud, high-pitched tone filled the room. It crackled along garbled words like fire on wood, eating away at them.

“Hello?” Regulus said, because he really wasn’t sure what else to do. Sirius glanced up from his comic questioningly.

―hel―hear―ocket―I―vestigati―me―same―

The distorted mess that rose above the high-pitched tone was practically indecipherable, just as it had always been.

Still, whatever was talking to Regulus was trying very hard to be heard, so it must have had something important to say.

“I can’t understand you.” Regulus said, hoping that the voice wasn’t having as hard a struggle as him.

―it―hard―t―trong―

“Trong?” Regulus repeated “What does ‘trong’ mean?”

The high-pitched tone increased then, and Regulus was sure that he heard a vaguely annoyed-sounding crackle just before it cut out. His hearing came back joltingly, just as much a shock as the two previous times.

Regulus thought with a little bit of frustration that the voice was probably a ghost, and that it’d probably come from some artefact that Regulus had stumbled across in the house. Maybe it had decided he wasn’t worthy of the blood that ran through his veins and had taken to haunting him because of that.

“Are you back?” Sirius asked warily.

His voice was very close and it startled Regulus. Sirius had, at some point in past minute, crossed the room and crowded into Regulus’ personal space.

“Your breath stinks.” Regulus said before he could think any better.

Sirius reacted as Sirius always did when insulted. He reared back with an offended expression, mouth gaping wide in supposed astonishment.

Regulus felt sorry for all of a second before he remembered that Sirius was a brat and deserved everything that came to him (and that he really had no business being so insulted by something like that).

“Yeah, well, at least I’m not crazy!” Sirius barked. He stormed out of the room, shoving at Regulus’ shoulder on his way past, and slammed the door behind him. It made a loud bang as it hit the doorframe and clicked into place.

Most people would be a little shocked at this, but Regulus witnessed Sirius’ tantrums at least once every week and wasn’t phased in the slightest.

“What an idiot.” Regulus muttered, moving on from the fight (if it could be called that) and concentrating on more important matters.

He pondered on what to add to the corkboard for a few minutes. In the end, though, he had to admit that he really didn’t have anything else to add.

Regulus fell back onto his bed with a heavy sigh and stared up at the ceiling of his bed, eyes wandering over the smooth, polished wood with boredom. His thoughts, naturally, ran to the supposed ghost.

He hoped it would talk to him again, even if he had frustrated it earlier. Maybe it wanted him to find it’s body so that it could move on, or it wanted him to destroy a dark object, or (and in his opinion this was the most likely option) it was waiting for the right moment to push him down the stairs because of his continued association with Andromeda.

Regulus shifted uncomfortably at the thought and felt the hard edge of a book poking into his back.

He sat up. It was Sirius’ comic.

Regulus picked the flimsy thing up uncertainly. He was bored, he had to admit, and it couldn’t do any harm to just look at the comic.

He thumbed through the first few pages, looking at the brightly coloured art.

“Sirius really is an idiot to be taken in by this rubbish.” Regulus decided.

Just then, someone knocked on his bedroom door. Regulus jumped, eyes going wide. He fell across the bed quickly and shoved the comic under his pillow, just in time for the door to open.

He was lucky that he wasn’t stupid enough to expect anyone to wait for him to say they were allowed in. Privacy wasn’t very well respected in number 12 Grimmauld Place.

His mother was standing in the doorway, face turned up as if Regulus’ mere presence disgusted her.

“Mother?” Regulus asked, heart beating fast.

“Orion had suggested that I talk to you.” She declared.

“That’s…nice?” Regulus said.

“Is it?” His mother asked, eyebrow arching. Regulus shifted uncomfortably. His eyes flickered over to the corkboard out of habit, trailing over the blue web of string.

And then he realised that the side with his investigations on it was facing the room.

Regulus seized up, a terrified gasp escaping his lips. His mother’s eyes narrowed.

“What is it?” she asked.

“N-nothing.” Regulus squeaked out.

She didn’t look happy with his answer, but she still marched across the room to sit stiffly in the comfortable green chair in the corner of the room.

“Orion suggested that my treatment of you was…unacceptable.” His mother said.

Regulus wisely kept silent.

“He suggested that it was a very muggle punishment, and that talking to you would get me further than punishing you.” The words were spat out as if she hated the idea of talking far more than anything else. Still, she was there, and she was talking.

“I don’t like it,” she said “but Orion is usually right in these matters. He suggested that I should apologise, so that you wouldn’t think badly of me, but we both know that it wouldn’t make a difference. You and your brother are both set in your opinions, however wrong they may be.”

Regulus shifted. She wasn’t wrong.

“I shall not do such a thing again.” his mother said tersely “But if you so much as think of contacting your degenerate cousin then I will be forced to do something drastic. You know she is immoral, do you not, Regulus?”

“Yes, mother.” Regulus said agreeably, because his mother was right and he wasn’t stupid enough to think anything nice of her. If he didn’t agree then he was sure to find out what she meant by ‘something drastic’ and he knew it wouldn’t be anything good.

“Good.” His mother said.

She stood from the chair and walked back across the room, towards the door, glaring at Regulus all the while. He wasn’t sure if she was really mad at him or if her face was just set in that position because she’d spent her entire life scowling.

Regulus didn’t move a muscle. He tried to keep his eyes from the corkboard. His efforts were moot, however.

“What in the name of Merlin is that?” his mother spat, turning back to look at the board. Regulus paled.

“I-it’s a research project!” he squeaked. He clasped his sweaty hands together in an attempt to control their shaking.

“Where did you hear that name?” his mother said. Her face was even madder than usual.

“L-lord Voldemort, you mean?” Regulus asked.

“No.” she said “’Tom Marvolo Riddle’. Where did you hear that filthy halfblood’s name?”

Oh?, Regulus’ mind chimed in, he’s a halfblood?

Regulus didn’t have the time to dwell on this, however, because he didn’t want to leave his mother waiting for an answer. There was no telling what she would decide his lack of response meant.

“I think father must have said it.” Regulus decided.

His mother’s eyes lit with fury and she charged out of the room, slamming the door behind her in a perfect mimicry of Sirius just half an hour before. Regulus really did hope that no one else would be slamming his bedroom door that day.

Regulus shifted from the bed, lowering his feet onto the floor. He padded across the room and took his pot of ink from the floor, capping it and setting it onto his desk. His quill was also on the floor (he must have dropped it when the loud, high-pitched tone had started) and he set that on the desk too. Once this was all done, Regulus tapped twice at the side of the corkboard. It turned around all by itself, which was always very satisfying because Regulus still had to wait four more years before he could get his wand.


 

“Ah, Sirius.” Regulus said happily as he closed his bedroom door behind himself. Sirius was also exiting his bedroom, most likely not looking forward to dinner with their parents.

“You left your-”

Regulus trailed off when Sirius brushed past him without a word. Regulus then realised that Sirius was probably still mad at him for saying that his breath stank.

“Well it did stink.” Regulus muttered to himself, suddenly feeling very annoyed. He marched after his brother with a scowl and grabbed at his arm.

“You left your comic in my room, idiot.” Regulus grumbled. Sirius glared at him and elbowed him out of the way, before heading down the staircase. Regulus rolled his eyes and followed.

Dinner was tense. Sirius was mad at Regulus and their mother was mad at their father, so everyone was silent.

Whenever Regulus reached across the table to grab the saltshaker, Sirius suddenly needed it. His food was drowned in salt and Regulus had to admit that he was mostly reaching for the saltshaker just to see the disgusted expression on Sirius’ face every time he took a bite of the overly-salted chicken.

Regulus reached for the saltshaker again, Sirius’ hand knocking into his. Their father coughed.

“Kreacher, put the saltshaker away.” He said. Kreacher did as he was told, spitting out a nasty insult at Sirius when he came near. Regulus did actually feel a bit bad about that, but it was Sirius’ fault for always being horrible to Kreacher.

Everyone finished eating, eventually. Regulus followed Sirius back up the stairs.

“I only said your breath stank,” Regulus tried “and it was true as well, so I don’t get why you’re mad.”

Sirius ignored him.

Regulus sighed.

“Mother saw the corkboard.” He said. This did get a reaction. Sirius turned around, eyes wide.

“Is that why she was so mad at dinner?” he asked.

Regulus nodded “Uh huh. But she was mad at father, not me.” He said “And she knew who ‘Tom Marvolo Riddle’ was.”

As expected, Sirius was willing to forget his grudge in the face of a mystery. He followed Regulus into his bedroom, asking question after question.

“He’s a halfblood,” Regulus said, tapping at his corkboard so that it turned around “and mother seems to hate him. I didn’t ask anything about him, though, cause mother’s scary.”

And ugly.” Sirius chimed in from where he had sat on the bed. This wasn’t actually true, but Sirius liked calling things he didn’t like ugly.

“Yes, and that.” Regulus said distractedly. He looked up at the board, Tom Marvolo Riddle’s name looming in blue ink “I don’t exactly know how he and Lord Voldemort are connected, but they were connected in my dream so we just have to keep looking. I was thinking that maybe Tom Marvolo Riddle is a blood traito – oh, Andy said not to use that word – what I mean is maybe he’s…” Regulus paused, trying to come up with another word.

“An activist?” Sirius asked.

“Activist!” Regulus exclaimed, turning to beam at Sirius “That’s right! Maybe Tom Marvolo Riddle is an activist for muggle and muggleborn rights, since he’s a halfblood.” Regulus frowned then “That’s an awfully long word for you, Sirius.” He said.

Sirius gasped in indignation.

“It’s only…” Sirius paused and began counting on his fingers.

“It’s only eight letters, Reggie!” he argued. That still sounded like a lot of letters for Sirius in Regulus’ opinion.

“Anyway,” Regulus said “now that we know more about Tom Marvolo Riddle – or TMR, as I’ll be referring to him for the rest of our investigation – what do you think our next course of action should be?”

“I guess we’ll send a letter, cause we’ve been sending letters this whole month.” Sirius said.

“So we’ll send a letter to Tom Marvolo Riddle, asking for his help with finding whatever is going to be in the cave.” Regulus decided. Sirius rolled his eyes.

“He doesn’t even know you, it’ll be weird.” He grumbled.

Sirius is right, Regulus thought. So they brushed past it and decided they would write Andromeda a letter the next day.

That night Regulus dreamed. He was getting better at knowing that he was dreaming.

“Come on, Kreacher.” Regulus said in his adult voice, as he walked along the sand. It was dark out and he was wrapped up in a long coat, scarf, and gloves.

It’s Christmas eve, his mind supplied, and I’m going to die.

Regulus shook the thought from his head, because he wasn’t going to die – he was going to wake up.

Regulus and Kreacher finally came to a stop by an aged wooden boat, just about big enough to fit four adults if they sat very tightly together. Regulus casted a levitation charm and soon enough the two of them were riding across the sea in the old boat.

“This is going quickly, don’t you think?” Regulus said, though he didn’t really say it because this was a dream and it wasn’t what he said in the dream “It’s like when Sirius skim-reads a book.”

And then Regulus decided that he wanted to get to the part with the potion already, so he skim-read his dream until that part.

Don’t look back!, Regulus told himself. It didn’t matter because his older self was thinking the same thing. He also did not want to look behind himself.

“Kreacher,” Regulus said, and he really did say it this time because he was dream Regulus and not real Regulus “I will drink the potion. You must make sure I drink all of it, so that we can get the-” his mouth moved but Regulus’ mind decided he shouldn’t hear the words that came from it so he didn’t hear the words that came from it and this was very annoying “-even if I order you to stop, do not stop. You must leave me here and destroy the-” it was that word again, whatever it was “you understand that, right, Kreacher?”

“Say it again!” Regulus fumed “You have to say it again! I want to know!”. Still, he didn’t say anything in the dream, so the words didn’t leave him.

“Yes, Master Regulus.” Kreacher croaked out, and he looked sadder than Regulus had ever seen. The world sped up then, blurring.

No!, thought Regulus. Not again!

He concentrated as hard as he could. Murmurs caught on the wind.

“I can- another goblet. I can do it, Kreacher.”

“Kreacher is sorry, Master Regulus. Kreacher is so sorry, Kreacher is being a bad elf.”

“Please! Stop!”

Regulus’ concentration broke. He would have been gasping for air if he could. The world passed by. Muted feelings passed by. But Regulus needed to know.

“If I can just get the dream back to normal when the basin is empty.” Regulus didn’t say. He began to concentrate again, breathing in and out evenly, eyes closed. He didn’t really do these things, though, because he wasn’t doing these things in the dream.

The world jolted back. Regulus was crying, he was sure, and a feeling of absolute anguish came over him. Regulus thought for sure that this was what it felt like to be near a dementor. He was thirsty, he was so thirsty.

But Regulus wasn’t thirsty, and he wasn’t crying, because this was just a dream.

Kreacher lifted something from the basin. It was an eerie golden colour, old gold bathed in green light. A chain rose and from the chain a locket. A snake made of green stones was embossed on the locket in the shape of an ‘S’.

“Kreacher has the ―, Master Regulus.” Kreacher sobbed, and then he apparated away.

Regulus was left feeling empty.

“Go back!” he wanted to say, but the dream didn’t go back. Regulus turned around and looked across the water at the-

Regulus didn’t want to see them.

“Go back!” he didn’t say, and the dream actually listened this time.

Regulus was crying, he was sure, and a feeling of absolute anguish came over him. Regulus thought for sure that this was what it felt like to be near a dementor. He was thirsty, so thirsty.

But this was all wrong, because those were the feelings of dream Regulus and not real Regulus.

Regulus waited with un-baited breath as Kreacher lifted something from the basin. It was an eerie golden colour, old gold bathed in green light. A chain rose and from the chain a locket. A snake made of green stones was embossed on the locket in the shape of an ‘S’.

He’s going to say it!, Regulus thought with glee.

“Kreacher has the ―, Master Regulus.” Kreacher sobbed, and then he apparated away.

Regulus was left feeling empty. Kreacher hadn’t said the word.

Dream Regulus began to turn around.

The dream rewound.

Regulus was crying, he was sure, and a feeling of absolute anguish came over him. Regulus thought for sure that this was what it felt like to be near a dementor. He was thirsty, so thirsty.

But Regulus wasn’t thirsty, and he wasn’t crying, and this was all getting quite old.

Kreacher lifted the locket from the basin. It was an eerie golden colour, old gold bathed in green light. A chain rose and from the chain the locket. A snake made of green stones was embossed on it in the shape of an ‘S’.

“Tell me what it is!” Regulus shouted. But he didn’t shout because that’s not what happened in the dream.

“Kreacher has the ―, Master Regulus.” Kreacher sobbed, and then he apparated away.

Regulus was left feeling empty.

He didn’t yell in frustration.

Dream Regulus began to turn around. His eyes caught on the waves and the-

Regulus was crying, he was sure, and a feeling of absolute anguish came over him. Regulus thought for sure that this was what it felt like to be near a dementor. He was thirsty, so thirsty.

But Regulus wasn’t thirsty, and he wasn’t crying, because this was just a dream and it was beyond old now.

Kreacher lifted the locket from the basin. It was an eerie golden colour, old gold bathed in green light. A chain rose and from the chain the locket. A snake made of green stones was embossed on it in the shape of an ‘S’.

Regulus closed his eyes tightly and concentrated. Tell me!, thought.

“Kreacher has the horcrux, Master Regulus.” Kreacher sobbed, and then he apparated away.

Regulus was left feeling emp- Regulus was overjoyed. Kreacher had finally said the word!

I can add that word to the board, Regulus thought, and then I can look in the library and see if we have any books on it.

Dream Regulus began to turn around. His eyes caught on the waves and the corpses idly bobbing about them. He was so thirsty.

“Wait!” Regulus didn’t shout “I don’t want to see them! I need to wake up now!”

But Regulus didn’t wake up. He crawled to the water’s surface on shaky arms and drank. A hand surged up and grabbed at his wrist. Regulus reared back, coming to his senses, but the inferius’ grip was strong.

Regulus was terrified and he wasn’t sure which Regulus he was. Were they both terrified? They were both terrified, they must have been. But Regulus wasn’t terrified because this was a dream and it wasn’t really him that was going through this, it was dream Regulus. But dream Regulus was the same as real Regulus and both Regulus’ were terrified.

More inferi came from the water, hand grabbing at Regulus. He was dragged across the rocky island, legs kicking and arms flailing.

“No!” Regulus screamed as his body hit the water. But then, in the next second, he was no longer in the cave. The high-pitched tone started and ended and Regulus shot up in his bed, gasping for air.

He turned over in his bed and cried into his pillow.

Chapter Text

The Tonkses lived in a nondescript house in muggle Birmingham. It was relatively small, with just two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a bathroom, but it was different from anything owned by the Blacks and to Andromeda Black, that was what mattered.

Ted’s bedroom was also functioning as Andromeda’s bedroom, which made sense since they were dating. Ted’s parents, however, didn’t seem to understand that the two of them were happy with the arrangement and kept suggesting that they sleep in separate rooms.

“One moment you’re sharing a bed with your boyfriend,” Annie Tonks, Ted’s mother, nattered on “and then the next thing you know, you’re pregnant.”

Andromeda nodded along half-heartedly as she sipped at her tea. She liked to think that both she and Ted were more responsible than that, especially since neither of them were interested in having sex.

A tapping sound came upon the kitchen window and Annie leaned across the kitchen counters to open it. An owl flew in, barely avoiding banging into Annie’s head.

It was Regulus’ owl, Andromeda realised, as it perched on the table and extended its leg. Andromeda reached out to untie the letter and summoned the owl treats from across the kitchen with her wand.

The letter read:

Dear Cousin Andromeda,

I do believe that I’ve had a breakthrough in the investigation. I managed to find out a word that my mind has been trying to stop me from finding out. The word is ‘horcrux’ and Sirius and I are going to try and find it in the books in the Black library. However, we know that you are very clever and might already know the word. If you don’t know the word then it’s fine, we’ll find it ourselves.

There’s another matter concerning the investigation that I’d like to talk to you about, concerning a name I saw in one of my dreams, and I was wondering if you knew the name. It’s ‘Tom Marvolo Riddle’. I found out yesterday that he is (was? I don’t know if he’s still alive) a halfblood, and Narcissa’s going to send me a photograph from the Hogwarts student registry when she goes back so I can add it to the corkboard.

We’re still not sure how he’s connected, but Sirius and I think he might be a muggle/muggleborn activist, since he’s a halfblood. I think I should send a letter but Sirius said it would be strange since he doesn’t know me.

Goodluck on your new job with the muggle scientists (and if we can find a date when mother and father are both out, then could you come over to look at the corkboard? You’re really clever so I think you could help a lot), and I hope to hear from you soon.

Regulus Black

Andromeda set the letter down on the table tiredly.

She was glad (and a bit smug) that Regulus and Sirius had become so supportive of muggles, but she couldn’t help but think that she’d set the two of them in a dangerous position.

And how exactly am I meant to get inside Grimmauld Place without Kreacher, or a portrait, telling aunt and uncle?, she groaned internally.

She could send Regulus a camera by owl; ask him to take a photograph of the corkboard for her. It would work. But then, it wasn’t what she wanted to do.

Andromeda Black – hopeful to be Andromeda Tonks someday – was a curious person. There were things that she wanted and she wouldn’t stop at anything to get them, it was why she was a Slytherin. What Andromeda wanted was to study science, and her recent studies in it had lead her to become curious about the make up of magical objects.

If Andromeda went over to Grimmauld Place then she could pick up any manner of dark artifacts. Something small, or something liquid, to put on a petri dish and observe under a microscope. For a lot of dark curses there wasn’t a cure and that was because no one understood what made them work. If she could discover what made the curses through a scientific view-point then maybe she could discover how to un-make them.

Regulus was clever for a seven-year-old, but he wasn’t clever enough to know exactly what Andromeda wanted from that house. He was young and would get himself hurt, riffling through the attic, searching for something to relieve Andromeda’s curiosity.

She would have to go in person.


 

“A ghost?” Sirius asked, eyes squinting at Regulus suspiciously.

Regulus nodded, a serious look about him. The two of them were sitting on Regulus’ bed at opposite ends, looking very much like little children holding a meeting. This made since because that was exactly what they were.

“Yes,” Regulus said “a ghost. It’s been speaking to me and that’s why I’ve blanked out a couple of times. It saved me from a nightmare last night.”

“Right…” Sirius muttered. He was sceptic.

“We can’t tell cousin Andromeda.” Regulus informed him “She’ll tell Ted, and then Ted will think I’m mad and stop sending me books.”

Sirius’ eyebrows rose up his forehead.

“Reggie, we all no you’re not mad. Well, you are mad, but not that kind of mad.”

It was a very Sirius thing to say. This way he could reassure Regulus and then make it seem like he wasn’t reassuring Regulus by insulting him.

“We can’t tell Andromeda.” Regulus said.

“Uh, but we can though.” Sirius scoffed “I’m usually against telling adults, but Andy isn’t like other adults. She’s still eighteen. And she’s heard out all your weird seer stuff so far, and she’s the only one who hasn’t thought that you might be going crazy.”

“Okay, we’ll tell cousin Andromeda.” Regulus huffed with a roll of his eyes. Sirius looked very pleased at that. He was just about the say something when a knock came at the door.

“Please don’t be mum.” Sirius groaned.

It was their mother. She stood at the door, looking just like she had the day before.

“Take it down.” She ordered.

“Take what down?” Sirius asked moodily, though they both knew what she wanted taken down.

“That foul board,” their mother spat “I will not have that halfblood’s name besmirching my house.”

“Too bad!” Sirius barked “We need that board and we’re not taking it down!”

“Sirius!” Regulus hissed warningly, reaching across the bed to grab at his arm.

“What? We need it!” Sirius said.

Their mother stormed into the room to look down at the two boys. She was intimidating.

“And just what do you need it for?” she asked, fury lighting her words.

Regulus did some quick thinking and slapped his hand over Sirius’ mouth before he could say anything else incriminating.

“We want to get back to the roots of what it means to be a Black!” Regulus exclaimed hurriedly “I heard father talking about this Tom Riddle and he didn’t seem to like him very much, so Sirius and I thought – since he’s a halfblood and a stain on wizardkind – we might try to do a homicide!”

Sirius shoved Regulus’ hand from his mouth and nodded agreeably.

“Yeah, we want to do our first murder,” he said “as Blacks it’s important to start this stuff young.”

Their mother sniffed and eyed the corkboard with disdain.

“Alright then,” she conceded “there are worse ways to spend your time.” She turned around with a dramatic flare and left the room.

“That was a close one.” Sirius muttered.

“Uh huh.” Regulus agreed with a nod. His hand was still wrapped around Sirius’ arm so he let go and moved back across the bed as if he had touched something diseased. Sirius scowled at that.


 

Much as the two brothers tried, they couldn’t seem to find a date to smuggle their cousin into the house. Throughout the week they peppered hints in wherever they could that their father should join their mother at aunt Druella’s house for tea, but nothing seemed capable of convincing him. Sunday came and went and Regulus was really getting annoyed.

“It’ll be September soon,” Regulus complained to Sirius on Sunday morning “and then cousin Andromeda will be too busy with her muggle science job to help us.”

“This is so annoying.” Sirius groaned.

“We’ll have to try and make our own progress until she gets here.” Regulus decided.

“How are we gonna do that?” Sirius asked. Regulus slumped.

“I’m not sure.”

They both sat in silence for a few seconds, thinking.

“How about…” Sirius started.

“Hm?” Regulus asked.

“That ghost saved you from your nightmare, remember. It probably knows something.” Sirius said.

“I…I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.” Regulus admitted. Sirius’ face wrinkled up in annoyance.

“Why not?” he asked.

Regulus frowned “That nightmare was kind of scary.” He said.

“What are you? A girl?” Sirius sneered.

“You don’t need to be a girl to be scared of something!” Regulus snapped “Look at cousin Andromeda. She’s not scared of anything.”

“I guess.” Sirius muttered, looking suitably cowed.

That night Regulus was dreaming again.

He was shorter than he usually was in dreams, but taller than he was in real life. Regulus was sitting before a large lake (and his mind supplied him with the words ‘Great lake’), a sketchbook on his lap. There was a giant squid in the water, splashing any students that dared to come too near.

“It wouldn’t kill it to stop moving.” Dream Regulus mumbled grumpily as he scratched his pencil across the paper.

This was a nice dream, Regulus decided, because nothing potentially life threatening was happening.

There was a bark of laughter behind him and Regulus turned around to see Sirius, older than he’d ever seen him. This reminded him of what Sirius had said earlier in the day, about the ghost probably knowing something.

This wasn’t a scary dream, so Regulus didn’t think he’d mind trying to lure the ghost out.

“What do you want?” dream Regulus grouched, glaring up at his brother.

“What?” Sirius grinned as he plopped down on the grassy bank next to him. Regulus’ eyes caught on his red and gold tie “Can’t I come to see my own brother?”

Dream Regulus elbowed him and hissed, “Go away, you pest.”

“Haha! No way! What’re you drawing, tiny Tim?” his brother exclaimed, scooting closer and leaning over his shoulder.

“My name isn’t Tim.” Regulus spat out, snapping his sketchbook closed.

“Yeah, but there’s no alliteration in tiny Regulus.” Sirius complained.

“That’s a big word for you, isn’t it?” Regulus sneered. He’d said something similar to Sirius the week before and it was all very nostalgic. Regulus had to admit that he was getting distracted by the dream.

“Raging Regulus, maybe?” Sirius said thoughtfully “Or rage-bent Reggie.”

Both Regulus’ fumed at this. It wasn’t funny anymore, Sirius was being annoying.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” both Regulus’ fumed, a scowl taking over their face.

Sirius let out a booming laugh.

“Is it that time of month again, Reggie?” Sirius snickered. Regulus’ blood boiled.

“I’m not a girl, you dummy!” he shouted. He realised belatedly that he hadn’t really said that. Instead, the words that had come out of his mouth were, “Wow, Sirius. All these years and you still haven’t noticed that I’m a boy, your stupidity must be very hard to deal with.” They were much more mature than anything Regulus had said before and were surprising because of that.

Still, they had the intended effect.

Sirius’ smiling face twitched, suddenly looking angry. Regulus didn’t understand it. It was Sirius that had started it.

“At least I’m not as stupid as you!” Sirius spat “Only dark wizards go into Slytherin!”

Regulus let out a shoked breath. He looked up at his brother with wide eyes “There’s nothing wrong with being in Slytherin, nor with dark magic.” He said “We’re part of The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, things like that are to be expected!”

“Thing is, Reggie,” Sirius scowled “you’re not dark. You’re just soft.”

Regulus’ fingers trembled against his pencil.

“At least I’m not hanging out with mudbloods and blood traitors.” He murmured.

Sirius’ fist collided with his face without warning. Regulus’ head snapped to the side and he felt shock come over him. Sirius grabbed onto his tie and forced him to look at him.

“You’re disgusting, Reggie.” He sneered.

I don’t like this, Regulus thought desperately. His dream self was saying mean things about people like Ted and Andromeda, and Sirius was saying mean things about him. Regulus deserved it. He knew he deserved it for saying awful things like that, but it still hurt to hear Sirius call him disgusting.

“Not as disgusting as you.” Dream Regulus hissed.

Regulus wanted to cry. This argument was beyond awful.

He knew how to go past it though, he’d sped past bits of his dream the other week.

I have to go forward, Regulus told himself, to somewhere nice.

Somewhere nice. Where was somewhere nice? His surroundings blurred as his mind tried to work it out. Go forward and find somewhere nice.

“Going forward won’t get you anywhere.” A voice spoke from beside him. Regulus looked over to it.

Where Sirius had been sitting there now sat someone else. Older, more tired, longer hair. A Black if Regulus ever saw one. There was something familiar about him…

“Are you the ghost?” Regulus found himself asking.

The person looked a bit startled at the question.

“I…suppose I must be.” He said reluctantly. He didn’t seem all too happy to be called a ghost.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t work out what you were saying.” Regulus told him. The ghost nodded. They sat in silence as the world continued to speed by.

Regulus stared at the ghost.

“Hey,” he said “you said that going forward won’t get me anywhere. Why’s that?”

The ghost looked scared and sad and tired all at once. He looked almost as if there was water dripping off of him.

“There’s nothing good that way.” He admitted.

The blur around them began to smooth out into something clearer. The ghost looked startled.

“You must be wrong. Whatever this is, my mind thinks it’s good.” Regulus told him. The ghost frowned.

“I’ve lived it, I should know if something good happened.” He said.

“Huh?” Regulus said, startled “What does that mean?”

But there was no one beside him, and he was no longer sitting down. Regulus walked down one of the staircase inside Grimmauld Place, yawning. He’d stayed up late today, had gotten enraptured by a book. He held a silver lantern in his right hand, his left trailing the banister of the stair’s railing.

The real Regulus was interested in the dream but it was frustrating. The ghost had said something weird and he wanted to know what it was.

Finally, Regulus was outside his bedroom door. He raised his hand to the knob and turned, walking into his bedroom. Regulus padded across the room and put the lantern on his bedside table before collapsing onto the bed.

Regulus’ brow furrowed when he felt something soft brushing across the top of his head. He raised his eyes slowly and looked up to see a mass of black fur. Regulus blinked, his tired mind uncomprehending.

Two beady eyes were staring down at him, and attached to those eyes was a dog. A big dog. The biggest dog Regulus had ever seen.

Regulus stiffened. The dog also stiffened.

Maybe if I don’t move it’ll forget I’m here and go away, Regulus thought helplessly, his heart beating wildly, breath refusing to leave his lungs. It seemed that the dog also had a similar thought and it lay there, stock still, furry belly pressed against the crown of Regulus’ head. Regulus could feel it’s heart beating just as fast as his.

“Oh, you’re scared too.” Regulus murmured. He felt himself calming slightly.

Regulus slowly sat up and looked down at the dog. His eyes caught on his paint tubes, next to the dog’s head. There were dents all over them, as if they’d been chewed up by something.

“Ah.” Regulus said flatly “That’s why you’re scared. You didn’t think you’d get caught, did you, dog.”

Suddenly there was no fear in him. Regulus was just annoyed. And of course, somehow, this had to be Sirius’ fault.

Regulus collapsed back onto the bed with a huff, his head brushing against fur again.

“Where did Sirius even find a dog like you.” Regulus murmured, bringing a hand up to pat at the dog’s head. It watched him suspiciously. Regulus raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t like dogs.” He muttered, drawing his hand away.

The dog barked once and licked at his face.

“Ew.” Regulus complained, his face drawing up in disgust, as he elbowed the dog’s head away. The dog seemed to take this as a challenge and pawed at his arm, pinning it down against the bed so that it could have another go at licking his face.

Regulus pressed his free arm against the dog’s nose, pushing it away.

“This is definitely Sirius’ fault.” He decided.

But then the dog started to blur. Regulus blinked as the world disappeared again.

He was still lying down, just not on a bed. There was nothing underneath him. Regulus turned his head to the right and saw the ghost, who was also lying down. The ghost looked happy and sad at the same time.

“I suppose it wasn’t all bad.” He said.

And then Regulus woke up.

He was tired for the entire day and even his father seemed to notice. The man made no comment on it, though his mother did say that he would find attempted murder difficult if he was so tired all the time.

Later, Sirius asked why he was so tired, but Regulus didn’t know.

He dreamed again, that night, but the ghost didn’t show up. He didn’t show up the night after that either.

“Maybe he doesn’t know how to talk to you.” Sirius theorised on the third day without contact from the ghost.

“Maybe.” Regulus agreed. He thought back to all his interactions with the ghost. At first it had seemed like the ghost wanted to talk to him everyday, shouting desperately over the high-pitched noise, but the high-pitched noise came less often as days went by, like the ghost was giving up.

The ghost hadn’t tried to talk to him for over a week before they’d met in Regulus’ dream.

But surely meeting in my dream would have given the ghost hope again, Regulus thought. It was weird that the ghost wasn’t trying harder now that they’d had a conversation.

“Do you think ghosts sleep?” Sirius asked, breaking the silence that had fallen over them.

“Huh?” Regulus asked in bewilderment.

“The ghost kept trying to talk to you, right?” Sirius asked, Regulus nodded “And then it started talking to you less and less until it stopped talking at all?” again, Regulus nodded. Sirius narrowed his eyes at the corkboard.

“Do you think that maybe it took a lot of energy to talk to you and that now the ghost needs to sleep?” though it was phrased as a question, it came out more like a statement. Now that Regulus had put the words out there, he looked very convinced that he was right.

And, well, it was a good theory.

“Huh.” Regulus said, staring at Sirius as if he was the strangest thing he’d ever seen “I guess you are smart afterall.”

Sirius practically preened under his words and Regulus immediately wanted to take them back.

Finally, eventually, the end of August came. And with the end of August there came a chance.

Aunt Druella had caught a cold about a week ago and had slowly begun to grow feathers. Regulus was sure that she must have come across one of the nicer cursed objects in the family vault but his suspicion hadn’t been confirmed.

This was all very badly timed because uncle Cygnus was on a business trip in Germany and Bellatrix was busy working, which was probably a synonym for terrorising muggleborns in her eyes.

Naturally, their mother was going to be staying with their aunt for a few days (and this only deepened Regulus’ suspicion, because a lot of cursed objects were illegal), so it fell on their father to get Narcissa to the Hogwarts express on September the 1st.

Their parents weren’t too concerned with the idea of leaving Regulus and Sirius alone in the house while all of this happened.

So on the 31st of August their mother and father left through the floo for one of the many Black Manors at 8pm.

“Sirius, do your best to distract Kreacher.” Regulus commanded, an hour later. Sirius nodded seriously and ran through the hallway, into the kitchen, to torment the old house elf. Regulus felt bad for Kreacher, but this was necessary.

Once he was sure that Kreacher was suitably distracted (and their mother was going to be really mad when she was told what Sirius had done to the venomous tentacula), Regulus walked up to the front door and opened to it. He looked out into the dark of the night, squinting his eyes in an attempt to if there was anything out there.

A shadowy figure moved from the darkness and Regulus knew immediately that it was Andromeda.

“Ah, you got my letter.” Regulus commented, a smile forming on his face.

Andromeda started up the front steps and lifted the hood of her muggle coat from her head.

“Yeah,” she said “a bit short notice, but I got here alright.”