Regulus was probably going to develop a severe drinking problem by the time that the school year was finished for the summer. Or when Sirius was finally caught. Whichever came first.
And judging by what had happened last night he was willing to believe that the former was going to come before the latter.
Merlin, just how did Sirius do it?
Hogwarts was the most well protected place on earth. Better protected than the Ministry of Magic, or Gringotts, or even the cave where the Dark Lord had stashed his Horcrux. The natural magic that the Hogwarts founders had placed on the school as it was being built as well as the hundreds of years worth of magical enchantments left on it by previous headmasters had made it impremenable. Dumbledore’s own protections had made the school a beacon of safety that even during the height of the war the Death Eaters weren’t able to penetrate. And not for a lack of trying on their part either.
Not only that, but this year there was the added protection of both Dementors and Aurors patrolling the school grounds and inside the castle itself in order to guarantee the students safety. Sirius was on the loose and the two main reasons that the Ministry had thought he had broken out for were at Hogwarts.
Mad Eye had scoured the Daily Prophet that Fudge had given Sirius shortly before his brother had escaped, looking for any clues as to what he was planning and had come to two possible conclusions from it. One, Sirius hadn’t really known the date until he had seen it on the paper and had realised then that Harry was old enough to be attending Hogwarts. According to Remus, he and Sirius hadn’t known where Lily’s sister lived at the time of the Potter’s deaths and afterwards Regulus was certain that Dumbledore had placed powerful charms on the Muggle’s location to protect both them and the boy from free Death Eaters with a grudge. So for most of the boy’s childhood Sirius didn’t know where he was to finish off the job his master had started. But Hogwarts? That Sirius knew how to get to.
But the paper didn’t contain just the date, alerting Sirius to the fact that his godson was now school age. It had also contained an article about Regulus’ recent achievement in the potioneering field. And said article had included a photograph of him, leaving no chance that it was some coincidence it was someone else with the same name. The article also contained in it’s very first line that Regulus was teaching at Hogwarts.
According to Mad Eye and Tonks it was common knowledge amongst the imprisoned Death Eaters that Regulus had betrayed the Dark Lord. And that in doing so had stolen and destroyed some very valuable and priceless artifacts. Artifacts that were very important and personal to the Dark Lord. It was even whispered that what Regulus had done had set the stage for what had happened at Godric's Hollow (a complete lie, but rumours were rarely accurate).
So the Aurors and Ministry were working off the assumption that Sirius was taking advantage of the fact that he and Harry were in the same setting to concentrate most of their forces there. Before now it was strongly suspected that Sirius was planning to come to Hogwarts for at least one of them, most likely Harry, and now with the attack on the Fat Lady it was confirmed that was his intention.
But how did he do it? Just how did Sirius - someone who probably didn’t even have a wand, managed to by-pass not only the Dementors stationed on the edges of Hogwarts, but the Aurors patrolling inside and outside the castle, make his way up to Gryffindor Tower without being spotted either by a student running late for the feast, or by one of the ghosts or even Peeves himself, and only leave when it was obvious that he couldn’t gain entry to the Tower?
Reluctantly Snapes’ words after they swept the grounds looking for any sign of his brother came to the forefront of his mind.
‘You know as well as I do that there is only one person in Hogwarts who would be willing to help your brother.’
Remus Lupin. Sirius’ old friend who was this year’s newest teacher/victim of the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. And Severus’ old enemy.
And while he really wanted to believe that Severus was just being bitter and refusing to let go of old grudges, another part of him couldn’t help but agree with his old friend.
Back when they were students Sirius and the rest of his little gang had had a talent for always knowing where everyone else was in the castle. And they always seemed to show up out of thin air sometimes too. Hogwarts was a castle full of secrets that nobody had ever fully managed to completely reveal. Secrets chambers, cursed vaults, hidden passageways. Could Sirius have found some passages during his school days and now be using them to get in and out of the castle undetected? It was possible and Remus was the only one who may know. Sirius was the one they were trying to catch after all and Potter and Pettigrew were both long dead.
He didn’t want to think that Remus would keep something as important as this a secret.
But there was a chance. And there was only one way to find out the truth.
Remus looked up in surprise as Regulus entered his office before relaxing slightly. The man was sitting at his desk marking papers, a cup of half finished tea and some chocolate beside him. The relationship between the two of them had thawed slightly ever since September as they strove for a cordial relationship. At least Remus was a competent individual in the field he was teaching this time instead of the complete and utter idiots that they had for Defense Professor’s the previous two years. First Quirrell who was actually being possessed by the Dark Lord himself, proof that there were more horcruxes out there that he hadn’t found yet. And then came Lockhart. At least he taught the children something. What not to do when it came to defense yes, but at least they learned something.
Remus was the first actually competent teacher in the subject that they’ve had for years now. Even Severus who coveted the position had to grudgingly admit that the man knew what he was doing. What went unsaid though was that the man was possibly on borrowed time. Regulus really didn’t want to see just how the curse would strike this time. Hopefully nothing fatal or permanent. The man had enough problems as it was.
Like him and this conversation for starters.
“Regulus” he greeted politely, carefully moving his work to the side to pay attention to him. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Yes actually” he said bluntly, closing the door behind him and casting some muffling and silencing charms on the room. Regardless of the outcome of this conversation he knew that things were going to be said that neither of them would want the students knowing just yet. And Remus might be more willing to tell the truth if he knew there was very little chance of being spied on. “About Sirius.”
Immediately Remus’s whole demeanor changed. His posture stiffened, his grip on the quill in his hand tightened, his face became closed off and guarded. A man with secrets to keep.
“What about him?” he asked tightly.
“I think you know how he got into the school on Halloween night” he said bluntly. No point in beating around the bush. If there was one thing that Regulus had learned about Gryffindors over the years it was that the majority of them had no patience or respect for any conversations that required subtlety or tact. It was why not a lot of them went into politics actually. And if he wanted to get anywhere with Remus, then the best way for it was probably to be blunt and direct.
“Or if you don’t know how exactly, then you have a suspicion as to how he managed it” he continued. “I went to school with you and Sirius, Remus. I do remember quite clearly that you and the rest of your friends had had a talent for appearing and disappearing that no one else could manage. Do you honestly expect me to believe that you don’t have even a possible inkling as to how Sirius got in and out of Hogwarts? Was it a spell you invented; a secret passageway? Some sort of disguise?”
Remus was silent for a moment and quick as lightning he saw some expressions flicker across in his eyes, before he shook his head. That may have fooled other people, but Regulus was born and raised a Black and continued his education in Slytherin house. He had also been a member of the Dark Lord’s inner circle and the Slug Club. That quick as a lightning flash had told him everything that he needed to know.
“Liar” he said softly, causing Remus to snap his head up to stare at him in shock. “I think you have a secret that you’re hiding. One that could reveal how he managed it. And you’re deliberately keeping it from being revealed. Why?”
As soon as the words left his mouth he realised why.
“Is what you did illegal?” he asked harshly, gaining a wince from the older man. Illegal, definitely illegal. “Is that why you’re staying quiet? Did you do something that could cause you to go to Azkaban? If that’s the case Remus I can help you. I got the best lawyers that galleons can buy, I can make sure that whatever you did you won’t get in trouble, just please tell me what you know” he was nearly pleading now, oh if only his parents could see him. Blacks don’t beg, but he was willing to make an exception this once for the students safety.
He could see the apprehension in the other man’s eyes. He wanted to tell him, Regulus knew he did, but something was keeping him quiet. His eyes kept flicking between him and a photo on the side press. Turning his head, he saw that it was a photo of Remus with some old school friends. All of them were in their Hogwarts uniform and he could see James and Lily in the centre of the frame, as well as Peter, Marlene McKinnion and Frank and Alice Longbottom.
“Is that why you’re keeping quiet?” he demanded incredulously, “some old promise to your friends?”
“Regulus-” Remus started, clearly trying to explain himself.
“Please tell me that that is not the reason you’ve been keeping it a secret!” he demanded. “What, an old schoolboy secret? Are you actually prioritising that over the safety of the students? Sirius is a danger. He was responsible for three of your friends meeting their deaths after all, he's trying to kill his godson. He murdered twelve innocent muggles just because they were in the way.”
“I know he did but-” Remus tried to explain, his voice choked up like he was trying not to cry.
“But nothing” Regulus insisted furiously, “I don’t care what secret you and your friends promised to keep, sometimes you just have to break them! Especially when someone’s life is in danger. And while I may not have had a very positive relationship with James Potter during our schooling years, I very well can’t imagine him prioritising to keep some old schoolboy secret over the safety of his son! His son who both he and his wife, another friend of yours in case you’ve forgotten, both willingly gave up their lives to protect! Who Peter tried to get justice for!”
Remus was crying now, his head bowed and tears were fiercely falling down his face and soaking his desk, but Regulus couldn’t care in the slightest about it and turned his back on the person he was staring to consider a friend.
“You have absolutely no right to call yourself James and Lily’s friend, to call yourself Peter’s friend, if you are actually prioritising that secret over Harry’s safety” he said sternly before walking towards the door.
His hand was on the doorknob when Remus spoke up, sounding wretched and like he was one word away from breaking down completely.
“He’s an animagus!”
Every cell in his body froze at that piece of news and he slowly turned back to Remus who was now sobbing uncontrollably.
“What?” he asked in disbelief.
“He’s an animagus” Remus repeated after a minute once he had gotten himself back under enough control to speak full sentences. “When they found out about my condition in second year, they decided to train to become animagus’ to help me during my transformations. They achieved it in our fifth year at school. James was a stag, Peter was a rat and Sirius was a big black dog. They never registered with the Ministry. The four of us and Lily were the only ones who knew.”
For a moment his mind was completely blank before his brain finally decided to cooperate with him and start working properly.
They were animagus. Potter, Black and Pettigrew had been unregistered animagus’. That was how Sirius must have broken out of Azkaban. That was how he was avoiding capture. That was how he was able to get up to Gryffindor Tower during Halloween night. That was what Remus was keeping secret. His first guess was right. It was illegal. It was very illegal and Remus just knowing about it and not informing the Ministry about it as soon as he had become of it would be enough to earn him a skint in Azkaban. Especially due to his status as a werewolf. They were always crueler to werewolves.
Sighing, he slowly walked back to the man at the desk who was slowly getting himself back under control and sat down in front of him. And waited.
Eventually Remus calmed down enough that he was able to look up at him and not burst into tears.
“I suppose we’ll have to work out a cover story.”
What had followed afterwards had been a slightly awkward conversation with Dummbledore about the whole animagus thing which the man took in his stride, like something like this had happened every single day. The three of them then worked on a cover story which they then relayed to the Aurors, which was . . . not a fun experience. Mad Eye Moody did not earn his position as Head Auror by being trusting after all. Tonks on the other hand, had a great time watching the interrogation.
Eventually however after several hours of going around and around in circles, they managed to convince Mad Eye of their ‘innocence’ (well, he was innocent, Remus on the other hand had known without doubt about this for years) and a solution was put in place.
“So they’re some kind of animagus runes?” Tonks asked in curiosity as the three of them stared at the runes that now decorated the inside of the main entry to Hogwarts.
All exits and entries into the castle had been inscribed with the Runes and in the case that Sirius didn’t get in that way, were inscribed in places like the portrait hole to Gryffindor Tower. So if Sirius or any other animagus who didn’t have the counter rune on their person crossed the threshold the runes would activate and they’d be stunned. But the only known animagus’ were Minerva and Talbott Winger who was a part of the Auror team as an apprentice, both of whom Mad Eye had made a charm of the counter rune for them which they were wearing as a bracelet.
“Yes,” Regulus confirmed. “So the next time Sirius enters, the runes will glow and he’ll be stunned. It’ll also alert the rest of the Aurors so they can get him without any danger to the students.”
It also didn’t escape Regulus’ notice just how close Remus and Tonks were standing together. He knew that Tonks had finally convinced Remus to go out for a drink a few nights ago, but he was unaware that anymore had come from it. And from the position he was standing in he couldn’t tell if they were holding hands or not.
He was just about to ask if they wanted to go to his office for a drink, giving him a prime opportunity to see if this was a potential relationship heading places; when a loud yowl filled the air and the sound of a frustrated boy yelling, turned their attention back to the open main doors.
“Get away from Scabbers you crazy cat!”
“Merlin, that cat really has it out for Scabbers” Tonks remarked idly as they watched the rat zoom up the path towards them closely followed by Granger's ginger menace. “Poor thing.”
“Yes,” Remus remarked as the gray and ginger blobs got closer to the school, “and as far as I’m aware, the cat only acts like that around Scabbers. It’s fine around the other pets.”
“How strange” he muttered just as the rat frantically crossed the threshold.
All at once several things happened. The runes on the walls glowed a bright gold as soon as the rat passed the door and suddenly there was a bright light that blinded him for a moment. When he could see again he found that the rat was lying on the ground stunned with the cat standing above it swatting it with its paw. Immediately his mind started to work out what had just happened and he moved towards the animals reaching them just as Tonks did as she scooped the rat up into her hands. “It’s not possible” she muttered, just as Weasley, Potter and Granger arrived.
“What’s happened to Scabbers?” Ron Weasley asked frantically when he spotted his ‘pet’ lying motionless in Tonks hands. “Did that mad cat kill him? I told Hermione that he had it out for him!”
“Your pet is fine Mr Weasley, just stunned” he said hurriedly, knowing full well from more than a decade of teaching that if you didn’t calm a dispute between hysterical students down quickly, it would quickly spiral into a whole new level of hell. “But could you please go and get your brother and then meet us in the Headmaster’s office for a few minutes?”
“Which brother?” Ron sniffed.
“The sensible one” he said hurriedly as Granger scooped her cat up into her arms and as Harry gently tugged Ron away to do as he asked. He didn’t miss the concerned looks that the trio directed at the rat in Tonks hand. Just before they turned the corner he heard Ron desperately ask Harry ‘do you think Scabbers is ok?’
With them out of the way he turned back to his companions. Tonks was looking at the rat in horror which was understandable. Scabbers had apparently been the Weasleys' pet for around twelve years and she had always been fond of Percy and Ron, the rat’s owners. The fact that it may have been an animagus the whole . . . time . . .
Suddenly an awful thought came to his mind.
The Weasleys owned Scabbers for twelve years now. The exact same amount of time that Pettigrew had died and Sirius was imprisoned. The rat was missing a toe. They had only ever found Pettigrew’s finger after the explosion. Remus had said that Peter’s animagus was a rat. Rats usually only live three years. Scabbers should have been long dead if he was an ordinary rat.
And come to think of it, in the copy of the Daily Prophet that Fudge had given Sirius, it didn’t just contain the date and that article of him. On the very front page it contained an article of the Weasley’s winning the draw and a photo of them on their trip to Egypt. A photo that included Ron holding his rat.
A theory was forming in his mind and he wasn’t sure if it was good or bad. A quick look at the horror-filled, deathly pale look on Rmeus’ face showed him that his colleague was thinking the same thing as well.
The sound of pounding feet jolted him back to alertness and he was just about to draw his wand when Mad Eye came running around the corner at full speed, wand already drawn and out. Close on his heels was Kingsley Shacklebolt and Talbott Winger who was working under Kingsley, both with their own wands drawn.
“What happened?” Moody barked, his magical eye roving madly. “We received an alert that the Animagus ward was activated here. Was it Black? Where is he?”
Regulus could see the students starting to gather out of the corner of his eye and acting quickly before Moody turned this into a public spectacle, he grabbed Remus and Tonks arms and moved them forward jolting them both out of their respective thoughts.
“Dumbledore’s office” he said sternly to the Aurors that had just joined them. “We’ll explain on the way. Oh and Talbott can you go to Professor Snape and ask him for some Veritaserum? He should be in his office right now, if my memory serves me right.”
His former student nodded once before quickly, taking off in the direction of the Potions department, clearly wanting to be back before he missed anything important. Moody and Kingsley quickly fell into step beside them, while he seemed to be guiding Remus who seemed to be ready to faint any moment now.
He on the other hand was thinking that if it turned out that his theory was correct then he was going to have to ask Kreature to go and get some more alcohol. He highly doubted that the bottle of Firewhiskey that he had in his office was enough for the kind of drinking they would want to do.
Well long story short, his ‘theory’ turned out to be true. Sirius wasn’t the one who betrayed the Potters, he wasn’t the one who killed the Muggles. He had been innocent the whole time.
And in the space of three days the entire Wizarding world knew too as the Prophet screamed it from the headlines and Pettigrew was sentenced to the Dementors kiss. Sirius was declared innocent in absentia, with the Ministry only quietly asking the man to register his animagus form. After the scandal they were dealing with, with it coming out that Sirius didn’t even get a trial before being sentenced to life in Azkaban, they didn’t want more of a scandal then what they were already dealing with.
By the end of the third day he was just tidying up his office after having a talk with Percy Weasley and a few other seventh years who were aiming for ‘Outstanding’ in their Potions N.E.W.Ts when there was a knock on the door. (Speaking of Percy, both him and Ron had had a nasty shock when the truth about their ‘pet’ had come out and he briefly thought that the older boy was going to kneel over and die with horror. His beloved pet of ten years that he had then passed on to his little brother had turned out to be a Death Eater in disguise. A worst nightmare scenario for anyone. So both he and the rest of the adults in the room turned a blind eye when Tonks had gently taken the boy out of the room with the promise to get him a drink - probably alcoholic. The boy was a legal adult after all and after the shock he just received nobody would begrudge him a drink. At least Talbott went with them to supervise.) When he opened it he was seeing his brother in person for the first time in fourteen years with Remus Lupin by his side.
He looked far older than his true age and haggard. Azkaban and life on the run had not been kind to him. But he looked clean, like he had recently taken a bath and the clothes he was wearing were certainly Remus’. The look on his face was like he was seeing a ghost before the next thing he knew, he was in his brother’s arms.
Sirius held him tightly to his chest like he was afraid that he would vanish completely if he let go and after a moment of surprise he drew his arms up around his brother and returned the favour.
He couldn’t remember the last time he hugged his brother.
After a while he noticed a wet sensation on his head and when they eventually pulled away Sirius' shoulder was also suspiciously damp.
“Do you want a drink?” he asked hoarsely.
“Love one” his brother said gratefully, “all Remus has in his office is bogging tea.”
Sirius was already up by the time that he came down the stairs of Grimmauld Place the next morning. It was a Saturday, so he didn’t have to worry about getting back to Hogwarts just yet, thank Merlin. His brother was looking around the rooms like he had never seen them before. Which he could understand. The place looked nearly unrecognisable from what it had been like in their childhood. After Grandfather and Mother had died within months of each other a few weeks after Sirius’ imprisonment he had become the head of the family.
And with the war effectively killing off and imprisoning most of the remaining Blacks with the notable exceptions of himself, Narcissa (who had gone back to her maiden name after Lucius’ death in Azkaban), Aunt Lucretia, Andi, Tonks and Draco (who were all Prewitts, Tonks and Malfoys respectively anyway) everyone else who had avoided those two fates had been too elderly to fight him on any of his decisions and had died in the following years after the war.
So eager to leave the past in the past, he had recruited his cousins and their families into helping him clean the house up and change the hundreds of years old decor.
Of the old, priceless and sometimes very rare artefacts that had filled the rooms, he had either sold them, destroyed them (if they were dark) or packed them all off to his Grandfather’s old residence in Suffolk, an old and prestiges mansion dripping in Black pride and history to be ‘displayed’ there. The exact same place where he had sent the family tapestry and the portraits of old Blacks, including his mother’s one. To soothe Kreacher’s worries he had even given the elf a little promotion of ‘minder of the Black treasures’ and let him go to the mansion whenever he wished to ensure that the House elves stationed there were treating the portraits and artefacts with the care they deserved and to check on the portraits residents. A role that he loved very much. Kreacher loved any opportunity to see Mother.
And as for Grimmauld Place itself he had changed it from a dark and dreary place to one that one could proudly call a home. It still had the opulence and grandeur befitting the head of House Black, but with a homey feel rather than a formal and stifling aura.
His brother was in the parlor when he eventually found him, staring at the photos on the mantelpiece with a look of longing on his face. Their parents had never displayed photos of them on the mantelpiece or on the walls. It simply isn't done at the time in the circles they ran in.
Back then Sirius and later himself, had taken it to mean that they didn’t care for them. But months after he had become head of House Black and he had gotten a few free hours from his duties as a professor he had been sorting through his parents old belongings when he had come across various pictures of him and his brother at various ages among their personal belongings. A secret photo album hidden amongst his mother’s personal books in her solar, a few kept in a folder in his father’s desk, letters that he and Sirius had written to them during their time at Hogwarts.
And the one that affected him the most: photographs of him and Sirius inside a locket that his mother had worn nearly everyday of her life until her death. And they weren’t just still formal pictures taken of them either. Regulus' side was of him holding up the snitch that he had caught after he had won the Quidditch Cup for Slytherin in his sixth year. His face was half smeared with dirt from nearly colliding with the ground in his attempts to beat the Ravenclaw seeker to it and his grin was bigger than it had ever been in his whole life.
On Sirius’ side was a photo that he recognised had been taken only a few days before he had run away for good. Possibly the last photo that they had had of Sirius. They had been at Aunt Lucretia’s for a small garden party and Sirius had been annoying them all with the camera. Eventually Narcissa had snatched the contraption out of Sirius’ hands and had taken the photo, both to distract him and in the hopes of taking an unflattering photo as revenge. His brother was grinning wide, flipping his hair back and was blowing a kiss to the camera; the happiest that Regulus had seen him look around their family ever since he had started Hogwarts.
Photographs of them at their happiest.
His brother had run away a few days after that party and mother’s heart had been well and truly broken as a result, despite his brother’s attempts to claim she had no heart to break.
He himself had had to stop going through his parents belongings for a while afterwards once he had found the locket, strongly fighting back the urge to cry like a baby. He didn’t get rid of the locket either. He had instead carefully placed it back into its box and kept it in his study at Grimmauld Place and a few of his parents' belongings remained in a cupboard in the house. A comfort and a reminder that he had been loved. Even if they didn’t display it on the mantelpiece.
Sirius didn’t turn to face him as he made his way over, although Regulus was careful to make some noise as not to startle him. His main focus was on the photo taken at Tonk’s graduation three years back. It was just her and Draco in the photo and she had gripped her younger cousin in a tight hug from behind as they both grinned at the camera, as something happened outside the camera’s view to make them laugh. They both looked so happy.
“So they’re Andi and Cissy’s children?” his brother asked.
“Yes. Draco and Tonks. Do not call her Nymphadora if you have even a drop of self-preservation.”
“I remember Dora from when she was a little kid” Sirius smiled softly, “she hasn’t changed much in the years I’ve been imprisoned. And I saw her and Draco around Hogwarts when I was staking it out. Draco wasn’t as much as a stuck-up prat that I had been expecting Lucius’ son to be.”
“That might be because Lucius wasn’t around to raise him” Regulus countered, feeling his eyebrows come close to the border of his hair.
“Fair point” Sirius snorted, turning his head to face Regulus. His eyebrows were close to crossing the border with his own hair too. “The kids still a little prick though.”
“He’s thirteen, they’re all little pricks at that age” Regulus snorted and was rewarded with Sirius snorting and then full on laughing in response.
“Ok, true” Sirius admitted after a minute once he calmed down. “I was probably a prick at that age as well.”
“You were the worst,” Regulus agreed. “Black stubbornness and Gryffindor brashness? You were a nightmare to be around when we were at school together. And Potter wasn’t much better.”
“What about Peter and Remus?” Sirius asked incredulously.
“Remus was decent enough for a Gryffindor” Regulus smiled slightly. “He at least has been blessed with common sense and some decency. And nobody really paid attention to Peter. He was mostly seen as a spineless little follower.”
“He was” Sirius’ face darkened as he seemed lost in thought, possibly remembering how Peter went from being a follower in their little ‘Marauders’ gang to being a follower of the Dark Lord and betraying two of his friends to their deaths.
“It’s been twelve years and I still can’t understand why he did what he did” Sirius muttered. “He was our friend. He was a Gryffindor, a member of the Order. And he turned out to be a spineless little villain.”
“Not all Gryffindors are heroes” he said bluntly before Sirius got lost in thought. If there was one thing that he was going to set straight now with his brother it was that he wasn’t going to tolerate the ‘all Slytherins are evil’ rubbish. He already had his work cut out for him trying to remove that prejudice in the other three houses back at Hogwarts. He wasn’t going to deal with it from his own brother as well. His adult brother. “Just like all Slytherins aren’t evil. Narcissa and I did more to defeat the Dark Lord than the whole Order put together did. You’re an adult now Sirius, you don’t get to label a whole house as evil and monsters just because a few despicable people came from it. There were plenty of evil Gryffindors too if my memory of history is correct. Good and evil are in everyone regardless of their house. Or family.”
It was silent for a moment and Regulus wasn’t sure if that was because Sirius was just getting in his thoughts in order for an argument when his older brother sighed and sat down on the sofa. “You’re right,” he muttered.
Immediately Regulus’ eyebrows shot back up into his hair. “Did you just agree with me? Are you feeling alright? Or are you an imposter?” he asked, his fingers twitching slightly to draw out his wand. He could count on one hand the number of times that Sirius had ever agreed with him about anything and they had all occurred before either of them had started Hogwarts.
“Very funny Reggie” he snorted, before turning somber. “If there’s one thing I can say for certain about Azkaban it’s that it gives you a lot of time to think about how you fucked up. And since I spent most of it as a dog that meant I was mostly sane. And I spent a lot of it wishing that I could turn back time to when James and Lily were picking their secret keeper, or what I’d do to Peter if I ever got a second chance for revenge. And you. I thought about you a lot.”
“Me?” he frowned.
“Yeah” he nodded, looking far older than he had any right to look. “I wasn’t really the best brother to you growing up was I?”
“We both made mistakes” he pointed out fairly. Which was true neither of them were ever truly innocent in the troubled waters of their relationship with one another.
“But I was the one who abandoned you first,” Sirius countered. “I heard the rumours. In Azkaban of what you did. And then all I could think about was how I abandoned you as soon as you were sorted into Slytherin. Back then I was so desperate to prove myself as different from the rest of our family. I allowed myself to think that because I was a Gryffindor I was the best and good while the rest of you were evil. I turned my back on you. Maybe if I had been a better brother when we were in Hogwarts together you would have gone with me when I left. Maybe you never would have taken the Mark.”
“There’s no way to know for sure” Regulus pointed out fairly, “and what’s done is done. I’ve made my peace with my choices and the consequences for the actions I took. Fixating on the past Sirius, especially now that you’re free will only drive you mad. You need to start looking to the future and try and fix things that way.”
For a moment it was silent before Sirius turned to him and gave him a small smile, which he hesitantly returned. He couldn’t remember the last time Sirius smiled at him. Then they heard the sound of the front door and the moment was over.
“Regulus?” he heard Narcissa call out, as two pairs of footsteps were heard. “We’re here.”
Oh yes, he had owled his cousins yesterday before he and Sirius had left for Grimmauld Place to come and meet them in Grimmauld for breakfast this morning. Which, judging by the smells that were filling the air Kreacher was now serving it in the dining room. And judging by the look that his brother was giving him, he had finally realised that Regulus hadn’t been joking about that.
“Ready to face the music?” he asked Sirius who had an unreadable look on his face, before he slowly got to his feet.
“Let’s get this over with” he said so somberly that Regulus couldn’t help but snort in laughter. One would think that his brother was heading to his funeral, not seeing his cousins again.
This was without a doubt going to be a very awkward conversation. But it was also the first step towards mending their family once again. And Regulus didn’t miss the quick as lightning looks that flashed upon his brother and cousins faces when they all finally met again for the first time in years. They missed each other.
Maybe they could learn to be a family again.