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Regulus Rising

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Regulus woke to the sound of a strange, incessant beeping. He opened his eyes, and looked down at his hands—but they weren’t his.

It wasn’t his long slim fingers, it was someone else’s, it was all wrong, and there were tubing and wires attached to a little metal cart with a bag of some potion attached. He looked at his left arm and it was bruised but clean, there was no dark mark ever on this body.

It was all very muggle. Regulus started laughing at the irony—was this his eternal punishment? To come back to life as a muggle? Not that he didn't deserve punishment, but he was very sure he was dead, he remembered the moment his lungs gave out.

He kept laughing until the laughs turned into a sob. As he sobbed, the bed started to rattle and a nameplate fell of the wall. Accidental magic. He wasn't a muggle after all.

Regulus’s crying quieted, until it was just tears running down his face. At least he still had this—though reaching inside him—his magic felt new and unsteady instead of the deep well it normally was, like the magic was settling in his marrow.

A woman in a strange burgundy top and matching trousers walked in the room, her face a picture of concern. She was wearing a nametag that said Gurki.

“Welcome back,” she said to him.

“Thanks,” Regulus intoned dully back.

“Are you in a lot of pain?” she asked him. “Can you rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 for me?”

Regulus took a deep breath. “Seven.”

“Okay, and I know in you teenage boys, that normally means nine or ten,” she said, and pressed a button that was attached to his finger. “Hitting the button should increase your painkiller dosage, just do that yourself if you’re in too much pain.”

“What happened?” Regulus asked her.

“Do you not remember the accident?”

Regulus glared at her. Obviously not.

“It’s okay not to remember Aaron, it’s your brains way of protecting you. There was a very bad car accident. We nearly lost you, you’re a miracle. Your heart stopped beating, but you came back a full minute later,” the muggle healer continued talking.

“Aaron?” he asked instead.

“That’s your name love,” Gurki said. "Does it not feel like yours?"

Regulus looked up at the ceiling. It might be this body’s name, but it wasn’t his, he was named after the stars, one of the brightest in the night sky.

“Right then Aaron, I’ll get the neurologist to come check you out in a few minutes,” she said, taking his lack of a reply for the 'no' that it was.

“Do you have a mirror?” Regulus asked her after a moment had passed.

“I can do that,” Gurki brightened, digging around a drawer for a hand mirror. “You’re still a handsome kid, no need to worry.”

Regulus looked at the reflection in the mirror. It didn’t talk back to him, muggles were so strange. And it wasn’t his face staring back either. A voice in his head that sounded suspiciously like Sirius wanted him to throw the mirror against the wall to watch it shatter. The teenager’s face—Aaron’s face---wasn't bad, but it wasn’t his. The hair was brown and curly instead of jet black and he had almond-shape brown eyes instead of gray eyes like every other Black. It was an innocent face, almost sweet and that was something his family never was. He looked young and sweet, but he felt neither.

Ugly purple and yellow bruises decorated his collarbone and creeped up his neck and jaw like ivy. He touched it, relishing in the pain. Pain was real, unlike this whole body.

“Enough of that,” Gurki said, taking the mirror from his hands. “I’ll go make sure the neurologist comes and sees you shortly, and have some food sent up.”

“Alright. Can you tell me where we are?”

“Hampstead, the Royal Free Hospital,” she said. “I’ll be back in a little while, your vitals are good kid.”

At least he was in London, as muggle as the surroundings were.

Regulus nodded, and watched her leave the room. He could hear snatches of conversation between Gurki and another healer just beyond the door about poor kid, only 15, lost his entire family, and something about waiting for when he’d be stable enough to call social services. Whatever it was sounded very sad.

This must be hell. He deserved it, but couldn’t stay here, he itched to get out of the sterile, magic-free space and go back to his world.

He wanted out, and he could do this. He wasn’t a Slytherin for nothing.

Regulus waited until the footsteps went away and braced himself for pain as he pulled the wiring out of his hand. He steadied himself on his feet, pressing through the throbbing tantrums his ribs were throwing. The Dark Lord’s Cruciatus was much worse. He was in some strange, open backed robes, but saw a folded up jacket and jeans next to the bed. He got them and a pair of dirty trainers on as quickly as he could, and he found some little muggle bills with the queen and a few non-gold coins in the pockets of the jeans.

Regulus made his jailbreak and calmly walked out of the ward, looking for the sign for the exit. He didn’t run, he knew that would be more suspicious and he wasn’t sure he could run anyway.

When he reached the exit, he nearly stumbled, but was helped to his feet by a muggle woman wearing a badge that said ‘Royal Free Foundation. Questions? Ask Me?”

“I have a question,” Regulus said to her, making his eyes very wide to look confused. The trick always worked on Slughorn, and when his Mother would still ask him if he knew what Sirius was up to.

“Is it whether you should be leaving the Royal Free? Because no offense mate, it really doesn’t look like you’re in any shape to be checking yourself out of A&E,” she said, not unkindly.

“That’s no business of yours. Do you have a map? I need to get to Islington, I want to go home,” Regulus huffed, clutching his ribs.

She blinked at him. “I have my own London A-Z, sure. But why don’t I help you to a cab?”

“Pardon me?”

She sighed. “You know, black cabs, they’re everywhere, the drivers chat too much about the weather and politics? You give them money and they take you places?”

Regulus had never been inside a car, his mother called them dirty muggle deathtraps, though he had obviously seen plenty, the windows in his room looked onto the square below and he used to watch them drive around.

“I would appreciate the help,” Regulus confessed, and leaned on the room’s arm and she walked him through glass doors that opened on their own, and took him to the front of a queues of waiting taxis. The sun was shining brightly outside and the smell of spring and rebirth was in the air, but Regulus just felt ill.

“Where you off to then?” the driver asked him as she helped him into a seat.

“Grimmauld Place, Islington,” he replied.

“Wait kid,” the woman said before shutting the car door. “Do you even have any money on you?”

Regulus wasn’t sure how much the muggle notes were and she could probably see it on his face. She opened up her bag and handed the driver a coloured piece of paper.

“Thank you,” Regulus said to her, meaning it.

“No problem. I’m considering it my good deed for the year,” she said, and waved them off.

The driver started to move, and Regulus felt in even more pain.

“You look like you lost a fight with a lorry,” he commented, looking at Regulus in the mirror.

“Something like that,” Regulus muttered back, though it was worse. He remembered the pain shooting through his body and the slippery, cold fingers dragging him down to the bottom of the cave, his lungs filling up with water.

He closed his eyes thought of his parents, they surely wouldn’t recognise him looking like this but he had nowhere else to go, not without a wand or galleons or some rest. And if his parents couldn’t recognise him, then the Dark Lord or Bellatrix wouldn’t either. Thank Merlin for small mercies, maybe this body had an upside.

Regulus nearly drifted off, but awoke when the driver stopping the vehicle.

“We’re here, which one is yours?”

Regulus blinked and looked out to the square. He could still see Number 12 but knew the driver couldn’t.

“This is fine,” Regulus said, and stumbled out of the cab and climbed the stairs to Grimmauld Place, barely standing upright.

He stood outside the door while the magic judged him, he felt the wards prickling at his very core.

“Muggle blood may flow through these veins, but my magic comes from the Ancient and Noble House of Black,” Regulus spat out, leaning against the door. To his surprise, the door jolted open, and he walked into his home, something he never thought he would do again.

There were thick layers of dust everywhere. Regulus sneezed and walked past the hallway, until he happened on a portrait of his mother. It was moving, and he realised with a dull sense of pain and shock that she must have died.

In the portrait, she was sleeping, but awoke when he passed.

“Filth! Mudblood scum, defouling the house of my ancestors. How did you get in here, vagrant!”

“When did you die mother, what happened?” Regulus said, blinking back at her.

“I have no sons,” she spat out, and continued yelling about filth, looking right past him. She wouldn’t listen to his protestations at all.

Regulus went to close the curtains, not having the strength to keep arguing with the portrait, he just needed to sit, when he heard the pop of apparition.

“Nasty mudblood, how did you get into mistresses house,” Kreacher croaked out.

“Kreacher!” he exclaimed with delight. “It’s me, Regulus.”

“Master Regulus is dead, nasty mudblood is a little liar, is that why he’s all beat up,” Kreacher said, glaring at him.

“When I was seven, I was supposed to punish you for not letting our cousins into the house quickly enough, but we had a tea party in our room instead. Mother never found out, and you would sneak me teacakes and scones,” Regulus said.

Kreacher blinked his big eyes at him in lieu of a reply.

“You were the last living thing to see me alive, Kreacher, thank you for being there for me,” Regulus said earnestly and Kreacher started bawling.

“It is Master! But how?” Kreacher wailed, starting to bang his head against the wall.

“I’m not sure,” Regulus said softly. “Do you think you could help me to my room, I need to sit down?”

Kreacher nodded, and in the blink of an eye, apparated the two of them to his bedroom. Regulus sat, clutching his ribs.

“I don’t suppose we have any pain potion?”

Kreacher shook his head.

“Or a spare wand?”

Kreacher disappeared, and came back with his Grandfather’s oak wand. He waved it, sparks came out, but it was weak. It didn’t suit his magic very well, and he didn’t think it would be loyal to the muggle blood running through his veins, but it was better than no wand at all.

“Kreacher,” Regulus asked, fisting his hands in his new, curly hair. “Did you destroy the necklace? What happened?”

“No, Kreacher could not, Kreacher is too weak,” he cried.

“Okay,” Regulus said, his voice calm, thinking back to the Muggles milling about the hospital without any knowledge of the darkness lurking in the wizarding world around them. “But then why is the Dark Lord quiet? Why hasn't he revealed himself to the muggle?”

“The Potter brat has defeated him, master,” Kreacher said quietly.

Regulus scoffed. In what universe? “James Potter isn’t that good a wizard!”

Kreacher shook his head. “No, his half-blood son defeated him.”

Son? Potter was just married. “Kreacher, how long have I been dead?”

“16 years master,” Kreacher cried out.

“And how long have you been alone?”

“A decade,” Kreacher whispered.

“I’m so sorry,” Regulus told him, his head spinning. 16 years? James Potter’s son? It was too much, he was in too much pain. Regulus closed his eyes and let sleep take him. He felt Kreacher remove his shoes and jacket and let him fix the blankets.

The 16 years he had missed would still be there, like the bruises on his body, when he opened his eyes.

Chapter Text

Regulus awoke many hours later, still bone-tired and in excruciating pain. He smelled something delicious and opened his eyes, there was a cheese toastie and a sliced up apple waiting for him in a tray next to the bed.

“Thank you Kreacher,” he muttered before digging into his sandwich. It was a little burnt, just the way he liked it. He was touched that his elf remembered.

“Master is awake!” Kreacher said. He must have been waiting for him at the foot of the bed.

“Yes,” Regulus said after finishing his bite. A thought struck him. Preservation charms didn't last forever and this house had been empty so long. “Where is this food from?”

Kreacher shifted from foot to foot. “Kreacher stole from muggle grocery, they can’t see Kreacher, and our account is closed at the grocer on Ration Alley, what was Kreacher to do, Master needs his food!”

“It’s fine,” Regulus said, waving him off. “Keep doing it, the both of us need our strength.”

Kreacher nodded and pointed to piles on the bed. “Kreacher laundered Masters clothes, does he need help getting into them?”

“I think I’ll try myself when I’ve finished my dinner,” Regulus said kindly.

“Lunch,” Kreacher said. “It is tomorrow.”

He must have needed the sleep. He took a deep breath, his magic felt more steady, like with every second, it was embedding itself further in his marrow. But he still felt like a stiff breeze would knock him over.

Regulus finished his food and got out of bed. He stumbled over to his en-suite, taking the world’s quickest shower and toilet. It felt unspeakably strange to scrub this body—none of it was his, the curly hair, the broad shoulders, the cock (bigger than his real one was, a traitorous voice in his head whispered).It was all new and unoffensive...but not his. He was beyond uncomfortable with it all and avoided looking at his new self in the mirror, brushing his teeth and deliberately looking at the sink and not his new mouth.

Regulus pulled on his clothes and they smelled fresh, but fit all wrong. He was a little taller in this body, so the trousers were short and the robes strained at his shoulders. Regulus sighed, and cast an extension charm, and it only worked on the third try. This blasted wand didn't trust him, he would need another before he could do much else. It's like the wand could sense the duality in him, the muggle blood and Black magic.

Regulus walked carefully into his father’s study, avoiding the trap step in front of the door. His father would always make him or Sirius beg for galleons for their school things, saying it was a privilege, not a right to get the gold. By third year, Sirius stopped begging, and pointed out he could just borrow his mate's books or the Potters would buy him new robes. Who knew Sirius could be so sneaky, because father gave him extra gold that year on the thinly veiled threat of not needing them.

He shook the memory away, going back to the issue at hand. If he was right, his Father would have at least kept a few coins scattered in the third drawer of his desk and he could solve at least one problem today.

He jammed it open and a herd of doxies flew out, Regulus stunned a few, and smashed the rest with a book resting on the top of the desk.

He found 15 galleons and four sickles in a pouch. Enough for a new wand, some potions supplies, and maybe a book on what happened in the last decade, but little else. Regulus sighed, and called for Kreacher.

“Do you think you could apparate me to Diagon Alley?”

Kreacher frowned. “Does Master think it’s wise to go out looking like he lost a fight with an erumpet?”

“I can’t make any bruise paste or pain potion if I don’t get new potions supplies, I doubt anything here will be fresh enough to brew, so in order to not look like I lost a fight with an erumpet, I'll have to leave the house,” Regulus replied, amused.

“If Master wishes,” Kreacher said warily, and held out his hand. Regulus grabbed it and Kreacher dropped him at the entrance to the alley, and disappeared.

Diagon Alley was bustling and it wasn’t like the war at all. He couldn’t feel any fear in the air and there were no Aurors pacing with their wand drawn. Was this really the Potter boy’s doing?

Regulus started to walk toward Ollivanders, his wand being the most important thing after all, when his eyes glanced over a wanted poster.

He got closer to it and his stomach sank. Sirius was looking back at him, in Azkaban prison robes. He was wanted for murder of muggles? His brother, the muggle-lover? Impossible. Regulus didn't believe it for one second and looked closer at the poster.

Sirius's eyes were hard when they were normal so full of laughter.

Regulus hated this brand new world, despite whatever peace was holding. He grabbed the poster off the wall and crumpled it in a ball, tossing it into a nearby bin. He would believe it if Sirius murdered say, Lucius Malfoy. But Muggles? Regulus scoffed aloud.

A finely dressed witch---Melania MacMillian, his brain supplied—eyed him from across the road with disgust, her lip curling.

He must truly look a fright. Regulus hurried up the road as fast as he could, and entered Ollivander’s shop.

Ollivander was puttering about the back of the shop, and when he came up front, he dropped the boxes of wands he was holding. After a moment, he recovered. “Have you lost the willow and dragon heart wand I sold you?”

Regulus blinked back at him. Ollivander was always a strange one, but he couldn't be this clairvoyant, could he? “Well...I know where it is, but it’s in the same location where I died, so I’d rather not go through all the trouble to get it back," he replied after a moment.

Ollivander barely reacted. “I don’t think it would suit you now anyway, Mr. Black. Stay there,” he said, and Regulus didn’t move as Ollivander came back with a thin box.

“Beech and phoenix feather from Alberta,” Ollivander said as he handed the wand to Regulus.

Rebirth. He laughed and waved the wand, his magic singing out in the rightness of how it felt. He didn’t have to force anything, it’s his, he’s fully a wizard again. For the first time since he came back, he felt like he could truly breathe.

“That’ll be seven galleons Mr. Black,” Ollivander says, and Regulus hands almost half of the coins he owns to him.

“Thank you,” Regulus told him, sheathing his new wand and continuing down the alley. He spent most of his remaining coin on potions ingredients and made his final stop in the bookshop.

He picked up a Brief History of 20th Century Magical Britain and flipped past the bit about Grindewald and Dumbledore and Wizengamot Reforms, he knew all that, and got to the early 1980s and started skimming the pages---Voldemort destroyed by a one-year old Potter what sort of codswallop was this!--when he is interrupted by a rude tap on the shoulder.

It was a shop assistant, the colouring looked like a Rowle. One of the minor cousins, perhaps. Regulus could find the name somewhere in his memory if he cared enough, perhaps.

“Yes?” Regulus asked.

“Shouldn’t you be in Hogwarts?” Rowle asked him, eyes narrowing.

“I’m homeschooled,” Regulus lied, and turned back to the book, which was currently memorializing James and Lily Potter. Azkaban aside, there was no way his brother was okay.

Rowle snorted at him, and muttered something underneath his breath about the state of muggleborn vagrants, which Regulus tried his best to ignore.

“This isn’t a library,” Rowle said, crowding even closer into him. “That book is two galleons.”

“I have the gold,” Regulus snapped.

“Good for you. Did you exchange it from your dirty little muggle paper money?” Rowle asked.

Regulus didn’t bother replying.

“Answer me when I talk to you, boy,” Rowle continued on.

Regulus turned around glared. “What business is that of yours? I’ll take this and today’s prophet and be on my way.”

Rowle rang him up at the till and all but tossed his change back at him. “We’re happy to take your money, and you can buy all the books you like but you should know that your place in our world is on your knees.” He looked Regulus up and down and leered.

“Filthy pervert,” Regulus shot back, his cheeks heating with shame and fury. “Do you work in this shop because Thorfinn doesn’t trust you with the real family business?”

Rowle junior went for his wand, and Regulus grabbed his own, and apparated away from the fight he caused.

He sank down on his bed. It was an attitude Regulus was well-familiar with, but never directed toward him.

Whatever divine justice had sent him back was very cruel. He tried to clear his mind and set up his potions lab, brewing himself several batches of pain reliever and bruise paste.

As soon as it cooled, he took a swig of the reliever, and within a moment, his whole body numbed to the sharp pain that had been following him since his return.

Regulus went back to sleep and dreamed of Sirius crawling into bed with him as a boy when he had a nightmare, of him pretending to curse the monsters under his bed. Sirius wasn’t afraid of anything but on the poster he saw today, his eyes were terrified. He wondered if it was losing Potter that did it, he overheard him saying once that he was the brother he never had. Regulus pretended it didn't hurt.

In the morning, Regulus ate another big breakfast and had a horrible thought. “Where is the necklace?”

“I said I couldn’t destroy it!” Kreacher wailed, as he returned with the locket.

Regulus lost his appetite looking at it, shiny and foreboding as ever. He used his wand to hoist it into the air.

“Reducto!” he shouted, but the necklace stayed pristine.

“Bombarda!” he tried and that did nothing, as did a severing charm and an Incendio.

Regulus had an idea. He dug deep inside himself, he hated this curse. “Avada Kedavara,” he spoke, the green light going out toward the locket. The necklace didn’t shatter, but the room seemed to drop in temperature. Regulus shivered. A hazy image came out of the locket—it was Sirius as he looked in his Azkaban poster.

“I suppose that muggle blood running through your veins is too weak to destroy me, hmm?” Sirius asked, voice bored.

“You’re not real,” Regulus said back.

“How would you know? You’re dead,” he spat out, madness in his eyes, and Regulus had more than enough of this. He grabbed his rucksack, and tossed the necklace in, magicking it shut.

He wrapped his arms around himself. The dark lord was right. He was a failure. But he didn’t have to be.

Regulus took the bag with him and went up the stairs to his family’s library. The Blacks had the best private collection on dark magic in the country, there had to be something about destroying Horcruxes in there.

He searched for days and days but just found instructions on how to make one and it was even more gruesome than he imagined. Eating death. Murder and cannibalism. No wonder the Dark Lord was so vicious. Regulus felt ill and doubled over, sicking up the morning's eggs and toast. He vanished it with an easy spell, and cursed his weak constitution.

Regulus kept looking. There had to be instructions on how to destroy one, but he hadn’t found it yet. He felt like he was living in the library even more than he was during OWL revision. This had to be why he was back, to destroy the Horcrux, but weeks had passed without him being any closer to a solution.

He found something after what seemed like ages of reading. Fiendfyre could do it. But Regulus had never learned how to cast it, so he kept looking, perhaps there was a way that wouldn’t bring his family home down.

He settled into a routine. In the morning, he had breakfast with Kreature. In the afternoon, he looked in the library before stopping for lunch. And he stayed up late in the evening, trying to destroy the horcrux with other fire spells while it whispered horrible things into his mind. He was desperately lonely but he couldn’t stop his routine until it was over. It was no less than he deserved, and perhaps it was why he was back.

But late one morning, everything changed.

There was noise downstairs, he was sure of it. His Mum’s portrait was wailing about the shame of her flesh, that wasn’t new but a very familiar voice was shouting back. Regulus slammed his book shut.

“SHUT UP YOU OLD HAG,” a very familiar voice roared, and Regulus froze. It was a voice he had resigned himself to never hearing again.

“Moony, help me get this shut, will you?” Sirius asked, voice still at a shout, and Regulus considered hiding for another moment before gathering all his courage and walking out the door of the library.

It wasn’t inferi or a certain death, it was just his brother, but somehow that felt worse.

Regulus got to the grand staircase and made himself seen at the top, holding his hands up without his wand in the symbol of surrender. The years had not been kind to his brother or his friend the werewolf. Sirius’s feted good looks were faded some, his eyes looked haunted and his hair had grown long, not for fashion but rather lack of care. He looked like Father did after he got sick, but Sirius wasn’t that old. Regulus’s heart was beating too fast. He wasn’t ready for this. The last words he spoke to Sirius weren’t kind and he went to his death regretting that but now he couldn’t find any words at all.

Sirius’s eyes glazed over him without recognition and Lupin drew his wand first.

“How the fuck did you get in here kid?” Sirius asked, and of course he wouldn’t recognise him like this.

“Through the front door, Ri,” Regulus joked, using a nickname that hadn’t tripped off his tongue since Sirius went to Hogwarts. Sirius’s eyes narrowed.

“The wards don’t feel corrupted,” Lupin muttered to Sirius, keeping his wand at the ready.

“Right, who in the name in Merlin are you and what are you doing in this house?” Sirius asked.

“What are you doing here? You swore you’d rather douse yourself in Muggle petrol potion and incendio yourself in the parlour rather than come back here again, brother,” Regulus replied.

Sirius stilled for a moment, before shaking his head like a dog shaking off water. “Both of my brothers are long-dead.”

Regulus shook his head. “I’m alive, though I don’t know how. One of my first memories is making a huge mess in father’s study by knocking over an inkwell. You told Mother that you did it and she spelled you to a chair with your hands to your sides and your mouth shut for hours. You didn’t cry, not even after she hexed you.”

Sirius’s gray eyes got very wide, and Regulus carried on.

“Before I left for the Hogwarts Express, you told me that I didn’t have to be in Slytherin and I knew that I did, and you didn’t talk to me again until the Christmas holidays. You passed me your charms notes though, you must have been able to tell I was struggling, so you didn't stop paying attention to me entirely," Regulus said, only whining a little.”

Sirius’s gray eyes were very wide. “Regulus? What is this then, polyjuice?” He gestured grandly to him.

He shook his head. “I woke up like this in a Muggle hospital a month or two ago. The muggle had died, I don’t know the specifics.”

Sirius’s jaw dropped, but Lupin asked the next question. “You’re a muggle?”

Regulus made green sparks fly from his wand, surprising them both with how quick his draw was. “A mud—muggleborn,” he corrected.

Sirius barked out a laugh, and continued laughing so hard that he nearly fell over. Regulus shot him a nasty look.

“What? You have to admit that it’s a little funny Reg.”

Regulus shrugged. “No more than I deserve, it’s true.”

Lupin locked eyes with him. “Do you have any proof of who you say you are, other than anecdotes from your childhood with Sirius?”

“This house would have never let me live here if I didn’t at least have our family magic, it would have killed me in my sleep,” Regulus replied.

“That’s true,” Sirius said. “One of our mad aunts had a muggleborn paramour over without the express permission of her father. He got in, but the house killed him in his sleep, it doesn’t like uninvited guests.”

Regulus felt a shiver. He didn’t even wonder if the house would kill him on his first night there but maybe he should have. Grimmauld Place was his home.

“Reg, have you just locked yourself in here since you’ve been back like some sad shut-in?”

What other options did a basically penniless muggleborn have, Regulus wanted to ask, but nodded instead. “I’ve had something I’ve needed to do for your--our side in the war and haven’t been able to figure it out yet---perhaps you could help?”

For all his faults, Regulus never stopped thinking of Sirius as anything other than brilliant. And the werewolf was a prefect at least once.

Sirius nodded, and took a step forward. He took a deep breath, and wrapped his arms around him. “Welcome back, brother. You’re still shorter than me you know.”

“This body might still be growing,” he protested as he hugged him back.

“We’ll see about that,” Sirius replied. “Now what’s this about?”

“If you wouldn’t mind following me,” Regulus said, leading the two of them to the library. The horcrux was sitting on the table, he had almost become used to the sense of doom and failure it was emanating but his brother and Lupin hadn’t.

“Whatever that is, it is extremely dark,” Lupin warned, casting an identifying charm over it.

The room felt a little warmer afterwards.

“What have you been messing with?” Sirius accused, and Regulus’s felt his temper rising, he didn’t know if it was the horcrux or the accusation or both.

“Only something that could destroy the Dark Lord forever,” Regulus snapped. “It’s a piece of his soul, Kreacher nearly got killed when he set up the protections for it. I tried to destroy it, but obviously was unsuccessful the first time around and paid with my life.”

Sirius paled. “It’s a horcrux?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what that is,” Lupin said mildly.

“You wouldn’t, it’s extremely dark magic, I only know because it’s referenced in a few tomes here,” Sirius said, gesturing to the library.

“Can either of you cast fiendfyre? I don’t have enough control over this wand yet to do it,” Regulus asked, hating having to get help.

“I’m afraid I can’t,” Remus said and Sirius shook his head as well.

“Dumbledore might,” Sirius said.

“I was afraid you’d say that,” Regulus sighed, reluctant to make his new world any larger. “Can you take me to him?”

“I’m sure we can arrange that,” Sirius said.

A thought struck Regulus. “Why are you back here anyway? You hate this house.”

“I do,” Sirius said. “But considering it’s unplottable and has the best defences a wizard can buy, I thought I’d volunteer it to be the new Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix.”

“Our parents would roll over in their graves.”

“That’s rather the point,” Sirius said. “But as Voldemort is back, it’s the least I can do.”

“When did he come back?” Regulus asked, his voice very small.

“Three weeks ago,” Lupin answered. “At the tri-wizard tournament.”

Regulus paled and looked over at the horcrux, a sign of how badly he failed. He thought of bustling Diagon Alley and the kind muggle at the hospital who helped him into a cab. All that would be destroyed if the Dark Lord got his way.

“You’ll excuse me for not being up to date on current events,” Regulus said eventually to them.

“We’re going to do everything we can to stop him,” Sirius said, his voice very steady and brave, just like how Regulus remembered, and he almost believed him.

Chapter Text

Regulus paced in the lounge. Lupin had gone to fetch Dumbledore, and Sirius had trailed after him like a dog, but didn’t leave the house. He could feel his brother's magic near the door, pent-up and angry like a a caged animal. Regulus had always been able to feel magic in this way, but it felt stronger now in this body, new like plants growing in the earth in spring.

He sighed and stared at his reflection in a gilded mirror, made from Goblin-wrought silver in the 19th century.

His reflection glared back at him, and the mirror thankfully didn't speak. Regulus pulled his wand out and tried to straighten his hair, but it wouldn’t stick. The curls remained as bouncy as ever.

The door swung open, it was Sirius.

“Hair’s a bit tricky to transfigure,” Sirius noted, watching him. “Do you want it black and slicked back like you used to do it? I like the curls.”

Regulus rolled his eyes. “There’s no accounting for taste with you.”

Sirius smiled. “Was that a yes? It’ll wear off in a few hours anyway.”

He did want Sirius to make him look like he should, but he didn’t think he could bear to watch it fade away. “No thank you.”

“I can do it,” Sirius insisted. “I’m ace at transfigs, as it turns out.”

Regulus knew that. “Yes, you had the highest score on your OWL in half a century, McGonagall and Mother were both quite disappointed that it wasn’t as easy for me.”

“I’ve got plenty to say sorry for in my life Reggie, but that’s not one of those things,” Sirius replied.

A horrible thought struck him. “To say sorry for….Sirius, you are innocent, right? I saw the wanted posters and I didn’t believe it, not for a moment.”

“They’re still looking for me then? You’d think the ministry would have better things to do now,” Sirius muttered. “No Reggie, I didn’t kill anyone, though I would have liked to.”

“I knew you didn’t,” Regulus said quietly. “How long were you in Azkaban?”

Sirius shifted from foot to foot. “Four thousand days, give or take a few.”

He felt like he wanted to be sick. “Sirius—how are you sane?”

“Aww that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” he joked.

“No, it isn’t,” Regulus said quietly. Before he went to Hogwarts, he worshiped his brother. He thought he was the cleverest and most brave and best person in the world.

“Right,” Sirius agreed. “And I haven’t lost my mind completely due to this,” he said before grinning, showing all his teeth. And then, in a span of a moment, Sirius shifted. He grew fur and shrank, turning to a very large black dog.

“You’re an animagus!” Regulus exclaimed dumbly, reaching out to scratch Sirius behind the ears as he walked up to him. “That is impressive magic. For how long?”

Sirius barked, then shifted back. “Since fifth year.”

Regulus’s jaw dropped. “Well, as you said, you’re ace at transfiguration.”

Sirius started to laugh and Regulus joined him, and the two of them couldn’t stop, overtaken by their own laughter. He hadn’t laughed truly in this body yet, the sound was new to him, but Sirius’s laughter was as loud and infectious as ever.

After a moment, Lupin popped back in the room. “What did I miss?”

“Sirius is an animagus, a big black dog,” Regulus replied.

“I had known that, actually,” Lupin replied, looking between them strangely.

“And you’re a werewolf,” Regulus responded without malice, the two facts connecting in his mind.

“I’d known that too, as it turns out,” Lupin said, his voice deceptively mild. “Dumbledore will be here soon.”

“Thanks,” Sirius said, and Regulus re-started his pacing.

Lupin looked at him oddly. “Regulus, do you remember our prefect rounds? I was just thinking about my sixth year, when we caught Marlene McKinnon behind the tapestry with Edgar Bones.”

Regulus blinked. “I think you’re confusing me with someone else, we didn’t catch anyone out as I never patrolled with you. I would swap with Gudgeon in Ravenclaw, I didn’t want to hear you subtly going on about how Sirius was doing.”

“I told you it was him,” Sirius grumbled, elbowing Lupin in the side.

“Well excuse me for checking,” he replied, the pair of them arguing like an old married couple.

Regulus rolled his eyes and felt a shift in the balance of magic. It was Dumbledore, the power in the air was crackling like the air before a thunderstorm, and a second later, is hold headmaster apparated into the hall.

Dumbledore was there, his icy blue eyes staring at him. “Hello, I’ve heard quite a tale about you from Mr. Lupin here. Do you mind telling me it?”

Regulus stared at him in the eyes. “Headmaster. My tale is unimportant—it’s what I found that matters.”

“No story is unimportant,” Dumbledore mused. “You say you’re Regulus Black?”

He nodded. “I know I don’t look like it, but it’s me. My magic and memories anyway, the body is new.”

“And how did you get that body?” Dumbledore asked. There was a myriad of dark spells for body swaps, it was popular with dying wizards before the statue of secrecy, they would live a second life as wealthy muggles.

“I don’t know, exactly,” Regulus confessed. “But I was dead and woke up in a muggle hospital like this.”

Dumbledore looked him straight in the eyes and Regulus matched his gaze, hoping the rumours were true and he was a legilmens that could read the truth in his words.

“But I don’t matter,” Regulus protested. “I’m sure I was back for this reason, and I failed,” he said, leading them up the stairs.

“I think you matter more than you think,” Dumbledore said kindly, following behind them.

The four of them went into the library and Regulus gestured toward the Horcrux, illuminating it with his wand.

“This is why I’m back. That necklace isn’t just jewelry, it contains a piece of the Dark Lord’s soul. I died trying to destroy it and I still haven’t been able to, none of the spells I’ve tried have worked,” he confessed.

Dumbledore lifted up the necklace with his wand, and his eyes lit up like it was Christmas. “Where did you find this?”

“Voldemort used my house elf to put this in a cave, surrounded by inferi and some of the darkest protections you can imagine,” Regulus said quietly. “It’s where my body is.”

Sirius made a noise and Regulus looked over toward him.

“You were a Death Eater when you found out about this?” Dumbledore asked.

He nodded.

“It was very brave of you to do this,” Dumbledore said, looking almost proud of him.

Regulus waved him off. “That’s not why I did it. It’s unnatural and a crime against magic and the Dark Lord doesn’t care about our world or anything but himself. But he can’t be destroyed until the horcrux is, and it needs to be. Please. Can you manage it, Headmaster?”

Dumbledore nodded. “I’m quite confident that I can, Mr. Black. I have a sword imbued with basilisk venom back at Hogwarts, I can do it there as soon as I get back to the castle.”

“Thank you,” Regulus said. “Can I see it when it’s done? I think I’ll need to make sure it’s gone for myself, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course you can, it’s only fair after what you went through to get it,” Dumbledore said. “Perhaps we can work together in the next term at Hogwarts?”

Regulus blinked at him. “I can’t go back there.”

“Forgive me, but the body you’re currently inhabitating doesn’t look of age, and Hogwarts has a sacred duty to educate young wizards and witches in Britain.”

“I was 18,” Regulus protested.

“I don’t believe you ever took your NEWTS,” Dumbledore said. “You could come back to the castle to finish your education, if you like.”

Regulus took a seat. “I didn’t plan that far ahead.”

“You can think about it,” Dumbledore offered, stroking his beard.

“I don’t have any money,” Regulus confessed. “I spent the last of the galleons I found around here on a wand and potions ingredients to get myself healthy, I can’t pay tuition or buy myself robes and supplies.”

Sirius spoke up. “As it turns out, Gringotts doesn’t care one whit if I’m a convict, I have full access to the Black vaults and we’re rich, brother. If you want to go back to Hogwarts, don’t worry about money. Or don’t worry about it generally, I’ll get you a key to the vault.”

It amused him a little that Sirius was now in charge of the family money, and he smiled. “I really didn’t think that far ahead. The horcrux just needs to be destroyed.”

“And destroyed it shall be, I can promise you that. Welcome back, Regulus, and have a think about my offer. The castle will remain open to you,” Dumbledore said, before disapparating away, necklace in hand.

“I still don’t like him,” Regulus grumbled, turning to Sirius.

“Alright,” Sirius replied evenly. “But do have a think about what he offered you? I would do anything to go back to Hogwarts and make sure Harry is safe.”

Remus reached out and grabbed his brother’s shoulder, giving him comfort.

“What’s he like then? Potter’s son? I read a bit about him in A Magical History of 20th Century Britain, but it was vague and ill-written. He must be powerful.” Regulus asked.

“He’s just a kid,” Sirius replied. “It’s not that he isn’t powerful, he saved my life at 13 by casting a patronus so full of life that it cast away a hundred dementors, and he flies like he was born in the air, but I don’t think whatever destroyed Voldemort was due to Harry’s power.”

“He’s a good kid,” Remus added. “He has two close friends he would do anything for, and he’s generally kind and funny. He’s very different from James at this age.”

“Meaning what?” Regulus asked.

Sirius took a moment, clearly remembering happier times. “Meaning he’s not so sure of himself the way James was. I think that he’s as happy with the family that raised him as I was with mine.”

Regulus felt blindly defensive for a second, but let the words wash over him. “Who is raising him, Sirius? The Goldsteins are third cousins on Potter’s fathers side, or the Bones have a decent blood relation, Euphemia’s father was a Bones.”

Sirius shook his head. “He’s living with Muggles. And I’d tell you off for making the face you’re pulling, but in this case, it’s probably fair. It’s driving me mad to think of my godson trapped there all summer after being used in a ritual that brought Voldemort back to life.”

“Then go and get him then, bring him here with you. We all know what being alone is like,” Regulus snapped. Sirius was never so measured as to just sit and let things happen to him or people he loved.

“Don’t encourage him,” Remus replied. “The ministry is still looking for Sirius, do you want your brother back in Azkaban, or worse? The dementors nearly kissed him, did you know that?”

“Of course not,” Regulus replied. “But they’re not looking for you Lupin, are they? Or me. I’m a dead wizard wearing a muggle’s face, no one will be bothered if I go out to wherever Muggles are and drag him back here.”

“Is the house safe? Harry’s not a pureblood.” Remus asked.

“And you’re a dark creature, but it’s not actively chucking you out because Sirius and I don’t mind you being here,” Regulus replied. “There’s a boggart and some cursed heirlooms, but the worsts things here are our pasts, I think.”

“Very poetic, Reggie,” Sirius replied. “Would you do it? Go and check on him and see if he wants to come here?”

Regulus nodded. He needed something to do now that the horcrux was out of his hands. “Just tell me where I can find him.”

Chapter Text

Privet Drive had some of the most inspid, muggle nonsense he has ever seen. He's sure his brother's directions were accurate, but he can't imagine a wizard growing up in a place this boring.

Sure, Regulus grew up on a square of houses that looked the same on the outside in Islington, but they had character plus the occasional dodgy character that would wander round that his Mother would point at outside the windows. Sirius would spent hours on the roof watching the people on the ground, and sometimes Regulus would join him. They told their parents they were looking at the stars, but the nights were rarely clear enough for that in the big smoke.

Regulus shook his memories off and jogged past number two Privet Drive. He started to feel like he was close, he felt a palpable spark in the air. Magic. One of his people was here and Regulus sensed the raw power and grief as clearly as he could feel the sun beating down on his new, tanned broad shoulders.

He was close.

Regulus started to head up to the door to number four, when he caught a glimpse of something magical underneath the window. There were disgusting trainers sticking out underneath a bush, but that was where the power was coming from, not the uniform little muggle house.

Regulus crouched down and tapped lightly on the boy’s trainers in one fluid moment.

The wizard jumped, cursing as he went face-first into the hedge, and scrambled out into the open.

Regulus almost started to laugh before he saw the look on his face, he was terrified but so brave, scrambling to grab at his wand.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Regulus said as kindly as he could.

“It’s alright, I just wasn’t expecting anyone,” the boy, who could only be Harry replied.

He did look just like his Father, except James Potter’s Mother would have never let him outside of the house looking this ill-put together. Oh, and his eyes. They were the most brilliant shade of green and the most beautiful thing Regulus had ever seen. But there were dark circles under them, like the boy hadn’t had a good night sleep in weeks, and Regulus wondered just what Harry had seen to make him look so haunted.

“I should have announced myself, that was very rude on my behalf. I’m Regulus, and pleased to make your acquaintance,” he said, holding out his hand.

“Harry,” he said, and shook it. His palm was warm and Regulus felt a spark of something for the first time in forever. It almost felt like being alive. Harry’s eyes widened a fraction and Regulus wondered if he felt it too or if he was just imagining things.

Harry looked at him more closely and frowned. “But you knew that, didn’t you? My name, I mean. You’re a wizard.”

“Am I that obvious?” Regulus asked, gesturing to the simple jeans and white t-shirt that Sirius had outfitted for him. It fit well and looked nice enough and his old self wouldn’t have been caught dead in it, which was rather the point.

Harry nodded. “You looked a little too pleased with yourself to be wearing jeans and I can see your wand sticking out of your pocket, which was the big giveaway to be honest.”

Regulus smiled, and looked down. So it was. “Well-spotted,” he said.

“So you’re a wizard, but why are you here, Regulus?” Harry asked, looking back toward the house nervously. “They’re ehm, not keen on visitors, and unexpected ones even less.”

“The muggles?”

Harry nodded.

“Right. I’m here because we have a person in common,” Regulus explained, and took the charmed mirror out of his back pocket.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you at Hogwarts,” Harry said, wary of him. “Who do you mean?”

“Sirius Black,” he enunciated clearly at the mirror, and an image of his brother popped up. Regulus passed Harry the mirror.

Harry’s face lit up. It was beautiful. “Sirius!”

“Hey kiddo,” Sirius said, his voice both gentle and full of strength, so unlike the father they had. “How are you doing?”

Harry shrugged. “I’m fine. Where are you? How are you? Do you know what Voldemort’s up to? Has he attacked anyone else? What’s happening? Have you spoken to Dumbledore? And just who is Regulus?”

Sirius smiled. “Those are a lot of questions Harry and I can answer some of them but it’s better explained in person, if you feel up to it. And the curly-haired, brown-eyed menace is my brother, it’s a bit complicated.”

“Regulus looks my age!” Harry said, looking between the mirror and him with doubt written all over his face.

“Hence the bit complicated part,” Sirius said. “We’re staying in London, if you’d like to join us. I would love to see you.”

“Yes. When can I leave?” Harry spoke quickly.

“Harry, our house here isn’t especially pleasant. It’s dark and not entirely safe and I’m sure it’s not at all what you imagined when I asked you to live with me,” Sirius warned.

“I’m not afraid,” Harry replied.

“I know,” Sirius said. “It’s just not what I wanted for you.”

“And Privet Drive is?” Harry muttered, looking behind him.

“No,” Sirius replied. “But I’m incapable of doing better for you as I’m reliably still informed the Ministry still has a price out on my soul. So Harry, Surrey or my horrible house in London are our only options at the moment, as grim as they both are. Tell me what you want?”

“I’ll come to London, I want to see you,” Harry said without hesitation.

“Great,” Sirius said, a ghost of a real smile appearing on his face. “Regulus will take you.”

“See you soon then?” Harry asked, smiling back at the mirror.

Sirius nodded. “Get here safely,” he commanded, and his face disappeared from the mirror.

“Thanks,” Harry said, handing the mirror back to him.

“Keep it,” Regulus said, curling Harry's fingers around the mirror. “My brother told me he and your father charmed these at school so they could talk to each other in detentions, so it’s rightfully yours and Sirius wants you to keep it anyways.”

“Really?” Harry asked, looking at the mirror like it was gold.

“Really,” Regulus confirmed. “Potter and my brother really were quite clever. Sirius probably still thinks he is.”

Harry looked at him, searching his face for something. “You don’t look much like Sirius.”

“I did once,” Regulus said.

Harry blinked at him. “That’s not cryptic at all.”

“It’s complicated,” Regulus offered.

“Sirius just said that. Can you uncomplicate it for me?” Harry asked.

“Maybe later,” Regulus offered, startling when a car drove past them, hand going toward his wand. “Shall we get your things and I can try and explain when we’re in the safety of my home instead of out in the open like this?”

“Alright,” Harry agreed. “Wait here, I’ll be back out in a minute.”

“Surely it’ll be quicker if I help you with your things?” Regulus asked, following him to the door.

Harry frowned, before settling his face back in a neutral mask. “I don’t need help. I don’t have much stuff anyway.”

That didn’t make sense, the Potters were rich. Nouveau Riche, Narcissa once called them, but rich none the less.

Maybe it was another concern then. “I won’t curse the muggles here unless they really, really deserve it, I’m a bit better at holding my temper in than Sirius,” Regulus offered.

“I’m not worried about that,” Harry said, and swung the door open. Regulus stepped in behind him. The walls were decorated with still, lifeless photos of a thin woman with man that looked like a walrus and a blond boy in various life stages but there were no signs of Harry anywhere. It’s like he was never there.

“The room I stay in is upstairs,” Harry whispered, their footsteps drowned out by the blaring noise of a talking electronic box.

Regulus tip-toed up the stairs to Harry’s room, which was spartan and ill-lived in, but there was the world’s nicest broom in the corner.

Regulus picked it up and admired it. It looked fast, and he wanted to jump on it and feel the force of the wind hitting his skin.

“It’s a firebolt,” Harry said with a smile, taking it from his hands packing it with the rest of his things. “Sirius got it for me.”

“Maybe I can get him to get me one, it’s an absolutely gorgeous broom,” Regulus said. The broom was class, though nothing else in the tiny space suggested a wizard that was both rich and famous spent any time here.

Harry was half-heartedly throwing books and dirty clothes in his trunk and Regulus helped him along.

It was done quickly, Harry was right, he didn’t have much stuff. All that was left was an empty cage for an owl, and Regulus grabbed it.

“Your owl will be able to find us without difficulty if it’s smart,” Regulus explained. “Let’s go.”

Harry nodded, and hoisted his trunk up and they hurried down the stairs, where the thin woman was waiting for them, arms-crossed and a vicious expression on her pinched face.

Harry positioned himself ahead of Regulus like a human shield, protecting him, and he only met him minutes ago.

“Boy--just what kind of freaks do you think you’re bringing into my home?” she asked, peering at Harry and Regulus.

Regulus bristled. “Freaks? That’s not an appropriate way to talk, especially to a wizard you don’t know.”

“Who are you to lecture me? You came into my house without an invitation and are tracking dirt all over my floors with your filthy trainers!” she snapped.

“You don’t know how lucky you are that lecturing and tracking dirt is all I’m doing,” Regulus snapped, fingers itching to pull out his new wand.

“Regulus,” Harry warned, but he shook his head. He wouldn’t just stand around and let himself and be insulted like this, but Harry seemed resigned to it.

The woman looked at him more closely, her eyes narrowing. “You! You’re that missing boy from the Royal Free Hospital! Your photos are posted around the supermarket and train station.”

“You must be mistaken, woman, I have no idea what nonsense you’re on about,” Regulus lied. “Now, let us leave or I’ll make you, we’re off to some place a lot grander than this.”

“Where are you off to?”

“To my godfathers,” Harry replied, and Regulus’s hand drifted toward his wand.

At the threat, she stepped aside, and let him and Harry out of the house, and slammed the door behind her.

Harry had an angry but resigned look on his face, one he had seen a million times on Sirius's face at home. For a moment, Regulus remembered seeing Euphemia Potter with James and Sirius at Platform 9 3/4 before their seventh year. She was beaming at the two boys, her face radiant with love, telling them how proud she was and how handsome they were. It couldn't be any more different here.

“Pleasant woman, that muggle,” Regulus joked after a moment. “Delightful, even.”

“You’d be the first to say that about Aunt Petunia,” Harry said. “Let’s get out of here.”

Regulus nodded. “Are you all set?”

“I couldn’t be more ready. How are we getting to London? Flying? The Knight bus? The train station’s not too far if we have to take public transport.”

Regulus shook his head. "Have you apparated before, Harry ?”

“I don’t think so.”

“You’d remember if you did, trust me,” Regulus told him. “Hold onto my hand and don’t let go, and hold onto your stuff with your other hand please.”

Harry slipped his warm palm in his hand, and Regulus squeezed it back. It fit perfectly into his.

“Don’t let go Harry” he warned again, and in the space of a moment, they were out of Surrey, leaving the muggles of Privet Drive behind them.

Chapter Text

They arrived in the entryway of Grimmauld Place, and Harry fell to his knees, clutching at his stomach.

“Sorry about that, but it’s worse if you think about it,” Regulus said. “I won’t judge you if you sick up, it happens.”

Harry shook his head. "I'm fine."

Regulus offered a hand, and Harry took it, allowing Regulus to help him off the floor.

“I promise that it gets better, especially when you learn how to do it yourself,” Regulus told him, and Harry nodded.

They passed his mum’s portrait and Regulus tried to walk quietly, but she set off on a rant anyway.

“More half-breeds and filth in my house!” she shouted. “You, Potter! I swore no descendent of Fleamont would darken my doorway after how his boy led my firstborn astray!”

“Let’s be kind to the guests, mother,” Regulus muttered, as he drew the curtains in front of he portrait closed again. “I’m sorry about that, Harry.”

Harry’s green eyes were very large. “That’s your mum?”

“Her portrait, yes,” he replied.

Harry nodded. “Who is Fleamont?”

His jaw dropped. Did Harry know nothing? “James’s father, your grandfather. There’s no blood feud between the Potters or Blacks or anything like that, Mother just hated him because he let Sirius live with them after he ran away.”

Harry looked at him, hungry for more information about his family, and not for the first time that day, Regulus had wondered just what he was told growing up.

“And it was the best home I ever had, the Potters were wonderful,” Sirius said, walking in the room and smiling at Harry.

“Did no one tell you eavesdropping was rude?” Regulus muttered, and Sirius rolled his eyes.

“I’m glad you’re here, Harry,” Sirius said and Harry smiled back. “C’mere, kid.”

Harry walked over into Sirius’s open arms, and Sirius hugged him tightly.

Harry was wound as tight as a drum, and Regulus watched as some of the tension bled out of him. How long was it since someone last held him? He felt a frisson of something a little like jealousy toward his brother and then shook himself out of it, he was being ridiculous.

“Was the journey okay?” Sirius asked and Harry made a face as he pulled away.

Sirius laughed.

“You could have warned me!” Harry said.

“And what would have been the fun in that?” Sirius replied.

“That’s exactly what you would say,” Regulus replied. “Where’s your friend?”

Remus is checking the rooms on the next level to make sure nothing’s too dark or that it’s still livable,” Sirius replied. “Why, do you miss him?”

“Just curious,” Regulus replied. “Anyway, I think there’s a boggart in the third floor and some doxies in Father’s office, and maybe a few cursed heirlooms but Kreacher’s been cleaning since I’ve been back, so it’ll be safe enough.”

“Kreacher’s still alive? I haven’t seen him,” Sirius said, his voice full of poison.

“Who’s Kreacher?” Harry asked.

“My house elf,” Regulus replied, leading them into the parlour. “Kreacher!”

A second later, Kreacher appeared. “Master has returned, and with the Potter boy and with the nasty boy who broke Mistresses heart, but not a boy anymore is he, with those gray streaks in his hair and bags under his eyes.”

Sirius laughed, but it was unkind. “Nice to see you too Kreacher, have you managed to stay alive out of pure spite?”

“Have you, Master?” Kreacher retorted.

“Can you both cut it out and attempt to be civil?” Regulus asked. “Kreacher, do you think you can make some tea and bring out some scones with fresh cream and jam? Harry, are you hungry? Do you have a jam preference?”

“I could eat, and anything is fine,” Harry replied. “Thank you.”

Kreacher nodded. “Anything for a guest of young Masters,” and he apparated away.

Sirius sunk down in an armchair, and sighed loudly, as Regulus sat down next to Harry on the couch.

“I didn’t know you had a house-elf,” Harry said to Sirius as Kreacher re-appeared with tea, warm scones, clotted cream and four different kinds of jam.

“He’s not my house-elf,” Sirus replied, eyeing the scones warily.

Regulus grabbed one, and just to be petulant, took a big bite. “Go on and have one, they won’t kill you.”

Sirius hesitated, but Harry went for it, slathering up a fresh scone with strawberry jam. His eyes closed with pleasure for a second, and Regulus’s stomach did a funny little flip.

Harry swallowed. “This is good.”

“I’ll give Kreacher your thanks,” Regulus replied.

“Is the house safe? Can we talk about Voldemort here?” Harry asked after a moment, looking between him and Sirius.

Sirius shrugged. “Well, it's safer to talk here than outside of the middle of a muggle suburb, and this house has hundreds of years of paranoid Black privacy charms woven into it. What do you want to know?”

“What’s he doing? I haven’t heard of any strange disappearances or killings on the news, and I’ve been watching every night,” Harry said, his hands balled into fists.

“He’s lying low, we think,” Sirius said. “Probably looking to get his old allies back together and stop the ministry from catching onto the fact that he’s really back.”

“I told Fudge he was back! I brought Cedric’s body back from the graveyard! He saw the cuts on the arm where Voldemort used my blood to bring himself back, did he think I did that myself?” Harry stood up and shouted.

“Fudge is sticking his head in the sand, and people are going to get hurt, but we believe you, Harry, never doubt that,” Sirius said, his voice very kind.

Harry sat back down and wrapped his arms around himself.

“He took your blood?” Regulus asked quietly. “A ritual?”

Harry nodded.

“And he let you go?”

“I escaped,” Harry snapped.

“And you’re not even a fifth year yet? Do you know how impressive that is?” Regulus asked him.

“Yes, everyone is constantly impressed that I’ve managed to not die,” Harry replied, his voice flat, which Regulus found worse than the yelling.

Sirius looked toward Harry. “I understand your frustration, but I think that was my brother actually attempting to give you a compliment.”

“It was, I meant no offense,” Regulus replied.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said. “And Sirius, you know I’m not an expert on families or anything, but how exactly is he your brother?”

“I expect my parents wanted a spare, or someone had a premonition I was going to turn out to be their greatest disappointment,” Sirius joked, but it fell flat.

"I mean, how come you don't look anything alike? Do you have different mothers?" Harry asked.

“No, and yes. If you give me a moment Harry, I can show you,” Regulus said, and then apparated up to his room, and grabbed the picture of the Slytherin Quidditch team in his seventh year and hurried back down to re-join Harry and Sirius.

Regulus handed Harry the photo and pointed to himself. “The one in the middle, the seeker? That’s me.”

“I play seeker too,” Harry replied. “You do look like Sirius. And you’re in Slytherin?”

Sirius spoke up. “All the Blacks besides for me were.”

“Slytherin’s seeker is Draco Malfoy, when was this picture taken?”

“A few months before I died, in 1979. I was 18.” Regulus replied.

Harry looked between him and the photo. “I don’t understand.”

“I don’t either. I have my suspicions about how it happened, but I went against the Dark Lord and his magic killed me, and the next thing I know, I woke up in a Muggle hospital, looking like this, but with my magic and my memories and my failings,” Regulus said quietly.

“And the person who had that body before?” Harry asked.

“He was dead—car accident. His name was Aaron,” Regulus said.

Harry looked over to Sirius. “Is that a thing that can happen?”

“I didn’t think it was, not the way Regulus explained it,” Sirius said. “I’m not humble, but I’m not arrogant enough to think I know everything about how magic works. And I do believe the boy sitting next to you is Regulus. He doesn’t look like my brother but he makes the same faces and his magic feels the same and he has been nervously picking at his nails in the same way he’s doing now since he was three years old.”

Regulus moved to sit on his hands and glared at Sirius.

“Yeah, I recognise that facial expression well,” Sirius said. “Harry, do you understand?”

He took a moment to reply, looking between the two of them. “Not at all, but if you say he’s your brother, I trust you.”

“I know it’s a lot, and I’m sorry if it makes you uncomfortable,” Regulus apologised.

Harry shrugged and then looked at him, the full force of his stare weighing heavily on Regulus’s heart. “Were you alone when you woke up?”

“Yes, I was,” Regulus replied, struck by just how kind Harry was for asking that question instead of the million others he could have asked. "His family was dead..and I was very alone."

“Well none of us are now,” Sirius said, finally reaching for a scone. “Welcome to the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black, Harry, now composed of 100 percent more muggleborns, a blood traitor, a half-blood and a werewolf.”

Regulus looked between Harry and Sirius and started laughing and it soon became contagious, the three of them couldn’t contain their laughter.

Chapter Text

That evening, Harry was given the room next to his own. It was decorated in an awful lilac, it was meant to be for the daughter that his mother never had.

Sirius transfigured the walls to a dark red and put heavy curtains around the bed, turning the bed into a four-poster.

Harry’s eyes were glassy when Sirius spelled his name over the door. Regulus looked over at him.

“Just a bit of dust,” Harry muttered, but the room was clean and while Sirius was a genius at transfiguration, changing wall colours and beds wasn't showy magically.

Regulus nodded, and thought back to the spartan room he saw in Surrey. How it took him and Harry only a moment to pack all of his things.

“Your new room is looking good,” Regulus said after a moment. “Though it is a bit obvious with the Gryffindor theme, no? I’m guessing its what the dorms look like.”

“Well-spotted,” Sirius replied. “But you wouldn’t know, would you?”

Regulus rolled his eyes. “No, I've only seen the inside of Slytherin, obviously. Oh, and Ravenclaw.”

“Ravenclaw?” Harry asked.

Regulus held his tongue for a moment, but Sirius burst out laughing.

“Gudgeon's room then, brother? Regulus, you tart!” Sirius joked, his voice full of laughter.

Regulus smiled back, but refused to confirm or deny anything. He glanced a look at Harry, who had a strange expression on his face. He wondered if it had something to do with his confession, but then Harry grabbed at his forehead, and bit back a scream.

He rushed over to his side, Sirius just a moment ahead of him, and the two of them helped him sit down on the bed, Sirius transfiguring a cold compress.

“Is it your scar hurting again?” Sirius asked, his voice as gentle as Regulus had ever heard it.

Harry nodded. “I’m fine. Voldemort was just—angry.”

“And you can feel that?” Regulus asked.

Harry nodded again, and Regulus knew with a deep certainty somewhere in his new, borrowed bones that whatever this connection was couldn’t be a good thing.

“I…really can’t wait for him to be dead for real,” Regulus muttered as a response, making both Sirius and Harry smile.

He counted that as a small victory and headed next door to his room, and threw himself down on the bed and closed his eyes.

He could feel the magic around him. Harry was next door and his was intoxicating, so pent-up and angry but with a deep well of kindness and light.

He had to concentrate harder to feel for his brother, but he was there, he could recognise him anywhere and Lupin was right next to him, restrained and wild at the same time.

He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep but soon he was back in the cave, but he wasn’t alone. Harry was there, so brave and determined, a vise-like gripe on his wand.

Regulus saw him clearly from beneath the water, but he was cold and his limbs wouldn’t move. He couldn’t get to him, he had to warn Harry to get out! Dumbledore had the necklace now, why was he here?

He tried to yell to get Harry to leave, to tell him that the whole trip was futile, to get out and save himself but he couldn’t make a noise. He tried to scream. No sound came out. He tried to move his arms but they were too heavy under the water. The inferi were here and he was one of them, this cave was no place for Harry to be. Drowning was a painful death and he needed him to be alive.

He woke up with a jolt, and touched his face. It was wet, he must have been crying. Regulus grabbed his wand and took deep breaths. He was in Grimmauld Place, he wasn’t dead, not anymore. And Harry wasn’t in any danger, at least not in this moment.

Regulus wiped at his face, and tried to fall back asleep, but he couldn’t. As the sun started to rise, he dressed himself and walked downstairs and let Kreacher make him a cup of tea and some porridge. The tea was a little too hot but he drank it anyway, the burn reminding him that he was alive, that his throat still worked, that he still had a tongue and teeth and a body that responded to him, even if it wasn’t originally his own.

After the sun had chased all the darkness from the sky, he heard a knock at the door. The only people who knew this house was occupied were currently in it or Dumbledore, and Regulus sighed, not quite wanting to see him yet.

“Kreacher, do you think you can let the Headmaster in and lead him to the parlour? I’ll meet him there."

Kreacher looked delighted to be greeting a guest, even if it was someone his mother despited, and Regulus took his time getting to the parlour.

“Headmaster, I didn’t expect to see you so soon,” Regulus said, as soon as he walked into the room.

To his surprise, Dumbledore was smiling. “I come bearing good news, Regulus.”

Regulus sat down on the sofa across from him and watched as Dumbledore pulled something from pockets and tossed it at him.

He caught it, and gasped. It was the necklace, but it was pierced in the middle, cracked in half.

And it was only a necklace, he could feel no malevolence from it, or any magic at all. Dumbledore had done it. The horcrux was dead. It was gone!

Regulus closed his eyes, wondering if whatever magic had given him life would take it away from him now that his unfinished business was now finished but he remained stubbornly alive.

He opened his eyes and stared at the necklace and Dumbledore. “You’ve done it, you’ve really done it!”

Dumbledore nodded. “I have.”

Regulus felt his cheeks start to get wet again, but he couldn’t stop himself.

Taking the horcux had killed him, but now it seemed like his sacrifice meant something.

“Headmaster, the Dark Lord should be mortal now? He can be killed?”

Dumbledore looked at him, something melancholy and regretful behind his blue eyes. “Perhaps, yes.”

“No,” Regulus whispered. He wanted to shout, but his voice felt as ineffective as in his dreams. “He can’t have made more! It’s insane. It’s against everything magic stands for.”

“And does Voldemort seem to care about laws or sanity, Mister Black?” Dumbledore asked him.

Regulus shook his head. “He cares for nothing except himself, you know that as well as anyone.”

Dumbledore nodded.

“How many then?” Regulus asked, tossing the necklace on the floor, enjoying the clang it made when it touched the hardwood. “How many more of these are out there?”

“I have my suspicions, but I do not know for sure,” Dumbledore said after a moment. “Your guesses may be as good as mine.”

Regulus looked down at the locket, what he died for and wondered if it meant nothing at all now. “Three, seven, thirteen? The Dark Lord likes a bit of drama and ritual, doesn’t he? It’ll be a number with significance.”

“You always were a clever boy, my thoughts were along the same lines,” Dumbledore responded.

If he was cleverer, he wouldn’t have died, but he didn’t say that, though the sad look on Dumbledore’s face suggested he heard it all the same.

“The tri-wizard tournament,” Regulus mused aloud. “Three tasks, there was a death. Did he make one there in front of Harry? Or would that be too public of an arena for him to do that in?”

“I believe he may have intended to kill Harry and make one then, but Harry got away,” Dumbledore said.

Regulus exhaled. "I'm glad."

“As are we all. Have you given any more thought to my offer about coming back to Hogwarts?” Dumbledore asked.

Regulus hadn’t really, he had been more pre-occupied with freeing Harry, but he nodded anyway.

“Can I expect to see you in the new term?”

“I suppose,” Regulus said. “But only if you let me help you as much as I can from inside Hogwarts at least? In trying to think of where else the Dark Lord put his soul?”

“I would appreciate your help, of course I would. Regulus, you paid a great personal cost and deserve to see this finished almost as much as anyone,” Dumbledore said.

He nodded, and they both turned as the door opened.

It was Harry, dressed in a comically ill-fitting pair of pajamas that were both too big and too short for him, there was a hint of his stomach and his ankles were bare. His hair was even messier than it was before and his face still had lines on it from his pillow. Regulus had never seen a more beautiful mess.

“Hello Harry,” Dumbledore said to him first.

“Headmaster,” Harry said. “When did you get here?”

“I just stopped by to share some personal news with Regulus, it looks like he’ll be coming to Hogwarts next year,” Dumbledore said, shooting him a look. He was a Slytherin, he could read between the lines, he understood that to mean not to talk about the Horcrux with Harry.

“I’ve agreed to come,” Regulus said, nodding back at Dumbledore.

“That’s great,” Harry said, smiling at him.

“Yes,” Dumbledore agreed. “And when did you get here, hm?”

“Yesterday,” Harry said, straightening his posture. “Sirius wanted to see me.”

“And quite right too, but your Aunt’s home is the safest place for you right now.”

Harry scoffed. “Safer than with Sirius and Professor Lupin and Regulus?”

“Yes, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “The protections on the house outweigh that of living with wizards, as talented as the ones here are.”

“But the muggles are terrible,” Regulus said with venom, glaring at Dumbledore. “Not all of them! Just…those ones in particular,” he explained when Dumbledore started to glare back.

“I’m afraid it’s more complicated than you know Mr. Black,” Dumbledore replied. “But Harry can stay here with you, as long as he returns to his Aunt’s home next summer, at least for a few weeks.”

“I can?” Harry asked.

“Yes, Harry,” Dumbledore said kindly. “I’ll re-enforce the wards, and then I’ll be off, I have some business to attend to.”

“But you just got here!” Harry said.

“I’m sorry,” Dumbledore said, not meeting his eyes, and apparated away in the most silent and graceful form of the magic Regulus had ever seen.

“Maybe I’ll be able to do that gracefully in a hundred years,” Regulus joked, but Harry’s mind had clearly wandered elsewhere.

“What did he say to you? Did you talk about what Voldemort is doing?”

Regulus shook his head. Technically they had talked about what he had done.

“Right,” Harry said, looking more awake and angrier.

“I need some air,” Regulus said. “Can I borrow your firebolt?”

Harry blinked at him. “Ehm, sure. But can I come too?”

“My broom’s not here, and I don’t know if Sirius has one,” Regulus said.

Harry shrugged. “You can ride on the back of mine, I could use some air too. Or you can just borrow it if you promise to bring it back in one piece if you want to be alone.”

“Sharing’s fine,” Regulus said, and they walked up the stairs.

“Give me a minute,” Harry said, and Regulus waited outside his room as he changed into a hoodie and jeans and emerged holding his firebolt.

“Follow me,” Regulus said, and they walked up the three sets of stairs to the roof. It was a cloudy summer day in London and they wouldn’t have to fly up very high to escape the views of muggles.

“I like it up here,” Harry said, gazing out on the town below.

“Sirius and I used to spend time up here when we were little,” Regulus offered. “It’s pretty cloudy, but we should disillusion ourselves anyways. Do you know the charm?”

He shook his head.

“I can teach you,” Regulus said.

“It’s summer!” Harry shook his head.

“And?”

“And I’d rather not get in any more trouble with the ministry over underage magic, thanks.”

Regulus laughed. “This is a wizarding house, Harry.”

“I know that,” Harry said, and Merlin, did no one tell this kid anything?

“And…in practice, the statute on underage sorcery can only tell whether magic is being done, not who or what is doing the magic, so it only truly applies to underage muggleborns,” Regulus explained.

Harry frowned. “That’s unfair.”

“It is,” Regulus said. “But that’s the ministry.” And our world.

Harry looked thoughtful and then pulled out his wand. “What’s the incantation?”

“Intrinsecus,” Regulus said. “But you have to take your wand and twirl it around like you’re wrapping yourself in a heavy cloak.”

At that, Harry grinned. “You can teach me the spell later, we’re not going to need it. Accio invisibility cloak!”

A few moments later, a gorgeous old cloak floated up into Harry’s hands.

“Is this what I think it is?” Regulus asked.

Harry nodded. “It was my Dad’s!”

“That explains so much,” Regulus muttered and got on the broom behind Harry and underneath his cloak. The two of them barely fit, but it covered them.

“Fly directly up for a bit, it’s charmed to not by seen by Muggles for up to 100 feet above the house,” Regulus said, and Harry kicked off his broom and Regulus loosely wrapped his arms around Harry’s midsection to stay balanced. Harry was warm and smelled like his shampoo.

The firebolt was so fast and responsive and he could feel Harry smile as he zoomed off up into the sky. He did a quick loop and Regulus held on tighter.

“Let’s go northwest,” Regulus suggested. “I like the trees around Hampstead Heath.”

Harry nodded. “And what way is that exactly?”

“To your left,” Regulus said. “You’ll see it.”

Harry moved the broom expertly, and Regulus felt a little lighter despite knowing that more Horcuxes were out there.

“Are you alright if I take us a little higher?” Harry asked.

“I’d be cross if you didn’t,” Regulus told him. “I was named for a star, I love the skies.”

Harry didn’t reply, just aimed his broom toward the heavens, and Regulus let out a breath he didn’t even know he was holding.

Chapter Text

The Heath was gorgeous in the early summer sun, the greenery making the two of them feel like they were somewhere remote, not only a few miles away from central London. After they had made a few loops of the park, Reguus directed Harry back, landing on the roof of Grimmauld Place an hour or so later.

Harry flipped the invisibility coat off of them, and Regulus smiled. He felt lighter, and from the big grin on Harry’s face, his new friend did too. He wondered if that’s why Sirius followed James Potter around—Harry’s grin directed at him felt like he was hit by a thousand cheering charms.

To his surprise, Sirius was on the roof, arms crossed, waiting for their arrival. He looked more than a bit like their father—it was disconcerting.

“Good morning to you, brother? Did you miss us that much?” Regulus asked, once he and Harry dismounted the Firebolt.

Sirius let his arms fall to the side in a dramatic fashion. “I woke up and neither Moony nor I could find the pair of you.”

“We took the Firebolt out for a spin,” Harry explained.

The corners of Sirius’s mouth turned up slightly. “I can see that, Harry. If you weren’t standing over your broom, the state of that hair would give it away. But I couldn’t find you this morning.”

Regulus rolled his eyes. “Are you working up to asking us to tell you when we go somewhere? Or perhaps, do you have some sort of responsibility speech prepared that would make you the world’s biggest hypocrite? How many dozens of times have you flown out of here without letting anyone know?”

“Yes, I was going to try and make some do as I say not as I do joke,” Sirius agreed. “But you two know what’s out there, and I had to ask Kreacher if he knew where you went! Kreacher!”

“I’m sorry for your terrible hardship,” Regulus replied.

“That’s not the point!’ Sirius protested, waving his hands around wildly like he always did when he got emotional. “This isn’t about Kreacher! Remus suggested getting Dumbledore involved, given your past. The point I’m trying to make here is that it’s dangerous out there with Voldemort back. You both know that there’s fully grown wizards and witches who would like nothing better than to see you dead, and we can’t help protect you if we don’t know where you are.”

“I know that,” Harry said, his voice rising to match Sirius’s. “We took Dad’s invisibility cloak with us, we’re not stupid.”

“Of course not, Harry. No one thinks that. I was just worried. Just tell me next time? Or take me with you?” Sirius joked. “I could use to get out of this house for a bit.”

Harry nodded, and then shot a questioning look at Regulus. “Given your past? What did Sirius mean by that, exactly?”

Regulus’s new heart started beating too fast. His palms were sweaty but his blood felt cold. “Harry—I haven’t always been a good person. Or tried to be one. It’s a recent development.”

“Well, that was very vague,” Harry muttered.

“Does it matter?” Regulus asked, looking over to Sirius for help, but Sirius’s facial expression remained the same, giving him no help. To be fair, he didn't deserve it. 

“I guess not,” Harry answered after a moment. “Sirius and Dumbledore trust you. As long as you’re not some sort of Death Eater, I don’t care.”

Sirius looked over at Regulus, imploring him to be honest, but no. He didn’t want to have this conversation. It was much too soon. Harry would never smile at him like again after this. 

But he wasn't a coward. Not anymore. Regulus took a deep breath, and rolled up his sleeves, showing his bare forearms to both of them. “I’m not a Death Eater. This body has ever been marked, and my mind and heart despise the Dark Lord. But I didn’t always feel this way.”

“What do you mean?”

“I…was a pureblood. I thought it meant something, I grew up thinking it meant something, that I was special,” Regulus started.

Sirius spoke up. “Their rubbish never got into my head, but you soaked it up, didn’t you? The thinking that if you’re born from an all-magical line like ours, then you’re practically royalty. Most Ancient and Noble House of Bollocks. ”

“Yes,” Regulus said. “I didn’t reject it like Sirius did. I had sympathies toward some of what I read about You-Know-Who. He intrigued me. I didn’t realise until later how it was all lies, how he only cares about himself, not life, not magic, not family, just his own continued pitiful existence at the cost of everything else.”

Harry’s face grew hot, his green eyes flashing with betrayal. “What do you mean sympathies? He intrigued you how?”

Regulus took a deep breath, drawing the words out of him slowly, like poision from a would. “I joined the Death Eaters and was a follower of the Dark Lord. But I died trying to stop him.”

Harry took a step toward Sirius. “And you knew this? You sent him to pick me up? Let me spend time with him?”

“Yes, Harry,” Sirius said. “But I didn’t think he was a danger to you.”

“I’m not,” Regulus said.

“What makes you sure?” Harry said, his voice increasing in volume in pitch.

“Harry, in Azkaban I did a lot of thinking. Mostly about your parents and how I let them down, but I did a lot of thinking about my brother. I felt like I gave up on him too soon, I wondered if I should have fought harder to get him out of here and away from our horrible family and their bigoted ideas, and if I should have tried harder to get through to him. He left my letters unread, and so I stopped writing them, and put him out of my mind until it was too late. But magic gave me a second chance, it brought my brother back from the dead as a Muggle-born. Who am I to deny that kind of gift?”

Harry tugged at his cloud of ink-black hair. “And that’s why Remus was worried when we were gone. He was worried that Regulus was taking me off to Voldemort or something.”

Sirius nodded.

“I wouldn’t!’ Regulus protested. “I would rather die again, a thousand times over. I want you to live, I want the Dark Lord dead, I promise. What can I do to make you believe me?” he asked, willing to give him whatever he asked for, so unlike the Slytherin he once was.

Harry shrugged, his hands were curled tightly in fists. “You were really dead?”

Regulus nodded

“Did it hurt?”

“Drowning is rather terrible,” Regulus said in the understatement of his life. But then he looked at Harry, who had some raw and terrible emotion playing out across his face. “But drowning takes time, I expect that the killing curse is painless. It’s too quick to feel anything.”

“You expect?” Sirius asked. “You’ve not used it?”

Regulus shook his head. “I’ve not had the stomach for it. Bellatrix promised that I would one day, but knew I didn’t have it in me.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Sirius said.

"So you didn't kill anyone but you were still a Death Eater?" Harry asked, his tone harsh and unforgiving.

"Yes, though no part of me now believes in his cause," Regulus said truthfully.

"Good for you," Harry spat out, before bending over to pick up his Firebolt and Invisibility cloak. He shot the pair of them a dark look before storming off, walking down the stairs. He had clearly had more than enough of this conversation about death and rebirth and Death Eaters. Regulus didn’t blame him, he wished he could have walked away from this conversation too.

“That could have gone better,” Sirius said, reaching out to grab his shoulder.

Regulus shrugged it off.

“It could have gone worse too,” Sirius added.

Regulus quirked an eyebrow at him.

“He listened to you,” Sirius pointed out. “And better he finds out now than over Christmas holidays or whilst at Hogwarts. He’s been betrayed by enough people, and let down by even more.”

“What do you mean?” Regulus asked, his heartbeat starting to slow. 

“His Defense Against the Dark Arts professor this year was Barty Crouch junior, who spent the year polyjuiced as Alastor Moody to gain his trust and get Harry to Voldemort to be used in the ritual that brought him back.”

“Merlin,” Regulus muttered, rubbing at his temples. The fact that Harry didn’t immediately start cursing him when he said he was a Death Eater was truly incredible.

“My thoughts exactly,” Sirius replied. “And this was only last month, Regulus.”

Regulus didn’t know how Harry was still laughing and flying and able to function at all.

“He’s a survivor, Reg,” Sirius said, apparently he had said those words out loud. “He’s truly a special kid.”

“I can see that,” Regulus agreed, and then was struck by a thought. “Hey, Sirius? Did you mean what you said?”

“About regretting how things ended with us? Every word,” Sirius said, his (their) gray eyes warm when he looked at him.

“I do too,” Regulus confessed. “Do you remember when I ran into you outside Quality Quidditch Supplies and I pretended I didn’t know you? I felt bad about that for weeks.”

“I remember that,” Sirius said.

“I was with Rabastan and I told him I didn’t have a brother, and didn’t even look at you,” Regulus said quietly. “But I went to my death hoping what I did would help you and I never stopped having a brother. Not really.”

“I’m here,” Sirius said, before leaning in to pull him into a fierce hug.

Regulus let him hold him for a few moments before pulling away. Sirius was too thin, but his arms were warm and strong.

It felt like coming home.

Chapter Text

Regulus didn’t see Harry again until that evening. Sirius had knocked on his door and told him they were all eating downstairs if he would like to join them, and Regulus rushed down the staircase to the dining room.

Remus, Sirius and Harry were eating fish and chips from a Muggle Takeaway on his family's 500-year-old silver plates, and drinking fizzy soda from golden goblets. Regulus was amused against his will, and took a seat next to his brother, who filled up his plate.

The chips were so warm and salty and Regulus didn't think he had ever had anything like to before. He snuck a look over at Harry, who was deliberately not looking at him, his bright green eyes narrowed and looking down at the table. It hadn't been very long but he couldn't stand being ignored by Harry, and he had an idea--a sneaky, underhanded Slytherin idea--but an idea none-the-less to get Harry to maybe forgive his past.

Regulus took a deep breath,and then looked over at Sirius. "Can I ask you a question, brother?"

Sirius's eyes narrowed. He knew him. "You already did, but go on then, Reg. Ask away."

"You knew James Potter better than anyone, how long could he hold a grudge for? I'm curious." Regulus asked.

Harry's head whipped up at the mention of his father, and he looked to Sirius, desperate to hear the answer.

Sirius looked over to Harry and then him. "James got angry for about five minutes, like a summer storm where all the rain falls out of the sky, soaking everything in its path but then passes and the sun's out again. He was quick to anger, but forgave very quickly."

Harry soaked up the information, looking spell-bound for even this little drop of information.

"But Lily on the other hand," Sirius kept talking. "Now Lily was a grudge-holder. I was more wary of upsetting her than James, once we became friends in our seventh year. Now she was the one you had to look out for."

Remus nodded. "Lily well, she got in a...dispute with a friend in fifth year. The situation was a bit complicated, but her friend called her a mudblood when she spoke up for him in public. I don't know if she ever forgave him, she probably did, but they never became friends again to the best of my knowledge."

"I don't know why she was ever friends with bloody Snape in the first place," Sirius muttered, staring at a chip like it had personally offended him, before shoving it in his mouth like an absolute savage.

Regulus knew for a fact that he was raised with better table manners, but knew much better than to bring that up.

Harry dropped the goblet he was holding, it made a horrible clanging noise against the table, spilling soda everywhere. "Snape was friends with my Mum?"

"Yes, Harry," Remus replied, his face looking a little guilty as he vanished the mess with an easy wave of his wand. 

"What? How?" Harry sputtered, a whole range of emotions playing out on his face.

"They grew up together in some tiny town up in the north somewhere, I can't remember the name, but I went there once," Sirius elaborated, dismissive of anyplace that wasn't the capital, like a true Londoner.

"I went with James and Lily to help packup her parents things in their house after the two of them passed. Automobile accident, I think. Her sister and her awful fiancee were there too, so I think Lily had us there more for backup than anything. We ended up doing all the cleaning and packing the muggle way and using our bare hands because her sister didn't let us use magic in the house, even though it would have made things so much easier," Sirius recalled.

Harry muttered something under his breath, but Sirius kept talking, lost in his memory.

"I don't know what exactly Petunia said to her, but Lily stormed out of the house at one point, and James and I couldn't find her, so I changed into Padfoot and tracked her that way. I found her at a park not far from her house.  Lily was on the swings, I remember how bright her hair was in the summer sun, and your mum told me that she found out she was a witch on this very set of swings. She said that it was Snape who told her, he lived around there too and before that, she just thought she was special, she had no idea that here was a whole society of people just like her," Sirius finished, looking melancholy.

"And Snape called her a mudblood even though they were friends as kids?" Harry looked murderous.

"I'm quite sure he regretted it," Remus remarked, the guilt not disappearing from his face.

"He did," Regulus remembered. "I never had much time for him, but I do recall him being especially mopey around the dungeons after this all happened." What Regulus didn't mention was that he had little time for jumped-up half-bloods at all back then, not even talented ones. But he was trying to change.

Regulus was struck by another thought. "How do you even know him, Harry?" 

"He's the potions professor at Hogwarts," Harry answered.

"How odd, I guess old Sluggy's gone then," Regulus remarked. "Isn't it a little strange that he works at Hogwarts now?" 

"Dumbledore trusts him, which is good enough for me," Remus said, in a tone of voice that would have no arguments. But Regulus supposed that it would have been hypocritical to start an argument about Dumbledore having trust in Death Eaters, considering his own situation.

Harry looked like his entire worldview had been shaken again, but they were thankfully spared more conversation about Snape when a beautiful, crimson-red Phoenix apparated onto the middle of their dinner table, dropping a sealed letter in front of Sirius.

"Hello Fawkes," Harry said, and the magnificent creature hopped onto his lap, and nuzzled up to him like a little dog. Harry stroked its feathers, and the bird made low hoot of happiness.

Harry was very gentle toward the bird and it seemed the bird was just as kind and gentle back.

Sirius glared at the paper while Lupin read over his shoulder. Regulus was half-convinced that the parchment would set alight, Sirius set a lot of things on fire accidentally in his youth, he would make that same face as a boy and things would just...start burning.

"What did Dumbledore say?" Harry asked first, not stopping his petting of the Headmaster's phoenix.

"Due to the 'circumstances of you both living here', he's found alternative arrangements for the Order of the Phoenix headquarters," Sirius muttered.

"Where?" Harry asked.

"He didn't say in the letter," Remus answered.

"The whole point of being back in this hell-hole was to use it in the fight against Voldemort," Sirius shouted, and then the edges of the letter did start smoking. Sirius blew the flames out, not looking embarrassed in the least.

"I'm sorry," Harry said, and Regulus sighed.

"It's probably more my fault than yours....I know things, things that would be dangerous if the Dark Lord found out I knew them or that I'm back to the land of the living at all. And I'm not saying that there are spies in the Order now, but there were before, and it might be dangerous for me to meet all the members, just in case," Regulus said quietly.

Sirius's face got more murderous, and Remus reached out to clasp his hand, giving him comfort, and the Phoenix trilled a low goodbye to Harry, before apparating quietly away back to its owner.

"Oh, in the end of the letter, Dumbledore says that he came around and strengthened the wards in the middle of the night, that this house is about as safe as it can be," Sirius said eventually. "But he did say you can go to the Burrow if you like Harry, the floo here should still work, we can arrange a time for the Weasleys to meet you."

"Alright. When do you want me to leave?" Harry asked, looking much more resigned than upset and Regulus's heart broke a little more for whatever Harry had gone through to make him feel like he was a burden.

"Harry, no," Sirius said firmly. "I'm so sorry, I'm rubbish at this, that's not what I meant at all. I don't want you gone, I promise. I'm just telling you what the letter said. That and I don't want you to feel like you're trapped here."

Harry shrugged, and spoke a second later, his voice very controlled. "Anywhere's better than the Dursleys. What do you want to do?"

Sirius tugged at his hair, looking pained. "Of course I want you here, with me. If you're okay staying in this house with the three of us, I'd like nothing more than that."

Harry nodded. "I'll stay."

Sirius smiled at him, really smiled, the smile that used to dazzle everyone in its wake, and the temperature in the room felt warmer.

"We'll be happy to have you here with us Harry," Remus added.

"I've had really terrible luck in a myriad of ways, but the fact that I can sit and have these absolutely grease-soaked fish and chips with the people I love in this world is a blessing," Sirius said, before reaching out to have another chip.

Harry smiled, and Regulus filled his cup back up with soda. Harry looked at him warily, but let him do it.

"Since I'm stuck here, perhaps I could be of use another way?" Sirius asked. 

Harry blinked at him. "What?"

"Maybe Moony and I can give you some defense or transfigs lessons over the summer. It could be fun? Give you an advantage before your OWL year?" Sirius suggested.

"I'd like that," Harry said. "When can I start?"

"Can I join too?" Regulus asked, probably as transparent as a ghost in his desire to spend more time with Harry.

"Sure, why not?" Sirius asked. "We can start tomorrow."

Chapter Text

He was in the cave, he was back, and Harry was there there too, but he was a little older, his cheekbones were sharper, his shoulders broader. He was even more beautiful.

"Harry! You're not supposed to be here with me," Regulus whispered, begging the creatures not to hear him.

"I know," Harry said. "But I can't leave you here by yourself for this."

"That's very brave of you," Regulus muttered, scanning the lake for himself. He knew he was in there somewhere.

"What are you looking for?" Harry asked, drawing his wand, jaw clenched.

"Something that used to be mine. I was born with it you see, and watched it change and grow during 18 circles around the sun," Regulus said, reaching out and touching the water, waking up the inferi that lurked blow.

The youngest and most alive bodies would come up to the surface first, it was just how these monsters worked, and it was him who died here last. 

He started shaking as an unearthly pale boy started to climb to the surface, with wet black hair and lifeless gray eyes. His head emerged first, but it wasn't his, not anymore.

Regulus had perfected the art of keeping his face a mask from a very young age but this wasn't a mask. Masks need people to wear them, this was something else, it was death and it haunted him. His face was totally blank. Lifeless. 

"That's not you," Harry said, reaching to pull Regulus away from the creature inhabiting its old body.

"Yes it is!" Regulus protested. "You just don't know me, but I have the Black hair and the eyes and inbred webbing between my toes that you can't see, Sirius has it too. It's me."

"It'll kill you if you get much closer, and it's not you, Reg," Harry protested. "Aren't you more than your body? The soul, isn't that what truly matters, isn't that what you found out with Voldemort?"

Regulus said nothing and just kept stared at himself in horror. Mold was growing on the sides of his face and he was missing chunks of hair, perhaps the other creatures took it from him.

"Fire," Harry suggested. "Burn it, it can't hurt you then, you can't let it touch you or drag you down with it, you know that Regulus! It's just an incendio, the spell is easy enough."

"I can't do it, I can't," Regulus said, because he couldn't , he couldn't light himself on fire, but he couldn't stand for Harry to get hurt either, so he grabbed onto his arm and apparated the pair of them back to Grimmauld Place.

"You'll be able to do it one day," Harry said, confident in him.

"You don't know that," Regulus said. "I'm frightened."

"I know," Harry said, a wry smile on his face. "Me too, sometimes."

"You could distract me, you know?" he suggested.

"You just came-face-to-face with your dead body and you want to snog?" Harry asked, incredulous.

"I always want you to touch me," Regulus confessed and Harry actually blushed before leaning in and kissing him fiercely on the mouth.

Regulus kissed back with equal intensity, fisting his hands in Harry's messy hair. Harry moaned and the noise went straight to his cock.

And then Regulus woke up with a jolt, alone, in his room in Grimmauld Place. Of course, he hadn't gone back to the cave and he doubted Harry would ever want to touch him, let alone be that receptive to it.

He felt strange, and Regulus sat up and looked down. Huh. He was hard. It was the first time he had got in such a state in this new body, and it felt different. Odd. Foreign. Like he was a voyeur, somehow.

It wasn't his, this body wasn't to begin with, but the feelings, the desire, the want, all of it were his and his alone. He recognised the lust of course, he had paramours, but there was something fonder and more tender that he hadn't felt before.

Regulus looked at the ceiling and not at the bulge in his nightclothes. At least...Aaron's dick worked?

"Please go away," Regulus whispered to his erection, but it didn't. "You're not in charge," he told it after, but it didn't wilt, not yet.

He was ready to maybe take care of it the...other way, when he heard a voice shouting for help. Harry's voice, sounding very young and very frightened.

"No, not Cedric! Please," Harry shouted. He could hear him through the walls and they weren't thin, it must be some nightmare.

Regulus scrambled out of bed, his erection going soft, and he ran next door.

He hesitated outside of Harry's bedroom for a minute, wondering if his presence would just upset him even more, but he didn't think he could leave him trapped in that nightmare either. He knew what that was like, the Dark Lord was terrifying, even in dreams.

But before he could muster up his courage and come save Harry from his night terror, Sirius's door creaked open and his brother padded own the hall, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

"Evening brother, Harry's having a nightmare," Regulus explained.

"Yes, we heard," Sirius replied, his voice very low. His brother looked as if he wanted to say something to him, but the moment was broken when Harry started screaming again for Wormtail to not kill Cedric, that he wasn't a spare, and Sirius threw the door open and ran inside to comfort his godson.

Regulus didn't join them, but cast a little eavesdropping charm on the room and didn't move from his position outside the door.

"Shh, it's alright, you're only dreaming Harry, you're safe there, I have you," Sirius whispered, and Regulus heard the blankets rustle.

"Sirius? Run away, I can't let him get you too," Harry said, his voice choked and broken from screaming himself hoarse from his nightmare.

"I'll do my utmost best not to let him get me then," Sirius said gently, so unlike the father both of them had. Orion was many things but never gentle. "You were dreaming, Harry. You're safe, or at least as much as you can be here at Grimmauld Place. You're with me now."

"I am," Harry replied, his voice thick with emotion. "But Cedric is dead. I saw it."

"I know," Sirius said. "It's not your fault. Voldemort's been killing innocents long before you, or me, for that matter, were born."

Harry said nothing for a moment, and Regulus almost felt guilty for listening in. "I'm sorry for waking you up, Sirius. I'm fine."

"It's understandable that you have nightmares, kid," Sirius replied. "And I don't sleep well anyway, I promise it's not a bother...can I tell you something?"

"Of course," Harry replied.

"I've not gone more than a week without a nightmare since I've been out of Azkaban," Sirius admitted. "Inside there, it was mostly nightmares of my soul being stolen by the dementors whilst I slept or arriving to seeing the wreck of your house after Voldemort had killed your parents and knowing it was my fault and James telling me so."

"It isn't your fault," Harry protested, his voice steady and almost back to normal.

Sirius had distracted him, his brilliant big brother had done it.

"It's not your fault either Harry, " Sirius replied. "You can't take what happened in the graveyard and put it all on yourself, you can't carry that kind of weight."

"Okay," Harry said quietly.

"Right, that's your nightmares solved then," Sirius joked, and he heard Harry laugh a little, though it sounded broken. "And Professor McGonagall once wrote on an evaluation of me that I wasn't a very helpful person to others!"

"Thank you," Harry replied. "For talking to me, I mean."

"What are godfathers for, eh?" Sirius said, and he heard nothing but imagined that his brother was giving Harry a hug. "Do you want to go downstairs and have some tea? Or fire whiskey? As I imagine neither of us is getting any more sleep tonight."

"Okay, that sounds good," Harry agreed, and Regulus hurried back to his room, not wanting to be caught eavesdropping, though he doubted that Sirius would be especially surprised.

Regulus hopped in his bed, and sent a silent prayer to whatever gods would listen for his dreams to be free of inferi, caves, and Harry's brilliant green eyes. 

Chapter Text

Regulus woke up the next morning, still feeling exhausted from his interrupted sleep. His legs were sore, he wondered if this body was still growing.

He brushed his hair and banished the dark circles from his eyes, trying to look presentable, but he still didn't recognise the face that looked back in the mirror.

"My mother always said that cosmetic charms couldn't take the place of a good night's sleep," the mirror said to him, frowning.

"You're a mirror, you haven't got a mother," Regulus snapped. He had forgotten how rude the Grimmauld Place mirrors were, he hadn't looked at himself much lately.

"That's what you think," the mirror snapped back, and Regulus sighed, and left his room, slamming the door shut behind him.

He turned his head to the right, and saw a big black dog sleeping outside of Harry's room.

He bent down and scratched his brother behind the ears.

Sirius-the-dog yawned, and rolled over, completely undignified but entirely charming. 

"You're cuter like this," Regulus said, and patted him on the belly. "And much less mouthy. Were you out here the rest of the night then?"

Sirius barked, and in one enviable fluid movement, turned back into himself. "I wanted to be close, just in case Harry needed me. And this house probably gives him more nightmares than he has already."

Regulus narrowed his eyes. "I think you're confusing your godson with yourself."

Sirius sighed. "You're a bit tetchy this morning hmm?"

"Just tired," Regulus explained. 

Sirius looked back toward his room, and nodded. "I don't think anyone in this house got a full night's rest. Professor Lupin was also burning the midnight oil, he was re-working his Year Five lesson plans so they would suit you and Harry."

Regulus took the change of subject gracefully. "Professor Lupin?"

"Remus was Defense Professor at Hogwarts for a year," Sirius explained. "The year before last, actually."

Regulus said nothing about werewolves teaching children, he just looked up at the ceiling. It could use a fresh coat of paint. He kept his face blank, he had many years of practise.

"Oh, shut it Reggie," Sirius said. "Harry's said that Remus was the best professor he ever had, and the kid's not a liar."

Remus stepped out of his room a moment later, and looked between the two of them, apparently having heard most of the conversation.

"Yes, thank you Sirius, but considering that Harry's other professors in the subject were a fraud,a young man possessed by the shade of Voldemort, and Barty Crouch Jr polyjuiced as Alastor Moody, I'm not sure how much that compliment is actually worth," Remus said.

"You're brilliant, take the compliment," Sirius replied, giving Remus a look that implied far too much familiarity with him.

Regulus rolled his eyes at their flirting, and Sirius elbowed him in the ribs.

"What? I didn't say anything," Regulus muttered.

"And you never do," Sirius replied, clearly having woke up on the wrong side of the bed or floor, as it were.

But his brother was right. He never did say anything in defense of Sirius when mother railed against him. He said nothing to Bella when she wrote to him about how glorious the Dark Lord was. He said nothing when he overheard the Dark Lord planning to attack the village of Hogsmeade during a weekend when it would be filled with Hogwarts students, even though it would have been so easy to slip an anonymous note to Dumbledore or Professor McGonagall. He just said nothing.

And Regulus said nothing now, instead he headed downstairs where Kreacher would surely be preparing breakfast. His elf had laid out a feast for them, kept warm by spells.

Regulus loaded up his plate, and ate quietly, turning his head to look as Harry finally made his way downstairs.

Harry's hair was once again a spectacular disaster, and he had dark circles under his eyes. He sat down next to Sirius, and yawned as he grabbed a plate, looking absolutely miserable.

"How are you feeling this morning?" Regulus asked, his tone of voice as gentle as he could make it. Harry was so young, younger than him, but something in his eyes looked so old and tired.

Harry turned to look at him for the first time that morning. "Brilliant," he replied, his tone as dry as the desert. "Couldn't be any better. Thanks for asking."

Sarcasm was better than being ignored, at least. He could work with that.

Regulus held out out the pumpkin juice, offering to fill up Harry's cup. Harry hesitated for a moment, but let him fill it, their hands touching for the briefest of moments.

"What's on the schedule for today then, Professor Lupin?" Regulus asked, opting to fill the silence again.

"On my syllabus, we started with cursed objects for my fifth year lessons," Remus said. "Finding them, identifying them, breaking the curses. But then I think you may know almost as much as me on the subject Regulus, so how about we work on nonverbal casting instead?"

Regulus nodded, that was a smart thing to brush up on.

"Is that on the OWLs?" Harry asked.

"I don't remember it being on mine, but I won a few duels against Death Eaters or escaped with my life by casting silently," Sirius explained.

"Your opponent can't create the right type of shield or anticipate your next move if they can't hear it," Remus followed on.

"That makes sense," Harry replied. "Shall we go up to the roof?"

Regulus suggested a big spare bedroom on the third floor as a safe place to do the lesson instead, and they headed up there after breakfast.

The room was bare, save a bed and a wardrobe. There were no cursed objects or family heirlooms to distract them and the ceiling was high.

But he heard a noise, the wardrobe was rattling. Remus, Harry and Sirius all drew their wands very quickly, but Regulus spoke up first. 

"It's probably just a boggart," Regulus said, stepping in front of all three of them. It was after all, his house. The only things that could hurt him here were other wizards, and his parents were dead.

So, he flung the door of the wardrobe open, and drew his wand, ready to say Riddikulus and take care of the problem.

But he froze, terrified, as he stared back at himself, soaking wet and lifeless and shuffling toward him. He was wearing the same school robes he died in and his eyes were dull. He had forgotten how young he looked, especially compared to Sirius who had aged in the years they spent apart. He could smell the rot, it was just like the cave. He felt like he was going to be sick.

Regulus clutched at his new phoenix wand, ready to cast, finally ready to banish the creature, but he was too slow.

Harry had jumped in front of him and the inferi of himself was gone, changed, replaced by a dementor.

The too hot-room started to feel cool, and Harry shouted 'Expecto Patronum' and a magnificent stag galloped out of his wand. A corporal patronus!

"That's brilliant Harry," Remus said kindly. "But you know it's not a real dementor. I trust you know what to do?"

"I do," Harry said, and said riddikulus, giving the dementor a furry pink bathrobe and bunny slippers, while Remus got involved as well and banished it all together.

"That is very impressive magic," Regulus said dully, watching the ghostly stag make another round of the room. He looked down at his hands, and they were shaking, and the patronus came over and nudged at them. It didn't connect, it wasn't solid, but it gave him comfort anyway.

"It seems like Prongs likes you," Harry said, taking a step closer to him. "Are you alright, Regulus?"

Regulus shrugged, saying nothing.

"That was you, wasn't it? That boy, the creature?" Harry asked, his voice kind.

He didn't reply, but his brother did in his place.

"Yes, Harry, it was," Sirius said.

Regulus nodded. "I'm sorry to disturb you. I shouldn't have frozen up like that. I know better."

"It's not easy, facing our fears," Remus said, very kind, and Regulus started to feel a little lighter, though he wanted to ask what it said about him, that his boggart was himself.

"You couldn't tell, what with my body being a host for an inferi now, but I think I used to be handsome," Regulus grumbled, looking over at his brother, who was still easy on the eyes even after a decade in captivity.

"You're not exactly ugly now," Harry replied, and Regulus's neck whipped back around to him so fast he thought he had hurt himself.

Sirius snorted, ever so mature. "You're going to want to be careful with that, Regulus."

"With what?" Harry asked.

Sirius just shook his head, the absolute wretch.

"Can we start the lesson now?" Regulus said, now thoroughly distracted from his dead body, at least for the moment.

"Sure," Remus said. "Now the thing to remember is that magic isn't about words or wand movements, the most important thing is intentions. Mute wizards can cast spells as well as wizards missing limbs. Knowing you can cast a spell is the most important thing."

"So we didn't have to spend days in charms lessons learning how to say Wingardium Leviosa and swish and flick?" Harry asked.

"You need a place to start," Remus replied. "But these are just building blocks."

Sirius nodded, and waved his wand at the wardrobe where the boggart once was. The wardrobe lifted a few feet off the ground, but Sirius didn't open his mouth and his casting was sloppy.

"You want me to do that silently?" Harry asked.

"No," Remus said. "I want you and Regulus to try dis-arming each other silently. So one of you will do a silent Protego and the other will do Expelliarmus without speaking."

Regulus nodded. "You can try and disarm me first, Harry."

Harry nodded, and screwed up his face as he attempted a silent Expelliarmus. 

Regulus cast a weak Protego without speaking, but his wand went nowhere.

"Try again, Harry. Remember, Intention!" Remus instructed.

The second and third attempts did nothing, but on the fourth, Regulus's wand went sailing out of his hands and into the palm of Harry's.

Harry smiled and his hands closed around the wand and Regulus felt his stomach do a back-flip.

"What kind of wand is this?" Harry asked, casting sparks with Regulus's wand. That was truly bad etiquette with wands, generally only close friends, family members or lovers used each others wands, but Regulus didn't care about the etiquette breach. Harry could make all the sparks he liked.

"It's new, this one is beech and phoenix feather," Regulus replied.

"My wand has a phoenix feather core too," Harry said. "But then again, so does Voldemort's."

"It makes sense," Regulus said quietly.

"What do you mean?" Sirius asked, folding his arms.

"Well, Phoenixes come back from the dead, and so have I. Voldemort has tried to stop himself from ever dying, and you're the only one to survive the killing curse. Rebirth. All I'm saying is that it makes sense."

Harry looked thoughtful, and tossed his wand back to him.

They went back to the lesson, and Regulus tried to spend no more time thinking of what it meant that they shared the same wand core. He had no dreams at all that night.

Chapter Text

The days passed quickly, in bursts of lessons—Lupin was an unfairly competent teacher. In the evenings, they went flying and in the early morning, an occasional walk with Harry, Remus and Sirius-as-a-dog, though Remus always looked guilty afterwards. Sirius was supposed to stay inside.

But Regulus couldn’t stand for Sirius to see his house as another prison, so they organised the odd jailbreak and walked to Highbury Fields and down the canals to Dalston.

Soon enough, it was the 31st of July, and Harry’s fifteenth birthday. Regulus used his family money via Sirius to owl-order Harry a set of leather seeker’s glovers, and had his initials embossed on the outside.

It wasn’t much, Regulus and Sirius grew up with much more extravagant gifts, but Regulus had to get Harry something that he liked.

That evening, he sat down for a special birthday dinner with Harry and Sirius, and Lupin showed up a few moments later with a giant cake and a bag full of presents.

Remus floated the cake down to the table, and arranged the presents in a pile in front of Harry.

“The cake is from Molly Weasley, and the presents are from Ron, Hermione and the three of us,” Remus explained. “They wanted to come here and celebrate with you, but Dumbledore thought it best to keep your exact location a bit secret at the moment.”

Regulus thought him coming back to life probably had something to do with the secrecy as well, but wisely said nothing on that topic. “Open my present first!” he said instead.

“Ehm, alright,” Harry said, looking a little awkward to be the focus of attention. “Which one is yours?”

Regulus pointed to the box with the Quality Quidditch supplies bag wrapping paper and Harry opened it slowly, pulling out the soft leather gloves.

“They’re great,” Harry said, looking at him warmly. “I love them. Thank you!”

“I’m glad you like them,” Regulus said, smiling back. "I'll even think about rooting against Slytherin if you wear them at a match."

Harry frowned. "Do you think you'll be in Slytherin again?"

Regulus shrugged, he hadn't really thought too much about it.

“Right, more presents!” Sirius said loudly, breaking the moment.

Harry opened a set of presents from Remus and Sirius—a lovely set of defense books and more accessories for his Firebolt—and the gifts from his friends, but Regulus was hoping that his was his favourite.

He truly was ridiculous, he had never felt so jealous for anyone’s attention in his entire life.

He was a Black, before he just thought he deserved it, the feeling of wanting to earn it was new and so unsettling.

“I hope you have a fantastic year,” Remus said to Harry, cutting into the chatter inside Regulus’s own mind. “15 was a great year for me, actually. 16 was rough, but 15 was special.”

“It was the year we became animagi,” Sirius said with a grin. “And OWLs, but those were easier!”

“How was it for you, Regulus?” Harry asked.

“Less eventful, I suppose. I didn’t become an animagi and I only did very well but not record breaking on my exams,” Regulus said. “It was fine.”

He didn’t mention Sirius was living full-time with the Potters by the time Regulus was 15. Grimmauld Place was so much quieter without him.

“I’ll aim for fine, then,” Harry said. “After the year I had, I can deal with fine. That'll be a massive improvement.”

“And if it’s better, then you’ve exceed expectations,” Regulus joked, but no one laughed.

“Can we eat cake now?” Sirius asked, the total child, and led them all in a rousing version of Happy Birthday, setting off sparklers around the formal dining room, nearly making Kreacher cry.

But the cake was rich and delicious and Harry’s smile filled up the room. It was the best night Regulus had in his new body, and he felt full of optimism and wonder and sugar. But of course it couldn’t last. The next evening, reality would come crashing back into Grimmauld Place with a bang.

Late the next night, Regulus had drifted into a blissfully dreamless sleep, when he felt a small hand shaking him awake.

“Kreacher?”

“Get up, Master,” Kreacher said. “There’s a half-blood Black downstairs along with Dumbledore and the Potter boy, and Master Sirius. They just arrived, looking all sour faced and important, waltzing around this house as if they were even invited!”

“Half-blood? Who? What do they want?” Regulus grumbled.

“Kreacher doesn’t know, but bets that masters will figure it out,” he responded, lighting up the room and all but throwing a robe at Regulus, rushing him.

“Fine, fine, I’m awake,” Regulus said, dressing himself, grabbing his wand and padding lightly down the stairs.

He peered into the parlour, where a grim-faced Sirius was sitting next to Harry on the sofa. Across from them, Dumbledore and a pink-haired young witch with an oddly familiar face were sitting, their faces very sombre.

Regulus made no noise, but Dumbledore must have felt his presence there anyway.

“This doesn’t concern you, but you might as well come on in Regulus instead of eavesdropping outside,” Dumbledore said.

Caught out, Regulus walked into the room and sat down on the other side of Harry. “What business do you have here at this late hour? And who are you bringing into my family home?”

“I’m Tonks,” the witch said, holding out her hand, and oh. No wonder her face was so familiar. She had the same nose as he used to.

“Andromeda’s daughter?” he asked.

She nodded, and he said nothing.

“This is the part where you’re supposed to give me your name,” Tonks said after a moment.

“Regulus,” he said quietly, and shook her hand.

“Is that a family name?” Tonks asked, her eyes narrowing, and Regulus refused to answer, not wanting to explain his death and rebirth to a cousin who he had never met.

Harry ignored them both and stared straight at Dumbledore. “What happened? Was it Voldemort?”

Dumbledore shook his head. “I’m terribly sorry Harry.”

Harry’s hands clenched in fists. “Did someone die? Just tell me. What did Voldemort do?”

Dumbledore looked away from Harry’s face and to a point on the carpet. “I don’t believe it was actually Voldemort, though the outcome of tonight’s events will undoubtedly benefit him.”

“Headmaster, just tell us before it’s Harry’s next birthday,” Sirius said, tense as Regulus had ever seen him.

“Many happy returns, Harry,” the Headmaster said before carrying on to his story. “I’m sorry that I can’t come bringing better news. Your cousin, Aunt and Uncle were attacked by dementors a short time ago.”

“They were kissed?” Harry asked, his face going white.

“I’ve been sending witches and wizards I trust to patrol Little Whinging, to keep up appearances so that the ministry and other interested parties would think you’re still living there with your family…and Tonks found them outside the lawn on Privet Drive, and drove the dementors away but it was too late to save them. They were kissed,” Dumbledore said, suddenly looking very old to Regulus.

“I’m so sorry Harry, I got tied up doing something at the Auror office and couldn’t make it in time. Mundungus Fletcher was supposed to cover for me, but he didn't,” Tonks said, her hair going from pink to mousy brown in shame.

Regulus’s jaw dropped, metamorphaghi were extremely rare and magically talented, and his estranged cousin had given birth to one?

Harry paid her and her talents little mind, and stood up. “What were dementors doing in Little Whinging anyway?”

“I expect looking for you,” Regulus replied in Dumbledore’s stead.

Dumbledore nodded, and Harry started to pace in front of the sofa.

“Headmaster, does that seem strange to you? I would think that Voldemort would want to kill me himself,” Harry said after a moment.

“Tom and you share a personal connection, yes, I expect he would want to be more involved than in a random attack like this,” Dumbledore replied. “No, I believe the dementors were ordered by someone at the Ministry. Your claim that Voldemort is back has not gone over well with Fudge’s administration.”

“So Cornelius Fudge attempted to kill my godson?” Sirius asked, quietly furious.

“Probably not the minister himself, I don't believe Cornelius Fudge has murderous intent, but someone close to him does,” Dumbledore replied.

“And this is all because I’m telling the truth? That Voldemort is back? That he killed Cedric and tried to kill me? They’d rather stick their heads in the sand and send dementors out instead of listening to the truth?!” Harry shouted.

“I’m afraid so, and to their detriment,” Dumbledore said.

Harry sat back down and cradled his head in his hands.

“Where will they go? The Dursleys?” Harry asked.

“ I’ve taken them to the nearest A&E and said I found them unresponsive with exposure to carbon monoxide in their house,” Tonks explained. "So they will most-likely end up in a long-term care ward in a muggle hospital."

Harry nodded.

“I think the ministry will try to keep this quiet, a dementor attack on Muggles won’t make them look good, but in the off-chance that someone in the ministry investigates your living arrangements now that your family is gone, Molly Weasley has volunteered to take you in during school holidays until you’re 17.”

“But I thought I was living here? I have a room and everything?” Harry asked, looking at Sirius.

“I want you here with me Harry, but I’m an escaped convict, I can’t exactly show up for a ministry custody hearing,” Sirius said bitterly.

“Like I said, I don’t think it’ll happen Harry, and you can stay here for now, but we need a backup plan in case someone like say, Lucius Malfoy decides to volunteer to take you under his wing now that your guardians aren’t around,” Dumbledore explained.

“I’d rather die than live with him,” Harry said, a bit dramatically, but Regulus could understand the sentiment. Lucius truly was a slimy bastard.

“I work at the ministry, and I think Dumbledore’s right, they won’t want this getting out,” Tonks replied.

“Bury more bad news, that’ll help,” Harry replied, his voice a little quieter but still so angry.

“You’re quite right, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “And I hope I won’t need to remind you to be careful if you leave this house and always have your wand on you? There’s safety in numbers, so please be with another competent adult wizard if possible? I know you’re brave, but be smart too, we are once again living in dangerous times.”

Harry nodded, and Dumbledore got up and put his hand on his shoulder.

“I am sorry about your family,” Dumbledore said.

“They didn’t deserve what happened to them,” Harry replied. “But they were never my family.”

Sirius made a little noise of agreement, and Dumbledore looked toward Tonks and the door.

“We have some business to look after tonight Harry, but I’ll do my best to check in on you soon,” Dumbledore said, before apparating away with Tonks.

Sirius looked over to Regulus, as if for help with Harry, who had just curled his knees into his chest and was staring at the wallpaper like it had something interesting to say.

“It’s not your fault, you know that,” Sirius said quietly.

“Isn’t it?” Harry replied. “They were after me, and I could have stopped them.”

“Did you order the Dementors to do it?” Regulus asked.

“It doesn’t matter! I could have stopped them,” Harry said again.

“Yes, you could have,” Regulus said. “I’ve seen your patronus, that stag is full of power and life and magic and could surely repel a dementor. But I’m glad you were here, safe with us, instead of fighting for your very soul in Surrey, Harry. You deserve a rest from the fighting and to be around people that…care about you.”

“Regulus is right,” Sirius said. “And that’s maybe the first time I’ve ever said those three words together in a row Harry, but I’m glad you were here too. Although I suppose a nice battle for your soul would break up the monotony of Grimmauld Place a bit.”

“Sirius!” Regulus exclaimed, and reached across Harry to shove him.

The corners of Harry’s lips turned up at their antics, but the guilt hanging over him was thick in the air.

Regulus gathered up his courage, and reached for one of Harry’s hands, entwining their fingers together.

Harry didn’t push him away, he just sat there quietly, his green eyes glassy, and his jaw clenched.

Sirius looked over at them, and in lieu of saying anything, transformed, lying down in Harry’s lap. Harry buried his other hand in Sirius’s fur.

“They hated magic, you know?” Harry said eventually. “And me, because I am.”

Regulus squeezed Harry’s hand. "Your magic is a gift, and so beautiful."

Harry snorted. "They didn't think that...But dementors," he trailed off.

“I know,” Regulus said.

“Am I a monster for not crying?” Harry asked, after another few minutes had passed.

“I’ve seen monsters and you have too Harry. There’s nothing monstrous about you,” Regulus said.

Harry just nodded, and his brother barked out his agreement.

Regulus glanced another look at Harry’s face, so pained, and wished he could do anything to lessen the load resting on Harry’s shoulders.

Chapter Text

Regulus watched Sirius change from dog to man some time later, and leave the room, leaving him and Harry on the couch together in a silent vigil.

Sirius came back with a bottle of their father’s vintage firewhiskey and three crystal glasses.

“Where did you find that?” Regulus asked. There were cheaper bottles all around the house of course, but he knew that particular vintage set his Father back at least a thousand galleons.

“Behind father’s desk,” Sirius said. “I needed to give a little blood to open the liquor cabinet, the paranoid old bastard, but he only bought the finest, of course.”

“Right,” Regulus agreed, not wanting to get drawn into an argument about this of all things.

Sirius frowned as he poured a regular serving for the two of them, and a much more generous portion for himself.

“Here, have a drink. It won’t help,” Sirius said, as he handed Harry a glass first. “And you probably won’t enjoy the taste now.”

Harry took the glass readily, but looked at it like it might poison him. “What’s the point then?”

“There’s no point,” Sirius said. “But you might feel numb for a little while.”

Regulus took the next glass. “And absolutely wrecked in the morning if you drink too much of it,” he added.

“Bloody killjoy,” Sirius muttered. “You’ve been drunk?”

Regulus nodded. The night after he joined the Death Eaters, he drank till he couldn’t see to try and stop remembering the perverse joy in Bellatrix’s eyes as she tortured a muggleborn to death. It didn’t work the way it did for some, he just became more maudlin.

“And that’s all you’re going to say about it, hm?” Sirius asked, watching as Harry took a sip.

Harry grimaced, and coughed, a little plume of smoke escaping his mouth. Sirius tried not to laugh at him, and just ended up smirking.

“Yeah, that’s awful,” Harry said when he regained his composure.

“It’s an acquired taste,” Sirius said, taking a sip and blowing a perfect smoke ring. “You know, the first time I got drunk was at your Dad’s house, when I was your age. Your grandparents were at some Potioneers award event, and left us unsupervised, which was probably a terrible decision, Jamie and I were absolutely nightmares at 15, though he grew out of it.”

“Jamie?” Harry asked quietly, taking another sip but managing not to grimace that time.

“He only let his mum, Lily and I call him that, anyone else would get hexed if they shortened James,” Sirius explained, a far off look in his eyes. He topped up their glasses and Regulus couldn’t help but think how much Harry and Sirius lost in the autumn of 1981. Sirius, his youth and his best friend, Harry his whole magical family.

“Alright, Ri,” Regulus said instead just to be obnoxious, bringing back his childhood nickname for his big brother.

Sirius grinned to Harry. “My name has three syllables and the middle one was the only one Regulus could pronounce when he was small. My mother trained him out of it, of course, said nicknames were unbecoming of Blacks, but I didn’t mind it.”

“She absolutely despised you calling me Reg,” Regulus remembered, which of course only made Sirius do it more. After a certain point, he had no fear of her punishments.

“I wonder what she would think of Padfoot,” Harry joked and Sirius laughed.

“About the nickname, or me getting black fur all over the family’s French elf-built furniture? She’s rolling over in her grave now, I’m sure,” Sirius said, but neither he nor Harry seemed to find it amusing.

“Sirius, do you know how long do people live after being kissed?” Harry asked after a moment.

Sirius shuddered, clearly remembering his many years with the dementors. “Not long. Their hearts keep beating and their brains work to an extent, but with no soul, there’s no reason for everything to function together. A few years, maybe, if they can be made to eat and kept from injury.”

Regulus thought a few years was generous of Sirius, but didn’t fill the silence with his own thoughts.

And Harry just quickly finished his drink, taking large gulps in lieu of talking, and held it out to Sirius for a refill, but his brother just shook his head.

“I know I gave it to you and this is good stuff Harry, but too much more of it and you’ll be tasting it on the way up in a few hours, which isn’t pleasant,” Sirius warned him.

Harry just shrugged, and slumped back down in his seat. He leaned against the back of the sofa, and he was so close to Regulus, he could reach out and touch him without even having to stretch, Regulus was hyperaware of the centimetres between them.

Sirius looked at Harry’s face, and grabbed the glass out of his hands, and took Regulus’s as well for good measure. “I’ll put these away, and go and fill Remus in on what happened tonight if you don’t mind?”

Harry just shrugged.

“Okay,” Sirius said gently. “Make sure and come get me if you need anything, I’ll just be upstairs.”

“I don’t need anything, and won’t bother you and Remus, don’t worry,” Harry replied.

Sirius took a deep breath and looked up to the ceiling, as if having an invisible conversation with someone.

“I made a promise to Jamie to look after you, and I know I’ve done a piss-poor job of it before now, but let me try. You’re not any sort of bother, Harry.” Sirius said.

“Thank you,” Harry said quietly, so polite, and watched as Sirius walked out of the room.

“He means it, you know,” Regulus said, hating the quiet left in the room. “Sirius. My brother is many things, not all of them things I enjoy, but he isn’t a liar. He never has been.”

Harry folded his arms across his chest at his casual, almost-insult of Sirius and the corners of Regulus’s mouth turned up.

“What?” Harry asked.

“Nothing,” Regulus lied, and reached out to brush stray locks of hair out of Harry’s face that were blocking his view of the world’s most gorgeous eyes.

Harry grabbed his wrist, fast reflexes despite the drink and stopped him. Harry looked nervous and like he was expecting a blow instead of a soft touch and Regulus’s stomach sank.

“What are you doing?” Harry asked.

“Your hair was in your eyes, I was just going to brush it away,” Regulus explained and the firewhiskey made him brave. He didn’t think this body had drank before, the little amount went all to his head. “Can I play with it?”

“My hair?” Harry asked, dumbstruck, his hand still closed around Regulus’s wrist.

Regulus nodded.

“Why?” Harry asked, finally letting go.

“Because I want to, and it’ll feel good,” Regulus said.

Harry deliberated for a few moments, and then shrugged. “If you want to,” he generously offered.

“Maybe lie down on my lap, it’ll be easier that way,” Regulus suggested, and Harry shook his head.

“Okay, that’s fine,” Regulus said and turned to fully face Harry on the couch instead. “Lean against my shoulder maybe and tell me if you hate it?”

Harry leaned against him and Regulus reached his right hand around Harry’s back, up the nape of his neck to run it through the soft strands of his hair as gently as he was able to, smoothing it down against his forehead.

“Alright?” Regulus asked.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Harry said, so Regulus continued, raking his fingernails softly in circles, massaging his head.

Harry made a soft little noise of contentment and tilted his head back, and Regulus stared at the long line of his throat, but just kept going with his gentle movements.

"I want to aim for better than not hurting," Regulus said, his voice low. "Does it feel good?"

"Yeah," Harry said, swallowing. "Didn't know if it would feel nice or not, but it does."

“Good! I'm glad. I like your hair,” Regulus said, wrapping his fingers around one particularly unruly curl, before going back to his little massaging movements.

“My Aunt hates it,” he said, and then corrected the tense. “Hated it, I guess. She shaved it all off once, leaving just the fringe.”

Regulus’s mouth disappeared into a long, thin line of disapproval.

“It’s okay,” Harry said, noticing his mood. “It all grew back before the next morning.”

“Magic is incredible,” Regulus replied.

“She never thought so,” Harry said. “She called me a freak, but she didn’t look surprised that it happened.”

Regulus blinked at him. “Your magic defending yourself isn’t surprising, no? Especially if you were little.”

“I didn’t know that’s what it was then,” Harry explained, and Regulus chose to say nothing instead of railing against Harry’s soon to be dead relatives.

What was the point of his anger now? Regulus just kept petting Harry’s hair until Harry closed his eyes and his breaths evened out and he fell asleep against his shoulder. With his left hand, Regulus carefully removed Harry’s glasses, and felt blessed that he trusted him enough to fall asleep on his shoulder.

Chapter Text

Regulus glanced over at Harry, and his chest felt tight.

He was sure that Harry would feel awful in the morning, the sofa wasn’t meant to be comfortable, nothing in this house was built for something as pedestrian as comfort, but he didn’t dare move him in case he woke up.

Even in sleep though, Harry didn’t look peaceful. His brow was furrowed, his mouth was tense, and even his breathing sounded shallow, but Regulus hoped he would be spared from dreams about either the Dursleys or the Dark Lord.

He spared one last long glance at Harry before walking back up the stairs to the room.

At the noise, Sirius opened the door and peered out at him, stopping him from going any further.

“I left Harry downstairs, he fell asleep,” Regulus said to the questioning look on Sirius’s face.

“I hope he can get some rest,” Sirius muttered and then his gray eyes locked onto his brown ones. “Do you want to know something?

"No," Regulus said petulantly, but didn't move. There was no stopping Sirius when he had something to say.

"Too bad," Sirius replied. "I'm just want you to know that I'm surprised that you like Harry. But maybe I shouldn't be."

“Don’t you like him?” Regulus asked, deliberately obtuse.

“I’ve loved him since he was a baby, and again now as a teenager, and not just because his parents were the best people I ever knew,” Sirius said honestly. “But you know I’m not talking about that.”

“I know,” Regulus admitted, the lack of sleep and drink making him more honest than usual. “Talking to him makes me feel alive.”

Sirius reached out and grabbed his wrist, putting two fingers over his pulse point. “There’s a heartbeat, Reggie. You’re here.”

Regulus nodded. His brothers fingers were warm and callused and rough, so different from when they were children.

“Harry is special, isn’t he?” Sirius said quietly. “But for all that he’s gone through some absolute shite, with his family and Voldemort, he’s still so innocent in some ways, in ways I can never remember being.”

Regulus looked at Sirius's face and saw a flash of pain there there, and let his brother keep talking. Whatever it was, he knew Sirius had to get it out.

"Reggie...I never asked you. Merlin. I'm sorry. Did Father force you to go to the brothel on Knockturn after you turned 15 or was I the only one to get that dubious honour?" Sirius asked, his gray eyes clouding over with anger.

"No. Father's mind was a bit too gone by the time I was 15 to remember about things like birthdays," Regulus admitted, his heart breaking for his brother.

"I'm glad," Sirius said quietly, wrapping his arms around himself. "The place was awful."

Regulus squeezed Sirius's shoulder, and didn't ask him anymore. He knew their father and how he liked to control his sons.

He wouldn't have just paid for Sirius to see a prostitute and left him alone, he would have cursed him to have finished or not be able to leave the building.

"He's been dead a long time," Regulus said, drawing his hand away. "There's just us now. Or you, rather."

Sirius raised his eyebrows. "You're still you, Reggie.

“In some ways,” Regulus replied, exhausted.

"And about Harry..." Sirius said, but Regulus cut him off before he could finish his thought.

“That's the last thing you need to worry about brother, I’m afraid it seems to be rather one-sided.”

Sirius sighed, and dramatically rolled his eyes. “Get some sleep, brother.”

Regulus waved goodbye, and all but collapsed into his bed. He felt exhausted down to his bones and thankfully had a dreamless sleep, free from nightmares.

The next morning, he woke up just as tired though, he felt like he hadn’t slept much at all. This body maybe needed more sleep than his old one, he used to feel fine on just a few hours. Regulus sighed, and threw a robe on, and headed downstairs. Maybe he should be kinder to Aaron's body in the future. Or maybe Aaron's body would learn to adapt the way he did.

He came down to the informal dining room to see Harry, Remus and Sirius eating a full English breakfast, and there was one waiting for him, kept hot by charms.

“Thank you,” Regulus said to Kreacher, who was pouring him a cup of coffee.

“Don’t thank me, thank the Potter brat,” Kreacher moaned, glaring at Harry. “He wouldn’t even let Kreacher do the washing-up.”

“I was told I can make a nearly adequate fry-up,” Harry admitted, shrugging.

Regulus dug in. It was good. What wasn’t was the dark circles under Harry’s eyes and the haunted look behind them.

“This is better than adequate,” Sirius said, finishing off his bacon. “It’s very good, thank you. And unlike Kreacher’s cooking, I’m not afraid you’re going to poison me.”

“Kreacher wouldn’t poison the Master,” he muttered. “Stab, maybe.”

Regulus laughed, and didn’t stop from the glares Remus and Harry sent his way. “What? He’s not actually going to stab him.”

Kreacher shook his head but it wasn’t very believable.

“No one is getting stabbed,” Remus said, sighing.

“No knife lessons in our lecture today, Professor?” Harry asked, looking a little more like himself.

Remus shook his head. “More non-verbal dueling practice, I’m afraid.”

“We’re getting quite good,” Regulus said, looking forward to the lessons. Every day, he and Harry were getting better, and his new wand treated him more and more like a worthy master instead of an 11-year-old learning to cast for the first time.

The lessons and meals were wonderful, he felt like truly part of something, but he never felt totally safe, knowing that Voldemort was still out there and would like nothing better than to kill each of them in that house.

A few weeks later, on a hot mid-August day, Dumbledore showed up again, asking to see him, and once again, Regulus felt like the Headmaster was there to change his life for the worse.

“Headmaster,” Regulus said respectfully, avoiding looking him directly in this eyes. His occlumency was very good, but he didn’t want to take any chances.

“How have you been?” Dumbledore asked, and Regulus shrugged one shoulder elegantly.

He was well, he didn’t lose anyone to dementors, his brother was here, and cranky, but alive. And each day, Harry seemed a little less broken, he was slowly reparo-ing himself back together.

“How much thought have you given to your situation at Hogwarts this upcoming term?” Dumbledore asked him.

“I’ve realised I cannot enroll myself as Regulus Black,” he admitted. “And I don’t look enough like a Black to pass myself off as a bastard child with the same name.”

Dumbledore peered over his half-moon spectacles at him. “No, you do not. How would you feel about being called Aaron Ginsberg?”

He shook his head. “It feels disrespectful. Magic gave me this body, but to take his name as well? I wouldn’t want to be so cruel to his memory.”

Dumbledore stared at him. "You care that much about respecting a Muggle?"

Regulus gestured at himself. "How can I not now?" 

Something in Dumbledore's gaze seemed to soften. “I understand. His surname, then? Could you answer to Reggie Ginsberg?” Dumbledore asked him. "Plenty of people prefer nicknames."

He thought for a moment, and nodded slowly. He felt like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of Aaron and who he used to be. He could do this.

“I’ve asked a friend of mine who used to teach at Beauxbatons to say that she instructed you privately over summers and school holidays, and you’re going to Hogwarts now that your family has passed,” Dumbledore explained. “It wasn’t terribly uncommon in the past for muggleborn students to get privately instructed and still keep one foot in the Muggle world.”

“I know,” Regulus said.

“Of course you do,” Dumbledore said, kindly enough. “I don’t want you to ride the Hogwarts Express, but floo instead, and I’ll sort you privately to make less of a spectacle out of your arrival.”

Regulus remembered his first sorting, how hopeful Sirius had looked at him and how blank his face went after the hat shouted Slytherin. He nodded at Dumbledore after a moment. “Did you find anything else out?”

“About the horcruxes?” Dumbledore asked. “I have a few threads that I’m pulling on at the moment.”

“Let me know if those threads lead anywhere?” Regulus asked.

“I’ll do what I can without recklessly endangering the new life magic gave you,” Dumbledore said. “It would be a waste for you to die again, under such similar circumstances.”

“Better me than my brother, or Harry,” Regulus responded.

Dumbledore stared at him for a moment, his ice-blue eyes giving away precisely nothing. “I’m pleased to see you’ve become friends with Mr. Potter. I remember giving you detention for hexing his father once or twice.”

“He’s a lot less obnoxious than his father was,” Regulus admitted, and Dumbledore smiled at him like he could see right through him.

“He wasn’t obnoxious at all one he grew into a man, he was actually a lot like Harry. Thoughtful, kind and loyal, though too trusting of his friends,” Dumbledore said, sounding very old. “I am sorry that you never got to know the James Potter who gave his life for his son.”

Regulus nodded, and hoped Harry wasn’t around eavesdropping. “So I am to be Reggie Ginsberg then?” he changed the subject.

“At least in public, yes,” Dumbledore urged.

“I can do that,” Regulus promised.

"Good," Dumbledore replied. "I need not remind you of just how important it is that Voldemort not learn of your return."

"I know," Regulus said quietly. "But Reggie Ginsberg doesn't even know who You-Know-Who is."

"Very good, my boy," Dumbledore said. "Keep that up, and try your best in classes without making too much of a show about your talents?"

Regulus sighed, but agreed. He could do that. He could be more subtle than Dumbledore and his brother gave him credit for.

Chapter Text

It was the 30th of August, and Regulus’s anxiety was back in full-force.

September 1st was barreling down at him like an oncoming train and he felt like he was tied to the tracks, waiting for it to crush him, helpless.

Remus had gone out to get school supplies with coin from the Black vault, and Regulus had asked him to get new robes for him and Harry.

His old clothes fit him poorly, and Harry’s castoffs were even worse. Remus agreed, and disapparated off to the Alley.

Regulus walked back upstairs and knocked on Harry’s door.

“Come on!” Harry shouted, and the door opened before Regulus could touch it. He wondered if Harry had spelled it open or if the house was accepting his moods and magic and doing the shellwork for him.

Harry was sitting on his bed in his boxer shorts and an oversized white t-shirt. It wasn’t indecent or anything he hadn’t seen in years at dorms at Hogwarts, but it still sent a frisson of lust through Regulus’s body, because of who it was.

“Morning. What’s going on?” Harry asked, looking up from the letter he was holding.

“How are you at subterfuge, Harry?” Regulus asked instead, taking a seat on the unmade bed next to him.

Harry blinked at him. “I’m a Gryffindor, if that’s an answer?”

“So was Peter Pettigrew and he’s the reason my brother mopes around here in the form of a giant black dog and can’t leave,” Regulus responded.

“You’re not wrong,” Harry muttered. “What’s this all about?”

Regulus lifted his gaze to meet the brilliant green of Harry’s eyes. “We’re both going to Hogwarts in two days.”

Harry nodded. “I know. Were you a prefect?”

“Yes. My mother would have accepted nothing less,” Regulus admitted.

“I don’t know what mine would have liked, but I’m not one,” Harry said. “It’s Ron Weasley this year for Gryffindor boys.”

“Your best mate,” Regulus said.

“Yeah," Harry replied, a strange expression on his face.

“I didn’t know your mother very well, but she married your father who was not a prefect and made my delinquent brother your godfather, who certainly wasn’t a prefect either, so I can feel confident enough in saying that Lily Potter wouldn’t have thought any less of you for not getting the badge,” Regulus said.

Harry smiled weakly back at him.

“Besides, the best thing about being a prefect is the bathroom, just guilt Ron into giving you the password and it’s all the fun without any of the responsibility,” Regulus joked.

Harry laughed, shoving him gently on the shoulder. “I've been in there. It is great. You know, sometimes it’s hard believing you’re Sirius’s brother and then you say stuff like that, and it’s easy to see.”

Regulus didn’t know how he felt about that.

“It was a compliment,” Harry said.

"Thank you then," Regulus replied. "Who were you in the Prefects Bathrooms with? Some friends?"

Harry shook his head. "Myself. Trying to figure out a clue for the triwizard tournament."

"Oh," Regulus said, not sure if he was relieved about that or not.

Harry looked melancholy again, whatever memory he was lost in wasn't a good one. “So what’s this about you trying to find out how sneaky I am?”

“I like to think we’re friends,” Regulus responded.

“Of course we are,” Harry said, outraged. “This house is big enough to avoid you if I didn’t want to spend anytime with you!”

“I know,” Regulus responded. “And we can still be friends, but you’re going to have to pretend to not know me once we’re back at Hogwarts. I'll have to pretend not to know you either, of course.”

Harry looked up to the ceiling. “I guess that makes sense.”

“I’ll have to introduce myself to you like I’m just a new student,” Regulus added. “I’ll be Reggie Ginsberg, of course you can call me by my true name in private, but that’s who I’ll have to be at the castle.”

“Fine,” Harry said. “I can keep a secret, don’t worry.”

“I’m not worried,” Regulus lied.

“Yes, you are.” Harry said. “Don't lie to me, I hate it.”

“Okay, I’m worried,” Regulus admitted. “But not about you. I’m sure you can play-pretend like the best of the Slytherins. I’m worried about what’s to come this year for me. I knew what to expect coming to Hogwarts as Regulus Black, not so much now.”

“I understand, especially now that Voldemort is back,” Harry said, saying his name like he wasn’t afraid at all. “You know, you can sit with us on the Hogwarts Express. Me and my friends, just pretend you couldn’t find anywhere else to sit, and then we’ll be able to know each other right from the start?”

“You’re so kind,” Regulus said, unbelievably touched. “Do you know how rare that is in people? But we can’t. Dumbledore wants me to avoid attention for as long as I can, so I’m going to floo in and he’ll sort me privately, and then the house prefects of wherever I’m in can show me around.”

“It’s Hogwarts, private sorting or not, a new student showing up after 5 years is going to attract some attention,” Harry pointed out. “Sorry.”

“Probably. And then I’m sure they will find something else better to gossip about after a while,” Regulus replied.

“I know how that goes,” Harry admitted.

“Yes, you are rather famous,” Regulus said cheekily.

“Lucky me,” Harry deadpanned and dramatically threw himself back on the bed.

Regulus resisted the urge to flop down next to him. It would take no effort at all to roll over and kiss that melancholy look off his face, but Harry had enough problems to deal without having to deal with his hopeless feelings.

Regulus just got up and headed to the door, and lied about having to pack. He wouldn't do that to the last minute anyway.

On the morning of September 1st, Regulus ate his last breakfast with Sirius, Remus and Harry, and thought about how much he would miss their little family.

“I have 10 Galleons on Gryffindor for you,” Remus told him after he had his first sip of coffee. “And I don’t have 10 Galleons, so do your best to get into our old house?”

Regulus rolled his eyes. “I’m sure you can pay Sirius back in other ways if you lose the bet.”

Sirius nearly spat out his orange juice. “Thanks for that, Reg.”

“Anytime,” he said. “Harry, you didn’t participate in this horrible bet, did you?”

“No,” Harry admitted. “But I would have put money on Gryffindor too.”

“It’ll be easier for us to talk that way,” Regulus said. “But you have your cloak, anything’s possible even if I end up elsewhere.”

Sirius raised his eyebrows, and sighed. “I suppose that is what the cloak is intended for. Now, did you pack your mirror, Harry? The one Regulus gave you when he picked you up?”

“I have it,” Harry said.

“Good, I’ll be here if you need anything,” Sirius said. “Regulus, did you pack yet?”

“I have until tonight,” he said, putting it off.

“You might want to check the bottom of your trunk, I’ve left you a ltitle something,” Sirius said.

Regulus pulled a face. “It’s not dungbombs, is it?”

Sirius laughed. “No. You’ll like it.”

“Okay,” Regulus said, dubious of it.

Harry smiled at him. “Trust me. You’ll like it.”

“Conspiring against me, are you?” Regulus replied, but he was pleased, and they all knew it.

After they ate, he watched Remus and Sirius walk Harry to the door. Sirius transformed into a dog, heading out with them.

“Wait,” Regulus yelled out to Harry.

“What is it?” Harry asked, one hand holding his trunk and the other in Sirius’s fur.

“I just wanted to say goodbye,” Regulus said.

“You’ll see me in a few hours?”

“But not as myself,” Regulus said, and threw his arms around Harry for a quick hug. He pulled away for a moment.

“Bye then, Regulus Black,” Harry replied, red-faced. “See you soon.”

Sirius barked at him, and Regulus watched them leave.

Later that day, it was his turn to depart Grimmauld Place, but with far less fanfare. Sirius was looking miserable at the prospect of the house emptying out, and his heart broke a little. He gave his brother a hug.

“I’ll be back soon, and Merlin, you smell like dog,” he said quietly.

Sirius laughed, and shoved him toward the floo. “You’ll be fine, brother. Don’t worry so much.”

“It’s all I know how to do,” Regulus admitted, and called for Kreacher.

“Does Master have to go?” Kreacher asked.

“I’m afraid so,” Regulus replied. “Can you do your best to not pick fights with Sirius or let him pick fights with you in my absence?”

Kreacher threw his hands up.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Regulus said, and took a deep breath. It was only Hogwarts, he told himself. He used to love it here. It was only Hogwarts, he repeated, and waved goodbye.

“Albus Dumbledore’s office,” Regulus shouted into the floo, carrying his trunk. He brushed the soot off his trousers and stared around at the clutter in the office.

He had never spent any time here, and it was clear the Headmaster had collected some incredibly rare magical artifacts over his century of life, some in extremely bright colours.

“Welcome back, Regulus,” Dumbledore said kindly. “The sorting and welcome feast have concluded, and I’ll walk you to whatever dormitory you end up in.”

Regulus took a seat. “Was the feast eventful?”

Dumbledore stroked his beard. “It was. Mostly because the ministry has taken a special interest in Hogwarts this year, and the Undersecretary to the Minister will be your Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor.”

Regulus blinked at him. “Are they competent?”

“She’s not here to teach,” Dumbledore said. “But I don’t think she’ll be a thorn in your side unless you place it there yourself.”

“I wasn’t thinking about me,” Regulus admitted.

Dumbledore tried to meet his eyes. “I see. Were you perhaps thinking of Harry?”

Regulus said nothing and looked around for the Sorting Hat. “Can we just get this over with?”

Dumbledore looked a little smug when he grabbed the hat and held it out.

Regulus let him hold it over his head. “Hello again, this must be a first for you? A second sorting?”

The hat’s voice in his head snorted. “Sorry, Mister Black. I’ve been around for hundreds of years. I once sorted a witch who was the reincarnation of her great aunt and remembered her old life perfectly. And a wizard who took over the body of what he thought was a muggle boy but he was a muggleborn instead.”

“Let me guess, he was a Slytherin?” Regulus asked the hat, interested.

“Ravenclaw actually, he modified several spells to perfect the bodyswap,” the hat replied. “You have some Ravenclaw tendencies too.”

“I like learning,” he agreed. “It wouldn’t be so bad, Ravenclaw.”

“And you’re loyal too, aren't you, to Harry Potter and the brother you’re once again claiming as yours in your heart,” the hat added.

“Absolutely not,” Regulus disagreed. “I quit being a Death Eater, what’s more disloyal than that? Plus, haven’t I suffered enough? No to Hufflepuff please.”

“It’s cute that you think this up for a debate,” the hat replied. “No, I’ve known since the second you put me on again. It’s obvious.”

“Slytherin again then?” Regulus asked. It’d be a challenge as a muggle-born, but he’d make do.

“No. You faced death in the hope that it would stop Voldemort, and left nothing but a note. That took guts and you weren’t after glory, kid. It was all courage and heart. Godric would be proud."

"But I was terrified," Regulus said. He still is, all the time.

"Courage isn't about not being scared, it's about pushing past it, and you did. That's why, for you, the best place is GRYFFINDOR,” the hat yelled, and Dumbledore snatched it off his head.

“Don’t look so smug,” Regulus said to the look on the Headmaster’s face, and the old man started laughing.

“I’m delighted to walk you to my old house,” he said.

"I'm doomed," Regulus replied.

Chapter Text

The walk to Gryffindor Tower felt longer than it was.

Dumbledore’s pace felt steady but slow, and the portraits narrowed their eyes when he passed, and he heard them whisper about him. Filthy gossips, the lot of them.

“Am I truly that interesting?” Regulus grumbled when Sir Cadogan pointed a spear at him.

Dumbledore had the gall to smile at him. “Why, yes,” he replied. “We don’t get many transfer students here, and certainly few with your unique background, circumstances, deep magical knowledge and surprisingly open heart.”

Regulus blinked, keeping his face blank. The walls at Hogwarts had ears, he knew that. “If you truly knew my brother, Headmaster, my heart wouldn’t be much of a surprise.”

Dumbledore’s face looked weary. “I’m sorry not to have known him better, but happy to get this chance to know you now.”

Regulus shrugged elegantly, and tried to memorise the route they were taking.

They were climbing up, and his thighs burned after the second set of stairs.

“By my fifth year here, I used to sprint up the stairs to the Tower to spend more time with my books and perfecting my art of transfiguration,” Dumbledore confessed. “When I was your age, I was in such a hurry. I had no idea quite how long or how devastatingly short life could be.”

Regulus swallowed past a lump in his throat. “And now?”

“Now I’m only in less of a hurry, but still have so much to learn,” Dumbledore said. “I hope you find the rest of your path less challenging than my teen years were, but ensuring that for you is well beyond my considerable abilities.”

Regulus opened his mouth to reply, but they stopped in front of a portrait of a Fat Lady in a pink dress, who waved at the both of them. They had arrived.

The woman in the portrait laughed warmly at Dumbledore. “You were fit in your teen years Albus, with that ginger beard! I do love a beard.”

Dumbledore smiled. “Thank you, my dear! We have a new student sorted into Gryffindor, transfer student. If you’d be so kind to let us in? The password is Mimbulus mimbletonia.”

“Of course, welcome to Gryffindor,” she said with a wink, the portrait swinging open behind her.

Regulus climbed in behind Dumbledore into the common room. It could at best be called cozy and at worst a little cheap, filled with rickety old tables and mismatched squashy sofas. On one of those sofas sat Professor McGonagall, looking exactly the same, next to a gangly, ginger boy who could only be a Weasley.

Dumbledore gestured to the two of them. “I’ll leave you in the very capable hands of Professor McGonagall, Transfiguration Professor and Head of the Noble House of Gryffindor, and our Fifth Year Boys Prefect, Ronald Weasley.”

The boy flushed when his name was mentioned and waved at him, standing as his Professor did.

“Charmed,” Regulus said quietly. “Thank you, Headmaster,” he said.

“Best of luck,” Dumbledore wished him, and headed for the exit.

Professor McGonagall shook Regulus’s hand, and handed him his class schedule on a sheet of parchment.

“Here’s your schedule, please don’t hesitate in asking Mr. Weasley or any of the other older Gryffindor students if you need assistance finding a classroom or with any of your assignments,” she said.

“Thank you,” he said.

“I expect my lions to conduct themselves with integrity, whether they begin their Hogwarts career at 11 or 15,” McGonagall told him.

“I’ll do my best to rise to your expectations,” Regulus responded, a very Slytherin answer, and she raised her eyebrows at him.

“Well, I appreciate that,” she said eventually. “Mr. Weasley, please show Reggie up to your dormitory and do your best to make him feel welcome.”

“Sure, of course,” Ronald replied. “Follow me on up then.”

“Thank you, Ronald,” Regulus replied.

“Ehm, it’s Ron,” he explained, turning back at him. “No one really calls me that, except for my Mum when she’s cross with me.”

Regulus nodded, his mother had much worse names to call her sons when she was in a temper. “How many boys are in our dorms?”

“It’ll be six with you,” Ron replied. “You’ve just met me, and there’s Harry—my best mate—and Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnegan and Dean Thomas in our year as well.”

“Harry Potter?” Regulus asked.

Ron stopped walked immediately, and spun around to glare at him. “Yes. Is that going to be a problem?”

“Of course not,” Regulus said. “Why would it be?”

“Because some absolute idiots have got it into their heads that he’s a liar,” Ron said, crossing him arms across his chest. “He isn’t, and the last thing he needs is someone hassling him after the year that he's had.”

“You sound like a good friend, but you won’t have to worry about me,” Regulus replied and Ron took a moment to size him up before nodding and throwing the door to the dormitory open.

“Lads, this is Reggie Ginsberg, he’s just joined our year,” Ron said as he opened the door. But he stopped, looking at the scene before him.

Harry was pointing his wand at a pale boy, his beautiful green eyes blazing with anger.

“What’s this?” Ron said, unimpressed. “Harry? Seamus?”

“He was having a go at my mother!” Seamus yelled.

“What?” said Ron. “Harry wouldn’t do that — we met your mother, we liked her. . . .”

“I wouldn't normally,” Harry replied. “But I’ll have a go at anyone thick enough to believe the rubbish the Daily Prophet is putting out about me!”

“Oh,” Ron said, confirmation dawning on his face. "Seamus, the paper is wrong!" he insisted.

"Is it?" Seamus muttered.

“Yes! I'm telling the truth,” Harry replied, and walked over to Regulus. "But I'm probably not making a great first impression, I'm sorry. It's nice to meet you Reggie, sorry about what you just walked into. Welcome to Gryffindor.”

Regulus stuck out his hand and Harry shook it, Regulus forced himself to let go, pretending that this was a stranger.

“No problem. Nice to meet you as well. It is always so heated in here?” he asked, looking around the room. His trunk was sat on a bed nearest to the window.

“No, most of the time we get along just fine,” a boy replied, looking between Harry and Seamus. “I’m Dean Thomas.”

“Nice to meet you,” Regulus replied.

“Seamus Finnegan,” the boy who had been yelling at Harry said, and the boy in the bed closest to him introduced himself as Neville Longbottom. He looked a lot like his mother, who had once quite nearly arrested him. Regulus was sure this was one of the many ghosts of his past he would see around the castle.

“Can I ask why you’ve come to Hogwarts? Is it because of OWLs?” Dean Thomas asked him as he walked over to his bed and started putting away his things.

“No,” Regulus said. “My family died, and I was being privately tutored elsewhere. But my tutors felt it was safest for me to be in Hogwarts now, given the circumstances.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Neville Longbottom replied, sounding genuine. “My Gran feels like Hogwarts is the safest place in the world too, especially now that You-Know-Who is back.”

“You believe that, Neville?” Seamus asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Yes. My Gran always said that You-Know-Who would come back one day, and if Dumbledore and Harry say he’s back, I believe them,” Neville replied.

“Well, not that I’m an expert on the subject, but him being back from the dead or having not died properly makes more sense to me than a powerful Dark Lord getting defeated by a literal toddler—no offense Harry,” Regulus joked.

“None taken,” Harry said, relaxing a little.

“I’m sure you were a great toddler though, mate, very advanced,” Ron joked, nudging Harry’s shoulder, and Harry laughed, but it looked a little forced.

With his laugh though, the atmosphere in the dormitory felt a little less toxic.

Regulus went back to his unpacking, and snuck another few looks around the dormitory.

Neville was gazing at his little magical plant, Ron was hanging up a poster of the Chudley Cannons and Harry was putting his things away gently, with such care, as if he wasn’t used to having them.

Regulus wanted everyone but Harry gone from the room, he wanted to sit next to Harry on the bed and peel his new clothes off his body like he was unwrapping a present, he wanted to hold his hand and tell him to ignore the people who thought he was a liar because Harry would be proved truthful in the end. Regulus wanted so many things from Harry, but only if he wanted to give them back to him in turn.

He forced himself to stop staring at Harry, and put away his uniform, cauldron and books.

At the bottom of the trunk, there was a hidden compartment, and Regulus tapped it with his wand to open it.

He prayed that Sirius hadn't actually packed Dungbombs, but he wouldn't put it past him.

It slid open, revealing a badly wrapped broomstick.

Regulus beamed, and threw it on his bed, tearing off the paper to reveal a Firebolt. A note fell off it, he bent down to pick it up and read it.

“I bet Harry will still outfly you, but now you’re on even footing. Happy flying, Reggie! You were always happiest in the air—S.”

Regulus was overcome with love for his brother, and he laughed, the emotion getting to him.

Ron, Harry and Seamus had come over to look.

“Is that what it is?” Ron said, staring at the broom.

“It’s a firebolt,” Regulus confirmed, picking up the broom.

“Now we’ll have two on the team if you decide to try out,” Harry said, smirking as if he knew about this all along. “Do you play at all?”

“I do, but I hear your team already has a seeker,” Regulus said.

"You heard right," Harry replied.

"Oh, is he any good?" Regulus asked, smirking.

"He's alright," Harry said, grinning.

Ron rolled his eyes. “If you actually play, they’re probably looking for reserves. Would you want to try-out for the team?"

“I just might,” Regulus said. “Say, help me find my classes tomorrow and I’ll let you borrow my brand new broom?”

Ron’s eyes lit up. “Deal.”

“Maybe we can race later, me on my Firebolt versus you on yours?” Harry suggested.

“I’d love that,” Regulus replied. He didn't think Quidditch would ever be part of his life again, and he was so thankful for Sirius for adding a little levity.

He hadn't been brought from the dead for this, but at least it--and Harry--reminded him of the joys of being alive.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Regulus had sat down next to Ron and Harry in the Great Hall at the Gryffindor Table, and he didn’t imagine the hundreds of stares in his direction. He had never much liked being the centre of attention.

“I’m not that interesting,” he muttered, as he reached for a bacon roll. He woke up starving, this body was always so hungry, he wondered if his previous one just lived off of inbreeding and spite.

“That remains to be seen, but they’ll get over it soon enough,” Harry said. "Take my word for it."

"Thanks," Regulus replied.

“Just pretend it doesn’t bother you,” Hermione offered, smiling kindly at him from across the table, as if she didn’t just meet him that morning. Gryffindors, so free with their affection. He supposed he was one now too.

Regulus smiled back at her and looked down at his schedule. “Right, so it says here we have double potions as our first class. Anything I should know about the Professor--um, Snape, was it?”

Nevile snorted from further down the table. “Lots to know! Just don’t judge all of Hogwarts by him!”

Seamus laughed. “Try not to blow anything up. Or breathe.”

“Or, tough luck on this mate, be sorted into Gryffindor,” Dean added.

“Or be called Harry Potter,” Harry chimed in.

“He’s that bad?” Regulus asked.

“Oh yeah, he hates me,” Harry said casually, between bites of toast, as if he was discussing the weather.

“Why?”

“I don’t know, being born probably,” Harry said with a yawn.

“Well, that’s not something you can help,” Regulus said, thinking of the way Snape’s dark eyes would narrow when he saw James Potter and Lily Evans together.

“You try telling him that,” Harry said.

“I just might,” Regulus offered, getting up and waiting for Harry to show him the way to the dudgeons as if it wasn’t his home for seven years.

“I’d pay to see that,” Ron chimed in.

“Don’t encourage him,” Hermione replied. “Reggie—it’s best to just concentrate on your brewing in this case.”

“Said by the girl who set him on fire in first year,” Ron whispered, but Regulus could hear him.

“Fire?” He asked.

“Oh yeah, ehm, accidental magic,” Ron said, lying through his teeth.

“Sure,” Regulus replied. “I’d love to hear that story once you deem me trustworthy enough for it.”

“I’ll tell you later,” Harry promised, a mischevious smile on his face.

“Deal,” Reggie replied, grinning.

Hermione was looking between the two of them very strangely, and Regulus tried to look more lost.

“If the two of you could stop smiling, we’re about to enter the dungeons, so no positive expressions allowed!” Ron joked, before holding the door open to Slughorn’s old classroom.

Regulus arranged his cauldron and sat down next to Harry, posture straight, and stared at the board where the instructions to a basic blood-replenishing potion was written down.

The other students began to trickle in, Slytherins by the look of it, and at the centre of attention was a boy who could only be the offspring of his cousin Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy.

The boy caught him staring. “And what do you think you’re looking at? It’s shameful that they let the likes of you in at all, let alone this late in your academic career.”

Regulus rolled his eyes and turned back to the board.

“I was talking to you!” Malfoy called out, but Regulus continued to ignore him.

“Who is that?” he whispered to Harry.

“Draco Malfoy,” Harry replied, his tone dark. “We don’t get on.”

“Couldn’t tell,” Regulus joked, but shut up when Professor Snape swooped into the room.

He looked much the same, just older and even more dour, the years hadn't brought him any kindness either.But all the chatter stopped when he walked in, he certainly commanded the classroom. Severus’s eyes barely flicked past him at all, and Regulus didn't know whether to be grateful or offended.

“Welcome to your OWL year,” Severus drawled. “It’s the last first day I’ll have with many of you, as it’s extremely doubtful that you crop of absolute idiots will score high enough on your exams to make it onto further Potions study. For the few of you that are able to perform competently, we’ll move onto more complex brewing next year. For now, I want you to start with a straightforward blood-replenishing potion. Directions are written out, ingredients are in the storeroom, I’ll be here in case any one has any questions they can’t reason out for themselves or in case one of you manages to start any fires a simple Aguamenti won't sort out. You can work in pairs.”

“Partners?” Harry asked him, and he nodded.

“I’ll get the ingredients, while you make sure the cauldron is clean and the fire is enough?” Regulus asked.

“Whatever,” Harry said, his heart clearly not in it. Lily Evans was a brilliant brewerer, but this wasn’t the time to tell him that.

“Okay,” Regulus responded, and went to the storeroom, picking out the freshest murtlap root, liquorice, beetle’s eyes and a spare twig of rosemary. It wasn’t on the list, but it speeded the process up and kept the potion potent for longer.

“Chop or stir?” Harry asked, him, eyeing the ingredients warily.

“I know my way around a knife,” Regulus told him. “I’ll chop, make sure to keep stirring anti-clockwise after each ingredient is put in.”

“Sure,” Harry told him, and they worked together like a dream. Harry took his instructions without complaint, watching as the potion turned from black to purple to a beautifully vibrant wine-red as the two hours flew by.

“Look at that,” Regulus said, when they’ve finished. “It’s perfect, you’ve done a brilliant job stirring.”

Harry looked amazed at the final product. “It’s the colour it’s supposed to be!”

Regulus looked around, only Hermione Granger and the Malfoy boy had managed similarly red potions.

Professor Snape got up as the time ended, and wandered around, vanishing the contents of most of the cauldrons, awarding Malfoy 5 points and Hermione none.

When he got around to their cauldron, Snape frowned. “And what is this supposed to be?”

“A blood-replenishing potion,” Harry replied.

“A blood-replenishing potion, sir,” Snape shot back.

Harry stayed silent.

“And you did you manage this? Cheating?” Snape accused them.

“How are we supposed to cheat? We sat here the entire time, and you occasionally looked up and watched. The potion is flawless,” Regulus replied, temper running hot.

“Ah, our new student can speak,” Snape said. “I don’t know how it was at your other…school was it? But here at Hogwarts, we treat our betters with respect.”

Regulus sighed. “The potion is flawless, sir.”

Snape inspected it, before bottling some of it up. “It’s not quite Longbottom levels of ineptitude, but not a potion that would impress even the most minor of Potions Masters.”

“It’s an OWL level class, and we did what was required,” Regulus argued. Harry snickered, covering his mouth.

“Ten points from Gryffindor for cheek, and five from you Mr. Potter for laughing,” Snape said, and dismissed them both.

In the past, he’d be upset at a loss of house points, but he was so much past caring about things like that now.

“It’s okay,” Harry said to him when they got clear of the dungeons. “I told you he hated me, so you brought it on yourself for being my partner."

“Don’t be ridiculous, it’s fine, it's only house points,” Regulus replied. “What classes do we have now?”

“We have a free two hours, then lunch, then double transfigurations, I think you’ll find Professor McGonagall much more fair, then that’s it for the day,” Hermione told him, looking between him and her schedule. “Unless you have Ancient Runes too?”

“I love Runes, but didn’t sign up,” Regulus said.

“We can change that—all we need to do is speak to Professor McGonagall!” Hermione said.

Regulus shook his head. “I’ve a lot on this year, I’d rather take it a little more easy where I can, thanks.”

“Entirely fair,” Ron said. “You’re new to Hogwarts and all.”

“Right,” Regulus replied, as if that giant lie wasn’t half his problem. The other, being Harry, whose every emotion played out on his handsome face and expressive green eyes. He missed having him to himself—or as good as, sharing with Remus and Sirius.

He sighed, and followed the other students back to Gryffindor Tower. This was his life now.

Chapter Text

If Regulus thought Potions was bad, then the Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson was terrible.

Professor Umbridge was a professor in name only, it was clear she was out to slander Harry and Dumbledore and make the school get in line with the ministry.

Regulus dug his fingernails into his palms as she and Harry shouted at each other.

He said nothing as she called Harry a liar, did nothing when Harry’s face went red with anger and guilt, just slumped down in his chair, Dumbledore’s warning to him echoing in the back of his mind about not making himself a target.

But he felt so guilty anyway, and noticed the way Harry’s eyes slid to him mid-argument, but he could be no help. Regulus looked back down at his schoolbook, and thought that it was going to be a very long school year.

He deliberately didn’t look at Harry as he got sent out of class down to see his Head of House, and Regulus felt like he was a child again, watching his Mother punish Sirius and wishing he was alone in his room.

He hated this, he hated Umbridge, he wanted the safety of Sirius and home and Harry’s wide, open smiles, not this horrible woman who simpered as she spoke cutting words. He even wanted Remus, he felt blindly defensive of him for a moment when Umbridge spoke about half-breeds even though he used to use similar language all the time. At least Lupin was a competent teacher.

Regulus sighed loudly, and Professor Umbridge asked if he needed help finding the right page in his textbook.

“No, Professor,” he said dutifully.

“Thank you,” she replied. “I understand it may be harder for students of your….particular standing to keep up with the rest of us.”

“Muggleborns, you mean?” Dean Thomas asked, his hands clenching in fists.

“No speaking unless spoken to,” she simpered. “But I’m sure I made myself clear.”

Regulus nodded and pretended to read, and pretended he wasn’t furious on Harry’s behalf a nd his own.

After the class ended, amidst all the commotion, Regulus snuck out, pushing past Ron and Hermione and Dean Thomas. He had a free period before dinner and making himself as small as anonymous as possible, he hurried down to the kitchens, tickling the image of the pear, and climbing in.

“Ehm, hello,” Regulus said, waving to the army of house-elves working. “My name is Reggie. I’m new to the school, and you run the place with such efficiency, I’m so impressed.”

One of them squeaked at him. “Young master is too kind!”

“I’m not,” Regulus protested. “I came here to have a rest and a pot of tea, when I know you have dinner service in a few hours. That’s not kind at all, it’s an imposition on your hard work.”

“It’s not a bother!” the head elf said. “What kind? Breakfast? Green? Darjeeling?”

“A nice jasmine tea would be lovely,” Regulus said, swinging his long legs over counter to sit on one of the free little islands in the busy kitchen. The elves working made him feel at home, and short while later, a pot of tea and a little place of biscuits appeared next to him. Regulus smiled his thanks as he sipped his tea, trying to calm his sea of unsteady nerves.

“Is there a place I can go besides for here to get some quiet, to be by myself or perhaps speak with another person without being overheard?” Regulus asked. The Slytherin dorms had privacy nooks, but it wasn’t as if he could go back there.

“The school isn’t quiet, it is filled with wizards and ghosts and talking portraits,” one of the elves said back to him.

“Right, I’ve noticed,” Regulus agreed, taking another sip of his tea.

“But there is always the come and go room,” an elf said, topping up his cup.

“The what?” Regulus asked.

“The come and go room, on the seventh floor, opposite the portrait of the trolls dancing ballet, it can be whatever you want,” the elf replied.

“How?”

“Walk past three times, think of what you want, if it’s quiet, I’m sure you can have quiets,” the elf replied.

“Thank you,” Regulus said. “What’s your name?”

“Dobby,” he replied, smiling at him. “And now Dobby has to get back to making pastry, so hope young master enjoys his tea.”

Regulus waved his cup and missed Kreacher, who had no other responsibilities than to be there for him, and hated his selfish, treacherous heart.

He finished his tea, and instead of going back to Gryffindor Tower, went straight to the library and started working on Snape’s essay. It was a monotonous assignment on the properties of moonstones and it use in potionsmaking, and concentrating the assignment started to drown out some of the noise in his head.

He looked up as he felt someone sit down across from him.

It was Hermione, carrying a very large stack of books, half on potions, and half on Wizarding Law. She slammed the books down and looked at him warily.

“We were worried about you, Ron wondered if you got lost,” Hermione said to him.

“As you can see, I’m in the library,” he said, gesturing to his potions essay.

“Did someone else help you find it?” Hermione asked. “The staircases change, sometimes it’s faster to get here on Tuesdays.”

Regulus shook his head. “I find that solving problems myself is the best way to facilitate learning, even if that knowledge is just the layout of this castle.”

Hermione smirked. “It might be, but we’re here too, if you need help.”

“I appreciate that,” Regulus said to that very Hufflepuffian statement, and then stared again at her large stack of law books, and was reminded of the power Umbridge could wield if the ministry chose to give it to her. “Umbridge seemed quite out to get Mr. Potter, didn’t she?”

Hermione crossed her arms across her chest. “It wouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve been reading the Daily Prophet, but you seem to care quite a lot about Harry.”

“I don’t,” Regulus lied.

“Sure,” Hermione snorted. “What do you want with him?”

Regulus couldn’t answer that and have it be appropriate in a school. “Nothing,” he lied again.

“I don’t think I believe you,” Hermione said. “You’re very overfamiliar with him.”

“Does he seem to mind?” Regulus asked, pasting a smile on his new face that probably looks false.

“No,” Hermione admitted.

“Then how about you mind your own business instead of disturbing my homework? We’re in a library, after all” Regulus replied.

Hermione looked around at that word, Madam Pince was re-stacking books with her wand halfway across the room. “I’ve never been good at minding my own business.”

“Noted,” Regulus said, and looked back down to his essay.

Hermione rapped her fingers on the table, and he met her eyes again. “I will figure you out. Harry is my friend. If I can stop something else happening to him, I will, and there’s something a little off about you, Reggie.”

He sighed, and did what all good liars did, and offered her a little of the truth. “I fancy him. Is that a crime?”

“Of course not,” Hermione replied, her glare fading a little.

“Thank you. Now can we please work in peace?” Regulus asked.

Hermione nodded, and they worked in an uncomfortable silence for the next hour, before Hermione packed up her things.

“It’s time for dinner, if you’d like to join,” she offered.

“I’m not hungry,” Regulus replied, but his guilty stomach let out a gargle a moment or two later, this stupid, treacherous body was always hungry.

“Okay,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes. “Well, I’m going, I want to see what how Harry’s meeting with Professor McGonagall went and besides, I’m hungry.”

“Enjoy your dinner,” Regulus said, and went back to his studies. A few hours later, when the library was closing, he headed back to Gryffindor Tower, whispering the password and heading back to the fifth-year boys dorm.

He crept in quietly, but Harry was staring at the window, watching the storm outside, while everyone else was in bed. The rain hitting the windowpanes fit the mood.

“Are you alright?” Regulus said when Harry turned to look at him.

“Do you care?” Harry asked.

Regulus wanted to shout that he did, more than anything, but the other Gryffindor boys were probably still awake and he doubted the curtains warded much noise. So Regulus just nodded, meeting Harry’s eyes and walked over and sat down on the window ledge next to him.

Regulus grabbed his hand, noticing how it was trembling. Harry looked at him strangely, but let him run his thumb over his hand tracing little patterns over it until his hand stopped shaking.

“Everyone will know you’re telling the truth soon enough,” Regulus whispered. “The dark lord won’t be content to stay in the shadows for long, he adores attention.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Harry said, reaching out to grab at his forehead with his other hand.

“Headache?”

Harry nodded. “It makes me even angrier,” he confessed.

“Being in pain is the worst,” Regulus replied. “Get some sleep?”

“Going to tell me it’ll be better in the morning?” Harry snapped.

“No, it probably won’t be,” Regulus replied, resisting the urge to take Harry into his bed and rub at his temples till he felt better.

“Thanks for not lying to me at least,” Harry said, before dropping his hand, and walking over to bed, pulling the curtains shut against him.

Regulus didn’t know how his first day at Hogwarts felt like a year, but he felt older and so tired, and the castle walls were already starting to feel like a prison.

Chapter Text

Regulus second day of Hogwarts, or his second day in this new body, started out less eventful. His only classes were Charms and Transfiguration, and at least he knew what to expect.

Minerva McGonagall proved fair as ever, and he pretended to not know how to do a vanishing spell when it turned out no one in the class besides for Hermione Granger could do it.

Charms was a snooze, he spent the hour repeating summoning charms, as if he and Harry couldn’t do it wandlessly already, but at least Flitwick was competent.

After dinner, Harry went off to detention and Regulus decided to take the elves advice.

He walked up to the seventh floor, finding the awful portrait of the trolls learning ballet and walked in front of the wall several times, feeling very stupid but thinking loudly that I need a comfortable place to be alone and talk to my brother.

A doorway opened and Regulus grinned, he loved magic, and went inside. The room was large, with high ceilings and gorgeous velvet green sofas and lit candles. Regulus plopped himself down on the sofa and pulled out the charmed mirror he had borrowed from Harry’s trunk.

“Sirius Black,” he said aloud. “Sirius!” he shouted, and a moment or two later, his brother’s face popped up.

“Regulus! You’re carrying off those Gryffindor colours very well,” Sirius joked, his gray eyes twinkling with mirth.

Regulus rolled his eyes.

“Remus won the bet, of course, on your house, but I have to say I’m a little pleased,” Sirius replied. “How’s Hogwarts? How’s Harry?”

“Hogwarts is the same as ever, the Gryffindor dormitories are very…cozy, aren’t they? And Harry is currently in a detention with Dolores Umbridge, she’s not a Death Eater to my knowledge but she’s a threat,” Regulus replied, his eyes narrowing.

“Yeah, I know about her,” Sirius replied. “She’s awful. She made it tough for Remus to get a job, she’s spearheaded anti-werewolf legislation, and hates anything that isn’t pureblood, that should be familiar to you.”

“She’s very gauche!” Regulus replied, appalled. “And she hates Harry, she called him a liar in front of everyone.”

Sirius winced. “How did he take it?”

“How do you think?” Regulus replied. “He shouted at her and got himself put in detention.”

“Good,” Sirius replied.

“Is it? She’s dark, and I don’t like to think of him alone with her,” Regulus replied.

“You only like to think of him alone with you, I’m sure,” Sirius replied, a smirk lighting up his face.

“Very funny,” Regulus said.

“It is, yeah,” Sirius replied. “How is that going, by the way?”

“How is what going?”

“Your very adorable newfound feelings, I understand those are probably unfamiliar to you,” Sirius said, actually looking interested.

“Can we talk about something else?”

“No,” Sirius replied, shoving a handful of ugh—were those muggle crisps—into his mouth. “I’m trapped in this awful house and Remus has just left for some Order business, and you’re the only entertainment I have. It reminds me of James pining after Lily, in a weird way.”

“It worked out for him with Evans in the end, didn’t it?” Regulus snapped back, and then blushed, realising what he said. Potter and Evans were married.

Sirius laughed, tilting his head back, spilling some crisps on the couch.

“Stop that, Kreacher hates crumbs,” Regulus reminded him.

“Why do you think I’m eating these?” Sirius asked, holding up the bag.

“You’re impossible,” Regulus replied.

“But you miss me,” Sirius said with a smile.

“I miss only being around one idiot instead of surrounded by them here at Hogwarts,” Regulus said.

“Whatever you say,” Sirius replied. “Did you find my present?”

“I did,” Regulus said. “That’s why I wanted to speak to you originally—thank you for the Firebolt!”

“I’m glad you like it,” Sirius said. “Maybe you could ask if Harry wants to go flying?”

“No, but I'll make sure Harry talks to you next time, goodbye brother,” Regulus said, and put the mirror back in his bag, having enough of that conversation. He heard Sirius laugh from inside his bag and he groaned.

He lay down on the sofa and looked at the ceiling and wondered what mission Remus was on, and if Dumbledore had any idea of where to look for the remaining Horcruxes, and where he would hide them if he was like the Dark Lord. It was a big world, but Voldemort was oddly sentimental for a Dark Lord that didn't have a heart. They would be some place with a meaning.

Regulus sighed, and as he sat up, the room shifted, he felt the magic ripple through him.

The sofa was still there, but the room expanded, and Regulus was surrounded by magical junk. There was stuffed trolls head and abandoned desks and textbooks and the mess was making him anxious.

There was something dark in the room too, Regulus could feel the malevolent magic calling out to him. If he was more of a Gryffindor he might have walked toward it, but instead he grabbed his bag and walked swiftly to the exit, leaving the room behind. He made his way back to Gryffindor Tower. The curtains around Harry’s four-poster bed were drawn, but Ron was playing exploding snap with Neville and Dean.

“Harry?” he asked, yelling over to his bed.

“Let him sleep mate, he’s had a long day,” Ron said, touching him on the shoulder. There was something angry and resigned on Ron’s face and he wish he knew how to interpret that expression.

“Okay,” Regulus said, and got ready for bed himself. This year was already exhausting. He’d speak to Harry tomorrow.

 

The following evening, Regulus found Harry after his second detention.

Harry was reading the same page in his Transfiguration textbook over and over again in the common room. His sleeves were pulled up to his knuckles, and his brow was furrowed. He was in pain, it was so clear and it tugged at his heart.

“What happened?” Regulus asked him, taking a seat on a lumpy armchair next to him, he was practically radiating tension.

Harry shook his head, and went back to his fake-reading. He turned the page with his left hand, strange, as he was sure Harry’s right hand was his dominant one.

“Show me your hand,” Regulus demanded, in his best haughty ones as if he still had noble blood running through his veins.

Harry shook his head. “It’s nothing.”

“If it’s nothing, how about you raise your sleeve and let me decide for myself?” Regulus asked, doing his best to keep his voice calm.

“Will you tell Sirius?” Harry asked, his beautiful face paler than normal. “I don’t want to worry him.”

Regulus made no promises, instead used his wand to roll Harry’s sleeves up with a simple tailouring spell. The back of Harry’s right hand was broken and bloody, inscribed in his own messy handwriting, I will not tell lies.

Regulus’s anger normally was a deep, calm well but now it ran hot, his whole body lit up with rage, he understood what made Sirius go off to kill Pettigrew now. He could do anything in this moment.

“Umbridge? She made you use a blood quill?” he asked.

Harry nodded, furiously unrolling his sleeves to cover up his skin.

“I’ll kill her!” he whispered, conscious that they were in the common room. “I’ll make it look like an accident! I’ll use a potion or a curse, she’ll never get to harm you in this way again, anyone who makes you bleed should bleed ten times over.”

“It doesn’t hurt that bad,” Harry protested. “And I thought you weren’t into killing?”

“I can make an exception,” Regulus snapped, feeling the Black family magic wanting an outlet, to strike at what had hurt his Harry. “We went against the Dark Lord, Umbridge should be nothing for us.”

Harry looked away from him. “I’m not afraid of her.”

“I don’t think you are,” Regulus replied, aggravated. “But I can’t sit here and watch a person I—care about bleed and do nothing, not this time.”

“I’m sorry that me getting hurt again is such an inconvenience for you,” Harry said.

“Don’t be deliberately obtuse, Harry,” Regulus said with a sigh. “Come on, let’s go take care of this.”

“Umbridge?”

“Maybe later, I meant your hand, it’s still bleeding,” Regulus replied.

“I’m not going to Madame Pomphrey,” Harry insisted, slamming his book shut.

“Fine,” Regulus said, “Come with me, bring your cloak in case we’re late on the way back.”

Harry ran upstairs to grab his cloak, and he followed Regulus out of Gryffindor Tower, down three staircases, down to the heart and darkest places in the castle.

“Uh, Regulus? Are we going to see Snape, because that’s possibly the only thing that could make this day worse,” Harry asked.

“Close, but no,” Regulus said, opening the door to a small room next door to the Potions classroom. It wasn’t clearly marked, it looked like a broom cupboard, but Regulus knew its value.

Regulus opened the door, and smiled. It was just how he remembered, the three sets of cauldrons arranged just so.

Harry stepped in after him. “What is this place?”

“It’s the study area for OWL and NEWT level potions, we can help ourselves to some of the supplies, and there’s an age line around the entrance so younger students can’t get in here,” Regulus explained.

“Okay,” Harry said, taking a seat on one of the benches. “I feel like I should have known about this.”

“Well, Professor Snape doesn’t seem massively eager to help you out, and this castle can be full of surprises,” Regulus mused, rummaging around in the cabinets for murtlap root, honey, witchhazel and yarrow.

He lit a fire under a cauldron, and poured in the ingredients, stirring slowly. It didn’t take long, and Harry’s bright green eyes were watching him the entire time, something unreadable in his gaze.

Regulus poured the potion into a bowl, and cooled it with a simple spell, touching it with his fingers to make sure Harry wouldn’t get burned. It was perfect. Regulus sat down next to Harry with his healing potion.

“Give me your hand,” Regulus said.

“Bossy,” Harry joked.

“Do you trust me?” Regulus asked. “The potion will help.”

“I do,” Harry said, and Regulus felt moved by Harry’s faith in him. Harry stuck out his hand.

“This might sting a little at the beginning,” Regulus warned him.

“It’s fine,” Harry replied.

Regulus nodded, and dipped his fingers in the potion, coating his hands in it. He took Harry’s hand in his and tenderly, with care, ran his fingers over the cuts, massaging the potion in as best he could.

Harry hissed with pain, and Regulus stopped.

“No, keep going, this is nothing,” Harry muttered.

“Okay,” Regulus said, continuing to massage Harry’s hand. The bleeding had stopped, and some of the scarring was starting to fade, the words on his hands turning into little smudges until they turned into nothing at all.

“It’s working,” Harry said, giving him a smile, his whole face transforming.

“Good,” Regulus said, rubbing small circles on Harry’s hand even though the cream had done its work. After it was all soaked in, Regulus raised Harry’s hand to his lips, and kissed the back of his palm briefly.

“Et voila,” Regulus said.

Harry swallowed, and shifted on his seat. “All done?”

Regulus nodded.

“Thank you,” Harry said, and pulled him into a hug, his hands resting on the back of Regulus neck.

“Of course,” Regulus murmured, holding him close. Harry smelled so good, and he had more muscle than it looked like, and he felt like he could stay like this forever.

Harry pulled away first. “Will this potion keep? For my next detention? Or can you make more? This worked brilliantly, you’re brilliant.”

“Yes I am and yes the potion will keep,” Regulus replied with a smile. “But I’m going to do my best to make sure that she doesn’t get to hurt you again,” his smile turning deadly.

“I’m not sure that is up to you,” Harry said, kicking Regulus foot lightly.

“It is, and you’re stuck with me,” Regulus replied.

Chapter Text

Dear Head of Magical Law Enforcement,
I’m a parent of a Hogwarts student, who witnessed the use of a blood quill by a ministry employee in the castle. They’re too nervous to give me the details, but as you know by Wizarding Law both ancient and modern, consent by a underage wizards parent or guardian must be given if any young magical blood is spilled. I’m sure you’re aware of the implications of blood magic and children, it’s horrific for us good witches and wizards to think about. I’m just a concerned parent and hope I won’t have to take it up with the board, but I’m sure you can shut down whatever illegal blood magic Madame Umbridge is conducting before rumours get spread in earnest.
Sincerely, a concerned parent.

 

Dear Cornelius Fudge,
Your campaign against Harry Potter in the press is boring. If the Dark Lord is back, we will see, if not, we won’t. What isn’t boring but rather criminal is Madame Umbridge’s way of teaching. Heirs of houses cannot legally be subjected to blood magic—I humbly suggest she find alternative ways of punishing students that don’t break laws that go back before the Statute of Secrecy. You have a reputation as an upstanding, law-abiding Minister, quite unlike your predecessors, I’m sure you’d hate to have that reputation damaged for something like harm of a minor. I'd hate to get my solicitors involved, they're paid quite a pretty galleon but involving them creates quite a mess.
Yours in magic,
A concerned party

 

Regulus borrowed two fine-looking OWLs and sent off the letters and sighed. He wrote them both using different handwriting spells and cast a mild sympathy charm on them both, as it was unlikely as a spell that light would trigger basic detection. But he could use the help. He sighed again, louder this time.

If he was still Regulus Black, the fear of his surname or his grandfather’s curses would be enough to stop Umbridge. All he had now was his wits and his wand, and if the former wouldn’t be enough, he knew what he would have to do.

He watched as the owls flew south, and headed back down the stairs toward the Great Hall. If he was lucky, he’d be able to grab a piece of toast before History of Magic,  he was always so hungry these days, but just before he was about to descend the final staircase, he was pulled into an alcove by an angry ginger.

“Weasley,” Regulus replied, hand drifting toward his wand. "I was just sending a letter."

"Yeah, I saw where you were," Ron said strangely, narrowing his eyes. 

“Okay. What's this about then and what do you want?” Regulus asked, dispensing with the niceties. 

“I want to be eating another bacon roll instead of being here, but we don’t get what we want very often,” Ron replied, holding out an odd bit of parchment, and looking back at Regulus's face.

“What’s this? Is it about Harry?” Regulus asked. Merlin save him from overprotective Gryffindors.

“It usually is, poor bloke,” Ron said. “I had a feeling about you.”

“Pardon?”

“Yeah, sorry, but considering that someone has tried to kill him in the castle every year since we were bloody eleven, you can’t blame me for being concerned,” Ron replied, waving around the spare bit of parchment in his hands like it held all the secrets in the universe.

“Who tried to kill him when he was a first-year?” Regulus asked.

“Why, do you want the honour yourself?”

“Absolutely not, rather the opposite,” Regulus replied. “This interrogation is well out of order.”

“Save it,” Ron snapped. “See, Harry owns this rather cool little map of the castle that he keeps in his trunk, and he doesn’t lock it. The map has every room and the name of everyone on it,” he added, shoving the map at him.

Regulus took it, and looked down and saw a little dot labeled Ronald Weasley next to Regulus Black. He’d recognise the handwriting anywhere—written out in his brother’s noble hand.

Muffliato,” Regulus said, careful to not point his wand at Ron. “It’ll make sure we’re not overheard.”

“Clever spell,” Ron said. “Care to explain yourself, Regulus Black?”

“So you know my name, but it’s a secret that could get us both killed,” Regulus replied. “Harry knows about me—through Sirius.”

“He’s your Dad then? You must favour your Mum,” Ron surmised.

“In looks, but certainly not in temperament,” Regulus said, letting him believe the lie.

Ron blinked back at him. “And you met Harry over the summer then, when he was staying with Sirius? That explains why you’re close, but he didn’t mention anything about you in his letters.”

“It’s dangerous times, and it’s not Harry’s secret to tell,” Regulus said. “Ron, my true name, please don’t share it. I expect you’ll tell Hermione Granger and it’s fine, but don’t spread it around.”

“I’m not a gossip,” Ron insisted. “I was just wanted to make sure you’re not some sort of Death Eater, who is following in what they think are Sirius’s footsteps.”

“I know exactly what kind of man Sirius is, and know he’s the furthest thing from that,” Regulus said.

“Good,” Ron said, and gave him a friendly thump on the back.

“Now if we head out now we can maybe still grab food on the way to History of Magic?” Regulus asked.

“Works for me, mate,” Ron said, and followed him out of the alcove back down to the Great Hall. “I knew Hermione’s theory had to be wrong,” he muttered.

“What theory?” Regulus asked. The girl was clever, anyone could see that.

“That you fancy him,” Ron said, the tips of his ears turning bright red.

“That’s true too,” Regulus said, smirking at Ron, enjoying how red his entire face started to turn.

“Right, well, um, Harry’s like my brother,” Ron said.

“Don’t you have ten of those?” Regulus replied, his voice coming out ruder than he meant it.

“Five, thank you,” Ron said, making a rude hand gesture. “Harry’s like family though, and I…don’t want to hear about any of it, but if you hurt him, I know where you sleep.”

Regulus laughed, a clear open sound. He was surprised by how deep this laugh was, it was new to him.

“Oi, that’s a threat, not a joke,” Ron said, but he was smiling.

“I know,” Regulus replied. “Harry’s lucky to have you as a friend.”

“Thanks,” Ron muttered, but he looked pleased and Regulus was sure that he wouldn’t be a problem again.

---------------------------------------------

Later that evening, Regulus waited up for Harry in the common room after his detention.

It was late, there was no one else there except for him, Ron and Hermione, who was treating him with a lot less suspicion once she knew his real name.

“Harry will be fine,” Hermione said kindly, touching his arm. “He’s had worse Defense teachers, at lease Umbridge isn’t actively trying to kill him.”

“What kind of school is Dumbledore running?” Regulus snapped. “That’s not any sort of endorsement, not trying to kill him is the bare minimum!”

Ron sniggered. “But she’s right. Our only competent teachers were a Death Eater and a Lupin, and he did almost kill you once.”

“That wasn’t his fault!” Hermione protested.

“What?” Regulus asked.

“It’s a long story,” Hermione said.

“I already know that he’s a werewolf,” Regulus replied, but before Hermione could argue her point any further, Harry came in, just before the clock struck midnight.

Harry’s face was pale with anger or exhaustion, and he was walking gingerly, like Lupin after a full moon.

“Oh, mate, what happened?” Ron asked, as the three of them helped him down to the sofa.

Harry rolled up his trousers, showing angry red markets on his shins and knees. “Well, she stopped using the blood quill, said even if I was an orphan, there were concerns about spilling magical blood.”

Ron cursed a blood streak, and Regulus’s hands clenched into fists.

“What curse did she use?” Hermione asked, as Regulus rummaged around in his bag for the pain relief potion, it would fix whatever this was.

“It wasn’t a curse,” Harry replied, leaning back into the sofa and letting his eyes flutter closed for a moment. “She put me into an iron maiden, and my knees knocked against the sharp edges when I tried to kick my way out. She said I’d be free if I just admitted that I was a nasty little liar, but I must not tell lies,” Harry snarled.

“She can’t do that!” Hermione cried out. “Go to Dumbledore—or McGonagall. Sirius, even! He’ll think of something.”

“She's been told that she can’t spill my blood, apparently it’s fine if I do it myself on accident inside there,” Harry muttered. “And Dumbledore hired her in the first place, Hermione!”

Regulus touched Harry’s arm gently, and handed him the potion, which Harry immediately started to rub over his legs and knees.

“Murtlap root?” Hermione asked Regulus.

He nodded. “And some other healing plants. It’s a potion someone I knew at school developed.”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed, but her attention quickly snapped back to Harry. “We have to stop this, I’m so sorry,” she repeated.

“It won’t scar,” Harry said quietly. “And it barely hurt, not like the blood quill, but I don’t like small spaces. That's the worst bit.”

“She won’t get away with this,” Regulus promised, feeling nothing but a dark calm fade into his bones. His wand would be next, his family magic didn’t have a penance for vengeance for no reason.

“Okay,” Harry said, clearly humouring him.

“She won’t,” Hermione added.

Harry sighed, and he and Ron helped him up the stairs to the dormitory, and laid out his pajamas on the bed for him, gingerly taking off his trousers and shirt so he could be in fresh, clean clothes.

He had dreamed of undressing him, but not like this, not with Ron here and not with Harry so clearly in pain.

Regulus ran his hands through Harry’s hair and kissed the crown of his head before drawing his four-poster bed shut.

He collapsed on his own bed, and drew his knees in toward his chest. He knew all kinds of curses from growing up a Black, and had to use the Cruciatus while he was a Death Eater, but he was always better at another unforgivable.

Umbridge wouldn’t be allowed to hurt Harry again, she wouldn’t have the freedom.

This body hadn’t cast dark spells yet, but his magic would remember how to.

Chapter Text

“Kreacher!” Regulus bellowed, once he was sure that he wasn’t followed. He was back in the secret room of Hogwarts and was steadfastly ignoring the dark magic vibrating from the centre of the room as he planned his own magical revenge.

A moment later, his elderly elf popped up in front of him, bowing deeply. “Master called?”

“Hi Kreacher,” Regulus said kindly. “I’ve missed you!”

“What does Master need?” Kreacher asked.

“I have a special task for you,” Regulus sad confidently, crouching down to get down on his level.

“Of course, Kreacher lives to serve the House of Black. What is Master intending?”

“Revenge,” Regulus said, grinning, showing his canines. “I’m going to use one of Great-Grandfather’s spells, from the Tome of Curses for Enemies.”

Kreacher clapped his hands eagerly. “On who? The nasty werewolf who drinks using mistresses china and sleeps on the finest sheets or the vile Half-Blood Dark Lord?”

“I’m afraid neither,” Regulus said. “I can’t imagine this curse would work on the Dark Lord for long, but Dolores Umbridge will find it hard to fight off, especially as this curse will take a bit of time to unravel.”

“What do you need from Kreacher?” he asked.

“A comb or toothbrush or something with a piece of her on it, something she’ll use in the morning that’s been exposed to her magic,” Regulus said.

“Ah, is young master trying the bowel-expelling curse, infinite darkness, or truth-telling curses?” Kreacher croaked, rocking-back on his heels.

“The latter,” Regulus said. “Can you do this without being caught for me? It’s important that you’re not seen by anyone.”

Kreacher rolled his eyes, and a few moments later, apparated back holding a blush-pink frayed toothbrush and handed it over.

“Ugh,” Regulus exclaimed, nearly dropping it. “Thank you Kreacher.”

Kreacher grinned. “Can I watch the magics?”

Regulus nodded, and rolled up his sleeves. “Ita ut vere dicere vestra nota iniurias”, he shouted, putting all his anger and frustration sense of justice and honour and rage into the spell.

“It worked!” Kreacher cried out with glee.

“It should,” Regulus said. “I felt the magic leave me, this brush is covered in it but I doubt she’s perceptive enough to notice.”

“Black magic,” Kreacher confirmed. “Even though you’re a filthy muggle, you’ve done it”

“I know,” Regulus said, his cheer draining out of him. “Do you think you can return the toothbrush right where you found it without being caught? I’ll let you know how it works.”

Kreacher nodded, and disappeared, and Regulus headed back to bed with his stomach fluttering with anticipation.

Dolores Umbridge would never see him coming. It was the perfect Slytherin revenge. She deserved torture, but her own deeds would do the work a crucio or imperio would fail to do properly.

The next morning, Regulus was practically buzzing at breakfast.

“What are you so cheerful for, mate?” Ron asked through a mouthful of bacon.

“No reason,” Regulus lied, schooling his face back into a blank mask.

Harry looked at him dubiously, but kept on eating. The dark circles under his eyes were practically black, Regulus was a bit worried that Harry would pass out onto his porridge.

Regulus flicked him on the wrist. “Eyes on the Head Table.”

Hermione peered over at them over a page of her book. “What for?”

Regulus just grinned. Umbridge was walking over and sat down next to Minerva McGonagall.

“Good morning,” McGonagall said quietly.

“That’s unlikely as I have to deal with students all day,” Umbridge said back loudly.

“This is a school, if you don’t want to deal with students I would suggest alternate employment,” McGonagall replied, arching an eyebrow.

“You’d like that wouldn’t you, you’re Dumbledore’s through-and-through, but your Gryffindors are the worst of the lot,” Umbridge said even louder.

Some of the chatter in the Great Hall started to dim as the students stared at the confrontation unfolding in front of them, Regulus even saw a pair of ginger twins high-five each other as McGonagall crossed her arms and sighed loudly.

“Dolores, please do me a favour and don’t insult my lions over tea, it’s quite rude,” McGonagall hissed, reminding him very much of a cat.

“I’ll do what I like,” she shouted. “I answer to the minister!”

“How nice for you,” Snape intoned, inserting himself into the conversation. “But some of us are trying to eat breakfast, please keep your voice down to save us the headaches.”

“You’re nothing but a jumped-up half blood, how dare you insult me,” Dolores shrieked.

Snape wrapped his fingers on the table. “Please be quiet before someone makes you,” he said smoothly, the danger lurking just below the surface in the dark tones of his voice.

Dolores laughed. “I thought you’d be on my side, Severus. All your snakes talk about how much you dislike Potter, you think I’d have done you a favour.”

“Whatever do you mean?” McGonagall said, looking over to the Gryffindor table where Harry was sitting. The room had gone dead quiet, and Dumbledore had stood up, his hand on his wand.

“I mean, I’ve been teaching him a lesson, but he was clearly sorted into the right house, Minerva. He’s a brave little lion indeed, the brat doesn’t cry out at all, even after 50 lines with the blood quill.”

“Did you truly use a blood quill, Dolores?” Dumbledore asked, walking over to her. “That type of punishment has no place in the Halls of Hogwarts, and while I may no longer be Supreme Mugwump, using blood quills on children remains against the law.”

She giggled, and the curse dug its claws in as her voice got higher-pitched and louder, going to a dull roar. “Against the law? Against the law? Well, I’m in for a knut, out for a galleon on that count, aren’t I Dumbledore?”

“Please elaborate, Professor,” Dumbledore said, gesturing kindly to her, though his blue eyes were as cold as ice.

“If you insist,” she tittered. “I wouldn’t have to resort to such measures like Quills or Iron Maidens if the bloody dementors I sent in the summer were able to kiss Potter himself and not his relatives, this problem could have been taken care of so much sooner with so much less aggravation for me and the minister all around.”

Harry had gone white next to him, and Regulus grabbed his hand. “Everyone can hear,” he whispered. “She can’t get away with this now, don’t worry.”

“Did you just admit to murder?” Snape asked, his tone as bland as if he asked her to pass the jam.

“It’s not murder if it’s muggles or enemies of the ministry,” she shrugged, and the whispers about her crimes echoed around the hall, all pretenses of breakfast abandoned.

Regulus looked over to the Slytherin table, where even Draco Malfoy looked ill.

“What a horrible way to think,” Dumbledore said, before wordlessly conjuring a gag for her mouth and manacles over her hands and wrists. Dumbledore pointed his wand to his throat, and the whole hall heard her more clearly. “Students, I’m off to the ministry with your former defense against the dark arts teacher. My deepest apologies for not realising the depths of her darkness.”

With a loud boom, Dumbledore disappeared from the Great Hall with Umbridge, and the silence in the great hall ended with the ginger twins starting a loud round of applause.

Ron let out of a wolf-whistle and Regulus watched as the tension drained out of Harry’s shoulders.

Harry got up and left the Great Hall in a hurry, and Regulus ran after him, around two corners and up three flights of staircases until Harry grabbed his collar and hauled him behind a tapestry.

“Was that you?” Harry whispered, his mouth inches from his ear, not dropping his hands.

Regulus swallowed, and nodded his head.

“How?”

“It’s a family spell, it makes people confess their crimes loudly, it was invented for a cheating spouse but the principle is in effect,” Regulus whispered.

“Did you know? About the dementors, that it was her?” Harry asked.

“Of course not,” Regulus said. “But every student here heard her say that, even Fudge can’t keep her from justice now and this way, she’ll never have to bother you again. I am sorry that everyone knows your business now, about the Quill and the Dursleys.”

Harry laughed, a choked-off, broken sound, and dropped his hands, wiping at his face. “Regulus, everyone knows my business anyway, they have since I’ve been at Hogwarts.”

“Yeah, that stupid boy-who-lived thing,” Regulus muttered.

“Yeah, that. But I owe you a thanks, that was brilliant,” Harry told him.

“My revenge? You liked it then?”

Harry gave him a real smile, his green eyes lighting up. “Yeah, I did. No one’s done anything like that for me before.”

“Well, I’m honoured to be your first,” Regulus said, and then he felt his face go hot as he realised what he just said.

Harry blushed as well. “I don’t know why you care so much about me, but thanks again.”

Regulus wanted to kill whoever had made his self-esteem that low, but he knew they were already worse than dead. “How can I not?” he replied instead. “Harry, you’re funny and daring with such a big heart and darling, it kills me to put all my cards on the table like this, but something about you makes me forget how to play pretend, listen to me, I’m gushing like some sort of Hufflepuffian iditot, my ancestors are rolling over in the graves—even more than they are already.”

“Regulus---shut up,” Harry said, his voice full of laughter.

He nodded, his stomach sinking, before Harry grabbed his collar again and closed the gap between them, touching his lips to his.

Regulus responded back eagerly after a moment, running his hands through Harry’s black hair, and tracing the seam of his lips with his tongue. The kiss was awkward and unpracticed and their noses bumped a little but it went straight to the core of his magic, his whole body tingling with the sense of how right it was and wanting more, until he heard a loud tut behind him and the boys jumped apart.

It was Minerva McGonagall, looking harried. To his surprise, she actually laughed, one loud cut-off snicker before she regained her composure. “Well, I went to check on how you were, Potter, but Merlin bless teenage hormones for bringing the gravitas that the situation sorely needed. I’m glad you’re coping, somehow.”

“I’m sorry, Professor,” Harry said, his whole face gone-flame red again.

“Don’t be sorry Potter, it sounds like you were tortured at Hogwarts by a Professor!” she said, her hand over her heart.

“I was,” Harry confirmed. “But to be fair, Professor Quirrell was Voldemort, Lockhart decided to erase my memory, and we all know Professor Moody last year was actually a Death Eater in disguise, so I can’t say that’s the worst thing that’s happened to me in a school year.”

“Potter!” McGonagall said, taking a deep breath before reaching out to grab his shoulders gently. “I’m sorry for how much we’ve failed you here. It’s my dearest hope that you and the rest of my students feel safe here, and that hasn’t been the case.”

“Hogwarts is my home Professor, I’d rather be here than anywhere else,” Harry admitted.

“I know,” she said quietly. “But Professor Umbridge won’t be a stain upon your home anymore, Headmaster Dumbledore and I will make sure of that.”

“Thank you,” Harry replied.

“Don’t thank me Potter,” she replied. “Now, since the two of you won’t have any Defense lessons this morning, how about you get down to the library and get working on your Transfiguration homework that I’m sure you haven’t started yet?”

“Yes, Professor,” the pair of them muttered, and turned away.

What a day, and it wasn’t even 9am.

Chapter Text

Regulus grabbed Harry’s hand. “We’re not going to the library.”

“Oh, we’re not?” Harry asked, nearly smirking. It made him look like his father, a confidence he hadn’t yet seen in him.

Regulus paused for a moment, swallowing down a surprise jolt of jealousy over a dead man that bubble up in his gut, and stole a short, sweet kiss from Harry instead.

“It’s a surprise, where we’re going,” Regulus replied eventually, picking up the pace as they walked up the second set of stairs, heading toward the top of the castle.

“Don’t you think I’ve had enough surprises today?” Harry said, his voice as dry as the Sahara, but he didn’t drop his hand, and kept following him up to the seventh floor.

Harry’s trust in him made his whole body feel warm and content and a brilliant smile made its way to his face.

It was unbecoming to show emotions, he knew that, but his emotions had never felt so vibrant before. All the colours seemed brighter. His heart was beating too fast, it was as if his happiness radiated down to his bones. He never knew he could feel like this.

“You’ll like this surprise too,” Regulus promised, as he paced in front of the portrait of the troll performing ballet, just thinking of Harry.

A door appeared after a moment, and Regulus used his wand to wave it open, magic to enter a magical space.

He looked at what the room had created for him and swore quietly, there was a plush green velvet loveseat, a glass sidetable with a firewhiskey and chocolates, and a roaring fire with a warm rug next to it.

Harry looked over at him. “Is this some sort of room, for, er, what people get up to on the astronomy tower that’s not stargazing?”

“Fucking?” Regulus asked sharply, wanting to see that beautiful blush colour Harry’s face again. “No, this room can be anything, it’s magical, I just wanted a place for us to be alone, I’m sorry for the…sensual shape it took.”

Harry huffed out a laugh, and went and sprawled out on the loveseat, kicking his shoes up on the glass table like an absolute plebian. “Don’t say you’re sorry, it’s comfortable here, and no one’s staring.”

Regulus walked over, and sat down next to him, resting his head on his shoulder, so close he could smell the clean scent of his shampoo. “You’re comfortable.”

“I’m skinny,” Harry protested. “I can’t imagine my shoulder makes the best pillow.”

Regulus rolled his eyes. “You’re perfect, and this is much better than the library working on transfigs, don’t you think?”

“Well, it was a close call between being glared at by Madame Pince and being alone here with you, but you won in the end,” Harry joked.

Regulus snickered. “Very droll. Hmm, do you think Sirius will send us his old essays? He never throws away anything. I bet they’re still in his room, arranged by year and subject and he was a bit of a prodigy, and I’m sure McGonagall hasn’t changed her syllabus since the Dark Ages.”

“That idea is very Slytherin of you,” Harry replied.

“Why thank you,” Regulus said. “I’ll ask him later. It does seem ridiculous to be working on assignments when the Dark Lord is out there.”

“Maybe I can transfigure a guillotine from a stick for Voldemort and sent it via OWL post,” Harry joked.

“What’s a guillotine?” Regulus asked, shivering only a little at hearing the name said so casually.

“Muggle killing device, used in the French Revolution I think, it chopped off heads,” Harry explained. “Hermione probably knows a book you can read about it if you want.”

Regulus shook his head. “Muggles can be quite savage, can’t they?”

“And wizards are all pacifists, then?” Harry challenged.

“Obviously not,” Regulus said. “That head chopping device just sounds rather nasty, though it’s for sure a better fate than the Dark Lord deserves.”

Harry nodded, a thoughtful expression on his face. “What do you want to do when we’re out of here? Hogwarts, I mean?”

“I never thought that far ahead,” Regulus said. It was only a half-truth.

“You can think about it now,” Harry suggested.

“Do the grand tour and run away with you, find some tropical island where your skin can turn a darker shade of brown and we don’t need clothes for half the day,” Regulus replied, arching an eyebrow.

Harry grinned. “Sounds nice, but you’d miss Kreacher and Sirius eventually.”

“Maybe,” he conceded. “I’d like to find out. How about you then? When we’ve killed the Dark Lord?”

“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” Harry repeated his words, but there was a glint in his green eyes that said he wasn’t quite telling the truth either.

Regulus didn’t press him. “I wanted to ask you, can you feel anything…malevolent in this room?”

Harry stiffened. “Should I? Is it cursed?”

“I wouldn’t take you here to be cursed,” Regulus snapped. “I can just feel something, something I recognise when I sit here long enough. I wanted to know if you can feel it, too.”

Harry shook his head. “Should I know what I’m looking for?”

“No,” Regulus said. “But it’ll feel dark and be something special, I’ll know it when I see it.”

“There’s nothing in here except us and the furniture, unless it’s disillusioned or something,” Harry said.

“No,” Regulus replied, and grabbed his hand again. “I want you to see the room as it is and not what I wanted for you,” he said aloud, and the room shifted, glittering into existence. The cozy furniture disappeared into nothing, and they were smack dab in the centre of a room full of junk. Backpacks and textbooks and sickles and uniforms and candlesticks jumbled up in piles as high as the eye could see.

Harry let out a low whistle. “This is amazing, what is it, like Hogwarts lost and found?”

“I suppose,” Regulus said, following Harry around the room.

He stumbled over an old desk, and started to laugh. Written on the edge of the desk was Mrs. Narcissa Black Malfoy, over and over in a steady hand.

“Cissy always did have a thing for him,” Regulus said, pointing out the graffiti to Harry, who pulled a face.

“What, you’re not into pompous little arseholes?” Regulus asked, and Harry laughed.

“Not particularly,” Harry mused. “What are we looking for again?”

Regulus pocked a few galleons, slipping them into his bag. It wasn’t like they’d be missed. “Lupin did give a few lessons in the end on recognising cursed objects, remember? Try and find it.”

Harry closed his eyes, and pointed to a little ragdoll.

Regulus hoisted it up with his wand. “Oh it’s cursed, a nightmare jinx is on it, I’m sure of it. That’s bad for whatever little girl had it, I’m sure that’s why it was lost.”

“That’s grim,” Harry muttered.

“Quite, but what I’m looking for is a fair bit darker than that,” Regulus mused. He closed his eyes and felt something and opened his eyes, but it was just Harry. He must have not been trying hard enough, he could feel something else deeper in the mess.

He wandered around the room again, and something sparkly caught his eye. It was a little crown, a diadem, and it was positively engulfed with dark magic.

Regulus pointed it out to Harry.

“The crown?” he asked, reaching toward it with his hands, picking it up. “It does feel…wrong.”

“Maybe you should put it down, give it to me,” Regulus said gently, as Harry’s fingers curled tighter around it.

“Why?” Harry asked.

“Because you don’t want that crown, what is your biggest ambition to be a pretty princess, Harry? It’s cursed. Do you need more nightmares?” he said, rather unkindly.

“What are you going to do with it?” Harry asked, holding it up over his head. "You can't hurt it, it needs to be protected."

“Keep it safe, there’s lots of other cursed items in here that could wreck it,” Regulus lied.

“I don’t believe you,” Harry said, in a strange voice, putting the crown on his head. His eyes narrowed, and flickered between green and blood-red for one horrible second.

“Ah, you’d rather believe the semi-sentient crown that wants to possess you instead, that makes perfect sense, darling,” Regulus said, taking a step toward Harry, telegraphing his movements. "Take it off, this isn't you. Darling, please."

At that, Harry shook his head violently, and dropped the crown to the floor. It let out an unearthly wail when dropped, along with a blinding green light.

Regulus quickly scooped it up with his wand and put it in his schoolbag, before reaching toward Harry. “Harry, are you alright? Are you in any pain?”

Harry shook his head. "Not really. What was that? It wanted me, and hated you, I could feel it.”

“It’s cursed,” Regulus explained. “It belonged to someone, but the Dark Lord’s magic tainted all that it once was.”

“It felt like the imperius a little, but I can fight that too,” Harry explained. “But the imperius feels…good to start, this felt like a spider biting my skin and getting in my veins somehow.”

“I know, it can ruin a perfectly good mood, I don’t want your memory of our first kiss to be sullied by this,” Regulus complained, and Harry laughed.

“Of course, that would be what upset you, not the dark magic that nearly took me,” Harry said.

“Nice to see I have my priorities in order,” Regulus responded, and headed toward the door. “Do you mind if I go send a letter and meet you back at Charms when we have lessons later?”

“Yeah, sure,” Harry said, kissing him goodbye, before Regulus started to walk toward the Owlery , and doubled-back toward the Headmasters Office.

Dumbledore would want to see this.

Chapter Text

Regulus hurried over to the Headmasters Office, a place he had only visited twice before. He was never much of a troublemaker. Not like Sirius.

He paused before the Gargoyles that guarded the tower. “Right, so I have no idea what the password is, but I’m called Regulus and Dumbledore will want to see me.”

The gargoyles stayed put, and Regulus huffed.

“It’s rather urgent, actually,” he insisted. “Open up, I need to see the old man!”

To his surprise, the gargoyles moved, and let him in to the grand office. He climbed the stairs, admiring Dumbledore’s very expensive and very eclectic taste in gadgets and rare books, he didn’t even think his family had a first edition of Morgana’s Transfiguration Primer.

“Keep your grubby little hands off the Headmasters things!” a portrait shouted at him, and he turned his head to face Phineaus Nigellus Black.

“You can’t run and tell mother anymore, can you?” Regulus muttered, completely ignoring him, enjoying the way Phineaus flushed and sputtered with anger as he flicked through the pages of the priceless book.

Regulus snickered to himself, and continued to snoop through the Headmasters things.

If anything was that private, Dumbledore would have hidden it far away from the eyes of prying students. Regulus eyed a locked trunk in the corner, and paid it no mind, but wandered over to the grand Victorian Pensieve across the room from it. Grimmauld Place had a similar one, Father mostly used it to teach them about the Wizengamot or show how out of order Sirius was behaving at family parties.

Regulus sighed before touching the pensieve gently, expecting a stinging hex, or to be tossed across the room like a ragdoll, but nothing happened to him. Emboldened, he looked at the vials of memories that had been last used, and gasped when he saw his own name in a spidery script.

Regulus eagerly tipped the vial in the Pensieve, giving the memory time to settle, and stuck his head in, wondering just what the Headmaster had been thinking about.

The room swirled and changed, and Regulus was across from Dumbledore. Regulus looked at himself—and it was truly himself, not this new shell—and took in his dark gray eyes, his jet-black hair, the green Slytherin tie and haughty press of his jaw. He missed it so. He reached out with trembling fingers to touch himself, his own face, to remember what the bones of his face felt like but he couldn’t. His fingers didn’t connect, it was only a memory.

“Am I in trouble, Headmaster? I would think any problems would go to my Head of House first, before being escalated to you, I’m sure you’re a very busy man.” he asked, his words polite but his tone dismissive.

Professor Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “Professor Slughorn speaks very highly of you. He says that you and our Head Girl, Miss Evans, are two of the most promising students he’s seen in decades.”

Regulus watched as his jaw tightened, swallowing down the insult at being compared to a muggleborn, and Dumbledore noticed it too, from the weary look that passed across his old face.

But before he could continue, Sirius’s cheerful voice cut across the room.

“Whatever it was Headmaster, I didn’t do it! I’m on the straight and narrow this year, I’m all pranked out, at least for the time being,” Sirius shouted, as he ran up the stairs.

Sirius was healthy and young and just as carelessly handsome as he remembered, it almost hurt to look at him and see the loss. His younger self stood up, hand going to his wand.

“What is this about?” Regulus sneered, gesturing to Sirius. “I’d thank you not to get involved in family matters!”

“I thought I wasn’t your family anymore,” Sirius shot back, his hands clenched. “You said you were well-rid of me.”

“Boys, please sit down,” Dumbledore ordered, an air of power to his words, and the pair of them sat down across from him, shooting heated glares at each other.

“If this is some kind of intervention, you’re too late for Reggie here, he’s bosom buddies with the worst kind of Slytherins,” Sirius said.

“Don’t call me that! Don’t even address me at all,” Regulus snapped, glaring at him.

Dumbledore held his hand up, quieting the pair of them. “Thank you, Mr. Black, but I’m afraid on this occasion I’m here as the bearer of bad news.”

“Please tell me a fire came and burned down Grimmauld Place,” Sirius said, crossing his fingers together and looking up toward the skies.

Regulus tried to kick him, but found himself magically tied to his chair.

“Your attention, please,” Dumbledore said, his voice somber. “Your Uncle, Alphard Black, died early yesterday, and as a part of his will, he left you these, and he wanted you to open them in the same room, if possible.”

Regulus nodded, and sneaked a look at Sirius’s face. His brother wasn’t close to tears, but he could tell that he was making an effort keeping his face blank. Sirius’s shaking fingers went to open his envelope first, and after reading a few lines, Sirius started to laugh, laughing so hard that he was wiping tears from his eyes.

“What is it?” Regulus asked, he hadn’t even opened his letter yet.

“I’m free, I’m finally free, I don’t need to burden the Potters anymore,” he said, laughing. “Old Alphie left me nearly everything.”

Regulus opened his own letter, eyes scanning over the script. “To my dear nephew Regulus, to the pride of the Slytherin House team, I leave my Nimbus and season tickets to the Holyhead Harpies, and a fervent wish that you and your brother will be able to find sort of understanding once you’re grown. He cannot help being who he is any more than you can, and he is the only brother you’re going to get.”

Regulus’s anger burned hot, and he set the letter on fire on the Headmaster’s desk in a wandless incendio. He remembered thinking how he didn’t need that traitor’s broom or his tickets or his sentimental claptrap, now he’d never get his brother back, now that Sirius didn’t need the Black vaults anymore.

Regulus watched Dumbledore extinguish the flames with a snap of his fingers and shouted as a wrinkled pair of hands pulled him back out of the pensieve.

“I should really learn to lock my things,” Dumbledore mused. “Did you find anything illuminating in there?”

“I’m not sure,” Regulus admitted, wanting to dive back and continue to look at himself. Merlin above, he missed his face.

“You don’t have to have all the answers now, whatever lesson you are to learn from that could come to you at any time,” Dumbeldore offered, gesturing to the pensieve.

“And what lesson did you learn from all that?” Regulus snapped.

“That you were a boy who desperately missed his brother, but had too much pride in your name and fear of your family to admit it,” Dumbledore said, not entirely unkindly.

Regulus took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves, but just nodded.

“The portraits said you had something urgent to tell me? Excuse me, but it’s been quite a day, what with the events at breakfast, and trying to sort out a new Professor after term has already started,” Dumbledore said, walking him back over toward his desk.

“Yes,” Regulus said, pulling the Horcrux out of his bag. “Harry and I found this in the castle, in the room that changes into whatever you wish on the seventh floor. It’s a horcrux, I’m sure of it.”

“In Hogwarts itself, how clever of you Tom,” Dumbledore mused, prodding at the diadem with his wand. “It’s Rowena Ravenclaw’s herself, if I’m not mistaken.”

Regulus gasped. “A bit of a theme there then, with the locket and everything. Is Gryffindor’s sword safe, sir?” he asked, spotting it on the wall behind them.

“Entirely,” Dumbledore confirmed, and summoned it over with his wand. In one quick movement, he plunged the sword into the diadem, making it shriek horribly, giving it out ghastly green glow throughout the room, as the soul fragment died.

“That’s it?” Regulus asked, shaking just a little. It was too easy, it couldn’t be that simple, it was just a sword. “It’s gone?”

Dumbledore nodded. “That sword was used by your friend Mr. Potter to slay a basilisk, and the venom has sunk into the goblin-wrought medal. It’s one of the most highly corrosive acids on the planet, the horcrux is gone.”

“A basilisk? When?” Regulus asked, looking around as if he’d the creature of legend coming out behind the desk.

“Toward the end of term in 1993,” Dumbledore replied.

“When…Harry was twelve,” Regulus responded. What kind of school was he running here anyway, with pre-teens slaying basilisks.

“Indeed,” Dumbledore replied. “Did Harry know what he was collecting? It’s important that you answer me honestly, Regulus.”

“He doesn’t know the specifics, only that it’s a dark object, cursed by the Dark Lord,” Regulus said.

Dumbledore exhaled.

“Why so relieved?” Regulus asked, folding his arms across his chest.

“Don’t you think that Mr. Potter has quite enough on his mind, with his studies and Voldemort’s return, and according to Minerva, a budding relationship with you? He doesn’t need to be burdened with the specifics,” Dumbledore said, but he was obfuscating. That wasn’t it, it couldn’t be. How concerned could Dumbledore be about all Harry’s stresses, when he apparently let him fight a basilisk, that seemed more stressful than this.

Regulus cocked an eyebrow. “Or you’re worried the Dark Lord will find out through him somehow, they do see to have a strange connection, Harry gets flashes of his moods, it gives him terrible pain.”

“I’m concerned about that too,” Dumbledore admitted. “We have an advantage here with you, young Mr. Black. I’d hate to squander that by letting Tom know that we’re aware of the way he found to cheat death. He could always make more Horcruxes, murder seems to come as easy to him now as a simple Lumos charm.”

“I won’t tell Harry yet,” Regulus said. “I understand. But---Headmaster. Keeping everything secret didn’t seem to work out so well for me—or my brother last time though.”

Dumbledore looked only a little guilty at that, but he nodded. “Mr. Potter should be told at the appropriate time, but I don’t believe that’s now.”

“Thank you,” Regulus replied, and was struck by a thought. “Professor, why don’t you get Lupin back for Defense Against the Dark Arts? He could floo in from Grimmauld, so a werewolf wouldn’t have to live at the castle, if that’s a concern. He’s actually competent.”

Dumbledore smiled sadly. “It’s nice to know how your views have evolved, but the Board of Governors would never approve it, and they’ve already set forth another candidate from the ministry.”

Regulus groaned.

“Don’t worry, I think you’ll find this one a little more palatable,” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling.

Whoever it was, couldn’t be any worse than Umbridge.

Chapter Text

Regulus hurried out of the Headmaster’s office. Dumbledore, powerful though he may be, and clearly on his side, always gave him a headache. In the grand game of chess Dumbledore was playing with the Dark Lord, he knew he wasn’t much more than a pawn.

He sighed, and cast a tempus. It was already afternoon, they’d missed lunch entirely and he had a sinking feeling that he would be late for Charms lessons. Regulus started to jog through the hallways and winding stairs, feeling quite out of breath before arriving at Flitwick’s classroom.

“I’m so sorry Professor, I got lost, this portrait of a knight gave me bad directions,” Regulus lied, giving Flitwick his best apologetic smile.

“Not a problem, if it was Sir Cadogan, he doesn’t know right from left anyway,” Flitwick grumbled. “But now that you’re here, what can you tell me about banishing charms?”

“Banishing charms! They’re quite useful when you’ve made a mess and don’t want to clean,” Regulus replied, making Dean Thomas and Ron Weasley snicker, as he slinked down to a free seat behind Weasley in the back of the classroom.

Harry was just diagonal to him, a row above, and he was a little annoyed at just how aware he was of the other boy’s presence.

“Yes, yes, that’s not untrue,” Flitwick squeaked, tapping his wand to his forehead. “But what can you tell me about the magic behind the charm?”

Regulus nodded. “Professor, to perform an adequate banishing spell, you have to visualise the object going into nothingness, otherwise it’s not truly a banishment, you’d be charming it somewhere else instead.”

“A succinct answer on magical theory, two points to Gryffindor,” Flitwick said. “Now, please concentrate on banishing the piles of rubbish I’ve placed on the floor beneath your desks. Remember, it’s less about the wand movements at this level of magic and more about intentions!”

Regulus sighed, and stared at the broken toys and old textbooks on the floor beneath him. He felt someone’s gaze on him, and turned his head. It was Hermione, and she didn’t blush, or fidget away when he stared right back at her.

Regulus winked, finally making her turn away. He wondered just what Harry had told her—he hadn’t told anyone about his first kiss. He didn’t want to be uncouth and he didn’t think any of his classmates would have listened but this wasn’t Slytherin and Harry trusted his friends. He doubted they had many secrets between the three of them. But he was a Gryffindor too now, and his existence was the biggest secret of all, for however long he could keep it from them.

Regulus took his wand out, and in one quick and easy movement, banished the rubbish, sending it back to whatever magical space that banished objects went.

Flitwick clapped, awarding him another two points for the Lions, and Regulus felt a strange sense of pride wash over him, before shaking his head. This was fifth-year stuff, he had got an ‘O’ on his Charms OWL, he should be the first in the class to finish the task.

Hermione, of course, finished next. Regulus smiled guilelessly at her, and she smiled back, her eyes full of intelligence as if she could see right through him.

It took Harry a little longer, his jaw clenching in concentration and his green eyes so bright before he did it correctly, but he followed suit. He could feel his magic from across the room, it called to him like a siren’s song, even in simple charms like this. He knew Harry could do more with his magic if he tried.

Ron was able to banish the objects as well, but he, like Hermione, kept peering over to look at him. Subtle these Gryffindors were not. Hermione kept trying to catch his eye like was she was a legilmens and could see his intentions for herself, but he was just being paranoid.

Something about their interest in him made him feel pleased that Harry must have said something, that their kiss mattered enough to share. But he was also embarrassed, wanting to floo home to the isolation and comfort of Grimmauld Place. Sirius was always the one who wanted attention, not him. His brother would make a joke or do something stupid and make him feel better.

Flitwick dismissed the class with an assignment of two feet of parchment on the different kinds of banishing versus summoning charms, and Regulus followed Harry, Ron and Hermione out in the hallway, letting the rest of their year mates walk ahead in their rush back to the common room, until the corridor thinned out to just the three of them.

Regulus took a deep breath, feeling brave and grabbed Harry’s hand, entwining their fingers.

Harry let him do it, and gave him a shy, private smile that spoke of more kisses to come later, and warmed by his easy affection, Regulus raised Harry’s palm to his mouth and kissed it.

“Right, Ron, Hermione, I assume from the inquisitive looks you kept giving me that Harry told you what happened?” Regulus said, letting a smile fall naturally on his face at his good fortune.

Ron nodded. “Both the snog, and the creepy evil crown, yeah.”

“Okay, is this where you two as Harry’s best friends and Gryffindors tell me to behave chivalrously and not hurt Harry or else I’ll be buried deep in the Black Lake?” Regulus said, only half-joking.

“I don’t want you to hurt him, but I think exploring his sexuality with someone who obviously cares about him is healthy, actually and a normal part of adolescence,” Hermione said with a shrug.

Ron groaned. “Exploring his sexuality—normal part of adolescence-- you couldn’t think of anything else to say, Hermione?”

“Well, excuse me if I just want to be supportive,” she snapped, shoving Ron gently, he shoved her right back.

“I’m supportive too mate, you seem like a decent enough bloke. I can’t decide if I think it’s weird or nice that Sirius is your Dad though,” Ron joked, lowering his voice.

“Your Dad, Sirius Black,” Harry said flatly, narrowing his eyes as he turned to look at him.

“Yeah, I told Ron that’s how I met you this summer, we both have a very important person in common,” Regulus said lightly, bumping his shoulder and wishing for him to play along.

“We do have err—Snuffles-- in common, yeah,” Harry replied. “And while Reggie might not look like him, they both like to cause a little mischief. Must run in the family.”

Regulus laughed, and squeezed Harry’s hand in a thanks. “Pretty sure that the only things that run in the family are dark magic, inbreeding, and great hair, but thank you.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, and then stopped walking. “Of course,” she breathed.

“You’re not making any sense,” Ron muttered.

“Of course, what?” Harry asked, a little kinder.

“Dark magic,” Hermione whispered, as they started the climb up the staircases to Gryffindor Tower. “A kind of magic that takes away peoples wills, even with the best intentions.”

Ah, Umbridge, Regulus thought. “You are clever,” he replied. “But I can’t say I have any idea what you’re speaking about.”

“Yes, you do, and I’m not upset with you about it, I’m glad Umbridge is gone, especially in our OWL year, how are we to pass our exams with her as a Professor?” Hermione grumbled.

“Not to mention her torturing Harry and calling him a liar,” Ron pointed out.

“And that,” Harry agreed. “If anyone did something to her that made her confess, I’d just be grateful,” he said, his voice low.

“Of course,” Hermione responded, but gave him a look that said she’d be watching him.

“Not all dark magic is inherently bad,” Regulus offered. “Isn’t it like Flitwick said? Intention-based? If someone’s intentions are good, it’s the outcome, and not the spell that matters.”

“And if a spell you pick happens to be one of the unforgivables? What intention can justify the Cruciatus for example?” Hermione argued.

“Well, probably nothing,” Regulus allowed. “But there’s times that death would be a kindness, instead of a lifetime in Azkaban. I know what I’d prefer.”

“This conversation’s gone a bit dark, I’m not upset about what you ‘may or may not’ have done to that vile little toad, we’re well rid of her,” Ron grumbled, stopping in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady and saying the password.

Regulus followed him and Harry up the stairs, and the cozy dormitory was starting to feel more and more like a place where he could actually belong.