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Chapter 1: R.A.B
Sirius and Astra were always faster than I was. They always reached the top of the green, grassy slope before me. Sirius made it look effortless. Easy. He powered up the slope, his black hair flopping around the place, turning around at the top to look gloatingly back at me. Astra leapt, like a gazelle, her brown braids flapping behind her. She always turned around at the top, but not to gloat, but to smile at me encouragingly. She always remembered my asthma. Sirius didn’t.
“Come on slowpoke!” she’d say playfully, stretching out to grab my hand, to help me with the last few steps.
“Come on, lets go” Sirius would say impatiently, annoyed with having to wait for his younger brother. He would shoot off down the other side of the slope.
“Come on, we’ll go down this side together” she’d squeeze my hand reassuringly, and keep my slow pace the whole way down.
“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
This was something of a catchphrase for my mother, usually followed by,
“Sirius doesn’t” or “Sirius wouldn’t”
I had it constantly shoved down my throat that I wasn’t as good as Sirius. And Sirius would stand beside my mother, proud as punch at being the favourite. He would look at me with malice in his eyes, and smirk.
But sometimes, only sometimes, he would stand behind her and roll her eyes, tell me to take no notice.
But not always, he wasn’t always on my side.
Astra always knew when something was wrong. She was the one that found me under the tree in our favourite spot in the park.
“Hey Reg!” she waved, enthusiastic as always. She came closer, close enough to see my expression.
“What’s wrong?” she added, concern colouring her voice.
“Sirius got put into Gryffindor”
“What?” she said softly.
“I know” I began pulling at the grass beside my leg, tearing it out of the ground, and watched as it floated away in the autumn breeze. We sat in silence for a while.
“I’m guessing your Moms not too pleased”
“She threw Kreacher down the stairs when she read the letter. According to Bella, he’s settled right in” I replied bitterly.
“Sirius didn’t even tell your Mother?”
“He knew how she’d react. Probably just trying to avoid a howler for as long as possible”
“Oh Reg……” she looked at me with wide eyes.
“Dad doesn’t know how he’s going to face everyone” I stared at my shoe.
“It’ll be fine Reg, you’ll see” she patted my arm reassuringly. She lay down, flat on her back, and closed her eyes, drinking in the warmth of the afternoon sun. I lay down parallel to her, my head at her feet.
“What happens if I’m not put into Slytherin Astra? Sirius is brave; he won’t mind being an outcast. I’m not brave Astra, I’m not Sirius” I whispered.
She propped herself up on her elbows, and stared down at me.
“No matter what happens Reg, you won’t be alone, you’ll always have me, you know that!”
“You know I do” she laughed.
For a whole year, I had Astra all to myself, with no Sirius to make me look weak, or inferior. But, inevitably, he came home for the holidays, and I was back to being the third wheel. Astra seemed to come alive whenever Sirius was around. Sirius could make her laugh, while the most I ever got out of her was a small chuckle. Sirius got her sense of humour better than I ever could. Sirius could chase her around the park without wheezing. She was a whole different person, faster, funnier, louder, more adventurous, not the sweet, shy Astra she was with me. And I hated him for it. But I only had to put up with it for two weeks at Christmas and Easter, and during the summer, he often went over to his friend’s house, so it was just Astra and me. And that’s the way I liked it.
I sat with my heart in my mouth at the Slytherin table, watching as she made her way up to the stool. Professor Mc Gonnagal placed the battered old hat onto her head, and she disappeared; only her lips were left visible. I had all my fingers crossed in under the table. An unhealthy looking boy, with greasy black hair was staring at me from further down the table, watching me pray silently with an almost amused expression, as if he knew something I didn’t. Astra sat on the stool for almost five minutes, muttering furiously, as if she was arguing with the hat. I saw the seam of the hat open, and I held my breath, like a prisoner waiting for a jail sentence.
“SLYTHERIN”It roared. I exhaled loudly. She plopped down beside me, beaming from ear to ear.
“What took so long?” I muttered in her ear.
“It wanted to put me in Gryffindor, but I argued with it until it changed its mind” she said triumphantly.
“Why did you do that?” I asked quizzically. I knew that Astra’s parents were, according to my parents, ‘blood-traitors’ and wouldn’t have cared what house she was in.
“We made a promise that we’d always stick together Reg, and I don’t break my promises” she elbowed me playfully. I smiled, and said nothing.
Astra had chosen me. Not him. Not brave, funny, popular Sirius, but Regulus, the small kid with chronic asthma. I felt as if I could take on the world. I looked over to where he sat at the Gryffindor table, laughing and joking with his friends, not looking the slightest bit upset. That wasn’t right, he was supposed to be furious, seething that his little brother had won. I glanced down the table to find the greasy-haired boy still staring at me. But this time it wasn’t with amusement, it was with anger, jealousy almost. It was like he and Sirius had swapped roles. I stared back smugly at him. Whatever I had done to deserve that stare, it was worth it, just for the feeling of superiority.
I remember the first time it happened. It was in our first week. They targeted me, probably because I was the smallest. They snatched my bag and held it high above my head, laughing as I struggled to reclaim it. My classmates just stood back and watched. No one was going to get involved with a fight between one first year, and three fourth years. No one, except Astra. She marched from the crowd, and stood in front of me, hands on hips.
“Give him back his bag” she said in a low, calm voice that rang with so much authority, I wouldn’t have believed it had come from an eleven year old if I hadn’t seen her lips move. They just stared at her for a minute, before laughing into her face.
“Give him back his bag” she repeated, in the same low, calm voice “Now”
“No, I don’t think we will” a particularly spotty one answered.
Astra looked around, and spotted Sirius and his friends lurking nearby.
“Tell them to give it back Sirius”
The fourth years looked at Sirius, daring him to follow the Slytherins advice, daring him to prove them right, that he really was a Slytherin pretending to be a Gryffindor.
“Regulus can take care of himself” Sirius muttered. Astra stared at him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her look at anyone like that. She looked dangerous, murderous.
“Fine, Sirius, if you’re too much of a coward” she stepped forward and stomped her heel into the spotty ones foot, making him yelp out in pain, and drop the bag.
“Damn Slytherin, you’ve got backbone” One of Sirius’s friends laughed “Maybe you should have been in Gryffindor”
“And share a common room with people like that” she pointed from the fourth years, to Sirius “I don’t think so! Here’s your bag Reg” she turned on her heel, and bustled away.
Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes I caught Astra looking over at the rowdy Gryffindor table, where people always seemed to be laughing and messing, longing to be in on the joke that had made Sirius laugh that loud, because no matter what she said, I knew she missed him. I think she missed that part of herself too, the loud, adventurous Astra. She was known as a blood-traitor in the Slytherin common room, because she stuck up for everyone, no matter what age, house, or blood status. She always stuck up for me, no matter who she had to go up against. She made friends in other houses, the Slytherins didn’t like it. They especially didn’t like it when she became friends with the red-haired girl who protected the greasy-haired boy. I tried to tell them to leave her alone, but I just couldn’t find my voice. Who was I to tell them to do anything, I was just little Reg. Insignificant. Unimportant. A nobody.
By our third year, Astra had started to fit in better with the Slytherins. She was no longer checking people on what they did, and she had stopped talking to the other houses. She just put her head down, and got on with it. I think she finally realised that they weren’t messing when they hung her cat from the rafters in the Owlrey. The common room was always buzzing with news about Voldemort, and the Death Eaters. I had long since found what made me tick, superiority, and power. I lived off it. I spent most of my evenings discussing the latest information with the others. The only one that didn’t seem to want to talk to me was Severus Snape. I had long since figured out the identity of the greasy-haired boy, but was no closer to finding the reason he hated me so much.
Astra usually sat with me while we discussed everything. She sat on the edge of her chair, not saying anything, just listening. I could tell by the way she clenched her fists that she didn’t like what she was hearing, but she knew better than to say anything, we all did.
Our roles gradually shifted over time. Astra was no longer the popular, confident, and encouraging eleven year old she once was. She turned into a shy, meek, nervous sixteen year old without me even noticing. And I changed as well. Gone was short, shy, wheezy Reg, and in his place stood strong, confident Regulus Arcturus Black. The Slytherins knew to treat me with respect, they knew better than to mess with a member of The Most Noble and Ancient House of Black. Toujurs Pur became something of a motto. My followers would shout it in the Great Hall and between classes, just so the mudbloods got the message. I loved seeing the Head Girls nostrils flare, and the Head Boys fists clench, it gave me satisfaction that I was bothering them that much. The only one that didn’t take part in this was Severus Snape. He seemed unwilling to call someone a mudblood. No one knew why. He had been fine with it before.
Severus no longer stared at me with anger and jealousy. He looked at me with relief, again, like he knew something I didn’t. He was a weird boy, everyone said so. He would stare at the Head Boy and Girl while they strolled around Hogwarts, holding hands, or as they stole a kiss in one of the schools many alcoves. But then he would look to me, or rather to Astra, and that same look of relief would cross over his face. I didn’t understand it.
I finally fulfilled my ‘destiny’ just at the end of my sixth year. Mother was so proud. Sirius had long left the house, gone to live with the Potter’s. Mother had blasted him off the tapestry not a week, when I had the Dark Mark burned into my skin. Astra said nothing when I told her. Just looked.
“Where did Reg go?” she whispered after a while. We were lying, my head at her feet under our tree again.
“What do you mean?” I laughed.
She remained serious.
“Where did my Reg go?”
“I’m right here stupid” I nudged her ear with the tip of my shoe.
“You’re not my Reg” she sat up, and hugged her knees to her chest.
“What do you mean Astra?” I sat up and stared at her.
“Where did sweet, kind, shy Reg go?” she asked, tears in her eyes.
“You mean the slow, stammering idiot?” I snorted.
“Only you thought that Reg”
“DON’T CALL ME THAT!” I shouted “I am Regulus Arcturus Black, Reg is some little puny weak kid who was never good enough!” I ranted.
“That little puny weak kid was my best friend. Not Regulus Arcturus Black”
Tears spurting down her face, she raced down the slope, and dashed through the park gates.
I shouldn’t have chased after her. I knew that. I was no good for her. I just brought her sorrow and misery. She was like a songbird, trapped in a cage by an evil collector, waiting to be freed by someone like Sirius. But that thought made my blood boil. So I chased after her, promised her I would change. But I didn’t. She still stayed though. I think she thought she could bring back Reg, if she tried hard enough. It didn’t work.
She found a job working in a bar frequented by Death Eaters. No one else would hire her. Night after night I would watch her struggle with the rowdy crowd. At least three people would threaten to kill her every night. But it only took one look from me and they would be silenced. It felt good to know that I could protect her at last. But all this superiority came at a price. It seemed as my confidence swelled, hers diminished. All traces of Astra were gone. Her eyes no longer sparkled; they were dead in their sockets. Her hair was limp and lifeless, her rosy cheeks sunken and hollow.
“Where’s my Astra gone” I said one night, while leaning against the bar.
“What on earth are you talking about Regulus” she laughed.
She never called me Reg anymore.
Nobody knew it was happening until it did. One moment, everything was normal, and the next, the Order of the Phoenix came bursting through the door. I grabbed Astra and pulled her into the store room. We had barely closed the door, when two figures blasted it down, and stalked into the room. I hadn’t seen him in three years, but he had hardly changed at all. He was still tall, still handsome, still confident, his eyes still mocking me. The Potter boy was with him.
“I have these two James”
Potter nodded, and swiftly left the room. Sirius lifted his wand higher, and shone the light on us. We stood there, frozen, like rabbits caught in headlights.
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t Regulus! And whose your friend?” his jaw dropped when he saw her.
“Astra?” he exclaimed. Astra stared at him, frightened.
“I can save you, but you have to trust me” he reached out a hand.
“Don’t Astra” I grabbed her by the forearm.
She looked from me, to Sirius.
“I’m sorry Regulus, I am” a tear streaked down her face.
Sirius pulled her through the door. And she was gone.
I used to think that that was the day she left me. But I realised I was wrong. Astra had left me long before that.
A year later, Astra returned. I was sitting in the kitchen of my mother’s house, waiting for Kreacher to return from his mission with Voldemort. My mother had been so proud to hear the Dark Lord had used our services. A soft knock on the door awoke me from my musings. I opened the door to reveal Astra, not the Astra of the recent years, but the Astra of my memories. Sparkly eyes, shiny hair, rosy cheeks, the works.
“I can save you”
I knew exactly what she meant.
“I don’t need to be saved”
“Come with me Reg! There’s so much more for you out there! You weren’t meant for this Reg! Come with me” she held out a hand.
I should have taken it. I should have taken it straight away. I almost did. But then I saw the delicate band of silver on the third finger of her left hand. And I withdrew my hand. I didn’t want to return to Sirius’s shadow. I hesitated. I hesitated a moment too long.
The door flew open.
A flash of green.
And Astra lay dead on the floor.
I wanted to die. I wanted to leave. But it wasn’t that simple.
I eventually found a way. Kreacher. It hit me one day, and the idea seemed so simple, the perfect solution. It was right in front of me the whole time. I got very drunk before I asked him to bring me. I didn’t want my cowardice to get in the way. For this one, glorious night, I was going to be brave, be a Gryffindor, be Sirius.
I don’t remember much.
The smell of seaweed.
She was waiting for me. The minute my body broke the surface of the water, I saw her.
“I can save you Reg” she smiled.
I took her hand without hesitation.
This is my first attempt at angst, I’m not sure if it’s my thing, but I gave it a go :)