At first the only thing Rhea saw was Regulus’ grey eyes twinkling at her, but then she took in the rest of the room and let out a soft gasp.
It was not an actual room that she was now standing in, but rather an expanse of sandy beach that ended in a stretch of black water.
“Is this real?” Rhea asked.
Her voice was so low Regulus wasn’t sure if this question was directed towards him or if she was merely talking to herself.
“It’s whatever you’d like it to be,” Regulus replied, clearly pleased with her reaction and himself.
Rhea tilted her head back to observe the inky night sky. Dozens of twinkling stars met her gaze, and her skin glowed in the moonlight that poured from the full moon above.
Tiny grains of white sand slipped into her shoes as Regulus took her hand in his own and led her to a small, round table situated a few yards away.
Rhea smiled as Regulus pulled out her chair for her and motioned for her to sit.
“My lady,” he said huskily with an elegant wave of his arm.
Rhea nodded her thanks and then inspected the table in appreciation. The table was covered with a crisp, white table cloth, and it was set with decorative silver plates and utensils.
Regulus watched Rhea take in everything around her. Her delighted features danced in the candlelight that emitted from the two ivory candles on the table.
“What do you think?” He asked.
“It’s lovely,” Rhea admitted softly as she looked in the direction of the ocean.
The sound of the waves crashing on the shoreline could be heard, and Rhea shivered slightly as a soft gust of sea air blew her hair off of her shoulders. The air surrounding them was heavy with the delicate aroma of the burning candles and the scent of the salty ocean water.
“May I interest you in an appetizer or shall we move right on to the main course?”
Rhea ginned at the mischievous twinkle in Regulus’ eye and daintily placed her silk napkin in her lap.
Regulus smiled at her from across the table as two large lobsters, each accompanied by a small silver dish with melted butter in it, appeared on each of their plates. The lobster was followed quickly by a small garden salad and two crystal glasses of wine.
“Wine?” Rhea smirked, one eyebrow raised in question.
“I felt fire whiskey didn’t quite fit the mood,” Regulus divulged simply.
“Hmm,” Rhea agreed as she raised her glass to meet his, “What shall we toast to?”
“To you,” Regulus answered amiably, clinking his glass against hers and taking a swift sip.
Rhea’s eyes twinkled in amusement as she also sipped from her glass.
“I must say, Mr. Black, you went through a lot of trouble for just one evening.”
“It’s my nature, love.”
Regulus searched Rhea’s blue eyes as he continued, “Think of it as my sincerest apology for being quite the prat the other evening and this morning.”
He received no reply, but Regulus knew that he was more than forgiven. He was plainly aware of the fact that in a matter of minutes he had worked his way back into Rhea’s good graces; a place he intended to stay in for a while.
Light conversation carried on throughout the meal, and Rhea could feel all the familiar rushing emotions that only Regulus could so easily provoke in her. A light, fluttering feeling evolved in her chest as she found herself laughing and smiling at Regulus’ witty banter and charming smile.
“I have a question,” Regulus stated as he gently placed his fork down by his now empty plate.
Rhea nodded as she finished off her wine, “Yes?”
“I realize it’s a bit of time away from now but what do you have planned for Christmas holiday?”
“I’ll return home like I do every year,” Rhea said, “I don’t suppose my parents would approve of my absence from their annual New Year’s Eve ball.”
“What would you say if I asked you to accompany me to my parent’s vacation home out in the country? My father will hardly be around and my mother will be visiting with friends in that area most of the time we’re there. I’d fancy some company, and we could return to your manor the day after Christmas.” Regulus sat back in his chair and waited for her answer intently.
“I’d have to discuss it with my father, but I don’t see why not,” Rhea declared slowly after a little consideration. “It’s not like we do anything of importance on Christmas, and Mother adores you and would be happy to have you as a guest until the ball.”
“Good,” Regulus said cheerfully, “Now how about some desert?”
After they were finished with their rather extensive dinner Regulus and Rhea had walked back to the Slytherin common room. Way past curfew, the couple had walked quietly, fingers entwined, ducking into dark corners and behind statues from time to time to avoid a passing ghost; or just to steal a few moments of intimate snogging.
Regulus had walked Rhea to her dormitory door and left her there with a chaste kiss goodnight and a sincere wish of sweet dreams.
It was as she was undressing in the bathroom that she caught sight of her reflection and noticed that one of the pearl earrings she had been wearing earlier was no longer safely fastened in her left ear.
Rhea audibly groaned as she felt sharp stabs of dread poking at her insides. Her pearl earrings had been in the Malfoy family for generations. Other than the fact that they were her favorite earrings and one of her most treasured possessions, they were priceless. There was no way that her mother would not notice its disappearance when she no longer wore them; and when her mother did find out that Rhea had carelessly lost one of them, there would be hell to pay.
Rhea tried to calm herself down a bit by reasoning that, as far as she knew, not many people were aware of the Room of Requirement and that her earring would be safe until she could look for it in the morning. This attempt was fruitless however because she knew that there was a large chance that the earring had been lost on their walk back to the dungeons. If that was the case then the tiny earring was sure to be lost in a sea of students or picked up by some cow before she would get the chance to search for it.
“Damn,” Rhea hissed as she silently scolded herself for being so careless.
She decided that if there was any chance of finding her earring she would have to go back and look right away. She quickly pulled on her cloak on top of her pajama pants and tank top and nearly ran out of her dormitory.
At least it’s a nice night out, Rhea thought as she walked past an open window on her way to the grand staircase and felt the autumn breeze sweep into the castle. The moonlight illuminated the corridor in front of her and Rhea kept a keen eye out for Filch or any teachers that might be taking a nighttime stroll.
Rhea inspected each step carefully as she made her way up to the seventh floor; but so far she had had no luck in finding her earring.
Once she was on the seventh floor Rhea inched her way up and down the corridor, scanning the area intensely. Now positive that she knew of every crack and scratch on the floor, but still without an earring, Rhea gazed at the space where the Room of Requirement’s door had been earlier that night.
Maybe I dropped it in the sand and it’s lost forever, Rhea thought in horror as she tried to remember how Regulus said you could make the door appear.
Appear…appear... that’s it!
Rhea whipped out her wand and silently laughed at herself for not thinking about this before. If she concentrated hard enough and the earring was somewhere nearby then a simple Accio would solve her problem effortlessly.
Rhea smiled in triumph as a small white blur rose from its spot beneath the tapestry across from her and landed resolutely in her hand.
She slipped the earring into her cloak pocket and took off down the stairs in much higher spirits than before.
When she reached the bottom step Rhea peered out the front windows and decided that it really was a lovely night for a walk. She hastily walked past where she should have turned to go to the dungeons and silently slipped into the corridor where all the main classrooms were held. At the end of the corridor Rhea found that the door to the courtyard could easily be opened with a simple Alohomora.
After making her way through the courtyard, all fear of being caught rapidly left, Rhea started her stroll towards the lake. Dew from the damp grass soaked into her pants, but Rhea took no notice as she took a seat under a lone tree.
The lake water was perfectly still and flat as glass, and Rhea soon lost herself in thought as she stared out past the water towards the Forbidden Forest. Every once in awhile an owl would fly through the top of the tall trees or the leaves of the forest would shake from movement inside.
It wasn’t until Rhea heard distant shouts and the sound of running feet that her peaceful train of thought was broken. She jumped up onto her feet and listened closely to see if she could detect anymore noises. Sure enough sounds of branches braking and an odd swooshing noise soon filled the sky.
Rhea ran up to the castle wall and followed it until the strange noises became louder and closer sounding.
Mustering up as much courage as possible, she pushed away from the safety of the castle wall and walked across the lawn until an unpleasant sight made her stop dead in her tracks.
Barely one hundred feet away from her stood the Whomping Willow, but it wasn’t the normally ferocious tree that made Rhea stop. Underneath the oddly still tree stood a creature that Rhea had only read and heard about in class but had never seen, and to her horror it was advancing on what she was nearly positive were three young men.
One of the young men had his wand held high in one hand while his other arm seemed to be supporting the other young man next to him. The third young man took off at a fast paced run after the first young man had seemingly yelled something back at him.
Rhea watched in amazement as the bespectacled man shot red sparks at the offending werewolf and at the same time struggled to keep his partner standing.
The werewolf let out an outraged cry, and thoroughly terrified, Rhea spun on her heel and took off towards the front doors.
She reached the sanctuary of the front steps and tried to catch her breath as she pondered what to do. She was about to go inside and get Dumbledore when someone came up from behind and collided with her.
Rhea groaned in pain as the back of her head smacked the cement of the steps. The person who had knocked her over tumbled on top of her with a cry of surprise that echoed through the night air.
Scrambling to her feet, Rhea recognized the person who had momentarily been on top of her as the young man who had been fending off the werewolf. She gasped when she realized that the young man was actually James Potter.
James picked himself up and stared down at Rhea, his eyes filled with worry and fear. Just by looking at her he could tell that she had witnessed the whole thing. Rhea looked up and James seemed like he was about to say something when a loud groan of pain caused them both to look down.
Sprawled at James feet was an unconscious Sirius Black. His lip was bruised and a large gash on cheek was gushing blood. His left pant leg was ripped off, and Rhea could just make out a decent sized wound right above his knee.
“Is he ok?” Rhea managed to ask after she realized that this must have been the young man James had been supporting under the tree.
James threw a quick look in his friend’s direction before turning back to Rhea with pleading eyes.
“Please don’t tell anyone what you saw tonight,” James begged.
He placed a firm hand on Rhea’s shoulder and she instinctively backed away.
“He’s normally under control,” James continued, his hazel eyes wide. “He’s never hurt anyone before.”
“I…I…,” Rhea stammered. She wasn’t quite sure what to say. James was talking about the beast as if it was a friend of his, but that would mean…
Rhea stared at James in complete shock.
“That werewolf is a student?”
Her question had come out as barely a whisper, but James had heard her. The terrified look that registered on his face told Rhea all that she needed to know.
The werewolf she had seen just moments before was an actual Hogwarts student. But who?
Before she could ask James who exactly the werewolf was, he had slung Sirius over his broad shoulders and took off in the direction of the infirmary.
As Rhea lay in bed later that night she realized that with the excitement of seeing a werewolf and running into James she had completely forgotten about her triumph of finding her lost earring.
Throwing the covers off of her body, she padded over to the chair that she had thrown her cloak over earlier. She unclasped the earring that was still in her ear and then reached into her cloak pocket so she could place both of them safely in her trunk.
After feeling around in the pocket with both hands and turning the pocket inside out, Rhea plopped back down onto her bed and stared at the floor in disbelief.