Chapter 2 : Ghosts Behind Picture Perfection
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Ghost Behind Picture Perfection
“What do you want Sirius?” Regulus had turned out well. Or, at least, as well as he could have turned out still living with our parents.
I don’t blame him for the bad traits. How he still has that stupid Slytherin house pride, and how he turns his nose up in a perfectly pureblood way, or how much he sounds like father sometimes when talking about him. None of that is his fault. That’s their fault and there is nothing I can do about changing that now.
All I can do is attempt to keep the bit of me that I had managed to put into him alive. The part of him that worked things out logically, that questions things that didn’t make sense, and that had a mind and ideas of his own. I could only hope that I would be able to keep the evil of our home out of him enough so that he wasn’t completely consumed. I just needed to keep him talking to me, just needed to make sure he was still him, and not one of them.
“A guy can’t want to talk to his little brother?” It was sad that we had to do it like this. Way out by the fringes of the forest, where no one could possibly see us together. But I took what I was offered from him, because I was desperate to keep him alive. Desperate to keep Regulus alive. Because, putting aside his bad traits, I was mildly proud of the kid, glad that he had been so lucky to have turned out somewhat like me. I only hoped that he wasn’t hiding things like I was. Or at least, not the same things I was.
Maybe that was another reason why I insisted on these chats. Just to check up, to give him the chance to tell me something important if he ever felt necessary.
He moved to lean on the same large tree I was at, almost the complete opposite side, and as he walked I watch him. His hands in his pockets casually, yet his body was screaming how awkward he felt. Of course, I was probably one of the only people who spotted his awkwardness, so it was fine.
At fifteen he had gotten quite handsome. Same dark hair and brown eyes as me, but fairer, more delicate. The ladies loved him for it. And it helped that he held his confidence well. I had taught him that. I knew that it had been because of me, because it seemed that every time he knew I was looking his aura would change slightly, like he was looking for approval of how he was holding himself. After all, he doesn’t get approval from anyone else.
“How’s mum?” I asked, careful to be casual, even though I felt like simply going off into a rant around how distant he had been getting. I’d been nervous, scared that the Dark Lord’s ideas were engulfing him, but if I told him that he would simply stop coming out here. And then I would lose him completely.
“How is she ever? Old and bitter and pissed that you ran off.” I couldn’t help but hear the slight bitterness that he himself held, and I felt a pain hit my chest, like someone had stabbed me.
“She’ll live. She’s probably better off without me anyway. I only ever made her want to pull her hair out.” I tried to joke, tried to be light, because that’s what I always did in a serious situation.
He obviously hadn’t picked up that trait from me.
“You don’t get it do you?” he whispered, the wide blowing by for a moment, carrying his words to me as I focused on the leaves ruffling in the branches of the trees. I didn’t dare look around to the other side of the tree as I waited for him to elaborate.
“It’s not just her.” I continued to stay silent, wishing he wouldn’t say what I thought he was going to.
“I can’t forgive you.” The sigh was involuntary, a reaction to try and calm myself as my fist grabbed around my penknife in the pocket of my robe.
“Are you sure you didn’t mean ‘we can’t forgive you’? Considering how well they’ve managed to brainwash you.” My turn to be bitter. If only he realized that the bitterness was towards myself. If only he realized how much I regretted leaving him behind to get the way he was.
“This isn’t about mum and dad anymore and you know it. This is about you leaving me alone.” I heard him fold his arms, heard the sigh on his lips.
“The Regulus I grew up with would have at least tired to understand.” I replied, pulling my hand out of my pocket and dropping it down by my leg. Surrender.
“I have tried. But you don’t know what it’s like there without you.” I tried to picture his face, but only remembered the look he gave me the night I left, and cringed slightly.
“I’m sure the attention is overwhelming. They always preferred you over me.” I was sure. With how much they used to compare, how much they used to tell me to be like Regulus, to not talk back and to simply do what I was told, they must simply adore having only Regulus to care for.
Perfect Regulus. It amazed me at how perfect he was getting. A perfect Slytherin. Perfectly not me.
“It’s like I hardly even exist.” He corrected, a longing hidden deep in his voice. I shut my eyes tight.
“Regulus, I’m-.” sorry. I could never chock that word out.
“Mum wants me to stop talking to you.”
“She would, I’m the only person keeping you sane.” I begged in my head for him to see that.
“Either way. I’d rather be insane and loved then sane and alone.” He pushed off from the tree, I knew because of the sound his robes made as they peeled away from the bark and his shoes against the dried leaves on the ground as he moved to head back.
“You-.” Are loved... Regulus would never let me say that. That truth would hurt him too much.
“Don’t follow me.” I had went to go after him, but obeyed him when he muttered those words as he walked away, knowing it was not worth fighting with him. He had made up his mind long before coming here today.
I had thought I had been doing a good job keeping him with me, but the truth was that I killed the Regulus I knew the day that I left. I killed him, dead, and left only this shell in his place. That was my fault. Only mine.
I waited for ten minutes, until I was sure I wouldn’t run into him again while walking back to the school, then started my own trudge back. My fingers itched to wrap around the knife, but I refused myself, knowing if I touched it I wouldn’t make it back to the dorms.
“Hey! Sirius!” James’ voice was always so recognizable, and usually I was quite happy to hear it, but this time I cursed through the fake smile that I flashed in his direction. If only I had been able to get upstairs without meeting up with anyone. If only.
Of course, in this case, I was lucky. I knew I was. They were a distraction, one that I should embrace.
I forced myself to walk quicker, lighter, get into character before in their range. It wasn’t a hard thing to do when I was already so good at it.
“Hey.” I said as I got closer, admiring the picture perfect look of my friends sitting under that stupid tree that we always did, a red haired newcomer joining the three boys this time. I can only imagine how things had gone so far, before my arrival. James was probably trying to snog with Lily while she refused because she was simply too nice to make James’ friends feel awkward like that. Peter was probably acting tongue-tied because of the beautiful girl in his presence, and Remus. Well Remus was of course stuck in a book, which made it even more difficult for Peter to be casual.
I smirked slightly when Lily looked my way, seeing the relief in her eyes, knowing that now that I had arrived things would settle a little. I tended to level out the strange aura that she gave off that made the other three suddenly civil, meaning that once I was around we were all pretty much ourselves, and it was much easier for us to be funny and entertaining, therefore much better for her.
“Where have you been?” Remus asked trying to trick me with his question. I knew the intent of it was to get me to look him in the eye. That was how he read me, and I fell for it for a short moment, before realizing his intent and moving my gaze to the ground discreetly.
“Had some brotherly work to be done.” I replied, smiling carefully, as to make it seem like everything was alright, but still not lying about how bad it had went.
“How is Regulus?” James was always worried about the relationship between my brother and I, considering he had bore witness to the long summer of torment I was put through by the harsh letters from Regulus after I had ran away. I had lost count to how many times he had said he hated me that summer.
It was the only time that I wore my emotions on my sleeves, burdening the whole of the Potter family with my noticeably opened wounds. I didn’t do a lot that summer, except sit around and try and be at least bearable in my moping. It was the only time in my life I had been watched so closely by James, just because of how depressed he knew I was.
If he only knew that I still felt the same way, that I was still fighting the same battles with Regulus and myself, then maybe he would have kept watching me. But once I got used to the pain, used to the emotion, I learned how to hide it, learned how to close the wounds and seal them away, and once it was hidden James' worry soon faded away.
I shrugged as I gauged a spot on the ground beside Lily and next to a jutted out root that Remus was perched on, letting myself sit down against the tree, using part of the root as an armrest.
“He’s as much of a Slytherin prat as always I guess.” I replied, smiling, pretending that this was simply my way of saying he was well. James was satisfied with this, and turned his attention to petting Lily’s palm gently, which I only glanced at before deciding to give the boy a bit of privacy, turning my attention to my other side, where Remus was. I knew too well that Remus was still looking. I got a weird, awkward feeling in the pit of my stomach sometimes when he was looking at me, like I was being judge, and was quite embarrassed of the parts of me that were being evaluated.
I forced myself to catch his gaze, having to look up slightly because of how he was situated on the tree root. I tried my best to put a smile in my eyes, and I knew it was convincing, but somehow he saw through it.
He turned away after a moment, returning to his book, allowing me to trail my gaze over him discreetly, slowly enough to admire the length of his legs and the tone of his pale skin in the late autumn sun, but defiantly not as long as I would have liked. That was my rule. Never look that long, others could notice.
“So Daisy. How are you today?” Daisy was my pet name for our newest member, only because I knew that Lily actually hated lilies, and the day I met her she had put a daisy in her long, straight red hair that made her look like one of those tree hugger hippies. Ever since then I had used the name to annoy her, because tree hugger hippy was too harsh. It used to work, because she used to get flustered and correct me quickly, but now I think she was rather fawned of it.
She only secured to me that she was a tree hugger with how many times I had caught her weaving little rings or bracelets of out strands of grass, like she was doing at the moment with her free hands.
“I’m well. Although I do have to work on that Potions assignment later tonight.” She had smiled warmly at me, but let her shoulder touch with James’ to show her attention was still with him. I tended to make the boy mildly jealous when I snatched her away from him like that, but the only reason I did it was to peeve him off. I was like, the dog, fighting with him for her attention sometimes, although for me it was simply to smirk at him when I won, not because I liked the attention any more than he did. He was her boyfriend therefore she loved him, but I was the dog that came with the boyfriend, so adorably cute and playful, therefore she couldn’t help but love me too. Of course, it was always platonic, but it was still love. Like you loved a sibling or someone you’ve know since you were a baby.
“Maybe you could help me with that. Considering I haven’t started and you’re so bloody brilliant with that type of stuff.” I smiled when she blushed, making a scoffing sound.
“I’m hardly brilliant.” She replied, being modest just like herself. James jumped in immediately, catching the compliment I had set him up for.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You are brilliant. Not just in potions either.” I rolled my eyes as he whispered the second part, having her grin at him and making his own lips turn into a goofy smile. I managed to save the crown of buttercups that Lily had just finished from off her lap before she was lost in lovers’ world with James, with their silly gooey whispers and snuck kisses that they thought we didn’t notice.
I occupied myself for a short moment by spinning the crown of small flowers on my finger, inspecting her twists and trying to figure out the basic idea for myself, before reaching up to put it on Remus’ head. He brought his eyebrows together slightly in a confused frown, pulling away from his book for a moment to taking it from his head and look at me with a questioning look, which I simply shrugged at. He didn’t need words to know there was no reason for me to have done that other than just trying to entertain myself.
And to perhaps get his attention.
“You’re a pest.” He said, breaking the calm silence that had fallen over us all, nothing but bird songs and coloured leaves rustling in the wind making noise. He closed his eyes as the sun broke through cloud cover in the distance, and I smiled when he could no longer playfully glare at me because of it. His skin was practically golden in his light, the wind rustling his hair gently, making him look unbearably well.
“You love me.” I said teasingly, snatching the crown of weeds back, and when he didn’t make a move for it, abandoned it and went for his book.
“Yes, like a dog loves flees.” He replied, sighing as I grabbed the hardcover and tossed it to Peter, who chuckled slightly before throwing it back to me in a high toss, just out of Remus’ reach as he went to grab it.
“Honestly guys.” He wanted to be annoyed, but I could tell that he couldn’t keep from smiling slightly.
“Comeon Moony, lighten up. And what do you have against dogs?” I made myself sound offended on a dogs behalf, or on my behalf if you wanted to look at it that way, purposely mistaking his words.
“Nothing. I said I don’t like flees.” He corrected, going to grabbing his book again as I held it out for him to take, only to pull it away and pass it to Peter once more. Peter went to send it back after catching it, but I didn’t look at him again. I was finished with the book now that Remus had forgotten about it.
Sometimes I wondered if James and Peter noticed. If they saw how quickly I forgot about everything else when I had his attention. Perhaps they were both too oblivious to see it, but I still wondered. It kept me careful.
“So you like dogs?” I smirked as his look turned to a glare, catching me in my game.
“Some of them.” He replied simply. I frowned.
“Which ones?” I asked, curious in where he would take this idea. I always liked joking with Remus just because of how quick he was. It’s not often that you come across someone like that, someone that can think on their toes and be witty with little effort. I always liked to see what he would turn my games into.
“The ones that don’t have flees.” He said, and I chuckled slightly before sighing and letting a silence fall over us again. He knew I had something else to say though, and he was waiting for it as I leaned closer to him. I daringly breathed in his smell silently, clean and fresh, but with a noticeable wild smell underneath, that reminded me of the woods and full moons when I closed my eyes. I whispered into his ear when I realized I had left the silence a little too long.
“What if I get a flea collar?” His laughter was intoxicating.
“We’ll see.” He managed out through a grin, his hand messing in my hair the way someone would pet a large animal, making me smile also.
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