Act 6 - Brothers
"Our siblings. They resemble just enough to make all the differences confusing, and no matter what we choose to make of this, we are cast in relation to them our whole lives long." Susan Merrell
"We are not only our brother's keeper. In countless large and small ways, We are our brother's maker." -Bonaro Overstreet
Sirius had never been interested in knowing the places where his cousins liked to gather. He had never cared. He had been invited to plenty of their soirée-s, sure. He had to be invited to any social occasion of the pureblood elite - he was a Black after all and in the eyes of people who cared, that made him important. But whenever it had been up to him, he had always chosen to have more interesting things to do.
Ever since he was nine years old he had known that there was something entirely strange about the way people around him saw the world. He found himself in disagreement with his cousins even about the smallest things. He had dozens of relatives and to him, they were just different versions of bad behavior, something to avoid.
So whenever there was an occasions for 'people his age to socialize' as his mother usually put it, Sirius downright refused to mingle. But, as he walked through the shadowy and smelly corners of Nocturn Alley, Sirius wished that he knew more about the places where his Death Eater cousins got together. If Regulus was not where Sirius hoped he was, then he would be lost… because other than this, Sirius had no idea where to look for his brother. He was going on instinct and desperation more than on logic.
But Sirius knew that he had to do something. He couldn't very well sit and do nothing while his brother took leisurely strolls with two Death Eaters, could he?
If only Sirius could talk to him.
He’d been trying to for months, but Regulus seemed to never be alone. Either their parents were making sure that Sirius stayed away from their younger and still unpolluted son… or Reg was going out of his way never to be alone so that Sirius may never get to him. The thought of his younger brother avoiding him on purpose almost send Sirius in a rage.
Sirius knew his brother as well as he knew himself. Knew the heart that beat in that chest and the way that curious mind turned. Regulus was pure still, but he could be tainted by anything... or anyone. Sirius knew that if he didn’t do something to fix the situation now, there would be no second chances.
The roads that they, as brothers, had taken would lead them in opposite directions and if they both followed through with their choices, they would end up in different sides of the battlefield for sure. And by then it would be too late...
Sirius feared this would be the case. He feared his brother's hard-headedness, because he knew that Regulus was just like him in that direction. He had to snatch his brother back now! Now, before Regulus was too far gone, before their claws had sunk in too deep…
Sirius stopped just before he turned one particular corner. He felt that James was right behind him. They'd made a plan on the way. A few plans actually. Sirius didn’t want to start a duel, but they had to make some kind of diversion to get to Regulus. The idea of dueling Bellatrix with Regulus nearby put Sirius on edge. He knew better than to assume Bellatrix incapable of using Regulus as a shield, or even worse. That bitch was capable of anything and Sirius wasn’t stupid enough to underestimate that.
And Regulus himself was still a trick puzzle. Sirius knew in his heart that Regulus was not capable of firing a single spell against his brother... at least not yet. Regulus was angry, hurt and probably felt abandoned, but what boiled in Regulus' guts was not hate. Sirius knew hate back and forth, he could practically smell it on someone and Regulus was not like that. Even if a duel ensued, Sirius knew that his brother would hesitate to hurt him - and that would get him in trouble with the rest of their family.
Bellatrix’s vocabulary didn’t include hesitation and Voldemort’s club was not one you could simply withdraw your membership request.
“Any idea what they are doing at Burkins’?” James asked under his breath as he hid in the shadows behind Sirius.
“We need to prepare if we’re…”
But James was stopped by Sirius’s hand on his arm. Sirius silently pointed east and James saw them as well. Bellatrix was talking to Regulus, who seemed to be listening intently. But Sirius knew the look on that face. Whatever Bella was saying, Regulus wasn’t liking it, even though he kept nodding. They were joined by Malfoy a moment afterwards.
The three of them started to walk off and Sirius felt his heart double up its pace.
“You need to go.” Sirius said hastily, looking at his friend. Off James’s confused and almost hurt look, he knew that he had to explain his thoughts more. “Go, get to the bike and go home. I’ll grab Regulus and Apparate there.”
But, of course, judging by the look on James’ face, he was going nowhere.
“You still have the trace on!” Sirius hissed.
James snorted. “That never stopped me before!”
“Your father won’t be able to cover for you forever…” But he didn’t get the chance to finish that because the trio was getting too close.
Seething, Sirius got ready to jump in. He’d have to be quick about it… and fight James some other time, because right now, he honestly couldn’t deny that he needed his friend at his side - and James knew that. If their hit-and-run plan went wrong, then they’d have to fight their way out.
Malfoy wasn’t a problem, but Bellatrix… she would be a bitch as always.
“I’ll distract them, you grab Regulus.” James’s whisper was so low it mixed with the breeze, but Sirius heard him. He nodded, coiling his muscles and getting ready.
Another couple of steps…
James aimed his wand carefully and concentrated on performing the spell nonverbally. The red flash that exploded from his wand hit Malfoy square in the chest. He fell like a sack of potatoes.
“Who goes there?” Regulus bellowed, his wand already out and Sirius couldn’t help but get angry at his brother. This was the way he was planning on joining Death Eater ranks? He would be dead within a week, the goodamned fool!
Bellatrix on the other hand had already spouted off three spells in the James’ general direction, but Sirius had managed to get past them, with James covering for him. James wasn’t even trying to cover really, he was facing Bellatrix as if this was a casual meeting on the streets… in the meantime giving Sirius a better chance to sneak closer to his brother.
“Hello there, Bella. How are you this evening?” James said calmly as he stepped out of the alley, his wand ready at his side.
“Look at what we have here.” Bellatrix said sweetly, not at all perturbed by the fact that Malfoy was on the ground and she was facing the one who put him there. “I fare very well, thank you. As you can see, I am in company.”
Her tone was just as flippant as James’s, but she had already fired a violet spell at him, without even bothering to say the words out loud. Wordless magic had always been easy for Bellatrix, but this time she was equally matched. James had deflected her spell silently as well, as if this was a competition. Regulus tried to raise his wand, but Bellatrix stopped him. She didn’t give the impression of being troubled at all, in fact she seemed quite amused. This was a game to her.
“You stunned my cousin. That was rude of you.”
James shrugged. “Yeah, sorry about that. Always hated his hair, you know.”
She waved her wand in the air as she spoke and a rope of fire came out, trying to wrap around James just as he twisted his wand into some intricate way. Moments before the fiery rope wrapped around him, James cloaked himself in a shield of water. With another a move of his wand the bubble exploded, extinguishing the fire and flooding half the alley, water-bullets snapping in Bellatrix’s direction. But Bellatrix had shielded herself and even though James’ spell was so strong that those drops of high-speed water made holes in the walls around them, they broke against Bella’s shield.
James send attack after attack at Bella. All of which she ducked and fired back.
“So, to what do I own the pleasure of such fine company Potter?” She hollered as she dodged a particularly well-aimed hex. She had some hair out of place, but was otherwise unscathed. James on the other hand looked as if he was having quite good fun, even though he was so concentrated that his wand sparkled even when he was staying put.
“I just missed our conversations.” He said casually.
Bellatrix laughed manically, but now there was a different glint to her eyes.
The duel turned into a sort of toxic dance of flashes and blows, all unravelling much too quickly and rising way too fast. In just a couple of minutes the conflict had escalated to the point where the duellists were blowing up pieces of walls from buildings around them. Bella’s dress was burned on more than one corner and James’s left arm was bleeding.
But less than 3 minutes were enough for Sirius to sneak around the duel without being seen (or shot down by blind spells – which almost happened a couple of times) get right behind his brother, stun him, catch him before he fell and shoot blue sparks up with his wand – their signal.
James noticed the sparks, even thought that slip of attention almost cost Prongs his left ear.
“Bella, you’ve been a pain in the ass, as usual.” James said as he looked behind her to Sirius to confirm and in a whip of his wand he was gone.
Too late did Bella follow his look, and she caught just a glimpse of Sirius and Regulus, one second before they disappeared. The stunning spell she threw a them blew the tiles off the wall against which Sirius had been leaning.
Her scream of frustration echoed off the empty street.
But her dear cousin was a fool if he thought that simply because he had taken Regulus for now, he would get to keep him. Regulus Black was too deep into their world, too dutiful a son and devoted to their blood’s common goals to follow the path of his brother.
Regulus would come back to her, and to the Dark Lord. Bellatrix knew that as well as she knew herself.
Sirius landed right on the Potters back garden, the feel of his brother’s weight against his side a relief. James was already there. As soon as their eyes met, as smile started to form on James’s face and Sirius could feel that the same was happening to him. Soon it turned into a grin and the next moment they were laughing.
“Your dad is going to skin you alive mate.” Sirius said as he calmed a bit.
“Nah, he won’t. Besides, Miss Bones at the ministry just loves me. She says I’m such a sweet boy.” James imitated the elderly woman’s voice so well that another bubble of laughter swelled in him. Adrenaline was still flying high in his system and he was aware of that.
James laid out on the ground, and breathed in a deep one. “Man, that was the best fun I’ve had since last week.” Sirius looked at his friend and couldn’t help a smirk. Trust James to find duelling someone as demented as Bellatrix funny.
“To each their own mate.” Sirius said and picked up his wand to bring his brother back to consciousness. He didn’t know what they were going to say to each other, but this conversation had been put off for too long already. It had been almost a year since they had spoken as brothers.
“I’m going inside. See you afterwards.” Sirius only nodded in response as James got up and left.
Sirius looked to his side, at Regulus’ dirt-mingled face. It was uncanny how much the two of them looked like each other. It was not about likeness of features, not really. They had the same air, the same shadow. From afar it was no wonder people sometimes confused them.
Gently, Sirius performed the spell and waited for Regulus to open his eyes, but not before he had the forethought to take away Regulus’s wand from him. He may love his brother very much, but he knew what was in that head of his too well to leave anything to chance.
Sirius wasn’t afraid that his brother would hurt him. It was just that the idea of Regulus raising his wand meaning to harm him, or with the intent of protecting himself from someone he no longer considered family was… well, Sirius simply didn’t want to give his brother a chance to do that.
He was essentially spearing himself the pain of having to watch it.
Regulus groaned and rolled to his side, right before he opened his eyes. He took in a couple of ragged breaths and realized where he was and with who. Then his hand went to his side, as if he was looking for his wand. Sirius hadn’t thought that seeing him do that would hurt just as much as having his brothers wand actually pointed at his throat.
Regulus stared up at his brother coldly. “Well, isn’t this a happy reunion.” And when Sirius didn’t say a word, Regulus went on, even more indifferently. “What am I doing here?”
Sirius had known that this would have been difficult. He had anticipated a cold reaction, even insults, derision, anger. He had expected to be yelled at, a fight. He had thought himself prepared.
Which was why the hot anger coiling inside him so fast surprised him.
Sirius hadn’t thought he would lose his patience so soon, but after all that he went through to get the brat here, after that heart attack he had almost suffered when he’d seen him with two known Death Eaters… he hadn’t known what he had expected, but it had been surely more than the tone Regulus was taking with him now!
“I wanted to talk to you.” Sirius said as calmly as he could.
Now they were both standing and Sirius couldn’t help but to notice that despite how much Regulus had grown, he was still a couple of inches shorter than himself. And looking leaner than when Sirius had last seen him. Regulus’ face looked tired and there were bags under is grey eyes that were so much like his own.
Regulus scoffed, “Oh, now you want to talk to me?”
“Yeah, I wanted to talk to you, so maybe you should shut your piehole and listen!”
“No, I don’t think I will.” Regulus snapped, catching Sirius by surprise with his tone and the fact that he took one step closer.
“You have no more hold over me, so if you think you can order me around, think again… bloodtraidor.” Regulus spat the word at him, and for a moment all Sirius could do was stare at the person in front of him and try to find some semblance of his brother in what his was seeing.
Abruptly, Rugulus turned on his heels and started to walk away. That was when Sirius literally saw red. He threw his and Regulus’s wand on the ground and with a few strides went over to his brother, grabbed him from the back of his jacket and hurled him backwards.
“Where do you think you’re going? Look, at me!”
But Regulus was now struggling and ended up taking off his jacked altogether to escape Sirius’ iron grip. Regulus turned and the second he did Sirius couldn’t miss the fact that he had his hands balled in fists. So the swing that came for his jaw was no surprise and easily dodged.
Finally, they were in familiar territory.
In a fast move, Sirius grabbed his brothers wrist, pulled him towards himself and then, using Regulus’ momentum against him, Sirius pushed him hard, making Regulus fight to keep balance. It was a move designed to irritate your opponent, not to cause an damage.
Sirius jumped around as if in a ring, his firsts up, ready to keep going.
“Come on. ”
“Fuck you, I’m leaving.”
“No you’re not. You’re not leaving.” And Sirius was on him, pushing him, slapping, spurring him on, trying to make Regulus angry enough to let loose.
“You know you want to kick my ass so come on.” Sirius hissed just as Regulus charged at him like a bull.
Then it was one shot after the other, blows that Sirius stopped with his forearms or took in the ribs. He defended himself, kept his fists up because he knew that at the first chance, Regulus would go for the head. Sirius didn’t give him that chance but he let his brother take his time.
He dodged the knee that came up to hit him and nailed Regulus on the stomach with his left. Regulus gritted his teeth but the only response was a punch to the liver. Which gave Sirius the opportunity to deliver one right on Regulus’ mouth. It wasn’t too hard, but it was hard enough to bust a lip.
They went at each other harder than ever. Because this wasn’t the usual match, like the many others that they had had before. This was something else entirely and neither could name it. They wanted to hurt each other, wanted to take out their anger on the one they believed had hurt them the most…
Regulus was getting more and more aggressive and Sirius saw in the frantic pace of his brothers blows the sign that Regulus was running out of energy. Right before his strength left him, Regulus was the most vicious. So Sirius took his chance.
He grabbed his brother by the middle and tackled him on the ground.
Regulus felt the air leave his lungs in a rush. He felt his arm being pulled and himself being turned face down in the grass, one hand holding his head down, the other twisting his arm, and a knee on his back keeping him where he was. He couldn’t move an inch so he screamed his lungs out in anger.
“Stop it! Shut up, shut up!” Sirius yelled, right at his ear.
“Get off me! Get the fuck off me you sick fuck.” Regulus literally felt his yells scrap the back of his throat, he was screaming that savagely.
“I hate you, do you hear me!”
“I hate you!”
“I’m sorry! Ok? I’m sorry!”
There was a shattering moment of silence, filled with their loud ragged breaths that scraped their sore throats like tiny needles.
And then a sob broke through and then another.
Regulus was trying to quiet them, but his throat was too raw from too much screaming and he was too tired from the fighting. His entire body was aching and his head was about to explode. The tears down his face burned. He stopped struggling to get free and Sirius eased his grip on his brother, eventually letting go completely.
He’d been practically sitting on Regulus’s back, holding him down, but now that he knew Regulus wouldn’t try to run away, Sirius collapsed on the ground next to him.
Regulus was facing in the other direction and all Sirius could see was the back of his brother’s head, and the way he had curled his shoulders in, trying to keep his shudders and sobs down to himself. Sirius reached out but as soon as he put his hand on Regulus’ shoulder, his brother jerked away, as if he’d been burned.
So Sirius grabbed Regulus by the lapels of his shirt and made him turn around so that they could be face to face. Regulus struggled, but not for long. His face was covered in dirt and there was blood coming off his busted lip.
“Look at me.” Sirius shook him a little, trying to get through all that he was feeling at that moment. “I am sorry, do you hear? I am sorry I left…”
Regulus shook his head imperceptibly and Sirius couldn’t read what was in his brothers eyes, but it definitely was not forgiveness.
“So what if you’re sorry? That didn’t stop you!”
“I left because I had no choice!” The outrage in Sirius’s tone was almost matched by the anger in Regulus’s face
“Yes you did! You had a choice. You always had a choice.” And by now they were both standing, even thought the dynamics between them was different from that of 15 minutes ago.
“You chose to ignore our parents, you chose to rebuke our cousins, you chose to think that your opinions were better than anyone else’s. You chose to refuse to listen.”
Sirius couldn’t believe his ears. “Because it was the right thing to do!”
“How do you know that? Who are you to tell me the difference between right or wrong, to give me advice when you never accept any?”
“Leave the philosophical bullshit for another time Reg. The facts are simple and contrary to what you might believe or what Bellatrix might tell you, there is a right and a wrong. And just because you haven’t made the wrong choice yet, doesn’t mean you’re on the right path.”
Regulus made an exasperated noise. “What the bloody hell are you talking about?”
“What they tell you is not the truth Regulus. Running around with Death Eaters is a mistake. When people start dying before your eyes, you’re going to start feeling the weight of your choices.” Sirius saw the way his brother was taken aback by what he had said. It was clear that Regulus hadn’t been told of the full story of what being a Death Eater entailed. He also saw disbelief in his brothers eyes.
Regulus shook his head. “There will be no deaths. He is not seeking to murder, he…”
“Oh come off it Regulus, wake up. He already is a murderer. What do you think he’ll do, ask muggleborns to peacefully turn in their wands and everyone will just do it? There is going to be a war, and it’s going to be soon. People are already disappearing, muggles and muggleborns are turning up dead all over the country.”
Regulus’s breath accelerated as he looked at his brother in disbelief. For the first time, Sirius felt hope.
“There is going to be no war. But even if there is… then so be it. I’m willing to fight for what I believe in. A vision requires sacrifice.”
“Whose sacrifice? Yours? Mine?” Sirius practically roared. “You really think that the blood of people you don’t know is worth any less than the blood of those you do?” Sirius had thought this would have been easier, but they already had their hooks in Regulus so much deeper than he had expected.
“What do you believe in Regulus? In what Bellatrix and Malfoy tell you to? In what our parents tell you? The world that our parents would have us live in is a lie Reg. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’…”
“Do not talk about them!” Regulus pushed at Sirius’s chest, all of the sudden furious and for the second time, tears were shining in his eyes again, but this time they didn’t fall.
“You don’t get to talk about our parents.”
The silent moment stretched as Sirius struggled to comprehend this sudden outburst and Regulus built up another wave of anger, because he could see now that Sirius didn’t understand him at all. That his brother still couldn’t fathom why all of this between them was happening. That he still didn’t care…
“Do you really think that I care what Bellatrix mouths off or what that our cousins are up to?” Regulus was grinding his teeth as he spoke and for once Sirius was completely lost.
“I do not, brother. Half of them are wild and the other half of dimwitted. I see them for what they are. Don’t you dare think me a pawn in their game.”
Sirius was stunned. He felt now impossibly close to his brother and unbearable cut off from him at the same time.
“Then what the hell are you doing?” he asked in a whisper, bewildered.
The sincerity with which Sirius asked that almost had Regulus want to punch the lights out of his brother all over again. Because it was clear to Regulus now that Sirius would never care about the things Regulus found important.
He would never care about their father or their mother - their heartbreak meant nothing to him. And if in the past Regulus had thought that maybe he had had his brothers love, now he was starting to doubt that too. In leaving their house Sirius had completely abandoned the whole universe that those walls encompassed, and that meant he had abandoned Regulus too. He knew in that moment that Sirius would never love him for who he really was, that his brother would always try to change him, to make him a version of himself.
That they would probably end up hating each other because they were too stubborn to change for each other.
“What am I doing? I am doing what a good son should do. I am making my parents proud of me. Something you should be doing.” Regulus took a deep breath to calm down, but his voice kept shaking a little.
“I am stepping in your shoes, because it’s the only thing that can make mother feel better. I am being the heir of the Black family, because it’s what my father expects of me after the disappointment you were.”
The brothers looked at each other in the eye, the silence between them as charged as a high tension cable. A smirk made its way on Regulus’ lips, distorting his face into the mask of an expression, the pain in his eyes contrasting with the repugnance on his lips.
“But you don’t care about that, do you? You don’t care that you broke our mother’s heart when you left, as if we weren’t your flesh and blood…”
And in that moment Regulus learned something new about his older brother: he saw Sirius’ newfound rigidity in the way his brothers mouth tightened and his muscles coiled. There it was, another little piece of truth that Regulus had never known about the brother he had so loved: Sirius may not care about his family, but he was not comfortable with that indifference. It hurt Sirius to be so apart from his own blood. It hurt him to hate them as he did.
“One needs to have a heart in order to have it broken.” Sirius said quietly, his expression carefully blank.
“She didn’t get out of bed for a month after you left.” Regulus bellowed and then night echoed his words as if it wanted to confirm them. Sirius fisted his hands so hard that he felt his knuckles protest. The air was now tense between them all over again, as if they were strangers and not brothers.
“And now you want what? You want me to come to you? You want me to leave them? Or perhaps you would ask me to stay with them but give up on fulfilling the duties expected of me, just because you think they are wrong. You want me to break their hearts all over again by being just like you?”
Regulus stared at his silent brother and knew instinctively the answer to all those questions. Yes. Yes to everything. Yes, Sirius wanted all those things, because he thought they were right. Because he thought that it was best.
Regulus did not know which was worse: having a brother that had no idea about the destruction he left behind his every step, or having a brother that was selfish enough not to care at all about those he destroyed, about those he left behind. Did it matter, in the end, whether Sirius was ignorant or selfish? The result was the same: he had left them all, his family. He had hurt them, hurt him.
The selfishness in his brother was a rare kind, Regulus realized: Sirius could love well, he would die for those he loved. But the ones he cared nothing for, were inexistent to him. There was no goodness, no consideration in Sirius for those that were unable to hold his attention.
The realization was like a cold bucket of water to Regulus’s spirits. He felt more alone in than he ever had and so very, very tired.
When he spoke again his voice mirrored his feelings.
“Do you really want to know why we’re here, brother?” His brother didn’t react so Regulus continued.
“We’re here because you have always thought that you were right about everything. A most Black-like trait, if you really want to know. You take only your own opinion in consideration and don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks or who your decisions fall on, because you never turn around long enough to see the damage that is always right behind you… The truth brother? You brought us here. You made choices and now I have to pick up the pieces…”
Sirius watched the face of his 15 year old brother, watched and saw something in that knocked him out of breath. For the first time in a really long time, Sirius wished he was able to cry. He could feel the tingling up in his eyes, but nothing was going to fall, he knew it.
The pain was just going to tear at his chest as usual, eating him from the inside out, making him want to howl. But there would be no tears.
“You made your choices Sirius. Now you have to live with them.”
“I’m going to get you out.” Sirius said with gritted teeth, determined, and Regulus realized that no matter how much they talked this through, they would never come to an understanding.
It was as if neither of them really heard the other.
Regulus shrugged a little. “Stubbornness runs in the family I suppose… Now I want my wand back, if you please. I’m going home.”
Sirius hesitated for a moment, but then gave his brother his wand back, even though he was unwilling to let go of him just yet. This, all that had happened in the last hour felt irrevocable and yet, very much dreamlike at the same time.
He was unwilling to accept this as a goodbye.
“I’m going to talk to our parents.”
Regulus’ eyes – eyes that were such a perfect mirror of his - snapped up and for the first time Sirius saw fear in them.
“I’d rather you didn’t.” Regulus said slowly, enunciating every word as if it weighted a ton.
“I’m going to anyway.”
Regulus scoffed. “And say what exactly? You’re going to try to convince them that the Dark Lord is a demon, a war is coming and we’re all going to die? I don’t think so.”
“I’m going to talk to them.”
“I’m not going to let you. You’ve done enough damage.”
They stared each other down, neither relenting one bit, both were equally determined. Then Sirius felt the corner of his lips curve in the shadow of a smirk.
“Stubbornness runs in the family.” He said with a shrug.
An identical small smirk mirrored his even though Regulus scoffed at his brother words. But it was the century-old looking sadness in his brothers eyes that really broke Sirius’ heart.
The next moment, Regulus had vanished from his sight, leaving both of the alone in the worlds they had chosen for themselves.
AN: So, what do you think about the brothers? Are they ‘brotherly’ enough? Do you get the feeling that they are friends as well as relatives? I’m was really worried about the duel part - I have a feeling that I suck at action... Any advice/comment is much appreciated. Thanks for reading, as always :)