Chapter 50 : Just Breathe
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Regulus' heart pounded heavily in his chest as his angry grey eyes bore down into Polaris'. The boy's hand shook just slightly as he gripped his wand so tight the blood drained in his fingers, leaving them pallid. He dragged the palm of his right hand across his forehead to clear it of the cold sweat breaking his skin. “Just kill it,” the boy hissed at himself.
Polaris' body tensed up and his light eyes darted to the edge of the forest; his salvation. The creature gave a quiet whimper and stared back up at his potential death. The dark-haired boy took frantic breaths, trying to ease the burning in his lungs. He couldn't understand the problem. He'd killed before, several times in fact, and there was no reason the disguised Auror or spy should be spared. His skin tingled with heat and the hairs on his arm stood upright as he took a step closer to the Animagus and parted his lips.
Hesitation washed over Regulus, making his mouth run dry. The boy opened his hand, letting the wand drop like a stone onto the ground beside Polaris' shaking form. The Slytherin's jaw tightened and his eyes closed as he began to shiver violently. “Go,” he whispered so quietly it was almost inaudible.
The dog didn't waste his chance. He bolted to the forest and disappeared into its depths. Regulus watched the spot where Polaris entered, his breathing growing more and more shallow. His vision blurred and tunneled on the tiny spot at the edge of the trees. The boy put his hand on his chest and leaned himself over, trying desperately to regain himself. His breaths became loud and gasping and his head swam with dizziness.
A pair of hands grabbed onto Regulus' shoulders as he sank to his knees on the cold hard ground, his legs no longer able to support him. Distantly he could hear someone saying his name over and over, but the voice was lost to him. “Don't touch me!” he cried out, his voice breaking as he struggled to push the person away.
“Regulus, just calm down. Relax,” the voice pleaded as a pair of arms wrapped around the boy's chest protectively. “Breathe, damn it!”
Regulus twisted and squirmed in the tight hold, his body fighting for freedom. “Get...stop...no.” He dug his fingertips into the arms around him and kicked his feet in the person's general direction. His hands hit the ground and he clawed at the dirt to pull himself away.
“Stop fighting, Regulus, you're having an attack. Just relax. Please breathe!” Hands grabbed onto the panicking boy's face and shook him in desperation. “Breathe you idiot!”
“I can't....” And his words died as the boy collapsed onto the ground.
“Mister Black, can you hear me?” came Madam Pomfrey's voice.
Regulus slowly forced his eyes open, wincing in pain as the light hit him. He watched the nurse through blurry eyes as she rushed to shut off the light directly above his bed. “Where...?” He pushed himself to sit up and frowned angrily as he was met with the sight of the Hospital Wing. “...the hell?”
“You fainted, Mister Black.” Madam Pomfrey handed the boy a vial of potion that he swallowed back without a single question. She smirked when he pulled a disgusted face and took the empty container back from him. “You students always think that medicine should taste good. It's magic, not miracles.”
Regulus muttered an agreement and laid his head back onto the pillow behind him. “Fainted?”
“Well, that's what I was told. You were unconscious when you got here. I'm concerned about this.” The woman tugged the blanket up over Regulus' chest and gave him a sympathetic look. “What's the last thing you can remember?”
The boy cut his eyes away and gave an indifferent shrug.
“If you don't tell me what you were doing, I can't help you. Do you even wa-”
“He was outside,” Bartemius cut in as he stepped into the curtained-off area and closed it back behind him. “He was outside in the cold. It probably just got to be too much.”
Madam Pomfrey eyed the newcomer with a scowl and shook her head. “This is a serious problem, Mister Crouch. If he's suffering from this kind of thing often, it could mean th-”
“I want to be alone,” Regulus interrupted the woman. “Like Barty said, I was outside too long. This kind of thing never happens,” he lied, his eyes locking down on the blanket.
“Mister Black, this isn't a -”
“I'm leaving.” Regulus tossed the covers back and slipped his feet onto the floor. The boy grabbed onto Bartemius as his legs almost gave way underneath him. “Damn it,” he gasped, trying to pull himself together. He started out of the curtain, taking his wand from Bartemius when the boy grabbed it off the side table. He let the blonde help him out into the hallway, then leaned back against the wall. “What happened?” he asked in whisper as he sank to the floor.
“I don't know,” Bartemius answered, squatting in front of him. “I wasn't there. I heard someone talking about it in the Great Hall and came up.”
“How did you know I was outside then?”
“I didn't. I just figured it sounded plausible, so I went with it.” Bartemius looked up and down the hallway, twisting his lips in annoyance at the heavy crowding. “Do you wanna go to your room?”
Regulus shook his head and closed his eyes. “I just need a minute,” he answered. “I wanna know who was out there. Someone was outside, they tried to help me.”
“I don't know who it was,” the blonde answered. “You could ask Madam Pomfrey.” When Regulus shook his head again, Bartemius shrugged. “Does it really matter? Just be glad someone brought you in.” The boy straightened out the sleeve of Regulus' robes and let his hand linger on the other boy's shoulder. “Are you sure you're alright? You don't look very good. Maybe you should go back.”
“No,” the other boy snapped, swatting the boy's hand away and pushing himself to his feet. “I need to see Professor Dumbledore.”
“You heard me. I need to see Dumbledore.” Regulus started towards the Headmaster's office, his vision still a bit dreary and his legs weak. Upon rounding the corner, he found himself face-to-face with the very man he had been seeking out. “Professor,” the boy said wryly.
“Ah, Mister Black, just the person I was coming to see. Aren't you meant to be in the Hospital Wing?” the old man asked, looking over Regulus from behind his spectacles.
“I left. I wanted to t- Wait, you were coming to see me? Why?”
Professor Dumbledore gave a small smile and tipped his head to Bartemius when the boy joined them. “Word came to my ears that you fell ill on the grounds. I wanted to see that you had pulled through.”
“Did that word come from your little spy?” Regulus snarled.
“I'm afraid I've no idea what spy you're speaking of. I heard this from your brother.”
“The spy I'm speaking of is that damn dog you've got parading around the grounds!” Regulus yelled, his head spinning with his own exertion. “It's over though. He's been found out. So whatever game you or the Ministry is trying to play...it's over!”
“Regulus, he's the Headmaster,” Bartemius scolded of the other boy's angry tone.
“I don't care!”
“Mister Black, I have no earthly idea what you're talking about,” the old man insisted. “Dogs and spies? Perhaps you should go back to the Hospital Wing.”
“Don't you patronize me, old man,” Regulus argued.
“Regulus!” Bartemius grabbed onto the boy's arm and forced him to turn towards him. “Stop it. You're going to get in a lot of trouble.”
Professor Dumbledore hummed in agreement. “You should listen to your...friend,” the man said smoothly, his eyes lingering on the way the blonde boy's fingers were curled around Regulus' arm.
Regulus looked back to the Professor and jerked out of Bartemius' hold. “You can stand there and pretend like you don't what I'm talking about, but the Ministry wouldn't have sent an Animagus to spy on me without your permission to come onto the grounds.”
“Regulus, no,” Bartemius hissed in the boy's ear, sending a shiver down his spine. “He doesn't know what you're talking about.” The boy met Regulus' eyes and shook his head slightly. “He's not lying.”
“I don't trust him.”
“Well do you trust me?”
Regulus tensed his body and pulled his gaze away from the chocolate brown eyes probing him. “I don't trust anyone,” he answered coldly. He stepped away from the scene, leaving Bartemius and the Headmaster speechless. By the time he made it back to the Slytherin common room, the boy was exhausted and angry. He fell onto his bed and within moments, he was pulled into a dreamless sleep.
Regulus was called out of his Transfigurations class the following morning. The Headmaster stood across the hallway, looking wise and humble, with a smile etched faintly on his lips. He gave a small laugh at the way Regulus rolled his eyes and hesitantly joined the man for a stroll down the hallways.
“Am I in trouble?” Regulus sighed after a stretched silence.
“No,” Professor Dumbledore replied. “Though...I will take action if you let your tongue continue to get the best of you.”
“Then what is this about?” the boy asked, holding a civil tone.
“What you said to Mister Crouch...I found it very saddening that you cannot trust someone who clearly has your best interest at heart. Or anyone, for that matter. Tell me, do you know who T. S. Eliot is?” the old man asked, glancing back at Regulus with knowing eyes. “I don't imagine you do. He was a Muggle poet and a playwright as well. Brilliant man. He once said that no soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence.”
“So now you're concerned about my soul?” the boy laughed, staring up at the old man with a smirk.
“Most certainly,” Professor Dumbledore answered, shocked at the boy's question. “And I'm not the only one concerned with the condition of your soul right now. Or your health,” the man continued. “Your brother was quite shaken over what happened to you. He said that when you were younger that happened a lot. Why didn't you tell Madam Pomfrey?”
“Because it isn't her business and it isn't yours either. I just got...upset. It isn't a big deal.”
“What were you so upset about?” the man asked innocently.
Regulus snorted in amusement, his eyes narrowing at the Headmaster. “Is this the part where I break down and tell you every dirty little secret I have? You think I'm going to sit in your office and have candy and cry on your desk about my family and mates and tell you how I want to change?”
“Do you want to change?”
“I have to go, Professor.” The boy came to a stop and looked back down the hallway towards his classroom. “You can tell my brother that my soul isn't his concern anymore.”
A Note From the Author:Yes, there it is. I tried to portray the effects of a panic attack as well as I knew how. Research can only get you so far though. Thank you for reading an I hope you're enjoying the story. :) --Jenna
“No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence.” - T. S. Eliot
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