Dirt filled Regulus' mouth and clung to his lips, caked on by dried blood. He spat towards the ground, but it did no good, there was just too much and his tongue was long since dry. The heat of the summer sun had his skin red and stinging. He was drenched with his own sweat and his hair was plastered to his head. Every muscle in him screamed with each move, but he forced his body push through it. He felt disgusting and exhausted, but most of all, he felt angry.
“That one barely even touched you!”
Jugson's voice carried to Regulus' ears, but the boy only half understood him. He was dizzy and having trouble focusing; the glaring sun was a hindrance on his dehydrated self. He lifted his wand and narrowed his eyes as he sent a stunning hex soaring at the laughing man.
The blonde easily batted away Regulus' hex with a shield spell and shook his head. “You're not even trying anymore.” The man charged at Regulus and twisted his hand into the boy's shirt. He shook him angrily and sneered into his face. “You're getting lazy and sloppy!” He flung the boy to the ground and rolled his eyes at the groan that broke from Regulus' mouth. “What did you do all year? Sit around batting your eyes at your girlfriend? Get the hell up and fight me, you lazy sod!”
“I'm not lazy!” Regulus flung his arms out as Jugson pulled him from the ground by his collar and shook him again. “I just need a fucking break!” he growled, trying once again, in vain, to spit the dirt from his mouth.
“A break?” The man laughed in Regulus' face and lowered his lips to the boy's ear, his forehead pressing against his sweat soaked hair without care. “You think that an Auror would give you a break?” His words were low and steady and sent a sickening chill down Regulus' spine. “You think they give two shits if you're young or if you're tired? Because they don't; they will take you out.”
Something inside of Regulus broke. It was as if a dam lay inside of him, holding back a new wave of strength and power. His near ended body was renewed; he tensed and his left arm swung up, jabbing the tip of his wand into Jugson's throat. The blonde man choked out a cough and released his hold on the boy to clutch at his throat. He stumbled back a few steps, his body bent, his eyes locked up on Regulus. His mouth curved into a distorted, proud smile.
The man's wand twitched and a stream of red soared towards Regulus but it didn't matter, he'd already put up a shield. He pointed his wand high, aiming for Jugson's head. “Confringo!”
Jugson's eyes bulged as he dropped heavily to the ground, narrowly avoiding being hit in the face by Regulus' spell. He let out a strangled cry and looked back over his shoulder just as the blast of light hit a crooked sign post. The wood was instantly engulfed in flames, devoured in a matter of moments. The fire crackled and spread over the surrounding grass, threatening to take the whole practice field.
The man pushed himself to his feet and doused the flames before turning back to Regulus, his arms at his side. Regulus still stood in casting position, his wand trained once again for Jugson's face. His eyes were dead and cold, his body unwavering. He wanted nothing more than to crawl into his bed and sleep for the next month, but that was impossible. He wasn't going to show weakness.
“Well done.” Jugson's tone was bordering on bitter. “That's enough for now. Let's go get a drink.”
Regulus didn't lower his wand until he was sure Jugson's was out of sight. He slowly let his arm move to his side and peeled his fingers from the tightly gripped mahogany. He flexed his hand to relax the muscles and swept the sweat from his forehead before following the man to the local bar.
Sleep was once again playing its twisted game with Regulus: evasion and torture.
The boy tossed and turned and struggled in a mess of bedsheets beneath him, trying to find any semblance of comfort. The nights were just as hot as the days in Purezza and the boy was drenched in sweat. He'd already stripped down to no more than his boxers, but it didn't matter, the heat was still unbearable. His skin still stung red from the sun's daily attack; sunblock spells abandoned. His hair was knotted and plastered at odd angles from all the movement. Every time he forced his eyes closed, blue spots dotted his vision and made his stomach turn.
The few moments of sleep that did come to Regulus were fitful and trying on his mind. Images of death and destruction haunted his every dream. They always started the same: with Anthony. For a year he'd been reliving that moment through nightmares but he was no less shaken by it now than he was the first time. Night after night he'd watched himself raise his wand, heard himself say those two words. The dream-him would rush over, try to stand in the way of the curse but it never worked, he was never quick enough. His mind was plagued with repeatedly watching his only love crumple into lifeless heap on a cold, filthy stone floor in Lestrange Manor.
It didn't stop there. He watched himself restrain a screaming woman while Bellatrix leaned over her husband, questioning him. His mind replayed the order to kill them both, and his unquestioning jump to carry it out. And the owner of a small bookshop in Liverpool, then a man who publicly started a movement to protect the rights of Muggle-borns, and small Muggle woman clutching the hand of her son.... One green flash after another raged through his every sleeping moment until he woke up, clutching at his chest and panting for breath.
His eyes opened wide; his head shook in a desperate attempt to clear his mind of the images. Roughly, the boy rubbed his hands over his face and sat up in the bed, reaching behind him to peel the sweat-clung sheet from his bruised body. He groaned. The last ten days with Jugson had been far worse than he'd even anticipated. The fights were more violent from the previous summer, the taunts crueler, the pain more searing: all to prove some vague point that Regulus wasn't living up to what was expected of him. His beaten form ached with every twist and turn, but he pushed the concept of pain from his mind.
Regulus glanced towards his open window. The sun was just at the point before rising, when its light threatened to creep over the horizon, but the white moon still glared down over them. It was beautiful: like the sky itself was warring for dominance over the earth.
“Things are going to get worse.”
Regulus jumped at the voice and whipped his head towards his doorway. He expected to see the speaker, but the room was empty, save himself. He frowned heavily. He'd been sure that he had closed the door fully when he went to bed the night before, but now it stood ajar. “What's gonna get worse?” He wasn't even sure who he was speaking to. He merely assumed someone stood on the other side of the door. When no answer came he snatched up his wand and climbed out of bed.
The answer sounded just as Regulus' hand reached the doorknob. The voice was so wispy and distant he wasn't even sure it was human. He carefully pulled the door open and cut his eyes around the stark empty hallway. “Hello?” Bare feet glided across the dirty, hardwood floor. Fingers curled tightly around a wand. Grey eyes darted frantically in search of another soul. “What...what do you mean it's going to get worse? Who's going to make it worse?”
Silence dragged on; all Regulus could hear was his own pulse raging in his ears. Curiosity was replaced with anger. “What the hell is going on? If you want something, then bloody come out here!” He didn't care if his shouts would wake Jugson or not; for all he knew it was the man trying to mess with his head. He opened his mouth to shout again when a flash of movement caught the corner of his eyes.
The boy snapped to attention, his wand pointed towards the movement before he even had to think on it. His eyes narrowed with fury as he saw nothing but the chillingly still room. “I saw you,” he called out, but his words lacked any conviction. “I'm going back to bed.” He dropped his arm to his side and hurried back to his room, making sure to close the door tightly before crawling back into his bed.
Regulus pulled his pillow into his arms and leaned back against his headboard. His eyes trained out of the window, watching a tiny nest of birds pick at the dirt in the neighbors flowerbed. He rubbed the tips of his fingers against his temple and fought to even his erratic breathing. The sharp gasps made his head swim and turned his stomach.
“You're going to make it worse.”
He didn't look around, there was no need. He'd have bet his life on being the only one in that room. He closed his eyes tightly and pressed his face into his pillow, letting out an angry scream into the dingy white folds. “Stop!” he begged to nothing. His hand jumped to his head, his fingers twisted tightly in his hair, pulling at it until the pain became near unbearable. “Stop! Stop! Stop!”
The door swung open and banged against the wall so hard it vibrated across the room, shaking the framed pictures that hung all around. Jugson rushed into the room, waving his wand around as he searched for whoever or whatever Regulus was screaming at. “What's going on?”
“Nothing. Nothing's going on.” Regulus' words shook slightly. “I'm fine, put down your wand.”
“You were yelling!” Jugson argued, wand still poised.
“I...I was talking in my sleep. I didn't mean to.”
Jugson turned to Regulus, wand slowly lowering to his side. His eyes locked onto the boy's as though he was searching for signs of a lie. “You're sure?” When Regulus nodded the man heaved a sigh. “Bloody brat. Time to get up as it is, we have company.” He grumbled and pulled a face that showed he was clearly not thrilled with the new arrival.
Regulus watched Jugson push out of the room, leaving a tall, slender boy alone in the doorway.
“Oh...did the little baby have a nightmare?” sneered Evan Rosier. He leaned against the door frame, arms crossed. “You don't look happy to see me, Black.”
Regulus was about to curse the other boy when a sudden thought occurred to him. “Are...you staying here for training?” When Evan gave a small nod, Regulus' smile stretched across his face so far it almost hurt. “In that case, I'm very happy to see you.”
Evan didn't understand what Regulus had meant until he was face down in the dirt for the dozenth time that afternoon. He pushed himself from the ground, only to stumble and fall back over with the effort. Regulus stood behind him, wand loosely pointed in the older boy's direction, a sick laugh breaking from his lips.
Regulus' cold eyes watched with a twisted glee as Evan fought to shake off the weariness from his curse. He raised his wand again, ready to strike, but a heavy hand took his wrist. He met Jugson's gaze and the two shared a smile before the man pushed his arm down.
“Let him recover first.” Jugson nodded towards Evan as the boy was finally getting on his feet.
“Let him...recover?” Regulus' eyes widened, his jaw tightening. “What happened to an Auror doesn't care if you're young or tired? Huh!? Why should I let him recover? You sure as fuck didn't give me that chance!”
Jugson took a step back from the boy and smiled. And that's when Regulus realized he was being tested; given a choice. He could have put his wand away and let Evan steady himself or he could have attacked without mercy the way Jugson had been drilling into him every day. The blonde man folded his arms and tilted his head slightly, it was obvious he wasn't going to interfere either way.
Regulus glanced towards Evan and memories of every snide insult, every cheeky remark, every misstep the boy had ever made to him surfaced. In the back of his mind he reminded himself that Evan Rosier was on his team, despite the bitterness. They were on the same side of the war. But tiny voices were not enough to soothe the anger.
Regulus made his choice and lifted his wand once more.
A Note From the Author: Thank you again for reading. I'd love to know what you think of the chapter. :) Next one, he's back home. --Jenna
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