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hope khol:professional nobody by lost in wonderland
Chapter 35 : fatherly visits and fireside confessions
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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I was nervous.

I was nervous my Gran was going to have a heart attack before her New Years Day brunch could happen. The amount of planning she was putting into it was frightening. She was testing out recipes for weeks – mainly different types of quiche. I was responsible for sampling them, along with Henry. Hardy escaped this task because he had brought a girl home for the holidays. He got to spend the days wandering around the snowy little town down the street and doing romantic things like sipping spiced hot chocolates at tiny cafes, and kicking Henry out of their bedroom to have copious amounts of sex.

Henry, therefore, spent the majority of his time with me. He pestered me with constant questions. What does one do exactly when they graduate a magical school? How’s Remus Lupin? What is a quiche?

Hardy’s girlfriend, from what I had seen of her, appeared to be quite nice. Her name was Nastia. She was as tall as my brothers, with long blonde hair, pale skin and sparkling blue eyes. She looked somewhat like a Barbie doll, but her slight Russian accent gave her a bit of an edge. She was friendly, a bit shy and extremely polite. My Gran, of course, loved her.

One morning, over plates of French toast, the conversation turned – shockingly – to the New Years Day brunch.

“So who all is coming to this lot?” Henry, ever the questioner, asked. I shrugged.

“I’m assuming Uncle Trent, Aunt Helen and Tabs,” I wrinkled my nose. Henry nodded.

“Are you having a guest?” Another question. I nodded, slightly.

“My friend, Regulus.” I watched Henry scrunch his face in confusion. “It’s a family name, don’t make fun.” Henry smiled and shook his head.

“I would never,” he muttered.

“Are you having a guest?” It was my turn to ask the question. Henry’s cheeks slightly flushed.

“Uh, well, yeah,” he stammered. I raised an eyebrow at him.

“Who?”

“It’s a secret,” he cut me off before I could continue to question. That peaked my curiousity. “You’ll find out on New Years Day.”

 

I knew that Tabitha was going to be at brunch, but I was sort of hoping she was too stupid to know that Sirius and Regulus were related. Not that I should care about her possibly running back to Sirius and telling him that Regulus and I were friends. Sirius had made it perfectly clear that he didn’t care about me anymore, so he really didn’t have any room to critique my friendships. Plus, he hated his brother, and was all emotionally brooding on the subject. I just had a sneaking suspicion that Sirius and Tabitha kept their serious conversations to a minimum. The most serious conversation they had was probably who got to use the mirror first in the morning.

Not sounding bitter, of course. Beauty and the Beast are perfect for one another.

I had been feeling a lot better since I got home. I felt like I was able to breath away from Hogwarts. While Regulus had kept me sane in the last month, away from everyone was where I realized that I would be fine.

Did I still love Sirius? Yes, I believe so. It was frustrating, confusing and heartbreaking – but I wasn’t going to let it break me anymore. I was fine before Sirius came into my life, and if he wasn’t going to be a part of it anymore I would still be fine. I was a young witch, about to graduate and go off into the real, well, magical world. I was going to be a Hogwarts graduate soon, and there were more important things for me to worry about. Handsome troublemakers who turned into dogs were just so last year. My New Years resolutions were going to be all about me. I was going to focus on myself, on getting the best marks I could. I wasn’t going to make any sort of social resolutions, since I just wasn’t a social person. Parties, dates, outings – they just weren’t my thing. I had tried to so hard to adapt with Sirius and it had just made me more neurotic and self-conscious.

Christmas and New Years Eve were family holidays this year. I guess after my coma we all realized that the time we spent together was more important than getting sloshed with a bunch of strangers. Though Pop, Henry and Hardy got sloshed over way too strong gin and tonics, while Gran planned out her final menu and Nastia and I drank sparkling cider. There was no way I was going to be hungover for tomorrow’s brunch. I knew I couldn’t compete with Tabitha, but I wanted to at least be on my toes.

“So this, ah,” Nastia and I were chatting on the couch, “this Regulus boy – he’s your boyfriend?” Nervous butterflies fluttered around in my stomach.

“No, no,” I waved her off dismissively. “He’s just my friend.” I bit my lip, and avoided eye contact. I hated to admit it, but I was nervous about Regulus coming over to my house tomorrow. I didn’t really understand why, and I couldn’t shake the feeling.

“Ah,” Nastia nodded. “A good friend?” I nodded. Regulus was more then a good friend, he had stepped in and helped me rebuild when everyone else had abandoned me. “What are you going to wear?”

I turned towards Hardy’s girlfriend. She was wearing a loose, pale pink v-neck sweater and jeans. Her blonde hair fell in waves down her back and she looked effortlessly perfect without a stitch of makeup. I gazed at my own outfit – an old holey jumper of Henry’s that I had picked off the bathroom floor this morning and a pair of cigarette jeans. My hair was in a rumpled bun on top of my head.

“Uh,” I twisted a strand of black hair, “not quite sure. I’ll figure something out though, I’m sure.” Nastia smiled.

“I can help,” she offered. I raised my eyebrows at her. “Trust me,” she patted my wrist, “I’m very good at this sort of thing. After all, when has Hardy ever brought a girl home?”

Never, I thought and realized that she must be right.

 

Nastia was wrong, she wasn’t good at this sort of thing. She was practically amazing. I almost wondered if she was magic. New Years Day we woke up early to prepare. After I washed my hair, she carefully combed it out and braided it into two fishtail plaits that joined into one down my back. She scrubbed the leftover debris from old mascara off my face, dusted my cheeks with a pale pink blush and lined my eyes with a navy blue eyeliner that made the purple flecks sparkle. She threw my black skinny, cigarette leg jeans in the wash that morning so that when I put them on they fit my – what I thought were nonexistent – curves perfectly. Then she brought up the same pale pink sweater she was wearing last night.

“Every girl looks pretty in pink,” she smiled at me as she finished my hair. She looked at me and frowned. “You’re missing something,” she tutted. I was looking in the mirror in awe. Was that me? I had never seen myself look so effortlessly put together.

Gran burst into the room and gasped.

“Oh, Hope,” she put a hand to her mouth and her eyes glistened with tears. Nastia beamed.
“Doesn’t she look beautiful,” she asked. Gran nodded, then frowned.

“You’re missing something though,” then she smiled. “I know exactly what! Stay right here.” Gran darted out of the room and Nastia took a seat next to me on the bed. She was wearing a rich navy blue cashmere sweater and fitted courderoys. She had blown out her hair so it was straight and fell down her back in gold strands. Gran came back as quickly as she had left with something glistening in her hands.

“Here,” I stood up to meet her as she made a move to fasten the necklace in her hands around my neck. “It was your mother’s.” I looked at the necklace. A small diamond sparkled off the white gold chain and I felt tears forming in my eyes.

“Gran,” I muttered, “are you…”

“You look exactly like her,” she whispered to me. “You look beautiful.”

 

The doorbell rang and I rushed downstairs to answer it. When I opened the door, Regulus was standing on my doorstep, snow falling onto his shoulders. His face held an expression of shock when he saw me, and my hand immediately went to my hair to fidget – but I realized that Nastia had prevented that with the braids.

“Hi,” I murmered. Why did he look so surprised? Was he having second thoughts?

“Hi,” he responded – sounding almost confused. “You look, uh,” I wasn’t used to hearing Regulus stumble over his words. He always sounded sure of himself and it was always reassuring to me. “You look pretty,” he finally settled on what to say. My cheeks immediately burned.

“Thanks,” I sighed before snapping back to reality. He really was handsome. His sinewy body was covered in black sweater and a large black parka that only made his hair look darker and his features sharper. His eyes bore into mine and I was overwhelmed by them – like two silver, shining full moons staring into my…

“Oh, bloody hell I’m sorry you must be freezing!” My Gran’s voice snapped me back to reality so quickly I thought my head might explode. She was standing right behind me, ushering Regulus inside. He shot me a small smirk, and dusted the snow off of his parka before handing it to my Gran. She took control, since I was so obviously hopeless, and showed him where to leave his boots (by the heater) and offered him a drink (hot chocolate to warm him up).

I took a seat next to Regulus in the kitchen, content with watching my Gran scurry around the kitchen. Henry, Hardy and my Pop were nursing their hangovers on the couches, and I knew Nastia was cuddled up with them.

“Thank you so much for inviting me, Mrs. Khol,” Regulus spoke – his solid breeding evident in his impeccable manners. My Gran blushed. She blushed!

“No bother, dear,” she smiled over at us. “I think you’re the first of Hope’s friends to ever come for the Holidays.”

First, only. Same difference – there was no need to correct her.

“You two don’t need to sit here, watching me run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off can’t be that much fun,” Gran spoke up – ever so casual in her frantic state. “Why don’t you two go catch up in the sunroom?” I shrugged my shoulders, got up and began walking towards the sunroom. Regulus followed me.

The sunroom was a small room in the back of the house, made completely out of glass. My Gran used it to keep her plants alive in the winter. There was a small couch and an old ratty armchair, surrounded by all of my Gran’s eclectic and magical plants. The room was always warm, even though it gave off the impression that you were sitting outside in the middle of a snowstorm when you looked through the glass. It also could be reached without passing by my brothers.

It really was an excellent choice of places for me and Regulus to await brunch.

I curled up in the chair and Regulus took a seat on the couch, looking curiously at all the plants. My Gran had originally been a Herbology professor at Hogwarts, but she left after she married my Pop to have babies – my mother and my Aunt Helen. She still had her green thumb though, and the sunroom proved that. A magical fern wrapped itself around the legs of my chair and seemed to purr at me. I batted it away then turned my attention to Regulus. He looked comfortable on the couch, gazing at the different plants and relaxing his shoulders against he cushions.

“Did you have a good Christmas,” I offered. He responded with a slight shrug.

“It was nice, I suppose,” he looked at me – his grey eyes giving me goosebumps. “You?”

“It was, uh,” I stumbled over my words, “quiet?” What was I doing? I wasn’t supposed to be nervous around Regulus. He was my friend. I shook my head and closed my eyes for a moment before his voice snapped me back to attention.

“So, who is coming to this brunch?” He smiled gently at me, “maybe you should prep me?”

“Oh,” I realized that was a good idea. As long as Regulus kept me talking I would be normal. “Well my Gran, and my Pop.” I began listing people on my fingers. “My brothers, Henry and Hardy, Hardy’s girlfriend Nastia, Henry’s “surprise guest,” my Aunt Helen, my uncle Trent and my cousin… Tabitha.” I paused. “So that’s eleven people total.” I shrugged. “We should escape relatively unscathed,” I shot Regulus a grin and he responded with a smirk. I was finally beginning to relax around him. Well, as relaxed as a person like me could be.

 

We sat catching up for about an hour before Nastia and Hardy traipsed into the room.

“Tabby’s here,” Hardy muttered. “She’s brought her git of a boyfriend again,” he grumbled with a frown.

I froze.

“Her,” Regulus cleared his throat, “boyfriend?” Hardy nodded.

“Yeah, what’s that bloke’s name. It’s something weird like…”
“Sirius,” Nastia offered. “He said it’s a family name, Hardy, don’t make fun.” She punched him lightly on the shoulder. Regulus turned towards me and put a large hand on my knee.

“Hope,” he called out. He sounded miles and miles away. My heart was beating in my eardrums and I was only half-listening to Nastia and Hardy.

“Sirius is here?” I questioned. Hardy did a half-nod, looking at me curiously. Before I could second guess my actions, I stood up quickly and darted out to the kitchen.

Sirius Black was wearing a charcoal grey sweater that made his eyes swirl into cloudy, dangerous orbs. His hair was pulled back into a stubby ponytail and he had shaved that morning – so he was relatively fresh faced. Tabitha sat next to him, their arms intertwined, looking perfect as ever. Her thick black hair was styled in loose, wavy curls. Her bright red sweater was tight on her figure and her lips sparkled with a bright pink gloss. She and Sirius were laughing together at something my Pop was saying – and I couldn’t help but feel betrayed.

“Oh, Hope! Come be a dear and help me bring these quiches out of the oven,” my Gran called me over. Sirius’ head turned to note me in the kitchen doorway. I nodded robotically to my Gran and quickly trotted across the kitchen. I could feel Sirius’ eyes on me as I put on the oven mitts and grabbed the tray of quiche out of the oven. As I was placing them carefully on the cooling rack, I heard a soft voice say, “Hope?”

Regulus?” Sirius’ voice sounded completely shell shocked. Regulus was now standing in the doorway with a look of defensive concern on his face. He saw me standing next to the cooling rack, and seemed to take a breath of relief. He quickly shot me a small smile before we both turned towards Sirius and Tabitha.

Tabitha looked confused, and was taking Regulus in with a sort of amused curiousity. She bit her lip slightly and I almost growled. Sirius, on the other hand looked like he was fuming. He moved to stand, and made a move to approach Regulus before I came between them.

“You,” I pointed at him. “Outside, now.”

“Oh hello,” I heard my Pop call to Regulus. “You must be Hopeless’ friend. What was your name again? I remember it being something funny…” I grabbed my pea coat and stormed outside, feeling Sirius on my heels. After I heard the front door close behind him, I whirled around to face him.

Not even his ridiculously good looks could save him from the anger that was boiling inside of me. I waited for him to speak, but he just glared down at me. I tapped my foot impatiently before the words erupted.

“Well?” I crossed my arms defensively. “I assume you have a bloody fabulous reason for showing up at my house?”

“Tabitha invited me,” he responded crisply – sounding very much like someone who did not love me. “What is that git doing here?”

“I invited him,” I shrugged simply. “Now, were you dropped on your head too many times as a child, or did one of your idiot friends wipe your memory to make you forget that Tabitha and I are related?” He glared at me fiercely.

“No, I know you and Tabitha are related,” he shrugged lamely. “I don’t see what the big deal is.”

Oh, no big deal, I thought. You just stomped all over my heart and left me alone to destroy myself in a deep depression while you went off and fucked my cousin. You just made your friends choose between us, leaving me with no one to talk to. No big deal. I took a moment to process the situation before choosing the right way to proceed.

“Good,” I let out a sigh of relief after a moment, “then you don’t see any problem with Regulus being here.” I shot him a sweet smile and continued, “See, I brought you out here because I was afraid you would over-react. But I’m glad we can be mature adults about this situation. There’s no reason why either of us would need to make a scene and ruin my Gran’s brunch.” I had no idea where that lovely bit of acting had come from, and Sirius looked bewildered – and trapped – by my response. He was fuming about Regulus being here, I could tell. But despite his dog-like tendencies, he didn’t get to fucking mark my house as his. Regulus could come and go as he pleased – especially being it was my house – not Tabitha’s and definitely not Sirius’.

“Are you and Regulus…” he trailed off and I looked at him curiously, “together?” I shook my head.

“Just good friends,” I explained with a smile. It felt screwed onto my face, it was so fake but somehow Sirius seemed to be buying it. He nodded.

“Tabitha and I are in love,” he responded flatly. Inside, my heart clenched but I plastered a bright smile on my face.

Lovely,” I managed to get out before heading back inside.

 

Henry grabbed my arm, nodding curtly to Sirius as he walked by.

“What’s he doing here?” He grumbled. I shrugged.

“He and Tabitha are in love, so…”  I waved my hands dismissively. Henry looked at me in surprise, then appeared to take in my appearance.

“You look all,”

“What?” I didn’t mean to snap at him, I was just on edge. He sighed.

“Pretty. You look pretty.” My heart softened a little bit at my older brother’s compliment. He frowned. “You aren’t looking pretty for him are you?” I crossed my arms across my chest.

“I happen to have a guest here too,” I pointed out. That’s when my mind froze in panic. Regulus! I had left him alone to go off an yell at Sirius. I can’t imagine what he must be thinking.

“Henry, I gotta,” I began to break away from him but then something else flashed in my memory. “Hey, can you just tell me who your guest is now?” I jutted out my bottom lip. “I mean, I’ve already had one surprise today. I don’t really know if I can take another one.”

Henry looked me over with a sort of sad expression, before shoving his hands in his pockets and whispering something underneath his breath.

“What?” I leaned forward. “I couldn’t hear you,”

“I said,” Henry took a deep breath, “Dad.”

Well, shit.

 

I was near hyperventilating when I got back to the kitchen. It was empty now, save for Gran and Regulus – who appeared to be helping her scoop the quiche out onto it’s serving dish. I smiled at the sight.

“Hey,” I called out from the doorway and the two of them glanced over at me, “mind if I steal him for a bit?” Gran smiled at me and shrugged.

“Fine by me, I may steal him back!”

Regulus was at my side in a moment, and reached out a tentative hand to my arm before whipping it down again before he could touch me. I frowned.

“I’m about to lose my mind,” I murmered under my breath. His expression was full of concern – and I could see him formulating the different ways he could fix my problems.

“Is it,” he paused, “Sirius? I can go, if you’d like.” His eyes bore into mine and I felt my knees turn to jelly. “If that would make things easier for you.” I put a hand on his arm and sighed.

“Please, don’t.” I bit my lip and smiled at him. “I really need you here.” He nodded at me in agreement. I could tell he didn’t understand what was going on. I knew that it was bound to be an uncomfortable meal because of his brother, and the circumstances that he wasn’t even aware of, and the fact that he was willing to stick it all out simply because I had asked was pretty endearing.

“My,” I began but was cut off at the doorbell. I could feel my heart in my throat as I watched Henry approach the front door. Aw, shit. “My dad’s coming to brunch,” I shot out. Regulus looked confused.

“I’ve never heard you speak about your parents,” he began but was distracted by my brothers welcoming my father into the house.

 

Here’s a little briefing about my father, and why this is going to turn into a complete disaster of a brunch.

My father, Franklin Khol, is a Muggle. He is an ex-con man turned bounty hunter. He is wild, unpredictable, wickedly intelligent and frightening. It’s impossible to locate him, and the last time I saw him was when I was 13. When my mother died, I was only two and the twins were three. My father couldn’t handle raising three kids alone, especially when his job was to risk his life hunting hardened criminals. He dropped us off at my grandparents and never really looked back. There’d be the occasional postcard but never any word on birthdays or holidays. I was actually surprised that Henry had even been able to make contact.

Zero comments on the obvious impact my father had on my choice of men, please.

I walked like a zombie towards the front door and I saw him. Franklin Khol was tall, with moonlight pale skin and eyes that looked almost black. His hair was a tangled disaster of black curls, that by now had been sprinkled with salt and pepper grey hairs. His clothes were ragged and showed signs of wear. They hung off his loose, muscular frame and gave him somewhat of a guant disposition. His bearded face made him look wild, and I felt nervous as I came closer and closer to him.

“Daddy?” The word dropped from my mouth – and my voice sounded forgein. He looked up and caught my eyes, holding my gaze with his own.

“Well, lookee here,” he smiled at me, “Magic’s all grown up.” I stared at him. My father had been calling me Magic for as long as I could remember. It was the only nickname I could stand, and that’s mainly because no one else dared call me by it.  “I heard you spent your summer in a coma,” he grunted.

Oh, yeah, no big deal. I shrugged my shoulders.
“Perhaps,” I mumbled. A grin shot across my father’s face and I heard my Gran enter the kitchen.

“Franklin?” The surprise was obvious in her voice. Henry stood sheepishly next to our father, and I gaped at him in shock. This was a bold move, bringing my father around like this. He didn’t keep in contact, and I knew my grandparents weren’t too fond of him after he dropped his own children on their doorstep. I wasn’t pretty sure my Aunt Helen didn’t like him either. Really the only ones who adored him were me, Henry and Hardy.

Obvious daddy issues, yes, we don’t need to dwell on it.

My mind lit up with a cheerful thought. Perhaps my father would snap Sirius Black like a twig. He could, I mean, I had no doubt. My father ate hardened criminals for breakfast – metaphorically. Sirius Black was no match for him.

“Come in,” my Gran greeted him with an awkward hug. We all headed towards the dining room where I slid into my seat next to Regulus. Hardy looked shocked to see our dad, and quickly got up to say his hellos. Tabitha sat with her hand in a vice-grip on Sirius’ arm. I didn’t even bother looking Sirius in the face. Instead, I picked up my napkin then promptly dropped it on the floor.

“Oh, bollocks,” I sighed loudly. Regulus quirked an eyebrow at me. “I dropped my napkin,” I pointed down at the floor then bent down, grabbing his sleeve. “My dad is here!” I hissed. Regulus nodded.

“I see that. Is that okay?”

He always asked such simple questions concerning such complicated subjects. I blinked at him and grabbed my napkin.

“The jury’s not out yet,” I grumbled and we sat up. I felt Regulus’ hand reach for mine underneath the table and give it a small, reassuring squeeze. I intertwined our fingers, not worrying about my fingers getting sweaty, and held on tightly – this was going to be a bumpy ride. I smiled at him softly, and he grinned in response. He rolled his shoulders, showing me just how relaxed he was. I couldn’t help but feel his mood spread onto me.

I looked up to see Sirius glaring at us, and instead of dropping Regulus’ hand I simply held on tighter.

 

“So,” my father drawled, “bring me up to speed.” Shockingly, Tabitha was the first to speak.

“Well, I’m graduating in the Spring, and I’ve gotten a really amazing internship opportunity with this young up and coming journalist. Her name’s Rita Skeeter and I’ll be working as her personal assistant. I’m probably going to go into journalism too, probably be a reporter in the field. I’ve been told I have a great face for the camera, I photograph really well. This is my boyfriend, Sirius Black. We’re in love, and we’ve been going out for, what is it Siri – about a year now?”
“On and off,” I grunted. Then I clasped a hand over my mouth when I realized I had spoken out loud. Regulus chucked underneath his breath and my father raised an eyebrow at me.

“Not that I don’t love hearing about your life, my darling niece,” my father placated Tabitha, “but I was wondering more along the lines of my beautiful daughter who spent the summer in a coma. Animal attack was it?” His eyebrow was still raised – and I remembered Nastia at our table.

“Yes,” I coughed. “Nasty wolf. Nearly killed me.” I blinked pointedly at Sirius, and watched my father’s eyes travel from me to Sirius. I smiled. “And don’t worry Daddy, I don’t normally look like this. I’m usually much more of a trainwreck.” I smirked. It was true. I didn’t want him to get the impression that I was actually a put together teenage girl like Tabitha. “Anynways, I’ve just been working on finishing up the school year. Haven’t really figured out what I am going to do when I graduate.”

“And is this your boyfriend?” My dad pointed at Regulus with his fork. Sirius choked on his drink.

“No, Daddy,” I squeezed Regulus’ hand then let go. “This is Regulus, he’s just my friend. We’re partners in school, so we do a lot of homework together.” I tried to make it sound completely unattractive. Sirius and Regulus were pretty much walking sex-gods and if my father thought there was anything funny going on, he would snap them both. My father nodded solemnly.

“Franklin Khol,” he stared at Regulus and pointed to himself. “Father of Hope Khol.”

“Regulus Black,” Regulus stated calmly. “Study partner of Hope Khol.”
There was a brief, serious moment of silence while they appeared to be sizing one another up. I frowned. I didn’t want my father to intimidate Regulus, I wanted him to intimidate Sirius.

“Sirius Black,” Sirius spoke up – shocking me. He reached a hand across the table and offered my father a firm handshake. My father looked at it peculiarly before accepting it. “I’m a close friend of Hope.”

Excuse me?

Tabitha looked positively murderous.

“Is that so?” A grin spread across my father’s face – like a cat about to pounce on a canary. He turned to see me with my brow wrinkled. “Ey Hope?”

“No,” I scoffed. Tabitha’s nails were leaving tiny imprints on Sirius’ arm that I could see from across the table. “I mean, we have a lot of classes together because we’re in the same year but…” I paused. “We’re more just peers.”

Sirius glared at me and frowned. I shrugged my shoulders and shut my mouth for the rest of brunch. Dad caught up on Henry and Hardy’s post graduation plans, then Tabitha kept the table enthralled with the love story that was her and Sirius. It was, surprisingly, an uneventful brunch.

I helped my Gran clear the table, trying to be a good granddaughter for once, but was called from the kitchen when my father was leaving.

“Bye, Magic,” he gave me a gruff hug and I felt my eyes get watery. “You know, I’m living in London now,” he smiled at me, “maybe after graduation you’d like to stay with me for a bit? It’s a bit of a shoddy place – but it’ll do. There’s enough bedrooms for you and the boys.”

I was silent. I couldn’t even remember a time that I lived with my father. He noticed my hesistancy and patted my shoulders.

“Not a decision you’d have to make right now, Magic,” he pulled on his coat and hat. “But, I’ll try to keep in touch.”

The thing about Franklin Khol was that he said things like this a lot. He didn’t actually carry through with them though. I figured I’d let it be. If he wanted to keep in touch he would. If not, no big deal.

 

“So,” I said to Regulus later that afternoon when we were on the couch, “think your reputation was completely ruined today? Surrounded by Muggles at an old lady’s brunch?” Regulus frowned at me.

“Don’t talk about your Gran like that, she’s lovely.”

“I’m just saying,” I paused. “Do you think Sirius or Tabitha will tell your friends you were here?” My voice got soft. Regulus looked at me sternly.

“Seriously, Hope,” I still got the shivers, even though he was just my friend. “In order for Tabitha to speak to my friends, Sirius will actually have to explain the situation to her. He’s not going to want to have a serious conversation like that with her. And if Sirius tells my friends, then that will put you in danger. He wouldn’t do that.” My cheeks flushed.

“What did happen between you and Sirius, anyways?” I questioned carefully. “If you don’t mind me asking.” I noticed Regulus grip his mug of hot chocolate tightly and stare into the fire.

“Sirius and I,” he exhaled, “we come from a family where certain things are expected of us. Like you, Sirius has always marched to the beat of his own drummer.” He frowned. “He was strong enough to be himself, to not pour his livelihood into the mold that our parents had laid out for him. For Merlin’s sake, he’s the first one of our family to ever be sorted into Gryffindor. He’s been a thorn in my mother’s side since he was thirteen. It got to a point where it was becoming dangerously unbearable and he left. He didn’t even think to say goodbye.”

I nodded, and Regulus pressed on.

“I’m not strong like him,” he looked at me for a moment before looking back to the fire. “Or, I wasn’t.” There was a moment of silence. “I’m not really sure what I am. Sirius, he thinks he knows exactly who I am. He thinks I’m just a carbon copy of our parents. He saw me when I was weak, and he believes me to be that weak person.” Regulus turned towards me. “I’m not that person anymore though, or at least, I’m trying not to be.” His voice got soft. “It’s, it’s hard though. Things are becoming so much darker, so much more dangerous. I can’t just exactly leave like he did. I can’t just quit, or it will be the end of me.”

I was stunned by the gravity of his words. The end of him? How bad exactly were things for Regulus. I squeezed his arm, and he lifted his arm around my shoulders. Leaning my head against him and resting our feet on the table, we stayed like that for the next few hours – basking in the glow of the fire and the comfort of silence.


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