Chapter 36 : from avoidance to protection
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January sped by, what with getting ready for our final tests and the professors drilling into our heads that “Once you graduate from Hogwarts, you’re considered an adult in the Magical World and will need to choose a career!” No pressure. I spent most of my time in the library, aside from study periods spent in the Room of Requirement with Regulus. We didn’t really go around the Castle in public together – especially after the whole brunch debacle. It wasn’t really worth ruffling people’s feathers.
Love, it seemed, was also in the air.
No, not for me.
James Potter and Lily Evans appeared to spend every moment with one another. They were nauseating-ly happy with one another, holding hands, whispering to each other, making out in public like only two lovestruck teenagers could. It would have been adorable, if I wasn’t alone and bitter. Sirius and Tabitha could rival James and Lily – but Sirius and Tabitha’s “love” seemed to be more of a “lust/love” thing. They were known around the Castle for getting caught in broom closets, abandoned classrooms, the Quidditch pitch, the Astronomy Tower… Need I go on? Even Lena, who I rarely saw anymore since 1. I was always in the library doing homework and 2. I didn’t socialize with anyone anymore, had finally gotten together with her looney neighbor Xenophillius Lovegood. He would traipse up to the Castle from Hogsmede on weekends and they would wander around the grounds for hours together.
It was all disgustingly adorable.
It literally made me want to vomit, all the time.
I couldn’t imagine what spring was going to be like. That’s when everyone falls in love, right? This was winter. People were supposed to be depressed in the cold, eating their feelings, hibernating and whatnot. But the infectious, lovey-dovey chemistry seemed to be catching around Hogwarts.
Before I knew it, Valentine’s Day was fast approaching. The girls were literally buzzing in the hallways with excitement. I barricaded myself in the library, even distancing myself from Regulus, with the hood of one of Henry’s old sweaters covering my disasterous hair and head while I studied. People had appeared to forget that I had ever been one of Sirius’ playthings – so I didn’t really get noticed that much anymore. I could hide out in the library after it closed and pull all nighters if I wanted. I didn’t do it that much, it made Jack pissy, but it was nice to know I could. I was a nobody again. I didn’t have boys awkwardly stammering to me and inviting me to parties. That’s right, even Frankie Holland had found himself a girlfriend! It was wonderful. I was completely off the radar.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” a gruff voice muttered. Ok, so perhaps not completely off the radar. I looked up to see Regulus standing in front of me with his hands shoved in his uniform pockets. I took him in momentarily, noticing his Slytherin Quidditch jumper was slightly wet. Had he been walking outside? Was it raining? My eyes shot down when he made eye contact.
“Have not, I’ve just been super busy with loads of homework.”
“Bullshit,” Regulus grunted. “You’re avoiding me because Valentine’s is coming up and that sort of thing makes you uncomfortable.”
Sometimes I wondered if Regulus had a book, a guide of sorts, to me. He understood me better then anyone else ever had before. It was impossible to lie to him, I couldn’t shrug off my emotions casually then freak out about them in private. He always knew what was going through my nutty head.
I sighed and looked up at him.
“Sorry,” I muttered. “You know I’m…”
“A bit of a nutter?” He smiled at me and I felt my cheeks get hot. “Yeah, that’s why I’m making you have dinner with me on Valentine’s.” My mouth dropped open.
“Regulus, no.” I knew it was pointless. “Why?!’
“Because,” he grinned, “you’re adorable when you’re all flustered.” He turned on his heels and strode confidently out of the library.
I was caught off guard, and decided that it would be best to just call it a night. I went back to my dorm, showered and crawled into my comfortable bed.
We were in the Room of Requirement. There was a fire burning, and we were curled up on the couch together, watching the rain pour outside. I shivered, and Regulus wrapped an arm around me.
“Cold?” He offered me a blanket.
“I should have worn a sweater,” I sighed, looking down at the ratty old tee shirt I was wearing. It wasn’t the sort of thing that would keep you warm in a castle in February. Regulus’ rough hand slowly began to rub up and down my arm, and surprisingly, it raised my body temperature. “Thanks,” I smiled at him and bit my lip.
“Anytime,” he smiled at me. His grey eyes were stormy, but they looked happy when they were on mine. He was so handsome – he carried such a weight in his aristocratic features. There was a constant worry on his face, and I couldn’t place it’s reason. The moments when he looked at me and looked so easily happy, they made me swell with pride. I could give him that happiness, I could lift that weight, I could help him like he had helped me.
I reached out a small hand and stroked his cheek. He looked down at me curiously and I felt drawn to him. It was like his eyes were hypnotizing me, pulling me closer and closer to him until our lips crashed against one another. He kissed me softly at first, then harder as I climbed onto his lap and straddled him. I wasn’t cold anymore. He bit and pulled my bottom lip slightly, and I opened my mouth to deepen the kisses. I could feel his chest rise and fall beneath me, and I could feel his excitement against my thigh.
“I,” I was breathless and couldn’t think of what to say. Regulus smiled at me.
“Lay down,” he murmured. I obeyed him, not stopping to think what we were actually doing. Regulus kissed down my neck, nipping at my ear then planting soft kisses on my collarbone. Goose bumps popped up all over my body, and I reached forward to meet his lips again. My hands wrapped through his hair, grasping onto him and pulling him closer to me.
I didn’t even realize that our clothes were gone until I felt his hands traveling down my body with such careful, delicate purpose. He squeezed my hips and I felt myself buck towards him. He smiled, kissing me, then put a finger towards my lips.
“Wait,” he murmured again and I shivered. His fingertips played lightly against my skin, trailing farther down my body. I closed my eyes, soaking up the sheer pleasure I was feeling when I felt his fingers slide. I gasped, opening my eyes and shot up to find myself…
To find myself in my own bed in my dorm room. Completely alone.
That was a bloody dream?!
If Regulus thought I was avoiding him before, I was definitely avoiding him now. He had popped up in my dreams three more times that week. I didn’t want to bump into him, I was afraid that he would be able to figure out why I was so uncomfortable. I mean, what was I supposed to say?
Well, Regulus, I’m just feeling a bit uncomfortable because a dream-version of you has given me four mind blowing orgasms this week, even though we are just friends and there has never been a hint of anything else between us.
That would go over so, so well.
I rushed out of Ancient Runes the Friday before Valentine’s and could feel Regulus rushing after me to finalize plans. I kept my eyes on the ground and ultimately ended up colliding with a warm body. I was knocked to the floor, completely off guard, and realized that I had given Regulus his chance. He could casually help me up and then lead me off without arousing suspiscion. I took the hand when it was offered to me and found myself shocked when I came face to face with James Potter.
“Sorry, Hope,” he muttered, rubbing the back of his hair. “I’ve been so out of it lately, trying to figure out what I’m going to do for Valentine’s for Lily.” I pulled back from James Potter like he had the plague. It had been almost four months since we had last spoken – when he “broke up” with me. And now he was being completely casual and talking to me about Valentine’s? What was going on? I almost wished Regulus was there to swoop me away from the situation, but I saw his retreating back ambling out towards the Quidditch Pitch. I understood. It wasn’t smart for him to stick around once he realized James was there.
Let me just interject here, and say that my earlier “secret relationship” with Sirius was complete bullshit. I know this because now I’m in a legitimate secret friendship with Regulus and it’s all sorts of confusing and heartbreaking. As I watched him walk away, I almost wished I wasn’t avoiding him – since I’d rather be talking to him than in any sort of situation with any sort of Marauder. But what could he do? Nothing, and I knew it was just as upsetting to him as it was to me.
“Hope?” James spoke again. I snapped myself out of trance, turning from Regulus’ retreating figure. I blinked at James.
“I have study,” I finally said. James nodded, pushing his glasses up his face.
“Listen, Hope, I’m really sorry…”
“Don’t.” I interrupted him. James tilted his head at me in confusion.
“I just wanted to say,”
“Just, don’t. Don’t apologize if you don’t plan on changing.” I shrugged. “You’re supposed to apologize to make others feel better, not yourself. I feel fine, I’m happy I guess. I know you’re happy with Lily, so there is no reason for you to apologize except for you to erase your guilt.” James stared at me, and I nodded – my mouth in a line. After I didn’t smile at him, James frowned. I took in that facial expression, letting him realize that he had completely fucked our friendship up, then turned down the hallway and towards the Room of Requirement.
Regulus, Regulus, Regulus, I thought as I paced in front of the Room of Requirement. The door appeared, and I darted in quickly. Regulus was sitting in a room similar to my Gran’s greenhouse.
“I’m sorry,” I huffed, hugging my arms around my side. He looked up and smiled slightly. “I’ve been avoiding you, I’ve been awkward. It’s just I’ve been having these,” I stopped myself, “I’ve just been really awkward. And I need to stop doing that. You’re my friend and it’s just that I really hate Valentines. It’s uncomfortable and I don’t want you to feel, like, obligated,”
Regulus stood up and approached me. He gave me a sort of light pat on the shoulder and I stopped mumbling.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said softly. I grinned.
“Does that mean we aren’t doing dinner?” My tone was hopeful. He smiled wider, then shook his head.
“No, ‘course not. We’re totally having dinner together.”
My jaw dropped.
“I’m a rubbish dinner date you know,” I mumbled. He pushed his hair out of his face and smirked.
“I’ve got no doubt about that,” he sighed.
So somehow, on Valentine’s night, I found myself standing in the Great Hall waiting for Regulus. I had thrown on a red pleated skirt and a black sweater for the occasion. All the girls in my dormitory had been tossing about outfits and makeup trying to get ready for their dates, and I needed to escape. I wasn’t supposed to meet up with Regulus for another hour, but I’d choose people watching the students of Hogwarts over listening to girls get ready.
I felt a body slide into the seat next to me, and electricity prickled through my veins. I didn’t need to look to see who it was.
I remained silent, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of my words. Beside me, I could feel Sirius’ nervous energy rustling through his body. He was on edge, that was certain.
“Are you spending tonight with my brother?” He finally asked. I nodded, slowly and he responded with a heavy sigh. “I wish you wouldn’t.”
I didn’t speak. I knew for a fact that Sirius and Tabitha were still very hot and heavy, so I didn’t really think I deserved another talk about how Regulus was the anti-Christ.
“Hope, seriously, just look at me for a second.”
I didn’t move my head.
I bit my lip, and chose my words carefully.
“Need I remind you, you put me in a coma.” Sirius groaned.
“Fuck it, fine,” he grumbled. “I’m dangerous too but Regulus, it’s a different type of danger Hope. Spending time with him is putting your life at risk.”
“Is there a point to this conversation?” I asked, still not looking at him. I couldn’t look at him, because every time I saw him it made my heart hurt. Whether it was hearing him laugh at breakfast, or subconsciously turning and watching him run up the stairs to the dormitories. I didn’t think I’d ever be over Sirius.
“I’m keeping my eye on you,” he said. “I’m not going to let anything hurt you, ever again.”
My eyes began to water.
“You don’t get to play that role anymore, Sirius,” I sighed. My voice was shaky, and when he got up to leave my hand almost reached out and grabbed him. There was still a large part of me that wanted him to protect me, that wanted him to still love me, even though he had stomped all over my heart. With Sirius and me, it seemed like we didn’t know how to exist without one another.
An hour later, the Great Hall was basically empty.
An hour after that, the sun had set and it was darkened – the only light coming from the table candles.
An hour after that, the candles began flickering as they completely burnt down to stubs.
Regulus had stood me up.
When I stormed back into the Common Room, I was surprised to see Sirius sitting on the couch, a book on his lap. He quickly took note of me, then realized the time.
“Nice night?” His voice was casual, but it made me feel like I was on fire. I merely squinted at him in anger.
“You’re both twats,” I muttered than stormed upstairs to my room.
“Hope!” I heard him call after me, than heard the stairs as they reverted to their slide form to keep boys out of the girls’ dormitories. I rolled my eyes and stormed into my room. I quickly began shedding my clothes, searching around in my underwear for something comfortable to wear to bed when…
I screeched in surprise, and turned to see Sirius climbing in through the open window. What idiot roommate of mine had left that open in the middle of February?
“Do you mind?” I spat, gesturing to my partially clothed form. Sirius surprised me, and instead of responding with a cheeky retort, sat down on my bed and turned his head in the opposite direction while I searched for clothes. When I finally was dressed, I walked over to him.
“I need you to leave now.” Sirius shook his head.
“Why is Regulus a twat?”
“You’ve been telling me he’s a twat for ages now,” I responded.
“And up until tonight you’ve steadfastly defended him,” Sirius looked at me quizzically. I bit my bottom lip.
“I need you to leave now,” my voice was softer. “Please.” I watched a sadness well up in Sirius’ stormy eyes. I wanted to pull him onto my bed, climb underneath my blankets with him and stay there forever. I shook my head.
“Now, Sirius.” I stammered. “I need you to leave now.”
He sighed, a heavy, shaking sigh and went towards the window. I climbed into my bed, I didn’t think I was strong enough to watch him go. I waited until I heard him climb on his broom and fly away before I got out and locked the latch on my window.
The next day went by quickly, until it was time for Ancient Runes. I got there early, of course, and immediately put my head down into my notes. To my surprise, Regulus didn’t take the seat next to me. He didn’t show up in class. I was so frustrated that I snapped a quill and spilled ink all over my work. When we were finally dismissed, I stepped out in the hallway to see Sirius with his arms crossed, leaning against a wall.
“Your dumb map must be broken,” I muttered as I passed by him. “Regulus didn’t show up today.”
I quickly turned back in surprise to see him storming down the hall. It took me standing on the tiptoes of my boots before I saw Regulus’ retreating figure, and Sirius’ storming quickly after his.
“Shit,” I muttered under my breath and quickly followed them.
I will hand it to the Blacks, they’re an athletic bunch. I was nearly out of breath when they stopped walking on the edge of the Forbidden Forest. I saw them yelling at one another, but I was still too far away to hear. Taking a deep breath in, I soldiered closer to them.
“What do you want?” I heard Regulus spit at his brother.
“What did you do to Hope?” Sirius countered. Regulus’ mouth fell open in shock.
“I didn’t do anything to her. I’d never do anything to hurt her, unlike you.” It was strange for me to hear Regulus’ voice flooded with such hatred. Sirius scoffed.
“That’s a big promise, brother, are you sure you can keep it?”
“Stop!” I interjected before they came to blows. They both turned and I watched their beautiful faces soften as they took me in. Both looked heartbroken.
“Hope,” Regulus began and I held up my hand.
“Sirius was in the Common Room when I got back from waiting for you.” I bit my lip. “I waited for you. For hours.” I sighed. “You stood me up?” My voice raised in a question. Regulus shook his head.
“I wanted to be there,” he began. “Something just came up,” he said, then his voice trailed off. He broke eye contact with me and looked into the forest more.
“Something just came up?” Sirius repeated. “Something just came up.” He repeated it again, his tone rising. “Something just…” He lunged toward Regulus and Regulus moved to counter his attack.
“Stop it!” Regulus shouted, but Sirius pressed on, pushing his brother to the ground.
“Something just came up, yes?” Sirius seemed manic now, pinning his brother to the ground. I watched in frozen horror as Regulus continued to struggle, but Sirius was stronger. Sirius ripped off his brother’s cloak and went for his sleeve.
It was then that time seemed to stop completely. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears when Sirius and I both saw it at the same time. The Dark Mark was tattooed on Regulus’ forearm.
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