Chapter 57 : One Week of Danger
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One Week of Danger
Regulus Black was a curious person by nature.
He had always been, and that was a trait that he shared with his brother, likely the only one. The differences began with how they dealt with curiosity; Sirius, truly a Gryffindor, was brash, hardly sneaky, and confrontational. He did not strategize the proper way to handle his curiosity, never stopped to think what the consequences to asking questions were, and, while this technique proved to be effective occasionally, it was more often than not accompanied with disappointment.
Regulus, on the other hand, had inherited the Slytherin mindset; he was cool and calculating. Every action related to curiosity was always well thought out, always logical, and simple, Regulus never enjoying intricacies which could become messy. He used the skill of observation to his advantage, thinking up of possible theories before asking questions.
He was patient as well, a patience that Sirius could never hope to have because his intrinsic nature contradicted it. This patience was the core of all of Regulus's other traits, and the absence of it was the core of Sirius's; with Regulus's patience, he was able to plan, and with Sirius's impatience, he was born of fire.
It was a passing fancy of his to solve curiosities; he believed doing so made him quicker and more alert than the other Slytherins. He was able to read his opponent and was able to solve their secrets. Though Regulus was never the strongest, never the fastest, he was incredibly clever when it came to mystery; it was his contribution to the world in which he existed.
However, he never boasted his wit; that would be Gryffindor: childish and stupid. He preferred to be behind the scenes, preferred to see how people acted without being aware of his keen eye, preferred to be undercover. Again, it was a part of him, the same part that had made him Slytherin, that kept him sly, and he had never wavered from that. As a result of wanting to control his world, he scarcely interacted with it, and this solitude allowed him to observe the people that he dealt with at a decent distance. He noticed their idiosyncrasies. He knew their fancies before they did. These details, minor to the oblivious eye, were vital in order for Regulus to solve mysteries the way that he did.
When word spread about Theodore Nott and Scarlett Devous hitting an abrupt and surprising end Regulus was curious. Scarlett had, after all, been a possible contender as his wife, so it was not as if they didn't know each other. To see the alternative crash and burn interested Regulus greatly.
He was not interested in her romantically, though. Even being a strong proponent of rationality couldn't change the fact that love was based on emotion. Still, the mysteries surrounding Scarlett were so undeniably intriguing. Theodore and Scarlett, besides Ambrose and Brady Scott, had been a couple Regulus had been confident of, and his confidence disproven was not only a cause of humbleness but of interest.
What had gone wrong?
However, as weeks passed Regulus did not approach either. It was obvious and had always been obvious to him that heartbreak was a risky thing to question, because it messed with emotions in such a way that logic and coolness became impossible. He had wisely veered away from the couple, resigning himself to the philosophy that, whatever had happened, it was their business and not his.
In spite of his resignation, it grew increasingly harder for Regulus to ignore when, three weeks after the couple had broken up, a sudden rumor spread throughout the school. By that time the gossip about Scarlett had ceased, the students moving on to more impressive stories, but as soon as these new whispers were exchanged the story was suddenly as on fire as it had been at the beginning of January.
The mystery was too irresistible.
From what he had heard, the true motive behind Theodore and Scarlett's break up was not a clash of personalities. It was not cold feet. It wasn't about wealth or youth or anything that anyone would have expected. No other rumor that had been spread the days immediately following could even add up to this new story, and Regulus knew that no story after could compare.
There was something surprising but yet something so addicting about the possibility that Scarlett and Theodore had broken up due to an infidelity. He would not have expected it from either of them, being just as sure as the other Hogwarts students that the two were in love.
The rumor of an infidelity, of itself, had been overdone, and although Regulus was surprised that there was a chance of it being true, the new detail which arose three weeks after the fact made Regulus all the more fascinated.
The detail that Scarlett and Theodore's breakup had been because of Sirius was the most ridiculous thing Regulus had heard, and it was the ridiculousness that convinced him that he could not avoid the mystery any longer.
After all, it made perfect sense. All of the previous accusations had not entirely fit with the way Regulus had observed. If Scarlett had had cold feet, if Theodore and she had gotten into a fight, it still did not explain the complete ostracizing of Scarlett, a past friend of the Slytherins. Though the brother-sister relationship of Georgiana and Theodore Nott was an important factor, it should not have ruined Scarlett. There had never been any explanation to the severity of Scarlett's punishment.
But this... made perfect sense. She had betrayed Slytherin ideals with this possibility, and if she had been caught with Sirius Theodore would have motivation enough for his character to change so abruptly and entirely. Georgiana would have a reason to hate Scarlett, and Ambrose would have a reason to replace her.
The fact that this had come so late did not deter Regulus; rather, it encouraged him. He had seen enough of Georgiana Nott to know the way that she worked. The desire to care for her brother yet hurt Scarlett--that in itself would be reason enough to wait.
Though Regulus could not piece together everything, could not be sure about any of his thoughts, he began to. There were many holes in the story--how had they fallen in love, for instance--but Regulus overlooked these in order to let his curiosities grow creative. After all, a mystery couldn't be solved if there was no foundation.
So, he began to delve into the mystery of Sirius Black and Scarlett Nott in a way that the excited and easily distracted Hogwarts students could not manage, a way that required patience and unanswered questions and fleeting theories, a way that was insufferable for most but not for him. That was his advantage and always had been. His willingness to stick with these two would give him what he was looking for: answers. Though heartbreak was truly dangerous ground, it was worth it.
This had to have been his most curious case yet, after all. A Gryffindor and a Slytherin--his possible wife and his brother--caught in a web of secrecy and mystique...
Regulus could not resist the investigation.
Scarlett was alone.
Of course, that was to be expected. The corridor she was currently in was one that was hardly known to Hogwarts students, it being out of the way, ill-kept, and little-traveled. Maybe, occasionally, students would venture there for remedial study, but it was otherwise unused, more appreciated for the structure it gave to the castle than its actual use.
This, combined with the fact that it was dinnertime, allowed Scarlett to easily be the only person in the corridor. She was alone; from her vantage the only other things she could see in the hallway besides damp stone were the dimly-lit candles hanging from the wall. She heard no footsteps and had not encountered anyone else.
You are alone?
Scarlett hardly flinched at the voice now.
She was alone as possible, she clarified for herself; it was impossible to be alone anymore. No matter where she was, no matter the time, she was always with someone else, a presence that was not there in body but in mind and in spirit.
How tired are you, how hungry are you?
I'm not too tired. I slept last night.
As for hunger... I can manage another.
Good, good, good-- what about your homework?
Studying, primarily. One essay in Defense.
Don't worry about that. I can do that in five minutes.
So, you are telling me that you are perfectly able, strong, whole, well, to go to the forest tonight once more? I am aware that you have classes tomorrow; what are they? Do you have any free period--
No. I will be missing Astronomy tonight... double Charms, Transfiguration, History of Magic, and Defense. Bad day tomorrow. Perhaps we should wait--
No. We cannot wait, Scarlett. This is important.
Yes, my Lord.
Go now. Go now, and go to Rowena Ravenclaw's outlook. We need to investigate--
The voice that halted her exchange with Voldemort was quiet and deep, and, in any other atmosphere, it would have been soothing. It had no imperfections, a flawless British accent seamlessly intertwining with the five letter word. It was not rough, not raspy, and not intimidating, sounding vaguely flirtatious and very intriguing. To any unbiased ear, the voice was perfect.
But, in the atmosphere they were in--a lonely hallway with little light and little promise that anyone else would come across it--the voice was absolute hell. It broke the silence Scarlett had hidden in and interrupted the conversation she'd been having. She could feel it probing her with curiosity, inquiring in silence, and her paranoia took over as she nearly screamed.
She spun around, her eyes wide and taken off guard, her Spellotaped wand being drawn instantly. She could feel a spell on the tips of her fingers, and she nearly released it to the intruder, only halted when she recognized the familiar face. Her mouth was open slightly and her heart was accelerated, millions of other worse possibilities causing her to go into overdrive.
However, when Scarlett identified Regulus Black, she also knew that there were millions of better possibilities as well.
Truthfully, she did not care much for him. He didn't cross her mind often; this was to be expected of her as he was a year younger and, in her mind, a year less experienced. If she had to say anything about Regulus Black, it was that she had always been apathetic, as uninterested in his admirable characteristics as she was in his weaknesses.
On that night, though--when they were so close to leaving, so close--Scarlett cared enough to shine a spotlight on his flaws. Regulus had a knack of being very arrogant. It was something that couldn't be exactly pinpointed but seeped within his words in a way that instantly annoyed her.
He was also proven to be rather secretive. Maybe, to other people, this did not affect their views on the boy; however, Scarlett disliked it because secretive people could not possibly appreciate those that were also secretive. Trust would always be a factor
Possibly the most annoying thing about Regulus Black was how uncannily similar he was to both Theodore and Sirius. His similarity to Sirius was only based on appearance- both shared a like bone structure, an olive tint of the skin, and a charm which radiated from his core.
His likeness to Theodore was not in appearance but in personality. Both were in Slytherin for the same reasons-- they were calm, logical, and somewhat cautious, never acting on impulse or passion. They calculated their every single move, each action having a meaning, and, in Regulus's case, Scarlett was lost on what this conversation's meaning was--and she did not, under any circumstances, like being confused.
As these things accumulated in her mind, her glare got steadily more severe, though Regulus seemed unperturbed. "What do you want?" she nearly hissed at him, her anger mixing with Voldemort's impatience, and at her question Regulus shrugged, his nonchalance adding to her ire.
"Well," Regulus said simply, "I was... interested."
Scarlett scoffed, incredulous. "Beg pardon?"
Regulus snickered, clearly aware of the path the conversation was going down. "Relax," he said, amused. "I don't mean that I'm interested in you--" His eyes skimmed down her body. "Although I wouldn't necessarily rule that out--"
"I don't have time for this," Scarlett said, irritated. "Leave me alone."
"No, no, wait--Scarlett!" Regulus called out as began to stride away. "Scarlett, I was kidding--hold on a second, all right?"
He touched her arm in an attempt to stop her, and she recoiled, contact with others nearly foreign. "That's not what I was talking about," Regulus stated. "I am interested in you. Interested because of some of the things I've heard about you.
"You see," Regulus continued, "I've heard some rumors."
Scarlett stopped, and her eyes narrowed as she said, "What about them?"
"I just find it... curious," Regulus said, following her as she took steps away, "I find you incredibly curious.
"I have to wonder," Regulus pushed, "why haven't you said anything? My brother has ruined your reputation, and you have neither proved nor disproved it. Any normal person would have confronted him--or belittled him--but you have done neither.
"It's also very curious why you're here."
"You know what's curious?" Scarlett finally said, trying to let her anger subside somewhat before speaking. "Why you're here and why you think that my life is a puzzle to solve. And, Regulus... you know what's even more curious?" she asked, and she approached Regulus Black for the first time the entire conversation, refusing to back down.
"Why you think you can."
As she stormed away from him, Regulus called out to her. "Maybe I'm not the best person to talk to you, Scarlett," he said, "but it's pretty damn obvious someone does."
She stopped again, even though Voldemort's impatience doubled. "What do you mean?" she said aloud, curious herself.
Regulus smirked as she conceded, taking steps to fill the gap she had made. "I mean everything," he replied. "I mean all of the times you've missed dinner-- like now-- or class. I mean all of the times you've ignored everybody. I mean," Regulus said, and Scarlett did not turn to face him as he stood behind her, "your lack of motivation. Of interest."
"For most people," Regulus said, "they don't care about you. Of course they don't. They're self-centered. And then the others think you're torn over your husband. They're idealistic."
"And, then there are those very few that believe what they've heard. That it was all Sirius. Everything that happened to you was Sirius's fault. They... they are not curious enough."
"And you?" Scarlett asked, her voice loud in the empty hallway.
"I have theories. But I don't believe in anything until I get the facts."
"And why do you bother?"
Regulus's tone was confident as he answered her. "Curiosity."
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