Chapter 1 : maybe, once.
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“Sorry,” he called back half-heartedly, his voice muffled by the pair of gloves he was holding in his mouth as his hands were full of thick, green wool. The two girls he knocked into glared at him in response, but he ignored them, humming to himself under his breath as he dashed down the corridor.
Dodging past a group of Gryffindors debating the weekend’s Quidditch scores and whether or not the Wanderers’ three hundred point win over the Magpies would harm the chances of the Arrows winning, Barty clattered down the stairs towards the entrance hall. Jumping the last three stairs, he looked around, trying to spot Regulus, wishing he’d grown another two inches over the Christmas holidays so he could see over the tops of people’s heads.
It didn’t matter, though, as Regulus was easy enough to spot: standing off in a corner of the room, the green-and-silver of a Slytherin scarf peeking out from underneath his fur-lined cloak. Compared to the others all milling about in the entrance hall, he looked completely out of place with his hands in his pockets, frowning at the floor as though he’d rather be anywhere but there.
Reaching Regulus, Barty greeted him with an excited smile, standing perhaps a little closer than he should do and brushing his fingers over the velvet covering Regulus’ arm. It had been too long since he’d seen Regulus, but he understood: Regulus was busy. Being prefect and Seeker probably wasn’t easy, he imagined. Nevertheless, it would be good to finally spend time together again, and he tried not to sound too impatient, as he asked:
“You ready to go?”
He watched Regulus’ lips part as he sighed and refused to look up at him.
“We’ve been through this, Barty,” Regulus told him softly. “We’re not going together.”
Barty stared at him in confusion, his forehead creasing as he considered that. Well, yes, it was true that Regulus had told him that before – explicitly and frequently over the last couple of weeks since the Hogsmeade dates had been announced – but he hadn’t really thought Regulus was serious. When Regulus had told him the other day that he was going to Hogsmeade, Barty had assumed, without thinking, that they were going together. It was natural. It was normal. Why wouldn’t they be?
“Who else are you going with then?” he asked, rolling his eyes lightly and nudging Regulus. “You can’t go on your own; that would be sad. So we have to go together.”
Regulus would lighten up once they were walking to town, he knew. It was always that way with him.
“I… have a date.”
He almost missed the words Regulus stated so plainly, coldly, still avoiding looking at him. Inside, excitement cooled and twisted into an ugly mix of hurt and jealous hatred.
“Oh,” he heard himself say, his mouth seeming to move of its own accord. He felt dazed, winded almost, his mind strangely blank. “Well, I’ll see you later then. Have fun on your date.”
Stalking out of the castle, he strode off straight down the steps, overtaking a happy couple holding hands and just managing to restrain himself from glaring at them for daring to smile at each other, coy and cute. It wasn’t fair; it just wasn’t fair. Why could other people be happy in their sweet, simple little relationships, and he wasn’t even allowed to go to Hogsmeade with his boyfr – no, his friend.
They weren’t boyfriends. They had never been boyfriends. They had never even really been friends, in any real sense of the word. Regulus had said that often too. Even now, he couldn’t help but wonder who Regulus had been trying to convince – Barty or himself.
Not that any of that mattered, since Regulus had a date. A date. With a girl. With some pretty girl from a nice, eminently respectable family, with a lineage traced back to the fifteenth century, no doubt. In other words, someone perfectly right for him.
In other words, not Barty.
Kicking a rock savagely, he looked up as he approached the wizarding village, the wind whipping at his face and cloak, brushing his fringe into his eyes. He took a deep breath, reminding himself that it didn’t matter, because it didn’t mean anything, she didn’t mean anything, Regulus didn’t mean anything…
With a bit of luck, he wouldn’t have to see them around.
He scowled as a group of girls sat down in front of him, chatting away about something or the other he couldn’t hear over the din in the pub, obscuring his view of Regulus and his date. Shifting from foot to foot, he craned his neck to see the girl push a lock of hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. Beside her, he could just see Regulus looking bored, face carefully devoid of any emotion, negative or otherwise.
Nothing had really changed in the last five minutes he’d been watching them sit there, two Butterbeers in front of them, both untouched.
He hadn’t meant to watch them, or follow them in the first place. It had just been a passing glance, a simple matter of timing, when he’d spotted them out of the window of the bookshop, walking down the street hand-in-hand. Before he’d really considered anything, he’d been out of the shop, fifteen paces behind them, trailing after them to the Three Broomsticks.
His grip tightened on the glass bottle.
It shouldn’t be her. That was the one thing which nagged at him, ate away at him, stoked his emotions into a fire burning at the bottom of his stomach. It shouldn’t be her sitting there with Regulus – it should be him. He should be there, holding Regulus’ hand. Lying awake at night, he’d run over again and again in his mind’s eye how it would go, how he’d like it to go, should it ever be possible. If Regulus ever let him.
They’d sit at the table in the corner, where Regulus and his date were now, cheeks flushed from the cold wind snatching at their skin, leaving little red marks here and there. He’d buy the drinks – Regulus would argue, but eventually give in – raspberry cordial for Regulus, since he wasn’t so keen on Butterbeer, and a Butterbeer for himself. There would be no distant, frigid silence for them: they’d talk endlessly about anything and everything, from Quidditch to studies and everything in between.
After a while, in a comfortable pause, Barty would reach out and take Regulus’ hand, lace their fingers together and smile at him. Regulus, flushed, half-nervous and half-excited, would smile back, dark grey eyes surprisingly bright in the dim pub. Slipping closer, he’d ignore Regulus rolling his eyes and steal a kiss, gentle and sweet.
Then maybe another. A third, a fourth…
Giving a sigh, he took a sip of his Butterbeer, rolling the taste around in his mouth. Speculation was pointless. He knew it would never happen – could never happen, should never happen. They weren’t supposed to be like this, to love each other, and couldn’t ever have anything beyond something which could be called ‘friendship’, no matter what it was behind closed doors where no one could see or know.
He hated it. He hated it more than anything else in his life, even his wretched father.
Taking a half-step to his left, he froze as dark eyes met his, and simply stared back at Regulus. It was probably only a couple of seconds, but it felt longer than that and when Regulus looked away, glancing at the table then his date next to him, Barty kept watching him.
The girl, he was irritated to see, moved beyond her previous monotonous job of twirling a lock of hair around a finger, and dared – dared – lay a hand on his Regulus, head bending towards him to ask something. He couldn’t help but feel smug and vilified in his annoyance when Regulus shook his head dismissively, not even pretending to look interested in her.
He shouldn’t, because he wasn’t, and Barty wasn’t going to let Regulus go that easily.
A burly older boy pushed past him, blocking his view of Regulus, followed by a couple of his mates. Once they’d gone, retreating to a table in the back corner, one of them tugging a pack of cards out of his pocket, he looked over towards Regulus and his date again, intent on catching the other’s eye again and somehow convincing him to ditch the girl. Then maybe they could make something out of the day.
Stilling, he felt his body tense, his fingers on the bottle turning stark white from pressure. He dropped the bottle, the smash of breaking glass swallowed up by the catcalls and laughs and chatter, turned on his heel and all but fled the pub.
Regulus had kissed her. Had actually kissed her – mouth to mouth, lips to lips. It had only been a small, brushing kiss, hardly anything at all; nothing like the way he kissed Barty, hot and desperate and fierce. That wasn’t the important bit, though, it was enough that he’d kissed the girl.
Even now, when he was out of the Three Broomsticks, tucked in the small alley behind Madam Puddifoots, he couldn’t get the image of them kissing out of his head. Swearing, he kicked a bin hard, the shudder running up through his body from his foot when his toe impacted with the metal. It hurt, throbbing in time with his heartbeat, and he was so glad to have something else to focus on.
Not that it helped that much.
Seething, biting his lip and blinking fast because he wasn’t going to cry, damnit, he ran a hand through his hair. He swore, again, and this time it was directed, in his mind, to Regulus. Damn him. Damn it all.
“Barty?” he heard Regulus’ voice come from behind him and spun around to face him, feeling the jealousy and the irritation and the fury flare up again, Regulus’ voice only tempting the flames to rise higher. “What the hell was that?”
“What the hell was what?” he replied.
“You’re following me,” Regulus said, and it was a statement of fact which made Barty want to cringe inside, though he refused to do so outwardly. “Why? I told you, there’s nothing between us, I… I have a girlfriend now.”
“No, you don’t,” Barty laughed, though it sounded a little hollow even to his own ears. “You have a girl who your parents approve of, who’ll sit beside you and hold your hand and who you can make small talk with. That’s not a girlfriend.”
Regulus didn’t say anything. If he was honest, Barty didn’t really expect him to. What was there to say?
“Look, Barty,” Regulus said eventually, glancing at the ground somewhat awkwardly. “What do you want from me?”
Barty looked at him, eyes raking over his form. Regulus’ dark cloak and hair clashed wonderfully with the bright red of the bricks of the building behind him. He knew exactly what he wanted from Regulus, and he was fairly sure he knew what Regulus wanted from him, but saying it out loud was a different matter.
“You know,” he reminded him, moving a little closer to Regulus, noticing curiously that the other’s eyes flickered up to his and then back down again, as though nervous. Barty just thought it was sort of adorable.
“It won’t work,” Regulus shook his head. “It can’t work. It’s impossible.”
“People have done it before,” Barty persisted, stretching out a hand for Regulus’, relieved when he didn’t pull away or resist it. “We can do it. It can’t be that hard, surely?”
Regulus glanced up at him and this time didn’t look away, so Barty took the chance and kissed him, his other hand coming up to cup the back of his head, fingers tangling in dark locks. Dropping Regulus’ hand, he wound his arm around Regulus’ waist, pulling him close, and then he was lost. He could feel Regulus’ warm body pressing against his, taste the ginger tang of Butterbeer on his tongue, and he simply forgot to think.
Emotion still surged in his stomach, though, and he stepped forwards, taking Regulus with him, shoving the Black heir against the side of the building, hearing him gasp and moan softly into his mouth as an arm snaked around his neck to hold him close. Fingers, light and teasing, brushed over the short hairs at the back of his neck and Barty shivered, sliding his arm out from behind Regulus to rest on his hip, gripping, his thumb stroking over the line of the other boy’s hipbones through his trousers.
The kiss ended softly, reluctantly, and Barty looked down at Regulus, smugly pleased that he’d bested Regulus’ date (because she’d never kiss him like that, could never kiss him like that, should never kiss him like that). He couldn’t help but smile as he drank in the sight of Regulus, usually perfectly put-together with everything placed just-so, ruffled and panting, his eyes dark and intense.
Regulus closed his eyes, licking his lips just once, and, before Barty could kiss him again, whispered,
“Barty, no. I’m sorry.”
Arms dropping to his sides, feeling his eyes sting unexpectedly, breathing heavily, he stepped away. He gave a curt, jerky nod, not trusting himself to speak and left, only just aware of the crowds of people moving around him, weaving through them until he was lost enough amongst others that even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t be able to see Regulus.
He felt bitter and angry and upset and inexplicably, inescapably lonely. He’d lost Regulus, and lost him permanently this time, or so it seemed. He couldn’t decide, though, what hurt more: knowing that he’d have to see Regulus parading around school with his girlfriend, or hoping that maybe Regulus would get bored, would remember that Barty could give him everything she couldn’t, could be everything she couldn’t, and come back.
At least, he reflected bitterly, his father would be pleased.
A/N: the quote in the first part of the summary ("Where is great love, there are always wishes.") belongs to Willa Cather, and not me. I simply borrowed it.
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