Chapter 12 : Of New Friendships and Knowing.
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I smiled despite myself. I shouldn’t at all be smiling about someone who took a swing at my boyfriend but I feel like there’s no pretending to be on Rosier’s side around Regulus. He can see how twisted Rosier is, and how volatile he is about the cause.
“At least you got a swing in,” I said lightly, touching his hand in a reassuring way.
I think we both acknowledged that we were touching, a slight pink rising to both of our cheeks. I could have nearly lost it when Regulus actually moved to hold on to my hand as well. I felt my heart beat quicken and grow stronger in my ears.
“You’re really not like us, Claire. My parents were right,” Regulus said softly, his eyes shifting to our hands and then to my eyes.
“What exactly did they say?” I questioned, my brow furrowed and admittedly my pride a little wounded.
In some ways I was entirely put off by the aspect that I would never fit in in this world, and in this life. As much as I tried and willed to be as much like my family, I was a Hufflepuff. It made me different and it made me special. But most of all it made me all alone in my world.
“With your sorting in to Hufflepuff you were too emotional. You were soft, basically. You wouldn’t be able to handle the harshness of standing for our ways and hardly be able to live for our cause,” Regulus said quickly, “And…I think that’s why I’ve always admired you.”
I looked up quickly to Regulus’ eyes, my mouth a little parted in surprise, this time I could feel my cheeks burning and I pulled my hand back from Regulus’ hold.
“I..” I started lamely, smoothing out my linen pants, “I should get back to bed. I’ll wake you in another couple of hours. Rest well.”
I leapt off back to my cot, my mind swirling at the moment I just witnessed. Regulus definitely just held my hand and told me he admired me. Bloody hell working in the infirmary late at night was a riot.
I crawled back under my sheets, willing my mind to calm down, but all I could think about was the way Regulus’ hand felt on mine and the way his cold gray eyes stared so evenly into my warm blue. Often Evan’s eyes were smoldering and wanting, he wanted power over me and belittled me in the process.
I shifted in bed, turning to face the ceiling and sighed. I was too restless, too wide-awake. I moved to sit up and place my feet on the cold stone floor. I peeked out into the infirmary, trying to find some excuse to go back out on to the patient’s floor and noted that one of patients who looked to be sweating. Probably breaking fever, I thought rather quickly. I grabbed a rag from the linen rack and headed over to his bed, with a small flick of my wand and the word flitting through my brain water streamed onto the rag. I placed it on the boy’s head and watched his face visibly relax. I moved back and glanced at Regulus' bed.
His eyes were closed and his chest was moving up and down slowly, he looked peaceful. Almost boyish again. I moved over by his bedside, sitting as quietly as I could muster on the small metal chair right beside him.
“I admire you too, you know,” I said softly, eyes scanning his face, “When your brother walked away most would hide their head in shame and crumble under being watched by others to see if you would follow suit. And as much as you are like the others, you’re not cruel. You’re not sadistically sold out to the cause. I feel like your brother would be a little proud of that.”
The side of his mouth twitched a bit as if he was restraining the reaction of smiling, and I could feel the blush rise in my cheeks.
“You don’t have to pretend to be asleep anymore, tosser,” I commented dryly, pulling my knees up to chest.
I watched a smirk form on Regulus’ lips, and his eyes opened to meet mine, “You admire me, Nott? I always thought you were too proud to admit that.”
I rolled my eyes, “And I never thought you’d be a friend to me again, we’re even, Black.”
“We’re friends?” He asked, moving to sit up and raising a brow in my direction.
I decided not to be deterred by his possible rejection of the notion; “I would consider anyone who helps me with a hangover, and aids in my sneaking out of the boys' dormitory to be my friend, yes.”
“I suppose we are then,” Regulus said lightly, a faint smile crossing his lips.
“Well, friend, tell me about that night with the house elves. You were the last person I expected to see being so nice to them. You were nicer to them then you are to most humans,” I put my head on my knees, examining him in the moonlight.
“Ah, yes. Well, our house elf at home is named Kreacher, and he was my best companion growing up. Sirius was always stirring trouble and getting punished for it so I had no one to play with, but Kreacher was always kind and willing to entertain. He’s loyal, and I respect that,” Regulus said easily, leaning back on his pillows, “And I rightly assumed you would be nice to them, you’re ridiculously kind.”
I scoffed at him, “I am not ridiculously kind, Black. Take it back. I’ve given my fair share of unfair hexes.”
He chuckled softly, “Really? First of all, you put up with bloody Rosier who’s a bigger git than anyone I know. Secondly you actually oblige your mother and dance with every bloke she sends your way at balls, and thirdly you have had ample opportunity to throw that slimy Crabbe bloke under the table for years about how he was to you and you have never done it.”
I screwed up my mouth in defeat, because in all honesty I did let those things happen. Often I scolded myself for letting people walk all over me, including my mother. But I never felt that these people deserved that, who was I to call them out?
“I didn’t realize you knew me so well, Regulus,” I commented softly, examining the hem of my pajama pants.
“Well, you’re the only interesting one in these circles, to be fair,” He commented softly, and my eyes moved up to meet his. I saw the slight pink in his cheekbones and I could tell it was hard for him to offer up compliments.
“Does your mother expect you to marry during all of this?” I wasn’t quite sure why I asked, but the words came tumbling out before I could catch them.
“No. She’s more concerned with completing the Dark Lord’s agenda. Plus she hasn’t deemed anyone worthy of our bloodline. She practically flipped a lid when Goyle and Doge got engaged, spouting on about weak bloodlines,” Regulus commented dryly, sighing towards the end as if he hardly felt it was worth the commotion.
“My mother expects me to marry,” I said softly, studying his face for a reaction, “I must marry and bear children. It’s all I’m necessary for in this.”
“You’ll be safe,” Regulus said softly, eyebrows knit in concentration.
“I’ll be alone,” I said barely above a whisper, a few tears welling in my eyes.
I had never admitted that out loud, and as it left my lips and rolled over Regulus I felt safe in saying it. I felt like I could be that honest and he wouldn’t look down on me for admitting it, or chastise me for not being more loyal. His expression became unreadable and he struggled to answer me for some time. I felt the tears in my eyes slip down my cheeks. I wasn’t breaking down or sobbing, I was just immeasurably sad.
“Well now you have a friend you can be alone with,” Regulus commented finally, a small sad smile coming over his lips.
I’m not sure how much I realized until now how alone Regulus must be. His brother abandoned him and he took to being a Death Eater long before the others. He was ranked among much older men who only saw him as inexperienced. And in the Hogwarts walls he was subject to Rosier being the lead, but he didn't bow at his feet. Regulus was alone too, in a different way but nonetheless. But I was comforted by it.
I wiped at my eyes sighing a bit, grudgingly putting my feet to the cold floor.
“You should get some rest, Claire,” Regulus said shifting down in his sheets to lie down.
“And you, I think my waking you is over. Now it’ll just be Pomfrey checking you over before she let’s you go,” I said standing, feeling sleepiness hit me heavily, “Thank you, Regulus.”
A brief smile flitted over his face, “Any time.”
I glanced over the remaining patients, noting that each one’s chest seemed to be rising and falling evenly and all seemed at peace. I made my way back to my cot and retreated under the stiff white sheet. Sleep came easily, but most of all I felt relief. I had finally told someone how alone I felt and discovered I wasn’t alone at all. Not really.
Regulus and I didn’t become best buddies following that encounter, particularly because I was still dating Rosier exclusively and he was still trying to remain in good graces amongst the other boys. I was itching to have someone to talk to though.
Anabelle was spilling more and more about her love affair with the muggle boy, and I must admit it was so intriguing and romantic. But I couldn’t share with her the way my heart squeezed tightly when I saw Regulus or how horrible of a snog Rosier was or even the many ways I avoided going to bed with him.
In Transfiguration we were learning how to transfigure our eyes different colors, a piece of complicated magic that could help us begin to conceal our identities if need be. I was staring into a small hand mirror focusing on my eyes and watching them shift from the bright blue to an almost gray blue. Almost the color of Regulus’.
McGonagall strode around the room, commenting on people’s performances and righting those who seemed to be struggling. It wasn’t like in first year where people were at varying degrees of ability. We were the best of the best at Hogwarts in the N.E.W.T.S. level class. We may have struggled a bit, but we were all rather skilled.
“Misses Nott, it may do well to try for other colors then just a different hue of your natural one,” McGonagall commented as she passed, her mouth forming a small grimace.
I felt a blush rise to my cheeks and quickly blinked, the spell passing through my mind and shifted my eye color to a bright gold, not far off from the color striped on my tie. I looked around to see the others in my small class. Anabelle was changing hers to a green color; a color I knew was in her boyfriend’s eyes. Yaxley was turning his a dreadful black, in some attempt to look frightening I assumed. Regulus sat perched at the far end of the room, all by himself, and I could see him changing his eyes to a warm blue. I think he could feel eyes on him as he shifted his mirror a bit and caught me staring; I quickly looked back at my own mirror a full blush rising in my cheeks. My golden eyes looked so wrong on my pale skin, and my blonde hair, I quickly changed them back.
The bell rang signaling our dismissal and I quickly left throwing my things haphazardly in my bag and making my way towards the Great Hall for lunch. I could feel the emotions from my night talking to Regulus swirling my mind as I strode down the hall. The halls were busy at this hour because of lunch schedules, and with my mind wandering I hadn’t seen someone. This became very evident when someone’s body shoved into mine, setting me back a few paces as I struggled for balance. I could feel the curse words poised at my lips but when I looked for my assailant they were gone. I gave a frustrated sigh and trudged on to the Great Hall. Evan had this lunch and so did I; he was already seated amongst his mates.
Goyle glanced up as I approached and gave a signal to the others, they reeled their heads back from the tight square they had formed and greeted me with smiles and shifting eyes.
“Lovely to see you boys,” I commented softly, a tight smile on my lips. I sincerely hated being left in the dark about all their planning. I felt so untrusted by the notion.
“Hello, darling,” Rosier said, shifting his body closer to mine and giving me a light kiss on the cheek.
“What was so intriguing that you all looked like your heads were permanently glued together when I came in?” I pressed, glancing sharply at any of them that would catch my gaze.
I hadn’t pressed before with them. I was not sure if they’d even give me anything of substance, but I knew something wasn’t right. I knew they were all pressing to get their marks soon, and I knew how you got them. I was hoping they weren’t planning to complete that part while we were still in school.
“Oh, love, just discussing Quidditch is all. Our Gryffindor match is soon,” Rosier said easily his hand resting on my knee in assurance.
His eyes were earnest and his smile was more than charming, it was often terribly easy to see how Evan got his way among others. He was charismatic. He could get anyone to follow him. In this moment I remembered why I was so intrigued by him in the beginning. His flashy smile, and drawing personality were enough to have me fooled. Just behind his eyes I could see it though, the anger and desire for justice at all cost. Rosier was willing to die for this cause.
All the boys returned to their meals and idle conversations, Evan’s eyes still trained on me at this point.
“I don’t know how you lot can even focus on such a thing with N.E.W.T.S. in full swing,” I managed softly, readjusting his tie and looking up at him like I was fooled.
I couldn’t let him know I was on to something with them. I couldn’t let him know how much I knew about a Death Eater’s life. I couldn’t let him know about my stirring feelings for Regulus. Rosier was too volatile, too willing to see his own will prevail even at the mercy of others.
A smirk curled on his pink lips and he leaned close to my ear, his breath blocking out the noise of the hall and those around us.
“My bed is awfully lonely these days, Claire, I’m not going to wait around forever,” His voice was almost edged with anger, and I felt my heart sink.
“Soon,” I said softly, nodding in agreement and acknowledging the small threat he made about our relationship.
His hand slipped around my lower waist, and he pressed a kiss into my temple and then turned to finish his lunch.
I shuddered a bit; trying to shake the feeling of dread and fear that entangled me. Shoving my hands in my robe pockets to draw them more around myself as some form of protection my right hand found a bit of parchment. Pulling it out and glancing around to see if everyone had forgotten my presence, I glanced at the neatly scrawled cursive.
Astronomy Tower, 11 o’clock.
Rosier certainly was getting impatient, but I knew I must oblige. He was my biggest hope of surviving this looming darkness.
It was ten past 11 when I found myself climbing the stairs to the Astronomy Tower. I felt no obligation of time when it came to Rosier, mother always told me it was best to have them be a little impatient.
I pushed open the small wooden door to the classroom, adjacent to the observation deck where classes stared eagerly at stars during practical lessons. Tonight it all lay empty except for the rows of desks. I drew in a deep breath, preparing myself for the hungry and passionate approach that Rosier often wanted. I peeked out onto the observation deck, hoping to see his form there, but instead of the usual rich brown hair I caught sight of dark hair and my stomach lurched.
“Regulus?” I questioned, stepping out in the moonlight as his form turned toward me.
“Were you expecting someone else?” He questioned, a bit of grin striking his features.
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