Chapter 1 : the courage of the stars
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His ears ringed with the questions and worries that kept drumming through his head, sporadically switch from eerily quiet to a deafeningly loud forte. Their whining tone mixed with the ominous warnings that beat in the back of his mind, a constant rhythm under the chaos of his other thoughts. On top of it all was a lilting, beguiling, all too tempting thought of escape, of a cowardly way to end it all, a melody too soft, gentle, and enticing, but calling him, beckoning him.
It was this raucous cacophony that led him here, to the Astronomy Tower. He wished he could reach into his head and draw out all the noisy thoughts that kept him restless and pull them out of his head and fling them off the Astronomy Tower, catapulting them into the Forbidden Forest to be trampled under the feet of the centaurs. But when he tried to close his eyes and make them vanish, Regulus’s thoughts grew in volume and tempo, drumming insistently at his head.
So, instead, Regulus tried to think of nothing.
It was easy to do at the Astronomy Tower, where he could see the vast expanse of the night sky above him, each star dotting the sky. He imagined himself standing on one of these stars, looking out all the other stars and the other mysteries the universe hid beyond the stratosphere; it was a tempting image, standing on the stars and being completely out of reach from everything that haunted him on Earth. For a moment, the cacophony on his head quieted, pushed to the background, replaced by a soft buzzing—for a moment, there seemed to be relative quiet.
But then he imagined himself slipping even an inch and falling from the star, crashing through the sky and tumbling to the ground like Icarus, daring to believe that he could defy his destiny and those who controlled his destiny—that he could do what no man before him had done. His thoughts crescendoed and accelerated, that grew agitato and staccato, as he imagined himself lying on the ground, bones crushed, paralyzed, staring at a serpentine face, a slithering voice whispering in his ear, “Foolish boy, you thought you could defy me? That you could escape your fate?”
Even on a star ten thousand miles away from Scotland, the Dark Lord held a tight grip on him.
His thoughts grew louder, now a blasting pianoforte, and as Regulus’s head throbbed, he bent down, pressing his forehead against the railing of the Astronomy Tower, seeking relief and peace and to quiet the discordant cacophony in his head. His dark gaze peered over the edge of the railing, staring at the pavement below—for a second, leaning over just a little more felt tempting. The thought slipped into his head unbidden, but like a siren’s call, enchanting and growing louder: pianissimo to piano to forte—
“Hello,” called out a silvery voice, breaking Regulus out of his trance and muting the siren’s call.
He turned to face the speaker, surprised at the sight of a pale, fair-haired girl, a few years younger than him, it seemed, dressed in Ravenclaw robes. Regulus had not seen her around before, but this wasn’t saying much; he had been very consumed in personal matters, understandably. He was arrested for a moment at the sight of her silvery-grey eyes, almost translucent; his curiosity led him to regard her with open curiosity but a wariness in his closed posture, the way he leaned against the railing. He did not speak to her, but it was of little matter to the fair-haired girl.
“I didn’t think anyone else would be here at this hour,” she started, coming closer to Regulus without waiting for his invitation. She stood beside him at the railing, her posture open and friendly, relaxed; she turned to him with a smile as if they had been friends for years, and a perceptiveness in her gaze that made Regulus tense and shift away slightly. She did not seem disturbed by this motion, and simply continued, “Are you here for an assignment?”
Her expectant tone forced a few words from Regulus’s mouth, though they were crackly and strangled, more syllables than words. “No. To think.”
The girl made a sound of understanding, a soft and melodic humming that reverberated in his head, further silencing the siren’s call of the railing, pressing into his back. “I come here to think, too. I like looking at the stars—something about them is truly very soothing,” she voiced. “I like to find constellations and shapes in them. I’m even coming up with a spell to create the image of a starry night sky anywhere.” She pointed to one cluster of stars that appeared to make the shape of a heart, and grinned, “Isn’t that adorable?”
Regulus had not smiled in months, but the innocence in her tone and the brightness of her expression and the shine of her smile drew a small smile from his lips. He nodded in acquiescence, and his gaze swept over the smattering of stars in the sky to find his own shapes. “Look,” he said, pointing out a group of stars that looked vaguely like a snake. He watched with a hopeful expression, hoping to see another one of those shining smiles, the ones that reminded him of his cousin Andromeda.
“That’s very Slytherin of you,” she teased, granting him another smile that made his face brighten and a lilting melody begin to play in his head, the worrisome thoughts fading to a mezzoforte. “I’m Pandora,” she added. “You are Regulus, yes?”
He raised his eyebrows, unaware that she knew who he was. Once again, his surprise led him to nod mutely. Noticing his evident surprise and eyebrows furrowed in confusion, Pandora explained, “I’ve seen you in the halls. And one of my professors—Professor Slughorn—was talking about you in class. He sung your praises quite well; most of us Ravenclaws are a little annoyed of hearing your name.”
Regulus flushed a little in embarrassment, causing Pandora to giggle, a twinkling sound that caused the gentle melody playing in his thoughts to become more vibrant, a brilliant vivace. “Sorry,” he apologized awkwardly, making Pandora giggle again and reach out to assure him—
Her hand landed on his Dark Mark and immediately he tensed, the melody in his thoughts halting instantly. His smile vanished and the somber expression generally on his face returned, and for a moment, all he could hear was a stifling, pervasive silence. His dark eyes pinned her grey ones down, and he frowned, his expression nearing a sneer—he dared her, nonverbally, to say something. Say it, he thought. Tell me what you think of me. Tell me that I’m a disgusting snake who deserves to die for following someone like him.
He had to give her credit; Pandora did not budge or waver. Her hand rested on his arm for a second before she drew it back slowly, her grey eyes remaining on his. Her expression was frustratingly devoid of any emotion: no judgement, no fear, no pleasure. Simply blankness.
Then, softly, she started, “Stars are very brave, you know. The light that we see is the last of them, which they shoot into space when they die, with the hope that it’ll travel hundreds of thousands of miles and reach us and brighten our night. I’ve always admired the stars’ selflessness.” Regulus’s shoulders loosened a little, as confusion crossed his features again. Her voice was soft-spoken but brillante; she held his gaze with a severeness that made him feel uneasy. It was like Pandora knew everything about him, not just what the Dark Mark on his arm signified, but the weight of the responsibility he carried on his shoulders.
“I don’t know if you know this, but Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo and one of the brightest stars in the sky,” she continued, her tone taking on a tinge of desperation, the slightest amount of forcefulness in her voice as though she was trying to tell him something very important. “That star must be very courageous and selfless.” Slowly, as though she was approaching a wild animal, she reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder. Regulus was frozen, unable to move or respond, her words echoing in his brain.
Pandora stepped back, making a show of looking at her watch. “Oh, look at the time—I’ve got to get to bed now. I’ll see you around, Regulus,” she beamed. Turning on her heel, she gave him one last smile over his shoulder before walking out of the tower, disappearing down the stairs.
Regulus listened to her footsteps for as long as he could, his thoughts tossing tumultuously. Her footsteps and words drummed an insistent rhythm in his head, but it was not a cacophony. As he descended the stairs to the Slytherin Common Room, and laid in bed, his thoughts were in a crescendo, pressing, urging him to do something, urging him to listen to Pandora’s words. He covered his head with a pillow, feeling the pressure of his thoughts growing to fortissimo.
The next morning, the moment he got out of bed, Regulus sat down at his writing desk and started writing a letter, the sound of his quill scratching at the paper mixing with his thoughts to create a deliberate, self-assured rhythm—a symphony.
if it wasn't clear, pandora is luna's mother! I always imagined that she would have an appreciation for the stars, hence her decision to name Luna Luna. Did you notice the little reference to her liking for creating spells? :)
I also want to make it clear that the term 'keyframe' comes from John Koenig's Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. This fic is part of my personal challenge inspired by the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
Also, some clarification on the musical terms, if they're unfamiliar:
agitato = to be played in an agitated manner
staccato = to be played in short, quick notes
pianoforte = very loud
pianissimo = very quiet
piano = quiet
forte = loud
crescendo = increasing in volume
mezzoforte = sort of loud
vivace = lively, vibrantly
brillante = brilliantly
fortissimo = loudest
Thanks for reading, would love to hear your thoughts! :)
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