Pink Green Blue

Stasis by Hourglass nomineeHourglass winnerandromeda311

Rating: R. Created: May 7th, 2008. Updated: May 7th, 2008. Read Reviews (10)
Disclaimer: Characters, the magical world, etc, is property of J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros, not the owner of this fic.

Before we begin, the warnings: disturbing imagery, mentions of underage sex, gratuitous cursing, and a somewhat rocky beginning. Also, a darker Regulus than my usual characterization, in an attempt to make him more of a Death Eater and less of a child.


stasis

 

This is where the story begins: a dark, empty road in the middle of a starless, hot night. This is the first time Regulus understands hatred.

Regulus is not blind; he knows where Sirius has gone and with whom. And Sirius is not stupid; he knows that the girl he's casually fucking is Regulus's image of perfection, the girl he honestly, truly swore he was in love with. He stands on the doorstep, waiting for his brother to return home and when Sirius does, he asks point-blank - "Are you happy now?"

"No," he replies bluntly. "But what can you do? I didn't go into it expecting much. Everyone knows she's easy."

She is not, Regulus wants to say, she's not easy, she hasn't - she wouldn't -

But then, Regulus never knew her that well anyway. He'd only spoken to her twice, and then only in passing. He has no way of disproving Sirius.

"You didn't know?"

"Go to hell, Sirius," Regulus whispers. "Go to hell."

(So this is what they mean when they describe hatred, this is how it's supposed to feel, this white-hot anger, this burning in the back of your throat and eyes and chest, the bile on your tongue, acidic shame - you are a fool, you are naive, you can't even insult the person you hate properly; this is what they mean, this is how it feels.)

He's standing there long after Sirius goes back inside, staring at his feet.

--

He does it too, partially out of anger, partially out of spite, and tries not to think that he's taking his brother's sloppy seconds only days later. He wonders if she knows his name, or his age (thirteen, yeah, thirteen and he knows he's way too young for this, but damn it all to hell, this is how Sirius was at thirteen, right?)

He still thinks that she's beautiful, beautiful and horrible and a monster and he hates her too but that just makes everything -

Not better, no, but tolerable. Because he hates her, so what does it matter? And as he's walking away, she mutters that his brother was much better and -

And she's still beautiful, but Sirius is the monster. How does it work out this way? Regulus does something stupid, something moronic, something damning and even then, it's overshadowed. He can't even fuck up right; Sirius has done it better, has done it worse, has been more spectacular in his follies.

Regulus tries self-destruction. He's worse at that than fucking.

(It really wasn't good. Is this what they really go on about when they talk about sex? The world must be all mad, he thinks.)

--

He gives up his quest to go out in a blaze of glory two weeks before his fourth year. He can't do it, he's just not - He's not bold enough or daring enough or dashing enough to do it.

He's barely fourteen. He wonders what his mother would do if he told her that he caught Sirius sleeping with that slutty Muggle girl from down the road. Probably nothing. Mother isn't fazed by Sirius anymore, at least, not by things like that. Then he wonders what she would do if he told her that he slept with that slutty Muggle girl from down the road. Probably kill him.

No. She wouldn't believe him. Perfect, sweet Regulus would never do such a thing.

(What they mean is, no girl would willingly sleep with lackluster Regulus when his beautiful older brother Sirius is around.)

He attacks the wall in the main hallway with every bit of strength in him, managing to knock several of the elf-heads off, and they hit the ground with grotesque thuds, somewhat wet, vaguely disturbing. He tells Mum that Sirius did it and she believes him. There's yelling, but nothing more than usual.

The fall has cracked the skull of one of the elves and the smell is appalling. Apparently the spells meant to preserve the heads only worked superficially. Morbidly curious, Regulus kicks the plaque the head rested on and stares at the figure.

--

This is the nightmare:

The room is dark and muggy and hot and there's a head on a plaque on the floor and it belongs to the Muggle girl from down the street and her brains are smeared all over his shoe.

He wakes up sweating and nauseous and tells himself that he saw his own head because dreaming that you've killed yourself and kicked up the remains is better than dreaming that you've murdered some girl and kicked up the remains.

He has this dream almost every night for the rest of the summer.

--

He falls in love with Alice Callahan halfway through his fourth year, and hates himself for it. He tries to be a misogynist, to tell himself that Alice Callahan is just like that other girl from Grimmauld Place, only she isn't. Alice is a Prefect, and lovely and sweet and dating some boy he doesn't know. Alice is the one who helps him when he trips over one of his brother's jinxes and slides down a whole stairway and spills his books all over the place.

"You must be Sirius Black's brother," she says when she's helped him to her feet, "only I like you better. You're nicer." And then she smiles at him and he's smitten. He tries to come up with something witty to say, but all that comes out is:

"You're the only one, then," And it sounds so self-pitying, so petulant, so pathetic that he cringes and Alice frowns.

"I'm sure I'm not. Take care of yourself, okay! And watch out for those disappearing steps!" She laughs kindly as she walks up the stairs he just fell down and he stands there, cursing his own stupidity.

He's late for Potions. He tells Slughorn he forgot something in his dormitory.

--

Rabastan Lestrange asks him if he'd like to feel important.

Tired, drained, and confused, he says he'd rather feel rested.

Rabastan doesn't respond.

--

He stumbles across Alice again in the Library while he's studying for Transfiguration (always his worst subject, always), his head spinning with spells and questions and Rabastan in the Common Room last week telling him that Mudbloods don't have the right to live in their world and anyone who helps them is just as bad.

She asks him if he's looking for something and he stares at her blankly for several seconds before it even registers that she's spoken to him.

"No," he mumbles then, remembering that Alice Callahan's best friend is a Mudblood and according to Rabastan - "I think I've got everything."

"Okay," she replies, "Well, if you ever need any help, don't be afraid to ask the Prefects. We're here to help, you know."

"Why do you care?" He asks suddenly, stupidly, and she looks up thoughtfully.

"Well, to be honest, I don't like the Slytherin Prefects very much and I haven't seen them helping out the younger years the way they really ought to. I just don't want anyone to suffer for that."

"I don't need help." It comes out harsher than he intended, but Alice say anything.

(She notices, he thinks, and he can tell because she gets that frosty sort of look on her face that Andy used to get whenever someone said something she didn't like. He's ruined everything. For once in his life, his self-destruction has succeeded.)

(So this is what they mean when they talk about hatred.)

--

Alice does not try to be friendly to him again, though she doesn't actively shun him. He sort-of stalks her, in the way that any young child with a crush does, by watching her when she leaves the room and casually bringing her into conversation, trying to figure out more about her. He doesn't follow her around or leave creepy notes, but before summer, he knows almost everything he can know about the girl.

He spends the whole summer before his fifth year penning letters to her that he never can bring himself to send, and they all begin the same way -

You were right about me. I didn't act it, but it's true. You were right. I do need your help.

And they all end with an I Love You of novel proportions, and this is where he tears it up and throws it out.

--

This summer, it really is his head on the plaque. He can't tell if this is a good thing or not.

--

Three days before his fifteenth birthday, he witnesses Sirius lose his temper and storm out of the house for good. He stands at the window and watches as Sirius leaves and doesn't look back to bid his brother a farewell. There is no parting scene. There is no final confession.

When Father comes in to tell him that Sirius is no longer one of the Blacks, he simply says that he knows this and of course will do exactly as he is expected to, as a dutiful son should.

He isn't lying. This, more than anything, makes him laugh.

What a fine pair we are,
he thinks bitterly, what a perfect example of brotherhood.

He decides that one day, there will be a conclusion to this story. One day, the glorious hero will meet the dissenting rebel and they will clash the way they always do in all the stories, and the hero will win because heroes always win. One day, he will stand on his own feet against Sirius, no more of this passive business.

No more of this ignoring and looking down and being inferior. One day, Sirius will realize that he underestimated his little brother.

--

By three in the morning, he has awoken twice to a cold sweat from the same old nightmare. He wonders if there's something wrong with him.

By four-forty-seven, there's a severed elf-head floating down the Thames, leaking fluid, degenerating.

--

Alice Callahan tries to help him load his luggage onto the train, but he stops her and snatches the trunk, insisting that he can do it himself. Surprised and a little hurt, she stands aside and lets him, but says that he can't always do everything alone.

"What do you know of it?"

She leaves him alone after that. He tries to tell himself that he doesn't miss the interfering little whore, but it sounds fake to his own ears. Alice is neither a whore nor interfering and he does miss her smiling at him. But before he can fully descend into moping in his compartment between Severus Snape and Delita Parkinson, the door opens and Sirius walks in with Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. There's a sudden and distinct chill in the room: Regulus is looking past Sirius and glaring at Lupin while Snape stares Sirius in the face and Delita watches, bored.

"This is our compartment," Sirius hisses.

"You can't just -" Regulus begins.

"It's not worth fighting over," Lupin cuts in, "We'll find another."

"Nonsense," Delita simpers, "there's plenty of room." No one moves for a long moment. "Well? Are you going to stand there with a dumb look on your face or take a seat?"

Abruptly, Sirius turns on his heel and leaves. Lupin and Pettigrew follow suit, casting Regulus a single glance before the door closes behind them. Delita turns to him, "You can't let them get away with things like this, you know. You'll have to stick up for yourself sooner or later."

She's right. He hates her, and Snape, and Rabastan, and Sirius, and -

Instead of speaking, he gets up and moves to the other side so he can stare out the window.

--

Again, Rabastan asks him if he'd like to feel important.

No.

--

Sometime during March, word gets around the school that Alice Callahan is engaged to her prefect-boyfriend Frank something-or-other. He'd love to be surprised, to be horrified, to be broken-hearted, but all he feels is bitterness. He's grown to understand hatred, old enough to realize how damaging it can be, still young enough to think he can master it.

He's bitter with her for not trying to understand him, and he's bitter with himself for not trying to be nicer.

Delita's sister Rienna comes up to him the night he hears of Alice's engagement and tells him that she's madly in love with him. He laughs at her.

"You're lying. You're saying you're in love with me because your Mum's trying to arrange a marriage for you and Nott and you think I'll be the one to save you from it. After all, what woman would choose a Nott over a Black for her darling daughter? Forget it, Rienna. I won't play hero."

(He finds out later that she hadn't known anything about the arranged marriage with Nott.)

(He laughs out loud when he hears this.)

--

"You and your brother Sirius, you're not that different, you know," Delita tells him one morning. "You're both rash and overdramatic and wild. You both think you know everything and you're both a little mad."

Were he a different person with a different personality, he would hit her for saying this. Instead, he stares into his breakfast and tries to wish her away from him. He hates Delita, hates her condescending tone, hates her lovely cruelty, hates her cold smile. She's trying to rile him, wants to make him mad, wants to make him hurt, because of the way he treated her sister.

If he is the hero, Delita should be the snarky love interest that infuriates him until he falls in love with her, but there is no secret, unrequited love in her gaze, only loathing.

He opens his mouth to retort, to tell her that he is nothing like Sirius, but then he is - he is a lot like Sirius - so he gets up and leaves because that's the last thing Sirius would do. It's lackluster, cowardly, and stupid. He hates himself for this. As he gets to his classroom, the brilliant response occurs to him, but it's too late to reply. It also occurs to him that this is an accurate description of his life: he does something impulsive, regrets it, and then runs away before the solution can play out.

It also occurs to him that he is not the hero of this story.

--

Seven days before final exams, Rabastan asks him if he'd like to feel important.

Regulus tells him that he'd rather be evil.

Rabastan smiles.

--

This is the rising action: his sixteenth birthday, a shadowy room, eyes down, bottom lip between his teeth. He is the picture of shame, regret, and mistakes. And he is too proud to back down now. After all, Father always said that Blacks always finish what they start and besides, he got himself into this mess. He can save himself, or not at all.

I, Regulus Arcturus Black, swear my life and my undying allegiance to -

He thinks of Alice Callahan and falters, for a half-second, before the Dark Lord escapes his lips.

(She was wrong about him, he thinks, because she thought he was redeemable.)

There's a wand wave and then an odd sort of sound, before the mark appears, so cold it burns, like exposing himself to absolute zero, cold like failure. It fits, blends into his arm with a crooked sort of elegance, like it always belonged there. He does not whimper, he does not hesitate. He bows, kisses the Dark Lord's robes, and walks out, head held high and proud like the Black he is.

Bellatrix stops him at the door and congratulates him with a lie - "You're my favorite cousin, you know that?"

He replies with an unfamiliar voice, unnervingly cold, "I'm your only cousin."

--

He kills a Mudblood four days later, and finds it surprisingly easy to detach. It isn't until he returns home and passes the hall with the severed heads of long-dead house-elves that he begins to feel nauseous, and it isn't until he sees the blank space between two of them that he thinks he might throw up.

The dead elf's skull splitting - he tries not to think about it - the Mudblood man, living secluded, who dared denounce the Dark Lord - floating down the Thames - what kind of monster are you? - brain on his shoe -

He wakes up then, sweating, skull on his arm burning white-hot. Too young to apparate, Regulus has been given lenience and is not required to be at emergency meetings yet, but the Dark Lord felt that there was no sense in giving him reprieve from the pain. He's shaking uncontrollably as he stumbles out into the hallway again.

The evidence of his nightmare - the severed head - is gone, but the mark remains.

He's struck with the mad urge to laugh.

--

He does exceedingly well in every Apparition lesson, but neglects to tell his family. All of a sudden, halfway through his sixth lesson, he is overwhelmed by the desire to fail. He doesn't want to be his mother's pet or the epitome of the Black Family Excellence. He wants to crash and burn and start all over again.

"Is something wrong?" The instructor asks quietly, pulling him aside. "You were doing so well in our last lesson that I felt sure you could pass the exam now. Is something going on that's distracted you?"

He hesitates for one moment and then lies, "Yes, it's just... I have a test tomorrow and haven't studied and I can't stop thinking about it." The instructor nods sagely and tells him that he can go early to study for his test, and even bids him good luck. Regulus smiles and thanks him and goes back to his dorm, arm throbbing.

He wants to throw up, but can't think of exactly why.

--

The summer after his sixth year, he goes to his first real meeting. Later, all he can remember about it is that it was dimly-lit and smoky from several dying candles. All he can think of right now is that his eyes are watering and he can't see and he can barely hear what's going on and he doesn't know why he's here.

All he can think of is this is a mistake, this is all a mistake.

He walks out feeling strangely proud of himself. He's really done it this time; he's really fucked up this one, hasn't he?

For no particular reason, this is the best moment of his life - dark night, eyes clearing from the sudden lack of smoke, a sprinkling of stars and nothing and no one in the entire world to see him or touch him except himself and his own glorious failure. He walks home.

There's something terribly liberating about knowing that he cannot fall any further than he has this night. He cannot do worse than he already has. Maybe this is why people give into their emotions so often - once you've let hatred rule you so completely, you allow no more room for absolution. There is no saving grace. There is no redemption scene. There is no pressure to be saved or to save.

He is the villain. He is the monster. He is wonderfully, fabulously, magnificently free.

When he gets home, there is no one home except Kreacher and he starts to feel uneasy. The euphoria of his epiphany is beginning to fade and the worry starts to creep in as he looks toward the hallway (elf-heads, those damn elf-heads again, and when will it be Kreacher's head among them?) so he doesn't go that way. Instead, he storms into the kitchen, making as much noise as he physically can, trying to fill the empty spaces in his world and in his head, and he calls to Kreacher to make him something to eat.

"What would Master like?"

"Anything," he replies quickly, "and bring me something alcoholic. Preferably strong."

"Whatever the Master desires."

Kreacher's eyes are on his arm where the robe has slid back, exposing the mark. Convulsively, almost shamefully, he pulls his sleeve down. Kreacher bows and exits.

--

It occurs to him this night that he is not the villain, not really. He is the side-character, the minion who gets in the hero's way and is brushed off carelessly. He is the traitor or the meaningless jailer. He is the one who could change the story, perhaps, the one readers tag in the backs of their minds as a name to remember, a name of he might be important.

Then again, he might not.

Again, he has failed at failing. Firewhiskey exacerbates his depression. Self-destructive, he continues to drink it.

--

Seventh year is uneventful. He begins to wonder if the world might not be waiting on him, waiting to see what part he has to play, waiting until the climax begins to unfold. He begins to wonder when things are going to start happening to him.

He does as he's told. Some part of him hates this, the very Sirius part of him that Delita was referring to, all that time ago, when she told him that he was just like his brother. He hates this dutiful son business.

But he's the good boy, he's the good child, he's the one who can't fail no matter how hard he tries.

He's felt self-hatred before, but this is the first time it consumes him, the first night of March, howling storm raging out the dormitory windows. He stands and stares into the lightning in a strange kind of mood, like he's on the very brink of losing control completely. But that can't be. He was never in control to begin with.

It's all an illusion
, he thinks, the idea that you can master your own life, the belief that you can even know what's coming for you before it attacks. It's all an illusion, this storm, this mood, this moment. He was never in control.

He has a different nightmare this night, of being in a dark place, running. From what, he can never remember.

--

Three weeks eighteen, the mark burns and he responds dutifully. The Dark Lord tells him that he has need of a house-elf. Bring me the elf that lives with you tomorrow night at eight o'clock. Do not be late.

Regulus does what he's told with one difference: "Kreacher, come back home when you're done."

--

This is a mistake, this is all a mistake.

Kreacher comes into the room, shaking and silent and horrified like he's seen some kind of terrible monster, like he's looked into Pandora's Box and been struck at once will all the terrors of the world, and when Regulus tells him to explain he begins babbling almost incoherently, desperation rank in his voice, no understanding of what has happened, no knowledge even of what he's really done or what he's really doing. Regulus stares at him through his entire story, listening.

He thinks of Alice Callahan and Sirius and Rienna Parkinson-soon-to-be-Nott. He thinks of Rabastan and Bellatrix and Delita. He laughs outright.

There is no villain. There is no hero. There is only redemption and damnation, success and failure.

(And if you succeed in your attempt to fail, does that make you a success?)

There is no control. Perhaps he was heading down this road from the very beginning. Perhaps he was always meant to play this part.

He is not the hero of this story. He is the tag in the readers' minds, the name they remember just in case he does something important. He is the throwaway, the red herring, the almost-forgotten character who returns at the climax to change the course of the story.

"Kreacher, I want you to take me there. Take me to the same place the Dark Lord took you."

--

This is a mistake, this is all a mistake.

This is the denouement: No one ever finds his body.

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