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Rating: PG. Created: November 28th, 2005. Updated: November 28th, 2005. Read Reviews (8)
Disclaimer: Characters, the magical world, etc, is property of J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros, not the owner of this fic.

Two men stood, in the dark of night, on a hill in a cemetery, awaiting a signal. One slouched against a large marble epitaph, lazily raising a cigarette to his lips and the other, taller, stood staring straight ahead.

“You’re a dreadful actor, Black,” said the taller man after an interlude of silence.

Regulus Black lifted his gaze from the ground and turned it on the speaker. He could see, of course, nothing more than the expressionless, white mask of a Death Eater, but it was worth a look, anyway. You got used to the masks, after a bit, he realized. It became a comfort to conceal from the world traces of worry, anxiety, or any other emotion that might not fit in.

They helped in the masquerade.

“And what, perchance, do you mean by that, Snape?” he asked, taking a drag from his cigarette, sounding disinterested -- although he wasn’t, not in the least.

“I mean,” replied the man beside him, not sparing the younger boy a glance, “that if you were a lead in a theatric performance, you’d be met with tomatoes and a large cane. Reviews would be deplorable. The entire show would go under, the director would be bankrupt and the theatre would close all because of your hideously failed attempt at acting.”

Behind the mask Regulus’ brow furrowed and he shook his head. Riddles, riddles, riddles… everything was riddles nowadays. A simple observation was flipped, twisted and skewed to obscure it from the view of the average person. If you didn’t have just the appropriate set of mirrors, you might never be able to read it.

“Well, I’ll keep that in mind next time I’m considering theatrics,” said Regulus, tossing the end of a burned-out cigarette to the ground and burrowing it into the ground with the toe of his shoe. “Career advice is exceptionally appreciated.”

“Your cousin, on the other hand,” continued Severus, his dark eyes still searching the expanse of sky before them for any inkling of a prompt, “she’s a natural. She doesn’t need to act. If she were to star, she’d have the audience convinced. She’s flawless for her role.”

Partially to make work for idle hands, Regulus reached into his cloak and lit a second cigarette in what seemed to be one grand, fluid motion. He raised it to his lips, took a thoughtful inhale, drew a conclusion and exhaled. “I doubt I’m as bad an actor as you make me out to be, Snape. You’ve got it all wrong. I’m as natural as she is.”

Severus shook his head, casting a disdainful glance at the wisps of smoke tracing their way through the night sky. “Perhaps you’d fool some of the audience, Black, but only for a brief period of time. You wouldn’t fool me, and soon enough, the audience would become disillusioned. You’d be better to close-curtain early, while there’s the chance. While the audience is still clapping.”

Regulus chuckled morosely. “You think that’s how showbiz works, Snape? You can’t quit while you’re on top -- no one ever quits while they’re on top. No one ever quits.”

For a long minute, Severus was silent.

“And you’d know, wouldn’t you?” continued Regulus, shaking his head. “You aren’t much of an actor, either.”

Silence grew thick and heavy between the two of them and Regulus waited, intently, for a response. The sentence rung in the air like an accusation and behind the mask of apathy, he could not tell if Severus was offended or anxious.

“Perhaps,” said Severus at long last, the silence shattering to a thousand pieces, “the harshest critic of an actor is another actor.”

Regulus was allowed no time for a response; at that moment, a thick, billowing cloud of green rose in the sky and began to take its ominous shape.

“That’s our cue,” said Regulus, dropping the cigarette to the ground hastily, reaching for his wand and breaking into a sprint.

“Break a leg,” muttered Severus, at his heels in an instant.




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