Accounting for Regulus by pollicem Title: Accounting for Regulus Author:pollicem Pairing: Severus Snape/Regulus A. Black Rating: R (for language and violence) Word Count: ~4000 Warnings: canonical death Theme: Love and Courtship Prompt: Let slip the dogs of war Summary: Marauders’ era, mostly within-canon. Severus and Regulus fall in love. You know exactly how it ends. A/N: There are three different plotlines, happening at three different times in the characters’ lives. Their telling is intermingled, though linear within each storyline. (I fantasize about an upcoming extended edition.) Thanks to PrettyPettigrew (yay titles!), and Girlwithsixarms, and Jackie.
Accounting for Regulus
There’re some things you can’t protect yourself against, some things you can’t get used to. There’s no preparation, no charm or curse or concoction. No nothing, because Cruciatus and disappearances are both equally unpredictable, and though Severus has dealt with lots of Cruciatus, lots of excruciating pain and residual nerve damage, he hasn’t had to endure the loss of many lovers. He’s not had to endure many lovers.
Regulus vanished two weeks ago. The Dark Lord was still playing it off like he knew exactly where Reg had gone, like he’d sent him on some top-secret errand in some top-secret place in You-Know-Who-knows where, which would be all well and good, would be normal, except that Severus had been summoned, yesterday, to explain Regulus's absence.
I’m sorry, my lord. Sorry? My lord, he told me nothing. You, his closest confidante? My lord, I- Ultimately: Crucio!
He hasn't stopped shaking since. Severus tells himself it's exposure to extended Cruciatus and swallows more potion. Now he stands in front of his dresser, long fingers cradling an oversized ratty green sweater that Regulus loved but never wore. Severus stands in front of his dresser, kneading this favorite sweater, stolen because he has come to appreciate the art of holding on to things.
He’d taken it the first time Regulus had disappeared. The first time that lasted four days, that ended with curses, cries, and kisses, and promises that hid within gasped names and caresses but couldn’t be spoken because those promises are impossible to keep, especially when you’ve bargained your soul, and your voice has rotted away with it.
The second time Regulus left, Severus did his best to keep to normalcy. Succeeded, almost, except that he took the green sweater out of the drawer and draped it across his pillow. It scratched his nose while he slept, but it smelled about right.
That second time lasted six days, a few hours shy of a week. Six days of deep breaths, of fading sweater smell, of shaking, of futures that trickled inside of Severus and lodged in his gut and made him want to vomit. But six days, just a few hours shy of a week, and Regulus walked through the door of their apartment with the insanest grin. Severus’s glazed eyes shot up from his favorite quarterly, which he couldn't possibly have been reading even if the Dark Lord himself had decreed it, and that insatiable grin swallowed him whole. Severus wished, fleetingly, before he stood and their lips met and his fingertips ran desperately down hot back, that he could bottle that smile like one of his potions, because if he could bottle that, it would keep him warm forever. It would blaze through him and down to his toes just as solidly as Reg’s kisses.
Regulus's fingertips say, "Fuck, I missed you, I'm sorry." And Severus's shoulders say, "Where the hell were you?" And thumb stroking spine says, "You know I can't tell you." And nipping teeth say, "For him or something else?" And aching places say, "I can't say." And blind need says, "Fuck, please stay." And everything wishes, "Okay."
But nothing was okay, because the next day the inner circle was summoned and it became clear that despite his wild smile (because of it?), Regulus had disappointed the Dark Lord, and then the Dark Lord commanded, and everyone was watching, and Severus was trying to imagine a later instead of this now as his wand was shaking, pointed at those perfect loved lips, and his voice was not shaking, saying, "Crucio."
This third disappearance wouldn't have been okay even if Severus had had an idea, even if he had been, impossibly, prepared. If, maybe, Reg had left a note, left a glance, left a misplaced fork on their weathered kitchen table to indicate something. Every noise that he can't place, everywhere he goes, it's Reg's strutting footsteps, Reg's stifled laugh-cough, Reg's snide comment about that couple sitting at the cafe. It's Reg's shoe on display in Madam Malkin's window, Reg's hands pushing open the door of Honeydukes, and it's Reg's fucking green sweater on the man in the corner of his eye, even though Severus knows very well that Reg never wore it, and it's in the dresser drawer, waiting to be taken out when he gets back from the market.
Regulus, Severus screams at the ceiling, late or early or who the fuck knows because who the fuck cares when everyone you've loved has melted through your fingers. How can you be away when there is so much of you still in me? How can you be ¬– gone? – when I have your breath in my mouth, and your skin under my fingernails, and your smile not keeping me warm enough?
The first time he saw Regulus Black's trademark grin, Regulus was sauntering to the Slytherin table through thick cheers and applause, and Severus thought he would vomit because it was so much like Sirius's.
They mostly avoided each other. Or, avoided is too harsh. Had no real reason to associate, really, until they were both a bit older, and Severus was looking for friends or maybe something more, and recognized the use of being close to one of the most charismatic and popular people in the school.
But maybe the burning ink in his arm means Severus shouldn't have approached him at one of Slug's parties.
It was one of those intolerable Christmas get-togethers, and Severus could feel Lily's attention on him except that she had stopped speaking to him and wouldn't even make eye contact, and with that type of encouragement it wasn't like Severus was going to extend an olive branch.
But there was Regulus, standing off to the side, fizzy semi-alcoholic beverage cradled in one hand, thick black hair swept back, dazzling in green velvet dress robes. No one around him, for once, though in a second, it looked like that vampire was going to come over, so Severus had better-
Okay, so maybe Severus hadn't actually approached Regulus. Been caught ogling would have been more accurate.
"Enjoying the party?" Severus asked.
Regulus raised one eyebrow and smirked. Is that even possible? Severus's tongue wanted to dart between those lips.
Severus swallowed. "We could go anywhere else."
And somehow they ended up laughing (flirting?) at the Three Broomsticks, drinking Butterbeer, and then Severus was laughing as Regulus punctuated a sentence with a smile, and Severus wanted to bury himself in Regulus's happiness and it took him much longer than it should have to realize that Regulus was talking about the dangers, the evils, of Muggle-borns.
"Filthy Mudbloods." A swig of Butterbeer.
Severus blinked. "Mudbloods?" Lily...
An eager nod. "Should be eliminated. For their own good."
And Severus is quiet for a moment in the noisy pub, gazing noncommittally into his drink. "Are you planning to join the Death Eaters, then?"
"As one of the few remaining pure-Bloods, it is my privilege to stand with them."
And Severus tried to breathe. He blinked, a half-nod.
Regulus was reading one of Severus's books about a month before two weeks and three days ago, or maybe more, or maybe less, because the days are getting confused with each other now, scrambled back and folded into themselves, and Regulus was reading on the couch when Severus got back from wherever, and it was strange because Regulus didn't smile.
Then, preparing dinner, Regulus not actually helping, just watching Snape, sprawled bonelessly on a stool like only he could manage and-
"You know we could be immortal."
And it hung in the air as Severus flicked his wand and the carrots started chopping themselves.
"Are you immortal now, then?" Maybe it was time for a stiff drink.
"No." Reg laughed, stood up from his perch, ran his palms over Severus's shoulders. "They say it's bad for the soul."
Lips hovering over Reg's, Severus murmured, "Couldn't possibly have that, could we?"
After the second time Reg left, after the Summons, after impossibly possible Cruciatus, and nerve damage, after after after, Severus poured Stabilizing Draught between Reg's trembling lips, whispering promises that everything would be fine in a moment, but Severus didn't even believe himself, and Reg was no child, to trust an adult's lies.
Touching soothes Cruciatus, and a moment later they lay in bed, Severus's hand easing along Reg's back.
Severus resolved to get out of this. He had to get away from this insanity, this claustrophobic catastrophe, away from this horror, but against vows and ink, against my privilege, our privilege, how could they possibly leave? Severus looked down at Reg's sleeping face, wanted to kiss his eyelids except that sleep is important for tortured souls and those tortured by lovers, and Severus didn't know if Reg would come with him, or would instead hand him over to the Dark Lord.
So Severus agonized for days. He deliberated over sentences sliding over to Regulus as easy as passing the milk in the morning, like Maybe Dumbledore, and Maybe Siberia, or maybe I'd really like a vacation in Bora-Bora. I've always wanted to visit. Don't you think we should go? But Severus just pushed the milk across the table from behind his morning copy of the Prophet before he plodded through the day as an apothecary’s assistant, and Reg did whatever Reg wanted because he's a Black.
When Severus found him, Regulus was sitting in an armchair in the very back of the library, practicing something nonverbal that shot pink hearts from the tip of his wand. Severus glared, then sat, seething, on the arm of the chair.
Swirl-flick! Swirl-flick! Regulus waited.
Severus sighed. Then growled. "I hate your brother."
Swirl-flick! Swirl-flick! "Most people do." Glowing hearts rained down, evaporating before they hit the carpet.
"I really hate your brother."
"Get in line. My mother's first." The hearts thickened. "I'm second."
Severus turned to look at him. "Why?"
"Because he's an asshole." Swirl-flick! Swirl-flick! "Because he left." Reg looked up at Severus.
Severus looked back.
Severus's eyes narrowed as Reg brought his wand up. "What?"
He should have been less surprised when he was hit with a blast of hearts worthy of a fire-hose. He should have been less surprised when Regulus stood, reached for his hand, and pulled him up, hands pressing into his back, Regulus burning into him. Lips brushed against his, and all Severus could do was stand there and smile stupidly. A moment, and Reg turned to walk out of the library.
The kitchen table hums something tuneless at him as Severus pours his milk and tries to read his paper and ignore the damn thing.
It hums, but then it starts talking, because “You look like you could use some company, Severus.”
He checks himself, ensures that no, he is reading the drivel that comes in the Prophet and that no, he does not look like he could use some company; he looks quite content, thank-you-very-much.
“You think you don’t, but you do.”
Stupid tables. He told Regulus he wanted a miserable, shy, quiet table when they moved in. Reg insisted on this one.
“Well, he won’t be insisting on me now, will he.”
Celestina Warbeck Tour Sold Out!
“Probably won’t be insisting on anything anymore.”
Death Eater raid on Ottery St. Catchpole!
"Because when reckless people get themselves kill-"
"Shut the fuck up!" Severus roars, and he stands up and the chair squeals in pain as it slides backward too fast, and his hand comes down and smacks the table but really just knocks everything to the floor, exploding down, and his favorite mug shatters and his toast is ruined beneath a cracked plate and there's milk and tea everywhere, a puddle burning his little toe, and the world is much too loud and Severus wishes everything would just shut up.
Severus inhales, looks at the buttery knife in his tea-puddle, looks at the table, looks at the remains of his mug, looks at the table. He exhales. He knows he could clean this all up with a wave or two of his wand, could maybe even repair the porcelain, but instead he just stands there in his black pajama bottoms and grey t-shirt and wonders why everything is going to hell as he tries not to think about the fact that the table is probably right. Tables usually are.
"It just seems... dangerous."
"But all the best things are!"
They would go on walks, late at night, long past curfew, out onto the grounds, maybe walk into Hogsmeade, down the deserted streets, staring into the darkness of the usually-bright storefronts.
"The network of people, the power! Think of it, Severus!"
Severus shook his head. "It's not something you can back away from. The Dark Lord can't be told 'I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable doing this. How about I go on a long vacation to Tahiti until I'm ready?'"
"I know that." Reg's voice was angry beside him.
"Do you really?"
And that's when Regulus stopped walking, and then Severus stopped walking, and that's when Regulus pulled up his sleeve.
Regulus stood there for a moment, then yanked his sleeve down and turned back toward Hogwarts.
"Reg..." Severus hurried to match his strides. "What if you're killed? What if he kills you?"
"Then at least I will have worked for something I believe, instead of wallowing on middle ground like a coward."
Their house still smelled like wood polish and drying paint when Regulus first stumbled out the front door in the half-time between night and morning, clutching his arm. Pop, he disappeared, leaving Severus bewildered, half-fallen out of bed, rubbing his eyes, wondering what the hell had just happened.
The day was any normal day, except, of course, that he dropped two vials of Oil of Olivier (70 Galleons each!), which burned twin holes in the floor and left the shop reeking of lilacs and burned socks.
“Snape!” the apothecary bellowed. “Yes, sir.” “Slippery fingers?” “No sir, my toes caught fire a moment ago.” “Eh. Make sure Mrs. Mathinia’s order is done by four.”
But that was only how the conversation went in Severus’s head, because his appendages didn’t spontaneously combust, and Mr. Glubman had seen the vials fall from their tray. Severus spent the next half-hour grinding his teeth while being berated.
After work, Severus stumbled into their empty home and just sat at the kitchen for a moment, recuperating, managing to ignore, for once, the jibes of the table. He took some deep breaths, let his feet stop aching, and evaluated his dinner options. Pasta, soup, he could order owl-delivery Indian-
Severus heard a huge thud at the front door. Wand out, he hurried to the entryway, wondering what the hell just happened, wondering where Regulus was, still wondering what he was going to eat for dinner.
"Hominum revelio," Severus whispered from his crouch and he felt the spell settle over a form outside, collapsed on the ground.
A guttural groan came from behind the door. Severus could have just been imagining it, but it sounded a little like his name. If someone’s lips had been cut away and their teeth yanked out.
Severus’s heart was beating much too fast as he eased the door open and a head collided with the ground. A head Severus knew much too well.
Petrificus Totalus insured that his body was immobile, and Mobilicorpus levitated him to the bed, which Severus covered with a towel.
His teeth were indeed missing, his mouth a mass of bleeding gums. Where his lips should be were hollow flaps of skin, the top of one ear was gone. His shin was bent, bone visible, and one shoulder was dangling out of its socket. Long bloody gashes split his robes, and he reeked of scorched dead things. Severus gagged as he Banished the robes. Reg’s feet were mangled horribly, fingers of both hands were deflated, empty skin sacks, but at least they were there.
Little rasping noises were coming from Reg’s throat, and Regulus probably had broken ribs.
“Merlin, Reg.” Severus wiped the tears out of his eyes and cast every diagnostic and healing charm he could think of, then rushed to the cabinet beneath the kitchen sink. Reg had made him plan for this eventuality, made him create all sorts of restorative draughts, quaffs, everything either one of them could think of. Severus had never expected to use them, but he gathered them all now, and he brought potions and salves and vials and jars back to the bed, squeezed and dribbled tinctures down Reg’s throat. His breathing became quieter, and Severus slowly, ever so gently, smeared balm all over Reg’s skin, everywhere he could reach. Severus would have to turn him over, soon, once the internal damage was healed enough.
He waited, waited, watched Reg’s eyes slip closed with the painkillers, and then Severus eased him over onto his stomach. The potions had done their work well, and Severus’s fingers soothed syrup across mostly-healed skin.
Skele-Gro soon, and more dittany, and lots of sleep.
Severus sat beside the bed, watching Regulus, and wondered how the hell this happened, and what he was going to do about it.
They were both up all night, Severus back and forth from the kitchen, which he’d transformed into a makeshift lab, and Regulus groggy and hurting in bed, under warming charms because blankets chafed too much.
The day after the next day, when Regulus could talk again, and had fingers, and wasn’t hurting everywhere, Severus was eating owl-order Indian food and all Regulus was allowed were blood replenishers and Severus’s Calorie Concoction. It was time for answers.
“So you got blindsided during a raid on a group of Aurors.”
“And you’re going to keep fighting?”
If Regulus were four years younger and not a Black, he would be squirming. “Of course. Privilege.” He shrugged.
Severus swallowed. Adults and ultimatums, and Severus wondered if he would have the strength to leave Reg. Wondered, if he didn’t leave, how to ensure this didn’t happen again.
The day after the week after the Ceremony (the day after he tortured so many Muggles and loved it), his arm stopped feeling like it would fall off. He stood in the bathroom, looking at the skull and snake, grotesque beneath his skin, and wished he could claw it off. He wished he could cut it out, could peel off a layer of himself, starting at his elbow, ending at his wrist, and let the ink gush out in gushing splatters across everything, as long as it would no longer be in him. He went into the kitchen for the knife - a smooth one, not serrated, this needed to be clean - and held it in his right fist, ready, prepared to draw a tiny red line in the crease of his arm and then pull the flap of flesh down down down, until the black and green ink would spurt across the kitchen, leaving a hideous stain on the yellow wall that would be vastly preferable to this skull leering out at him. He inhaled, pressed the tip to his inner elbow, and-
Reg came up behind him and pressed himself to Severus's back. Warmth seeped through Severus's robes and fought a bit of the hot in his arm, pushing it back on itself, and if Reg had been a little less insistent, a little less tender, the ink would have shot from his arm in a rainbow of black, but those hands eased Severus's, placed the knife back in the drawer, and then steered Severus to the couch.
Sitting, Reg wrapped Severus within the circle of his limbs, his too-short arms nowhere near long enough to hold him properly, wishing he could swallow him because that would be better.
Reg's hand rubbed Severus’s shoulder and wondered if maybe this is how Sirius felt after he ran away. Reg wished he could vomit.
Regulus leaned to nuzzle at Sev as his fingers wondered how to get them both out of this mess alive. But the back of his neck was beginning to think that maybe getting them out of this was impossible.
But maybe, his spine tingled, less impossible if nightmares could be killed.
So Reg researched and read until his eyes were going to fall out and he wanted to curl in on himself and beg the universe for mercy, because how the hell was he supposed to know where the Dark Lord had hidden his soul? Dead-ended, out of ideas, and needing specifics, the universe smiled when the Dark Lord asked for a volunteer.
"Please, Kreacher. It has to be you."
Kreacher looked skeptical.
"Do whatever he tells you, and then come right back here." Regulus knelt in front of him and reached a hand to his shoulder. “Please.”
Kreacher stared at him with his bulging eyes, but finally nodded. He disappeared with a resounding CRACK!
Hours later, he materialized at Regulus's feet, gasping for breath, bleeding, thirsty as anything, and Aguamenti helped some, and bruise balm from the bathroom cabinet helped more.
"I am so, so sorry, Kreacher. Had I known..."
And Kreacher told him what happened, and Regulus understood what he had to do.
"Hey, Severus." Regulus smiled, later, as Severus's quill flitted across parchment, writing... arithmancy tables? Severus didn't look up. "Severus."
"I'm going out." Reg squeezed the locket in his pocket. The metal of the clasp bit into his palm.
Severus looked up, squinting. "Hmmm?"
"I'll be back later." I love you.
"Alright." Severus went back to work.
So Regulus left, Apparated to Grimmauld Place, summoned Kreacher. They went to the cave. Regulus bled, rowed, gave Kreacher specific instructions for after. Then he drank, and dreamed. And then, thirsty for anything to quench this burning suffocation, he stumbled to the lake, visions of Severus swirling in front of him.
Regulus did not feel Kreacher’s bony fingers tugging him back. He did not feel how Kreacher tried to pull him from the edge of the water, how he held him against other desperate hands pulling him in. Nor did Regulus feel how – CRACK - Kreacher popped them back to Grimmauld Place. Regulus only felt the wetness in his throat, and the feeling of weightlessness that reminded him of Severus.
“Master!” Kreacher shook the robe in his hands. “Master! Master!” He shook it again, and realized that it was too light to be master. “Master!” All he held was Regulus’s black robe. He stared at it, wondered that other hands were more powerful than his.
Kreacher brought the robe into his den and curled up inside it, stroking the locket around his neck.
Severus wishes many things. He wishes he knew how many rat tails are in minkerfuls. Severus wishes he knew the average number of glances a person gets to share with a lover. Severus wishes Reg would walk in their front door, grin at him, and drag him to bed. But Severus really just wishes he'd gotten off his arse the day Reg left, and held him one last time.
It's been three weeks, and Severus is holding the green sweater, trying to inhale it, trying to make Regulus real again. He doesn't know what to do.