summary: so this is what they mean when they talk about hatred.
characters/pairings: regulus-centric, one-sided regulus -> alice (pre-longbottom)
warnings: mentions of underage sex, gratuitous cursing, particularly at the beginning, disturbing imagery, and some seriously rusty writing.
A/N: Okay, this is not a pretty characterization of Regulus. I deliberately went against my usual characterization to make him something less innocent and more Death-Eater. This is not an easy read, in part because of the subject matter, in part because the first couple of sections are not particularly well-written, but I really don't feel up to a rewrite, at least, not yet. You've been warned.
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.