The Midnight Marauder

Christmas at 12 Grimmauld Place

A Few Days Later

Sirius was lying on his bed with his eyes closed. He was already in his dinner clothes; a pitch black dress robe with a black tie and white waistcoat underneath. Everyone would be in black, of course. Except that everyone else would also be wearing dark green and silver. The colors of Slytherin...Sirius hated the lot of them. Except for Andromeda – she was fine, great even. But she wouldn’t be coming. She was dating a muggle-born and her parents weren’t letting her come to the family dinner, or into the house actually. Especially since Narcissa’s new boyfriend was coming, someone Malfoy. Sirius hated him already, with his mother gushing on about how traditional he was and perfect for her favorite “Cissy.”

There was a soft knock at the door.

“Mum, I will be down there when the company gets here,” Sirius said sourly, without opening his eyes.

“It’s not mum,” a voice said dryly. “Can I come in? I can’t tie this bow tie.”

“C’min Reg,” said Sirius, swinging his legs over the side of his bed and stretching. Regulus opened the door and walked inside the room. He was wearing identical dress robes to Sirius; but the bow tie in his hand was green and silver, and their mother had added a shimmering emerald lining to the inside and the hem. Inwardly, Sirius sighed. He’d love a red lining to his own black robes. Regulus held out the knotted bow tie with a grimace.

“How’d you manage to do that?” Asked Sirius, looking at the knot.

“I can’t tie the stupid thing without magic,” Regulus muttered, looking a bit mournfully at the knot. Sirius grinned and held out his hand for it. Regulus smiled back as he handed it over and then sat on the bed with a slight thump.

“What happened to Kreacher?” Sirius asked, untangling the thin strip of material.

“Busy in the kitchen,” Regulus replied. “Mum had him redo the entire dining room twice this morning. He’s a bit stressed.”

Sirius snorted. “No kidding. At least mum’s happy today.”

“Relatively,” Regulus said. “She threw that fit about Andromeda earlier.” Regulus sighed. “I was looking forward to seeing her.”

“Really?” Asked Sirius, a bit surprised. He put the now untangled bow tie over Regulus’ head and got to work tying. “I thought you preferred Bellatrix.”

“Bellatrix can be...a bit much sometimes,” Regulus said.

Sirius snorted. “That’s an understatement.”

“Yeah, well,” Regulus gave his older brother a twisted smile. “She thinks you’re a traitor, doesn’t she?”

Sirius frowned darkly, and didn’t reply. Regulus’ smile slipped. “Sorry, Sirius,” he said. “I didn’t mean...”

“Do you think I’m a traitor?” Sirius asked him.

Regulus was silent for a moment too long. Sirius’ eyes darkened – but it wasn’t anger that Regulus saw in his brother’s eyes, but sadness. Sirius tugged on the bow and said, “Finished.”

“Sirius, I...”

“Need help with something else?” Sirius cut him off.

“N...no...”

The doorbell rang and Sirius opened his bedroom door. He motioned towards the hall. “Let’s go.”

Regulus took one last look around Sirius’ room; walls covered in red and gold banners, a Gryffindor lion drawn by Pettigrew on one wall, letters Sirius had received pinned to a board, and pictures of James, Remus, Peter and Maya smiling down from the other wall. Regulus’ eyes lingered an extra moment on a picture of Maya riding James Potter’s back, laughing and smiling. His heart skipped a beat. Regulus nodded and led the way downstairs where he was greeted with a hug by his uncles and aunts. Sirius withstood the awkward hugs and handshakes that everyone seemed a bit unsure about giving and was silent for most of the conversation over the next hour. He replied when someone asked a question, but for the most part drank butterbeer in the corner. Regulus was roped into a conversation early on with Narcissa’s boyfriend, a young Lucius Malfoy who had recently inherited his family’s manor. Except for when Bellatrix left to use the toilet, Regulus and Bellatrix spent a good amount of time listening to Lucius describe his manor – complete with peacocks – and then hinting at the extent of his wealth before embarking on a convoluted conversation about blood lines with Regulus’ mother. At this point, Kreacher subtly tugged on the sleeve of Regulus’ robes.

Pretending to be tying his shoes, because his relatives and parents would disapprove of talking to a house elf beyond the necessary orders needed to ask for more mulled wine, Regulus whispered, “What is it, Kreacher?”

“Young Master Sirius seems to be struggling to control his temper,” Kreacher whispered to Regulus. Discreetly, Regulus glanced at his brother. Sirius had his arms tightly crossed and was glaring at the floor. The half-empty glass of butterbeer beside him shaking slightly.

“Why is he so mad?” Regulus hissed at Kreacher.

“Master Malfoy…” Kreacher muttered, glancing at the visitor. Regulus tuned back into the conversation and his heart sank to his shoes.

“...letting muggle-borns into Hogwarts! It’s completely ridiculous,” their mother was saying.

“They are nothing but trouble, Mrs. Black,” Lucius said smoothly.

“Even some half-bloods are nothing but bad influences,” Bellatrix said. “And blood traitors! Don’t get me started...”

“What’s worse is this ridiculous rumor about a half-breed at Hogwarts!” Uncle Cygnus said in a horrified voice.

Everyone in the room looked at him.

“A half-breed?” Regulus’ mother asked.

“Have you heard the last name Night?” Cygnus asked.

Regulus froze. Sirius’ head snapped up and he looked at his uncle with suspicious eyes.

Lucius frowned. “Sounds familiar.”

“An acquaintance of mine at the ministry mentioned that his son has a friend with that name. It sounded familiar so I did a bit of research,” said Cygnus smugly. “Pure-blood Irish family from far back. But they intermarried with the last name Changeling.”

Regulus’ father looked horrified. “The werecat family?”

Werecat? Thought Regulus. For some reason he wasn’t surprised. But neither was he horrified like his loudly protesting mother who was practically screaming about bad influences in such a historic school. On the contrary, Regulus found himself trying hard not to smile. It wasn’t hard for him to imagine Maya with ears and a tail.

But Sirius looked as if he was going to strangle someone, and that glass beside him was vibrating even harder. Regulus caught his eye and subtly shook his head. Sirius bit his lip, hands clenched, and the glass stopped shaking. He stood.

“Where are you going, young man?” Their mother snapped.

“May I please be excused for a second,” Sirius said through gritted teeth.

“Sit down!” She commanded, eyes flashing. Sirius sat back down slowly.

“Quidditch!” Regulus burst out. Everyone looked at him. “I mean...er...let’s talk about Quidditch, a much livelier topic for the Holidays.” Regulus babbled. He hoped he wasn’t going red. Sirius shot him a grateful look.

“All right, Quidditch,” said Narcissa. She didn’t looked fooled in the slightest but, despite her diva demeanor, Narcissa never purposefully pitted the family against itself. “Have you two tried out for the House Team?”

“All of the teams except one only have older students,” Regulus explained. “But Slytherin will need a whole new team next year and I’m going to try. I think I’d like to be seeker...”

“Which team has a younger student?” Asked Lucius.

“Gryffindor’s seeker is a third year,” Regulus explained.

“James Potter, right?” Said Bellatrix. She snorted. “Perfect little example of Gryffindor blood traitors...”

Every piece of glass in the room exploded.

Regulus gasped as he wiped flecks of wine off his face and the girl’s mother actually whimpered as she tried to wipe it off her dress robes.

“Sirius,” Regulus’ mother said dangerously.

Sirius met her gaze steadily, eyes flashing with anger. “Should have let me leave,” he hissed.

“Your. Room. NOW!” She thundered.

Sirius fled upstairs, crunching on broken glass as he went.

“No harm done,” Lucius said soothingly. “Allow me.” He whipped out his wand and repaired all the glass. One of the aunt’s did a quick cleaning spell that mopped up all the wine too.

“Kreacher! More wine!” Snapped Regulus’ mother.

“Yes, mistress,” the House Elf bowed low before hurrying off to bring more drinks. He was soon back with Mista, his older sister, and wine and caviar was passed around.

The conversation resumed, everyone delicately avoided mentioning Gryffindor or Sirius or exploding glass-ware and his mother fumed silently in the corner. Regulus found his own anger igniting. Sirius lived here too, damn it!

Regulus stood and said brightly, “I’m going to use the toilet, I’ll be down before dinner.”

His father nodded, engrossed in a conversation about the Ministry. Regulus tapped Kreacher on the arm as he left the room, and waited in the hall into the House Elf came out.

“Yes, Young Master?” Asked Kreacher in a whisper.

“Warn me if anyone goes upstairs,” Regulus whispered. Kreacher nodded. Regulus grinned at him and took the stairs two at a time. Regulus knocked on Sirius’ door and called softly, “Sirius?”

“Go away, Reg,” came the muffled reply.

Regulus frowned. Sirius voice sounded strange. “C’mon, Sirius.” He wheedled. “We know that our family are a bunch of sticklers for the old ways. But if you come up here and hide then you’re just letting them win. Besides, if you stay up here too long mum will start yelling...”

“Why should I care?” Sirius said harshly. “She’s going to yell at me later for my little magic show.”

“Sirius, please, let me in,” Regulus begged. “We never talk at school, but we’re still brothers.”

There was a long pause then the door handle turned and Sirius opened the door a crack. Regulus was shocked to see tears in his eyes. It had been a long time since anything their family did made Sirius cry. “Sirius?”

Sirius peeked around the hall, then pulled Regulus inside before firmly shutting the door. It was instantly apparent what was wrong. Sirius’ room had been trashed. Everything on the walls had been torn down and ripped to pieces. The lion was completely destroyed and the pictures were nothing but confetti on the floor. Regulus’ stomach clenched as he caught sight of Maya’s smiled among the ruined paper. Even Sirius’ trunk had been flung open and every piece of Gryffindor themed uniform had been destroyed. Pieces of his sweater and tie littered the ground like fallen leaves.

“Oh...” Regulus swallowed hard. “You think...when Bellatrix went to use the toilet...?”

“I’m sure,” Sirius said harshly. He kicked his open trunk savagely before falling onto his bed. He buried his head in his hands. Regulus sat next to him.

“I’m sorry,” Regulus said sincerely. “It was really mean of her. It’s not her problem...she should just accept that you’re in Gryffindor and move on.”

“It’s not just this,” said Sirius, his voice muffled. He wiped his eyes. “It’s everything! The conversation just now. The way mum and dad look at me when they think I’m not paying attention. The way all our family just avoids the topic and then...” Sirius took a shuddering breath. “No one wants me here.”

“I want you here,” said Regulus.

Sirius just looked at him.

“Please, Sirius,” Regulus said quietly. “You’re my big brother. You’re supposed to be stronger than all this.” Regulus waved his hand at the room.

Sirius sighed. “I know, right? Little Sirius Black who is friends with muggles and half-bloods...”

“You were always different,” said Regulus. “Honestly, I’m not sure why we were so surprised that you got sorted into a different house. You’d think we would have expected it.”

There. A small smile on Sirius’ face. Encouraged, Regulus continued, “And to be brave enough to defy mum...you would have to be in Gryffindor, wouldn’t you?”

“Guess so.” Sirius was definitely smiling now, a mischievous light beginning to flicker in his eyes. Usually, that look worried Regulus; now, it made him happier than he’d been for the last hour.

“Gryffindor’s are courageous and all that,” Regulus mused. “So why are you even playing our family’s game? Don’t hide up here during dinner – that’s...”

“...what they want me to do,” Sirius finished. “You’re right.” Sirius smiled at his younger brother and elbowed him in the ribs. “Thanks, Reg.”

“No problem,” said Regulus, readjusting his bow tie. Sirius looked at him and then ripped off his own black tie and began to unbutton the waistcoat.

“I’m through with this thing,” Sirius said crossly.

Regulus looked at the pieces of red and gold tie littered all over the ground and had an idea.

“Sirius, wait.” Regulus hopped down from the bed and held up one of the strips. “Can you tie a bow with this?”

Sirius broke out into his true smile, the one that lit up his entire face, and snatched it from his hand. “Brilliant, Reg!”

A minute later, Sirius, held out his arms for Regulus to inspect. He had messed up his hair, but the waistcoat had been buttoned once more and topped off with a red and gold bow.

“Perfect,” said Regulus.

“Mum’s going to flip,” Sirius chuckled. He opened the door and motioned for his brother to go first. “I don’t want them to think you had anything to do with this,” Sirius told Regulus.

“Thanks.” Regulus walked into the hall, then stopped. He turned and looked at his older brother, leaning against the door-jamb with his arms crossed and the conspicuous tie shining in the candle-light.

“What is it?” Sirius asked.

“I love you,” Regulus replied. Sirius looked surprised – their family didn’t say that much, actually he couldn’t remember the last time either of their parents has said that to him. But then he smiled. He stepped forward and hugged his younger brother tightly.

“I love you, Reg,” he whispered. Sirius then stepped back and gave him a playful shove, “Now get down there.” Regulus grinned and raced down the steps.

A minute later, Sirius followed at a much slower pace. He hated the house, the disapproving pictures that muttered when he passed, and he knew mum had told the house elves to ignore his orders. The only thing worth saving in this house, thought Sirius. Is Regulus. Maybe I won’t go to James’ house for the rest of the holidays after all. Reg and I should hang out some more. Maybe play some Quidditch… Sirius was at the dining room door. He could hear Regulus apologizing for taking so long, Narcissa and her boyfriend whispering nonsense to each other, and Kreacher offering rolls. Sirius squared his shoulders, flipped back his hair and confidently walked into the room. The look on Bellatrix’s face was priceless.

“Hello everyone,” Sirius said smoothly. “Sorry for my outburst earlier, it was ill-timed. But I won’t ruin dinner.” Sirius smiled, his eyes twinkling with mirth. “I’ll be a model family member, don’t you worry.”

Regulus was actually shaking from trying to contain his laughter. Their mum was so shocked, especially by the offensive bow tie, that she was silent.

“Well...er...” Said their father. “If you are ready to behave yourself. Let’s eat.”

“Excellent,” said Sirius, he sat down next to Regulus and turned to Lucius. “So, peacocks?”

“Pardon?” Lucius Malfoy said, sounding as if he didn’t know what to make of the boy before him.

“You mentioned you have peacocks? Are they normal peacocks are have you dyed them different colors. Like maybe green and silver, they seem to be the colors of the hour. Or maybe a rainbow.”

Regulus actually snorted into his drink at this, his sides aching from holding in laughter. His mum shot him a warning look. Bellatrix looked from Sirius to Regulus, her face an unreadable mask. The rest of the dinner consisted of more of the same. Sirius and Regulus, once he got his laughter under control, carried the majority of the conversation. Hopping from painting peacocks, to Quidditch, to joke shops, to secret passages in old houses. Throughout it all, Sirius had a wide smile and a cheeky comment. But, as he didn’t insult anyone, their mum was silent and fuming.

At the end of the meal, Bellatrix suddenly stood. “I have to use the toilet,” she said. “Excuse me.” She left the room. The parents started talking about the new minister when Kreacher tugged on Regulus’ robes.

Regulus ducked down his head and whispered, “Yeah?”

“Miss Bellatrix went upstairs again,” Kreacher whispered.
Regulus looked up at Sirius. Something in Regulus’ eyes made Sirius say, in a jolly voice, “Regulus, your bow tie looks ridiculous. Let’s go fix it.”

“Uh...” Regulus quickly put his hand over his throat. “Yeah, let’s do that. Be right back.”

The two brothers walked out of the dining room as quickly as they dared before racing up the stairs. Bellatrix was standing in the middle of the hall between their two rooms, her back to them.

“There’s not much left to destroy in my room so back off,” Sirius warned their older cousin.

“I figured you’d come running,” Bellatrix said, ignoring his comment. “Little cousin...how you disappoint me.” Regulus jumped a bit and Sirius glanced at him. Regulus shook his head; it had felt as if something cold had flown past him.

“By the way,” Bellatrix continued. “Now they can’t hear us.” Then, she spun around, her wand out and Sirius flew backwards into the wall. Regulus looked at her in shock.

“There’s an advantage to being out of school,” she said, looking lovingly at her wand. Sirius got to his feet and ran at her, but froze as Bellatrix put her wand on his chest.

“Naughty, naughty, naughty,” she chanted. “I should really teach you a lesson, cousin...”

“Stop,” Regulus said firmly, stepping up to her. “Our entire family is here, cut it out.”

Bellatrix looked at him, blinked, and the next thing Regulus knew, he’d been blasted back into his own room. His head hit the wall hard and he slid to the floor in a crumpled heap. Bellatrix had her wand pointed at Regulus for a second longer before Sirius tackled her to the ground. Head-ringing, Regulus jumped up and snatched away her wand. Bellatrix brought a knee, hard, to Sirius’ groin and he rolled away, moaning. She jumped up and Regulus pointed her wand at its owner.

“You’re not allowed to use magic outside of school,” Bellatrix whispered smugly. She walked right up to him and Regulus found himself cornered between the wall and an ugly cabinet. Regulus hid the wand behind his back.

“Then neither can you,” he said.

“I don’t need magic,” Bellatrix hissed and Regulus stopped breathing as he found a knife at his throat.

“Leave my brother alone,” Sirius spat, leaping to his feet.

“Make me,” Bellatrix snarled.

“You wouldn’t kill your own cousin, would you?” Regulus asked, his mouth dry.

“Children! What are you doing up there? The pudding is being served!” Their aunt’s voice came up the stairs. Whatever spell Bellatrix had done seemed to only he one-way.

Bellatrix sighed, and pocketed the dagger. “My wand,” she said icily.

Regulus handed it over and she spun around. Sirius froze but she must have merely undone the silencing spell because she stuck the wand in the pocket with the dagger and flaunted down the stairs.

Trembling, Regulus slid down the wall and sat on the floor.

“Reg!” Sirius ran to him and knelt in front of him. “Are you all right?”

“Where’d she get a dagger?” Regulus asked, his voice shaking. He was only twelve after all.

Sirius hugged him. “Thanks for watching my back,” Sirius told Regulus.

Regulus hugged him back just as tight. “Thanks for watching mine,” he whispered into Sirius’ neck. Then they straightened their clothes and went to join the family. A silent facade, a perfect mask they wore to keep the peace a few hours at a time.

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