|Substitutes (Remus/Regulus, PG-13)
||[Jul. 5th, 2013|09:55 am]
Pairings: Remus/Regulus, Remus/Evan (one-sided), Regulus/Evan (one-sided), Evan/Severus (implied)
Word Count: 2,025
Warning(s): lots of angst, potentially mature themes
Summary: Remus and Regulus are in love with someone they can’t have. This unrequited love – and a slew of other personal issues they have in common even if they don’t acknowledge that – is a uniting force.
Notes: Written for hprarefest. Recced in the quibbler_report \0/
It’s not that they don’t know that this is a dangerous game that they’re playing, but neither of them seems to particularly care. At the very least, they continue as they are, alive among the shadows, moving like ghosts from alcove to niche, from hiding spot to secret corner.
There is shame in their game and guilt. There is desire, too much desire to contain, but not for each other. They are caught in a cycle of vehement need for release that they never speak of or acknowledge, pride and caution staying their tongues before they can form treacherous words.
Their game hangs in a precarious balance where silence is the sharpest weapon and the most basic tool. They cannot hope to sustain themselves without it because they are now bound by the same thread of implication and fraternization which could easily spell destruction for them both if anyone was to know.
It is a silent understanding which had started once in the rain as an accident and continued as a bad habit, festering with shame and embarrassment over its own existence but without any remedy that could satisfy and sooth at the same time.
And they have both resigned themselves to that fate.
Professor Vassini thinks it is a nice thing to put Gryffindors and Slytherins into pairs in Care of Magical Creatures. The old pervert seems to enjoy the tension that this paring creates, sucking all the air out of the immediate area. He considers them all with beady eyes as though challenging someone to come forward and say out loud what everyone is thinking: “We hate each other. Let us work separately.” But no one would come and so the order stays.
It’s strange for Remus to watch his partner handle the magical rabbits. Evan is gentler than Remus would have thought him capable of being. The sun sings in the other boy’s hair which has begun to shift from honeysuckle blonde to chocolate, darkening slowly over the many months since puberty took over.
“Would you feed them or should I?”
“As you wish.”
He hates me, Remus thinks. He knows. It cannot be another way with the war. If there was no war, he could have thought differently, but he cannot. Not with the war.
They feed the rabbits carrots and specially gathered herbs. The creatures’ eyes peer at them through the bars of the cages, large and bottomless black.
“They look quite miserable.”
Remus shifts. “They’re caught. Caged. Wouldn’t you be?”
“Miserable?” Evan looks up and meets his eyes, the pupils dilating slightly, swallowing the deep-blue irises for just a moment. It’s an honest look and Remus shivers involuntarily. “Yes.”
They have library dates to work on their report for Vassini. Among the quiet stacks of books, Remus feels at home and safe the way he never felt out in the rest of the word. The way some people are claustrophobic, Remus is the opposite. The soft glow of lamps, the tight, intimate space among the stacks, the scratch of quill on parchment and the rustling of pages all add to the tranquility of the evenings, to their comfort.
And Evan’s even, steady breathing beside him.
Sometimes Evan brings lemon cakes – “they send some from home” – and Remus partakes in their sweetness with an uneasy feeling that he could easily addict himself to this. That Evan is beautiful, Remus already knows. He would have to be blind to not know. He tells himself that there are other things, more important than beauty, that Evan lacks, and that in their place there are ugly qualities. Rotten fruit on a pretty, pruned orchard tree.
But he does not see them here, in the library, among the books and the parchment and the used up inkwells. He only sees the polite smiles and the blue eyes and hears the velvety notes of Evan explaining, “This is the difference between the Australian and the Russian species. See the diagrams here? It’s all in the ears.”
And all he feels is the emptiness when Evan gathers up his books at the end of the evening and leaves. Then all that remains to Remus are the echoes and discarded drafts on crumpled up parchment pieces. Broken, silent things – much like Remus himself.
“Let’s switch,” Sirius proposes one morning at breakfast.
“Partners for Vassini. Your Slytherin and my Slytherin can work together and then we can work together. We can do a draw as for which pair does which pair’s project. That way, at least, no one will end up dead by the end of this.”
Remus allows himself the briefest look at the Slytherin table. His eyes just barely rake over Evan, surrounded by his friends, the glittering lot of wizarding aristocracy. In all of their prejudiced snobbery. And yet…
“I’m alright, but thanks. You should ask James to trade.”
They wonder if the other one knows what they really want. They must know, or at least suspect. They watch each other, after all. Not the way predators watch their prey but the way they watch other predators stalking the same doe – with a jealous, spiraling yet controlled fury.
They become undone with one another, allowing what would be rage, pain, confusion and jealousy to spill out into passion. Mouth to mouth and body pressed against body, against the wall, into the ground. They tear at each other, making love out of hate and pleasure out of hurt. They turn enmity into an alliance against their own fears, breaking their own hearts again and again as they find themselves in the arms of their greatest rival and their only lover.
It is an addiction that they have fallen into. They despise each other and they need each other because no one else would understand. No one else could be such a perfect conduit of passion that is stirred by feral instincts, a desire to posses and be possessed that has been frustrated again and again. It is an unstoppable attraction built on all the wrong foundations but it gets them through the days.
If they are both broken and isolated, neither misfits nor perfect fit-ins, then that is a different issue. That might be cause for connection and for love. But war leaves no room for such things. It is better that they remain on ground they know, where love is for others and passion may be martyred in the name of a Cause.
Evan has the quality of champagne. He is bright and exuberant, charismatic and intoxicating. Regulus can watch him for long stretches of time, wondering at the ease with which Evan can manage someone as mild-mannered as Mulciber, someone as crude and defensive as Snape and someone as outspoken and dangerously wild as Barty.
Regulus wonders if in the midst of the midsummer gala, in a break between training and missions, among the sun-soaked flowers, hedges and arbor trees, if Evan sees him. He wonders if Evan knows that he is more than a shadow, a quiet observer and silent tool for the Dark Lord in the quiet of night. If he knows that Regulus longs to shout and dance like the rest of their friends do, that he wishes he could let go of the chain that is binding all of his feelings and thoughts, tying them tightly into a knot of suppressed instincts and urges. He pretends to be quiet by choice but he is quiet by instinct, by raising and breeding and by whatever the broken shards of his childhood have taught him.
Evan is everyone’s friend but his eyes settle on Snape and on Avery, on Wilkes and Barty Crouch. On the French boy Anatole and on Mulciber sometimes. But they always skim over Regulus, leaving the younger boy with a bitter taste in his mouth that spreads and infects his head, infects his heart until he can see nothing more than those eyes which never land on him for more than a moment.
He is a Black and yet at the Rosier estate, where everything is light and champagne and revelry, he is but another shadow, slinking away into a corner of the garden to hide among the rose beds in noble, proud silence which breeds nothing but loneliness.
“That was stupid of you,” Evan admonishes, applying a potion-soaked cloth over Regulus’ burned arm. “Why did you charge ahead like that? It’s not like you.”
Regulus shuts his eyes tight. He does not want to explain that he would do so again and again, stupid or not, if that would prove that he believes. That he can be something special – a dedicated fighter if not a shining, prancing aristocrat. “It seemed right at the moment.”
Evan’s touch is gentle and Regulus tries to collect himself before his own body gives him away. But the trembling has already started. “Are you alright?” A genuine concern which makes Regulus look away as to not meet Evan’s eyes, as to not have to explain the emotions that might show there.
“Coming down from adrenaline is still hard sometimes.”
Evan nods. “This was only your…third large raid, yes?”
“You’ll get used to it.”
Regulus hopes so. He wants, desperately, to be something. Someone. Because being a Black is obviously not good enough, even if by rights it should be. Regulus thinks that if Evan can single out Snape, then certainly, he can single out Regulus as well. His mother had always said that to be a Black was to be of the most noble blood but Regulus feels only isolation. Perhaps it is his blood that makes him so untouchable, so lofty that no one would consider approaching him with something as earthly and base as desire.
“What are you thinking?”
“Nothing. Is it done?”
“Yes. Leave the bandage on for tonight. It should be just about healed in the morning.”
“Thank you.” Regulus stands, gingerly, feeling his feet sway under him as he tries to ground himself in reality. He manages to look Evan in the face and the words tumble out of their own accord. “We are friends.”
Evan looks confused. “Yes, of course. Regulus, what’s wrong?”
“And you and Snape?”
A blush creeps into Evan’s cheeks but he nods, hands clasped behind his back, fidgeting just barely. “Yes, of course. Why—?”
“Nothing. I’m sorry.” Regulus can feel himself flush, a much darker shade of red than Evan. He apparates without explanation, fear spreading like ice through his veins, turning his blood into tiny needles that rip away at him from the inside.
He had said too much.
Their first meeting after graduation is in a stained and cheep motel in Knockturn Alley where their hoods remain up as they pay and no one knows or cares who they are.
“Would you have us continue this way?” Remus asks once they are finished, breaking their balance of silence for the first time since the whole thing started.
Regulus, seated at the window with a muggle cigarette – a symbol or his shame which he relishes with bitter pleasure – looks back at him and shrugs. “Would you not?”
“I never see him anymore.” It seems that Remus would break all their barriers just then, shatter them with careless, cruel words. He sees the way Regulus flinches and looks away. “Did you not know?”
“Oh I knew. The same as you.” He seems to think this over for a moment. “It was simply easier when we didn’t speak of it. Of him. Of the war. Anything.”
“Does easier mean better?”
“You tell me?” Regulus closes the window and pulls the blinds. In the semi gloom, he finds Remus' hands and puts them on his sharp, protruding hipbones. “You came did you not? Even though you no longer see him.” Then touches become kisses and kisses become touches of a different sort. Then once again they make fantasy out of reality and it is easier that way.
And if a lover can substitute for a love and a desire for a connection, than, perhaps, a night could substitute for a life.