Word Count: ~1,060
Warning: implied social homophobia
Summary: Barty is the first thing in his life that Regulus has not been able to explain.
Sometimes, Regulus is plagued by a strange feeling of unreality. It comes to him in busts. Usually when Barty is around.
Barty looks up at Regulus from where he is sitting among large stacks of books and gives him a strange, quizzical look. “Regulus?”
Regulus instantly looks away, realizing that he had been staring, only to look back after a moment.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing.” The old clock a couple of bookshelves away, hung high on the wall, ticks loudly, the minutes slipping away and adding into hours. The long rays of light have begun to fade as the evening drags on.
They have a rest day and Barty, unwilling to be at home as usual, showed up at Regulus’. They sit in the library, on the floor, their robes spread out around them. Barty has surrounded himself in books. He takes notes on the things he finds from time to time, without really explaining what it is that he is looking for. Severus does this sometimes, but he is far more morose than Barty. Barty always has just the faintest curve of a smile on his lips, just barely lifting the corners of his mouth. He seems to constantly enjoy whatever plan it is that is going through his head.Regulus wants to reach out and run a hand through Barty’s hair, feel the soft strands sift through his fingers. His body tenses in anticipation, but he finally manages to force down the desire.
Not in his father’s house. Anywhere but here.
Regulus knows how these things work. He is both more and less free now that he is the sole heir of the Black line. He is not being forced to seek a bride because of the war and Pureblood society is willing to look past dalliances of boys regardless of the form they take – other than those with mudbloods and muggles – if they are kept discrete and do not interfere with one’s duties. But Regulus sees how fragile his mother is, he sees how much his father counts on him to be a better man than Sirius, and so he really – Really. – does not want to explain Barty to them.
Sometimes, Regulus thinks that he just does not know where he would start. What is Barty to him? A lover, a romantic partner? A – what is that term all the muggleborns use? – boyfriend?
“You’re restless,” Barty says finally. “You’re never restless.” Barty puts down the book he had been reading and watches Regulus carefully. “Is it about your parents? We can go somewhere else.” There is the smallest note of accusation in Barty’s tone and Regulus instantly feels guilty.
Regulus shakes his head. He reaches out and laces his fingers through Barty’s hair. The other boy closes his eyes and breathes in. They lean forward at the same time and bump foreheads gently. “What are we, Barty?” Regulus breathes out. He hates the word “lover.” It comes with too many strings attached, with too much social judgment. It comes with the pain of listening by your parents’ bedroom door as his mother curses like he had never heard her do, asking his father if a public scandal is what he wants. That word is his cousin Andromeda abandoning them all. That word is the disgrace of the Potters, and the memory of Sirius – Sirius with his trunk in the hall, vowing to never come home again. “Lover” is not the word Regulus wants to hear.
But what are they then?
“We are… Slytherins, Death Eaters, Purebloods…” Barty looks confused and borderline impatient.
“No, but what are we…together?” The sunrays on the hardwood floor fade into complete darkness. Only the light of the candles is left and the elves have not come up to light them yet, so the only ones that burn are the couple Regulus and Barty had lit themselves. Regulus’ stomach begins to twist as Barty gives no reply. The fear spreads through his body and makes him dizzy. Regulus is often afraid these days, but almost never quiet like this.
Finally, the other boy gives a low growl and pushes Regulus away. He stands and stalks to the window, dirty blonde hair falling over his eyes. Barty flings open the window and a gust of warm summer air rushes in. The candles flicker. “I don’t care,” he says darkly. “I don’t care what we are, Regulus. I just care that we are something. Does it matter what it’s called?”
Of course it does, Regulus wants to say. Everything in his life has been defined by a word – Pureblood, Slytherin, second son, brother, Death Eater, friend and ally, heir… Everything has a word, a meaning – family, House, birthright, war, inheritance, loyalty, justice, Cause, leader… Relationships and relations are defined in a similar fashion, there can be no exception – child, parent, sibling, husband, wife, bride, friend, comrade, and, yes, lover. But there is something, there always is.
For something to not have a name renders it invisible. Even muggles and mudbloods and blood traitors have a word.
Maybe that is why he had never explained Barty to anyone. Not even to himself.
“No. No it does not matter.” Regulus stands and goes to wrap his arms around Barty’s waste, his lips pressed against the nape of the other boy’s neck. “It does not matter,” he repeats. Somewhere deep inside, Regulus already knows they will not make it through this war. He does not know why or how, but it is that feeling of surreality, like he is living in a dream, like everything is a carefully constructed façade, created to trick him into thinking that someone else’s life is his. Regulus would not call himself unhappy, he would not call himself much of anything but the things that other people have called him. Maybe that is the main problem. Perhaps if he could find his own word for Barty, for them, for himself, the world would finally come back into focus. Like it had been when he was a child – before Andromeda’s scandal, before Sirius left, before the war, before the endless string of raids and missions and piles of blood-soaked cloaks on the floor.
It’s better, really, that whatever he and Barty are does not have a word. Something that’s invisible is not likely to be missed when it’s gone.
Maybe they won’t miss it either.