*This story will make a lot more sense if you read the last prompt I wrote*
“I can’t talk about this anymore, James.” Sirius says, fuming. He and James had been working on cleaning the dishes after dinner. Lily was asleep in her and James’ room, tired and very pregnant. The boys didn’t mind the chores if it made Lily feel less stressed. However, James had used the quiet moment to broach the topic that Sirius had been ignoring for days.
“Well, that’s too bad, because we’re going to talk about it!” James spat, dunking his hands into the soapy water and pulling out a plate. He shoved it at Sirius who dried it off and placed it on the pile.
“There’s nothing to say.”
“Liar.” James said, turning to look at him. “You won’t even listen, so there’s obviously something you need to get off your chest.
Sirius turned and moved away from his best friend, trying to show that he was done with the conversation. He would clean the rest of the dishes later. He walked toward the study, pushing the door open in frustration, listening as James followed behind him. “I don’t know what you thought you saw or why anything happened the way it did, but Regulus didn’t save your life because he cares about you. He must have an ulterior motive. They always do!”
James persisted in his chase, a dish rag thrown over his shoulder, his hands covered in water and bubbles. “This was different, Pads. He knew exactly what he was doing. He could have very easily collapsed that entire ravine onto Dorcas and I, but he didn’t. He purposefully shot the curses just far enough away from us that we wouldn’t be hurt and we would have enough time to escape.” James had been trying to have this conversation with Sirius for over a week. After his and Dorcas’ escape from the Ravine, after Regulus had called out to him and saved their lives, he was convinced that maybe it was time that someone did the same for Regulus.
Sirius did not agree.
“I know you always see the best in people, mate,” Sirius placated. “But Regulus made his choice a long time ago. We have no idea the kind of things they have drilled into his head. There’s nothing good about him anymore. He’s a death eater, remember? They’re convinced that the world needs to be purified. You know that. What can we do to change that?”
James frowned at him, wiping the moisture onto his jeans as he contemplated a way to answer. “Just because a sheep lives in a flock doesn’t mean it shares the flocks’ thoughts.” He finally answered, nose screwed up in frustration, knowing that he sounded as ridiculous as he felt.
“That’s… that’s stupid.”
“I know,” James answered, laughing at his metaphor but also feeling himself growing frustrated. “But that’s not the point. The point is that, in all the times we’ve interacted with Regulus, how many times has he himself actually done anything to hurt us?” A pause, as if Sirius was taking a moment to actually consider. James saw his hesitation and jumped on it. “I can’t think of any. In fact, if anything, I can only remember the times when he has stopped something which prevented us from getting hurt.”
“It doesn’t matter, James. He’s still one of them. He already chose his side.”
“People are allowed to change.”
“But they don’t! People never, EVER change,” Sirius yelled, twisting around on James, breathing hard. “People will never change who they are. A sheep is still a sheep, even if you shave it.”
“I thought we decided that was a stupid metaphor.”
“Yeah, but it does the trick.”
“Sirius, I know that he hurt you-”
“No, you don’t. You don’t know the half of it. The things that we went through together, the times we made promises to each other, and how easy it was for him to turn his back on all of that. I can’t just forget all of that, James. I can’t pretend that it didn’t happen. You have no idea how he went against everything, broke every promise, to serve them.”
“Doesn’t he deserve a second chance?”
“NO! Life isn’t kind, James. It doesn’t offer second chances.”
“Well, we gave you one.” His voice is soft, as if reluctant to bring up the memory.
Sirius remembers, though. It had been the hardest and best day of his life, after he had begged for forgiveness from his friends. They had all collapsed on top of him, loving him so fearlessly, until he believed that they would never truly leave him. There was nothing he could do that would make them stop loving him. He remembered his friends, the comfort of finally having them with him again, loving him despite his mistake, being there for him as he made amends. He wonders where he would be without it. “That’s different.”
“Because… just because, okay James?” He could feel the heat rising in his face as he yelled, wanting James to understand. “I don’t know what you think you saw or the kind of person you’re hoping Regulus to be, but that isn’t him, okay? Regulus is a death eater, he has a dark mark. They didn’t force him to take it, he did it willingly. He is just as much a Death Eater as any of the rest of them. That was a choice that he made.”
“But shouldn’t he be allowed to change his mind?”
The persistence of his best friend grated on Sirius. He ground his teeth as he thought through his response.“Why? And when does that stop? What, because he barely saved you and Dorcas and he maybe didn’t personally go after any of us in school, that means we need to bend over backwards to give him more credit then he deserves? Pretend that now, he’s somehow a good person? He’s secretly wanting to change? To be good? How long do I have to offer him redemption just for him to keep doing the same terrible things. How many times do I give another chance to someone who just won’t take it?”
“I don’t know,” James admitted, his voice matching Sirius’ in pitch, though his voice carried a great deal more sadness than anger. “He’s seen a lot of terrible things in his life, Sirius. He’s had terrible things happen to him. He’s been groomed for this life since he was born. What other option did he have?”
“He could have come with me!” Sirius roared. “He could have packed a bag and left that place behind forever, like I did. He could have found a home with you and your parents, like me. But instead, he stayed there. He became the very thing we swore we never would be.”
James was already shaking his head at the comments, wanting to bring clarity to Sirius, have him think with his head and not react with his wounds. “We have no idea what he’s gone through, Sirius,” he pleaded, begging him to understand. “Who knows what your parents did to him when you left?”
“He became everything my parents hoped for, James. Regulus, the true Black heir, a member of the elite wizards, on the right hand of the Dark Lord. Nothing they did to him will ever excuse those choices.”
“So, what, all of the suffering he went through, the pain and the beatings, the curses that leave scars, we just disregard that? After a childhood of misery and pain, we just look the other way? Even though he’s shown us that he has the capacity for goodness?”
“How? How can we do that? He was a child!”
“So was I! We grew up in the same place. We lived under the same circumstances. I took punishment after punishment if it meant that he wouldn’t have to take it. I stood in front of him no matter what our parents threw at me. I would have given my life to make sure he was safe!” Sirius felt the tears forming his eyes, his throat tightening at the admission, at the pain he felt of the betrayal. He wasn’t angry because Regulus had become a Death Eater. He was angry because Regulus had stayed, chosen hell with their parents, not life with him. “And when I finally had a chance to run, I asked him to come with me. We could have left behind the pain and the curses and all of the bullshit. And you know what happened? He chose to stay. He turned his back on me.” The tears were flowing in earnest then, streaking down Sirius’ face. “I will not excuse his choices because of the way he grew up. I won’t. Because I grew up the same way. I was there with him, having to face the same things. We were the same. But I didn’t turn out to be a Death Eater. I didn’t turn my back on the people who loved me!”
“But you had us.” James counters, his voice getting softer, stepping forward in hopes of the chance to comfort Sirius. “When you needed a place to run, you had one. We are your family, Sirius. You’ve always had us.” He grabbed his best friend’s arm, showing him that he was there, that he wasn’t leaving. When Sirius finally looked up at him, he winced and whispered, “Who does he have?”
That simple question held in itself everything that Sirius had attempted to ignore when it came to his brother. Who did Regulus have? The life that Sirius led was one that he had cultivated himself, but had also been influenced by a great deal of luck as well. Regulus didn’t have that. What kind of love and care was offered to him now? Sirius didn’t know. James pushed on.
“I know there are things that he has done that you can never forgive him for.” He grabbed Sirius’ hand, holding it tightly between both of his. “What he has chosen is inexcusable and wrong. He is on the wrong side. You know that, and I know that. It hurts to see him there, I know. But how long are you going to let that make you hate him? How long are you going to suffer without him until you finally open your eyes? What is it going to take for you to forgive him?”
They were questions that seemed stuck inside Sirius’ head. He thought through his decisions, the situations that he had found himself in. What if Regulus was put in those situations? What would have been different? What would have happened if Regulus was allowed to choose, to change? What would Sirius do if that did happen?
“The only one that is still getting hurt is you, Pads. You lose him over and over when you don’t forgive him. You let yourself hope that he’ll make a different decision without letting him know you love him regardless, despite all of his decisions.” James smiled a bit, wanting Sirius to believe as much as he did that there was a chance for Regulus. That they shouldn’t give up on him because of what he had chosen before, but give him a chance to choose better. “Maybe that’s all he needs. Proof. Proof that there is something else he can have, that he can depend on. He’s only known darkness. Maybe it’s time to offer him some light?”
It was strange for Sirius to imagine life with Regulus again. The brother he had loved and encouraged for so many years was now trapped in a web of darkness. Could there be a chance for him? Could Sirius offer his hand and actually have him take it? Could Regulus be saved? It was a thought that brought a moment of peace to his tumultuous thoughts. Imagining Regulus taking his hand, being there for him, keeping his promises.
But then, he saw the memory of Regulus shoving Sirius’ trunk away from himself and leaving his room in silence, not even turning to look at him before he left. He saw the choice that Regulus had made in that moment. He hadn’t chosen Sirius. He had chosen everything but Sirius.
“Can’t you try to forgive him?” James whispered, unaware of the battle raging inside of his best friend.
Sirius shut his eyes against the thought, seeing day after day of torture and pain at the hands of his parents. He saw Regulus, small and fragile, hiding behind him as Sirius took on another punishment. He saw how Regulus trusted him, staying in his room for hours during Christmas vacation, quiet and listening as Sirius prattled on about anything and everything. He saw all of the good in their lives that they had shared together. He remembered the promise he had made to his brother, that he would always be there for him, protect him, and love him, no matter what. And he saw Regulus turn his back on all of it.
Anger roiled in his gut, but beneath it, much more poignant and unsettling was the feeling of grief.
Sirius’ Regulus didn’t exist anymore.
All that was left was pain and darkness.
He looked at James, cold. “No. I can’t forgive him. I will never forgive him,” he answered before turning his back, leaving James alone in the middle of the room, stunned. He knew that Sirius meant it, that he would never let himself be in a position to love Regulus again. James knew, then, that Regulus would never get to have Sirius again. And that was the thing that hurt the most.