Chapter – IX
The night stroll
I must tell you this, that I planned carefully to bring two annoying Gryffindor & Ravenclaw at the wand point of my cousin, to teach them a little lesson. Do not worry about me. I am very clear about my loyalty & my inner true Slyhterin. Sirius can not influence me with his spiteful Gryfffindor self. I won’t disgrace my family.
-Your son Regulus
After writing the letter Regulus stared at it for a couple of minutes.
‘My first step of pretence’ he thought. With a sigh he got up from the chair in his common room & headed towards the owlery in search for Sinnie. It was almost eight o’ clock in the evening. The curfew was about to begin in a couple of minutes. But he took a chance anyway.
He carefully poked his head from the dungeon doorway & quickly checked the surroundings making sure that it was devoid of anyone. He headed towards the narrow passageway that led straight to the entrance hall.
‘I just go to the giant staircase & may be lucky enough to find the shortcut to the owlery’ Regulus thought tentatively.
He started to walk slowly, making as little sound as possible with his each careful footstep. The journey up to the giant staircase was a bit too smooth for him as he didn’t meet the horrible caretaker Filtch or his horrible cat Mrs. Norris & neither faced any teacher during his night time strolling. He let out a sigh of relief & closed the giant wooden door behind him as soon as he reached the giant staircase.
The giant staircase is a broad hallway having a ceiling at the top of it, at the height of the eighth floor. Many stairs were starting from the base of the ground of it. Some are magnificently royal looking, some thin & fragile, some are rope made & interestingly all were moving in there own characteristic way, every now & then. The whole place seemed like a ladder puzzle to Regulus. At the day time when he followed Sirius, he just blindly followed him without paying any attention to the magic of the staircases & when later he led to library, it was like an accidental discovery for him.
‘Oh boy! I wonder which one is the right one’ Regulus was chewing his bottom lip uncertainly.
“Hey! What are you doing here? It is way out of time.” A girl’s voice, no too firm, with a slight touch of kindness rang behind him.
Regulus jumped out & whirled around. The first thing that caught his eyes was the hem of the robe of that person. It was blue in the black background. Relieved about the fact that she was no teacher, Regulus looked up. The next thing he saw was the shiny badge, pinned neatly across the robe collar of the girl, with a letter ‘P’ was engraved on it.
‘Great! A prefect…that’ll make my night…damn’ Regulus thought bitterly.
“You really shouldn’t wander at this time you know, it’s late & the curfew has already begun.”
Regulus finally looked up to meet her eyes. He was shocked to root to find Bellatrix was standing there.
‘Bellatrix…wait…she’s a Slytherin & the tone is just not like her, it’s too polite & well NORMAL.’ Regulus continued to think aloud without tearing his gaze off her. His expression revealed a mixture of fear, disgust, yet a wonder & an utter confusion.
The girl smiled at him kindly.
“You are Regulus Black right?” The girl asked.
Regulus blinked, not knowing what to say.
The girl seemed to read his thought & took a step towards him.
“I’m not Bellatrix Black, I just resemblance her.” Then after a brief pause, she added, “We haven’t met officially before. I’m Andromeda Black, your cousin.”
Regulus’s eyes widened with surprise & he relaxed a bit. He heard about her from Sirius. Sirius liked her very much & to some extent adored her. He remembered, Sirius told a lot of things about her, in his first summer as a Hogwarts student.
Regulus remembered vividly about that night. It was a wonderful night with a thundering storm roaring outside, bringing a terrible yet a soothing coldness to the burning earth. Regulus always loved thunder storm & rain & was not afraid of the wildness of the nature, quite unlike the general kids.
It was the dead of night. The Black parents were asleep in their perfect bedroom. Regulus often used this time to chat with Sirius about various things, which were considered either indecent or substandard or simply freaky by the rest of the Blacks. Sirius too, eagerly waited for this time the whole day & used this time to chat & play with his little brother in his very own way. Sensing that his parents wouldn’t want him to be even near Regulus, he maintained his distance with him within their eyeshot & earshot. Although, Sirius was quite surprised to find that Regulus didn’t questioned his distant behaviour & played along in that little pretend game quite nicely without Sirius telling him to do so. Sirius thought that Regulus might be told off by their parents during the time Sirius was in Hogwarts & was quite happy to find that they were unable to stop Regulus loving him. Regulus, on the other hand played along as the Christmas scene was still raw to him & he didn’t want a repetition of that.
The door of Regulus’s bedroom opened carefully & an eleven year old Sirius walked in to find Regulus, sitting on the window pane & watching the storm outside.
“Hey bro…Merlin you are freezing…” Sirius unceremoniously crawled up in Regulus’s bed & settled himself on it. Regulus frowned at Sirius & Sirius laughed out.
“You can watch the storm from here too, unless you have an eyesight problem.” Sirius snorted.
Regulus made a face at him but jumped down from window pane & went to join his brother. He opened his mouth to retort back but instead sneezed loudly.
“Oh! Already caught the cold.” Sirius muttered with concern & he unfolded the blanket at the base of the bed & threw it over Regulus & drew him close.
“Better?” He asked as he moved his hand in a soothing circle on the back of his baby brother.
Regulus nodded & sniffed almost immediately.
“You are a magnet to cold…you know this.”
“Uh…oh yep” Regulus smiled sheepishly at his brother.
“I like it, when you take care of me Siri. They just give me foul potions & show disgust if I…” Regulus trailed off. Sirius tightened his arms across eight years old Regulus.
“You have me.” Sirius’s voice was deep.
“Not always.” Regulus pouted.
“Only a matter of two years & then you’ll be coming with me to Hogwarts too.”
“Two years…” Regulus sniffed again.
“Oh, it will pass just like that…” Sirius snapped his fingers to show his point.
“And you know what…if you ever get sick at Hogwarts, Madam Pomfery will take care of you & I mean it. Not just shove the foul potions down your throat but she will give it to you with proper care & love , a bit too much of love I must say…which sometimes will make you think of various ways to escape her.” Sirius finished with an amused tone.
Regulus laughed out loud. Sirius was glad to see him laugh.
“So, have you met any of our relatives at Hogwarts? How are they?” Regulus asked.
“Horrible. Except one. Andromeda. She is in Ravenclaw & really a nice person.” Sirius replied.
“Andromeda…who?” Regulus’s brow furrowed in confusion.
“Oh! You haven’t heard about her. Me neither, until I met her at Hogwarts. She came to me after my sorting & congratulated me for making into…well into Hogwarts & introduced herself. She is the sister of Narcissa & Bellatrix…the middle one.”
“Making into Hogwarts or Gryffindor?” Regulus enquired.
Sirius hesitated for a bit. Then said “Well, Gryffindor.”
“She seemed nice.” Regulus smiled.
“Yeah” nodded Sirius & smiled back.
“Tell me about her.” Regulus snuggled closer to Sirius’s chest & looked up expectantly at his brother’s eyes.
Sirius chuckled at his little brother’s eagerness & started about Andromeda, the name which was unofficially banned from the ‘Most noble & Ancient house of Black’.
Regulus came down to the present. So he was facing THE Andromeda. A smile broke into his face.
“I know you. I’ve heard a lot about you from Siri, I mean Sirius, my brother.” Regulus said excitedly.
“Aha! I knew it. I am sorry that I couldn’t introduce myself to you earlier. You sorted to Slytherin…” seeing Regulus’s face fell, she added hastily “…I can’t go over Slytherin table without making a scene.”
“Oh!” Regulus’s expression cleared up & he nodded.
“So, what are you doing here anyway? I know night time strolling is a favourite Sirius thing & I can expect nothing else from his own brother but I had to ask, see, I am a prefect too.” She pointed at her badge apologetically.
Regulus’s face lightened up immediately.
“You think I’ll be like HIM?”
“Yes. I do. You already are, to certain extent. You do look like him, you speak like him too, and well if we just leave the arrogance behind you can be considered as the mirror image of your elder brother. But well, at the time of his first year he wasn’t this arrogant either & at the time of your fourth year I highly doubt whether you’ll remain this polite.” Andromeda finished with a wink.
“But I am Slytherin.”
“I won’t deny, at first, I thought that I found you like the rest of the elegant Blacks but after tonight’s meeting I must admit I am starting to doubt the sorting hat’s decision. You seem like a Gryffindor to me.”
Regulus froze. He didn’t want Andromeda to find out that he indeed tampered the hat during his sorting. Sirius, only Sirius deserved to be the first one to know.
“But I am Slytherin & I am happy about it.” He said with a little too much firmness in his voice.
“Then Slytherin has just gained an excellent young boy.” Andromeda smiled kindly.
“Now tell me what are you up to?”
“Er…well…just wanted to go to owlery. I need to send my letter to mother. She asked me to reply back immediately.” Regulus showed the sealed envelop to Andromeda.
“Oh! Well, if you trust me, you can give it to me, I’ll send it safely without looking.”
Regulus hesitated a bit. He knew that he can trust her.
“Er…okay, but it needs to go tonight.” Regulus held out the letter to her.
“Right. Don’t worry I’ll send it & in future if you want to go to owlery just take the spiral wooden staircase in the middle. It leads to owlery. Okay?”
Regulus nodded smiling at her.
“Come on, I’ll escort you to the dungeon doorway.” Andromeda gave him a gentle shove towards the wooden door of the giant staircase.
As the door creaked open, a boy, who was bent over something on the floor jumped & turned around in alarm.
“Remus!” Andromeda exclaimed in surprise.
It was Remus Lupin indeed & Regulus was glad to see one of his brother’s mates.
“Oh! Meda…you nearly gave me a heart attack.” Remus sighed with relief, clutching his chest.
“What are you doing? Where are the rest of the idiots?”
“Er…” Remus mumbled.
“Another prank…I guess.” Andromeda interrupted.
Remus just nodded stiffly.
“What are you guys up to this time?...no wait… don’t tell me…I don’t want to know.”
“Wise thought.” Remus murmered.
Andromeda raised an eyebrow & Remus hastily added, “Well, you know, if you know, then you have to be guilty about the fact that you didn’t stop us or gave us in inspite of being a prefect & you are just too kind to give us in, I mean…”
“I exactly know what you did mean Lupin.”
Remus looked at her nervously with an odd apologetic smile plastered in his face. Then he caught sight of Regulus. He looked at her questioningly.
At a quick glance at Regulus she replied, “Oh! He is with me. Got caught, out of bed. What else can you expect from Siri’s brother?”
“Ah, yeah, nothing less.” Remus smiled broadly now & looking at Regulus He added “…in your second night? Seriously?”
“Yeah Siriusly” Regulus replied making both Remus & Andromeda to chuckle.
“Hey, just shove off before I change my mind & give you detention Remus.”
Remus looked back at Andromeda.
“Oh I know you’ll never put me in detention & you too, know it just too well.” Remus replied.
“Fine, in that case, I need to rephrase, scram, before somebody else come here & I have to put you in detention.” Andromeda snapped back.
“Good point. See you at morning then…” Then throwing a swift smile in Regulus’s direction he added “See you Regulus.” & headed towards the wooden door behind them.
“Avoid the second corridor, Peeves is in there…” Andromeda yelled behind him, as Remus disappeared inside the giant staircase shouting back a hasty thanks to her.
Regulus reached at the Dungeon doorway with Andromeda.
“Here you go.”
“Bye & thanks for…everything.” Regulus said sincerely.
“Oh you are welcome little cousin. Take care of yourself. Okay?”
Then giving a fleeting hug & kissing his brow Andromeda left. Regulus stood there, feeling happy about everything.
‘She is really nice. Siri was right about her.’ Regulus thought happily. He also noticed that Remus, one of Sirius’s best mates, treated him nicely. He actually agreed with Andromeda that he was like his brother. ‘That means,…’ Regulus thought, ‘…Siri didn’t tell his friends about their afternoon encounter. But why?’ Regulus didn’t understand whether it was a good thing or bad thing. He couldn’t decide whether to be happy or sad about it. True, he liked it but if that meant that Sirius was regretting his action, then he would come to him to comfort him & knowing his brother, Regulus was certain that, if he would decide to come to him, he would do it personally & not by means of letters & certainly Sirius would not care whether Bellatrix or Narcissa or whole bunch of Slimy Slytherin would stand in the scene or not & if one of them would witness Sirius’s niceness towards him, another letter would go to Walburga Black & Sirius would be dragged out of Hogwarts.
‘No, I can’t let this happened.’ Regulus thought aloud, with a fierce firmness & determination as he entered Slytherin common room & made his way towards the Boys dormitory.