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Methleigh

The Subtle Things

The Subtle Things

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sherlock.  not good?
Title: The Subtle Things
Recipient: a_shadow_there
Author: janus
Rating: NC-17 for dark ideas. no sex. no violence. strictly gen.
Characters: Regulus Black, Barty Crouch Jr., The Dark Lord,
Summary: Regulus undertakes a mission for the Dark Lord.
Warning: Systematic manipulation. This is the darkest piece I have ever written, though this is disputed. It is cold and brutal, though there is diligence, loyalty and warmth. Please heed the warning, dear friends' list, if you do not want to read such a piece. I can say at least that Regulus is sincere and believes this is the best he can do.
Word Count: 2,409
Author's Notes: With kind thanks to slytherinlaurel, my beta. She is inspired and thorough. I can't say enough good things about her work.

"Yes, sir." Young Regulus Black stood slight and straight in his silk robes. To take his leave, he dropped to his knee gracefully and elegantly. He bowed his head slightly and formally, baring his arm in its loose sleeve and touching his Mark in acknowledgement and esteem, as he had done when he arrived. His movements were smooth and respectful, as simple and proper as the way he held his cutlery at dinner. The boy was perfect. Each gesture, each acceptance was more than agreement and far removed from acquiescence. It was a proud confirmation of someone it was natural to honour.

Regulus was pleased by this assignment. Though he was too young to go on the important outside missions with the others, this was something he could do. It was even more important, perhaps. He was going to do his very best.

He thought about his objective. Bartemius Crouch Jr. He was a Ravenclaw, but that was all right. It was only because he was smart and powerful and liked to work hard at his studies. These things were also true of most Slytherin.

This was scarcely even an assignment. Bartemius should want to join them in any case. He was close to the Ministry, with a literally familiar knowledge thereof, young as he was. That meant he would surely be already horrified by the travesties of justice and by the steadfast wizards ruined by the great fearsome prison. He witnessed the evil every day, and not just the beginnings and endings of the corrupt and brutal trials. He knew the motivations behind the words that condemned the brilliant and strong. He watched the targets selected and the plans for their destruction drawn up on his own dining room table at home. Surely he would be sickened. Surely he would want to join Regulus and the others to truly change these terrible things.

Regulus began by watching Bartemius in class. He looked up through his eyelashes without seeming to do so, moving his eyes without turning or raising his head.

Had there been no Slytherin House, Regulus and the others would have been alienated from other students by virtue of their birth and place. In Ravenclaw, his father's position inspired a certain wariness of Bartemius in the other students. As a result he held himself somewhat aloof and quiet. It struck Regulus, watching and alert, that he was friendless. He was brilliant though, and strong. When called upon to show his work it was flawless, even inventive, albeit in a subtle, almost subversive way. He followed the letter of assignments, but his spirit went through them and beyond them.

Regulus considered. What did the other boy lack? What would win him? Obviously friendship would, as well as appreciation. Perhaps affection, or maybe touch. He was not praised or lauded for his talent. On the contrary, he seemed to thrive on his resentment when each project was passed over without comment. Perhaps they were afraid of him for the sake of his father. He was not of the circle of Regulus and the old families. Their fathers would have expected a certain proud indulgence towards their children, at least from mere teachers. Neither was he attractive - a little too prim in his clothing, with his hair the colour of old straw, not new. He stood a little too straight. His air and language were a little too formal, though by himself he slouched in his seat, ran his fingers through his hair and bit his nails.

They had Herbology with the Ravenclaws, and Regulus found it easy to arrange to partner him. His fellow Slytherins would follow his lead, and none of Bartemius' housemates seemed inclined to choose him. Everyone loved Regulus. It would be easy to charm a lonely boy simply by falling back on natural warmth.

Even that first day, Regulus paid close attention. He was quiet and thoughtful when the other boy said even small things about the plants. He met his eyes and smiled. He passed the tools to him and handled his things with interest. "May I call you 'Barty?'" he asked politely halfway through the lesson. "You may call me 'Reggie,' if you wish."

"Everyone calls me 'Crouch,'" he answered, but then he looked sideways at Regulus, who was close and expectant. Regulus was not laughing, and his eyes were sincere. "I'd like that."


Then Regulus smiled. He did not squeeze his hand, nor his shoulder - not yet. But his smile was spontaneous and natural as the sun. Barty looked after him as he left the classroom, and indeed, Regulus turned his eyes back to him as well.

Nothing on earth could win someone like that intimacy of glance, Regulus knew. There was nothing more reassuring, more personal and more secretly beloved than the feeling of shared humanity. With an innocent frank look into Barty's eyes, and with the return of that gaze, more full communication would pass between them than words could ever provide. So far the feeling he passed to the other boy was simply that he had enjoyed the lesson, and still more, had enjoyed Barty's company. Regulus was showing him that he was curious and felt close - that he was thinking of him after the encounter and looking for him. That would be a great deal for someone with no real friend.

It was true, as well. Regulus had enjoyed his company, and he genuinely respected his talent. They had been finished first, and Regulus had suggested a little quill-and-paper game. Barty had not known the rules, and Regulus knew he had not shared such small simple pastimes before. But now, there was writing in his book, as in everyone else's book, in another's hand. Regulus had let a little magic flow into his flourished initials so they would be noticed, so they would shine for the other boy. Barty would take this with him, and he would think of Regulus when he studied, as he surely would.

Regulus sought him out, looking for him at the beginnings of the classes, and he relaxed a little. Barty's stiffness lessened, and his slouching became more alert with Regulus. They worked together in Charms class as well, and in Divination.

Regulus began by reading the other boy's palm, ensuring his fingers were friendly and gentle against his nervous tendons. He ignored the slight shaking and took care to approach this touch slowly and considerately, but to initiate it with surety. Barty needed to know that he wanted to touch him, but too much determination would be odd. Regulus thought that an air of humility - almost shyness - would be more effective. It would give Barty the chance to reassure him. That would produce the illusion that he was participating, even initiating warmth, and that the warmth came from him directly. It would ensure the relationship did not seem one-sided.

It was a beginning, but where Regulus had begun by taking advantage of classroom requirements, he now began to speak to Barty with his fingers. He still met his eyes at salient points of the lectures, but now he sat with him often. There was a little hollow in Barty's wrist just beneath the V of his thumb, and Regulus learned to lay his finger there when there was a point he thought especially piquant. He provided a nudge to his shoulder when an instructor was incorrect or incomplete. He lay his fingers to the fold of Barty's elbow when he was amused or thought it would be worthwhile listening to the next words. Conspiracy and the special feeling it gave were very powerful. Barty would feel a small inner shine derived from the very fact that they held secrets together, above even their teachers. Regulus, of course, had a wealth of truth and knowledge from his other masters, and he shared it, correcting their instruction after class.


Soon Barty was reciprocating Regulus' communication of touch. There was a whole language of gentle pressures, intimate and silent. They spent time together walking in the grounds, and Regulus taught him Quidditch exercises that allowed them to laugh and wrestle.

More importantly, Barty began slowly to unburden himself. He resented his cold father who had chilled his childhood in his cold home. He had shrouded his outrage in silence as a response to the cruel machinations he had heard and overheard. He felt frustration over his thwarted desire to innovate. All this jerked from him gradually and bitterly. Drawing parallels from his own family, his own life and his own home, Regulus accepted these things sympathetically.

They met by the boat dock and talked, taking off their shoes and dabbling their toes in the water. Regulus spoke to his own frustration, explaining how wizards should be free to live without hiding their light and power. He listened seriously to the tales he had suspected: of men condemned to dark Azkaban for being wizards. His eyes were honest when he expressed his faith that there were those working against these things, and when he avowed his own commitment to wizards and opportunity. He also passed Barty's tales to his Dark Lord.

Regulus knew, despite their growing closeness, that complete gratification did not bind one as surely as a careful cascade of doubt, hope, and bargaining with fate. He was a Slytherin after all. He made sure that Barty was not always his companion and that the other boy saw him smiling, arm in arm with one of his other housemates. He practiced his Quidditch on the field with other players when he knew Barty was watching from the stands. Sometimes he did class projects with other students and purposely did not look towards Barty as they worked and learned. Regulus was gentle with this technique, despite these deliberate episodes, for he truly enjoyed Barty's company. He hated to see the other boy's face turn to stone as it concealed pain he knew should have been beneath him. Regulus never engaged in these manipulations by using the company of other Death Eaters. Barty must not be jealous of them or resent them. They must become his brothers too.

They were both in the Slug Club, of course. Barty's father was Minister of Magic, and Regulus was a Black. They were each invited to bring guest to Slughorn's Christmas Party. This was his opportunity to introduce the first of his brothers. He invited one of his Housemates who was less prestigious, at least to Slughorn, than the two of them.

"Of course, I would ask you first, if you were not already invited. You know that, don't you?" But Regulus' eyes were laughing, and Barty found him irresistible. This was a key moment, so it required a nonchalance so graceful it was not noticed.

"Of course I do." Barty squeezed his wrist. His eyes mirrored Regulus'. By his heartfelt acknowledgement of this, he was affirming his place with Regulus as well.

Regulus added another element to the proposal. He opened the door between Barty and the others. "He'll not be used to the Club. We can help him feel welcome."

Barty nodded, looking forward to the event. He would not be bringing anyone himself.

A quick word to the other Death Eater that Regulus had invited ensured he too was prepared to treat Barty as a close friend and comrade. It was, after all, a mission for the Dark Lord. Their new companion was warm with Barty. He joked with him, sharing and comparing the delicacies of the feast. He asked Barty's opinion on small matters. The three of them smiled together at the other boys trying to gain favour with Slughorn. They didn't need such favour, and Barty was included with them now, elite even in the Slytherins' eyes. And he had been introduced as 'Barty.'

"You should come out with us sometime." The other boy punched his shoulder softly in a friendly way. "Where's Reggie been hiding you?"

Barty was too dignified and controlled to blush. "Why, I surely will come." 'Will,' not 'would.' This was bold, but both Regulus and the other boy smiled easily, nodding, glad to have him join them. They smiled as if Barty had granted them the favour of his agreement.

"Brilliant. I'll look forward to seeing you again." With that Regulus and Barty were left alone.

"Actually, there is a gathering this weekend at the Lestrange's manor, if you would like to come. They always tell me I may bring a guest." Regulus' voice was casual though not deliberately so. He knew Barty did not go on such outings to the homes of friends, for he had been watching.

Barty was used to owls bearing formal invitations on thick creamy parchment in silver ink. This off-hand suggestion seemed almost like an adventure. "I don't know the Lestranges, but I remember the younger brother from last year. But yes!" His eyes looked happily into Regulus'. "It sounds like fun."

That Sunday they were all having broom races in the garden, chasing after an escaped snitch when Regulus was summoned inside by a house-elf. Barty waved, happy enough with the like-minded other boys. He carried on with the games.

The Dark Lord was waiting in a study upstairs.

"Sir." Young Regulus Black stood slight and straight in his silk robes. He dropped to his knee gracefully and elegantly. He bowed his head slightly and formally, baring his arm in its loose sleeve and touching his Mark in acknowledgement and esteem. His movements were smooth and respectful, with a natural simplicity and propriety.

"Come to the window." They stood together, looking down at Barty among the young Death Eaters. Rabastan and Rodolphus were laughing with him while Bella ruffled his hair. "This winter we will have him take the Mark, and then I am sure he can convince his father to offer him an internship at the Ministry."

The Dark Lord laid his hand on the boy's shoulder. "You have done very well. Soon I will have another mission for you. A small task for your house-elf."

Regulus smiled at him with a rush of pride. "It is an honour, sir. And a pleasure."

first posted to my dreamwidth account.
  • Ahhhhh!

    I feel for these boys. What they will go through...

    Well done.
  • Wow... if there had not already been a dark lord, Regulus would have done the job well. I suspect Tom Riddle seduced his first followers in similar ways.

    I also totally agree with something you suggest at the beginning. Everyone who joins Voldemort does so because he offers them something, over and above the blood politics. For Regulus it's a chance to matter in a family where he's practically an afterthought, and for Barty it's warmth in a world that's cold and cruel.
  • I love the adept, tricky, subtle cunning he uses to draw in his mates. (could he have learned from Orion and Walburga, or just possessing an inherently nimble mind like Severus?)

    Riddle eat your heart out. Reg is on the warpath. And he's going to help DESTROY you because you screwed with his elf. Hahahahaha,
  • Wow. I really appreciate you writing from the perspective of the Death Eaters so often. Rowling, for better or worse, flattens the Death Eaters (and pretty much all of Slytherin House) into these simplistic, motivation-less villains. It's refreshing to see someone remember that these characters are complex human beings, who made the choices they did for what must have seemed to them to be the best and noblest of reasons.
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