fifty-five

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REGULUS BLACK REALLY HATED HIS NIECE.

Okay, that was a lie. But if she were here right now, he'd . . . actually, he didn't know what he'd do. Maybe he would just start crying.

The point was that she wasn't here. He thought that he had known torment not seeing her for the first seventeen years of her life, but this was severely worse. After finally getting to know her, she'd disappeared.

She was irresponsible and a fool and really, really loyal. Honestly, he had to admire it a little even if he wanted to shake her. And he wanted to shake her badly. Mostly, because it would mean that she was back here with him to actually shake.

Four days. It had been four days since Celestia had pulled her sacrificial act, and he had no idea whether she was alive or dead. A part of him believed that he would know if she was dead, but the truth was, he thought there was only one person with that type of bond with her on the entire planet.

And that was Theodore Nott.

Therein lay the problem.

While she was smarter than people seemed to give her credit for, she had done something really fucking stupid. Seriously, though, someone needed to give this girl a lecture on rash decisions — especially considering that stunt she'd pulled going out alone to see Theo's father.

Theodore was a shell of the man he'd grown to know. He hadn't spent much time with the younger boy in the past couple months, letting Celestia consume his every thought, but he knew this wasn't him.

Courtesy of being a servant of the Dark Lord, he'd seen multiple victims of the Memory Charm. None of them had ever acted like he was. Like a piece of his soul was missing.

Draco, rightfully, was pissed at him. He'd be just as pissed or more if he had been in his position. Hell, he regretted leaving her. But when she'd looked at him and pleaded, he found he couldn't deny her. He really needed to find the willpower to do that soon, if she continued to be so reckless.

"Draco," he attempted to say softly. "That's not going to work."

He shot him a dark look. "We won't know unless we try."

He didn't have the heart to explain to him that people tried it at St Mungo's all the time and it had never been successful.

"This isn't some Muggle injury to the head that's given him amnesia. She's specifically taken anything to do with herself from his mind. Photos aren't going to jar anything in his memory," he explained.

Draco looked down at the box in his hands, indecision playing over his face. They stood at the dining room doorway as they looked into the lounge, where Theo sat motionless on the sofa.

"I'm going to try it anyway," he said quietly.

Instead of waiting for Regulus to reprimand him, which he wouldn't have, Draco gripped the box tighter and approached his friend. Sitting on the arm chair, he took the lid off of the book.

"I really hate that you're making me do this," muttered Draco to Theo. "This is such a cliché. As soon as we get Celestia and your memories back, I'm going to kill the both of you and live the rest of my life no longer at risk of high blood pressure."

Theo barely glanced at his friend, and Regulus could see the pain that briefly flashed across Draco's face. He swallowed thickly, wishing he could comfort the both of them somehow.

"Look at this," said Draco, thrusting a photo in front of his face. "It's from sixth year. You and Celestia accidently dressed up in a couple costume for Halloween. Characters from one of those books you two are always reading. It was so annoying."

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