Just A Smile

Regulus Black IV

Disclaimer: I do not own the Harry Potter series.

Chapter Sixty

Regulus Black IV

Regulus thought that the hardest thing he had ever done was turn his back to his family and start carving his own path without their demands weighing on him. But he was wrong. Perhaps, the hardest thing that he had ever done, was watch as his closest, best friend cry and do nothing but offer his shoulder to comfort her. The hardest thing was hearing Hermione tell him that she was alright despite of the obvious heartbreak in her eyes.

Since the talk they had in the Come and Go Room, Hermione and James had not spoken or seen each other in the eye. That was also the day that the deep rooted sadness exuded from the witch began. There was some part of Regulus, the one that made him a Black, that wanted to beat the shite out of James but the saner and rational part of him pitied the young man. James was as distraught as Hermione and he could be seen around school watching her with forlorn eyes.

"Did you and James broke up?" He had asked her one time when they were walking outside of the castle.

Her gaze wandered towards the Black Lake. "I really don't know," she revealed to him. "I want to talk to my aunt about it but I don't want her to get involved, especially since they are both from her house. I still have a lot to think about. It's so fresh and new and it hurts so much, Regulus. I want to let go but a selfish part of me wants to hold on. Right now, I'm confused, and James," she gulped the pain in her voice as she uttered his name, "he said that he will give me time and he will wait for my decision. Honestly, I don't know what to do. I... I don't want to talk about it anymore."

Regulus wanted to talk about it but it was evident that Hermione didn't. He came to truly believe that she would never be ready to talk about it. James had ingrained himself in her, he might as well be etched on her skin. He couldn't imagine the pain that Hermione must be feeling. It had been such a long time since he had last seen her true smile and not the kind of smile that she was forced to give out. She buried herself into her studies; always reading, always writing, always wanting to do something. He guessed that it was because she wanted to avoid the memories that would surface if she ever stopped doing something.

"People are asking," he told her the other day.

"About what?" She asked, throwing a piece of toast at the Giant Squid's awaiting tentacles.

"If you and James are still together."

He watched her pause and a flash of pain crossed over her face. "You know I'm not ready to talk about him."

"When will you ever be ready?"

"When I can finally think about my decision without feeling this ache in my chest," she said quietly before throwing another toast into the water. "When I can finally think of him without regret and longing. When I am finally strong enough to smile at the thought of him. The pain is still there, Regulus. It's there and it's real. Sometimes, it hurts so bad that I can't move my limbs or think coherently without babbling about the pain and the agony. It's like being cut with a hot sharp knife a thousand of times and throwing water with salt on the open wounds. It feels like my soul has been ripped apart then renewed and then ripped apart again and again. Over and over. It is a cycle of emotional torture. It is that painful. So, please, just drop it."

He sighed but kept silent when she threw him a pleading look.

It was quite pathetic to watch them, really, and Regulus had gotten fed up. He hated Hermione's sadness and James' wounded puppy look. He could tell that the Marauders were beginning to get annoyed as well, Sirius especially. Their actions were driving them all mad. They were all impatient for them to get together or break up the more days had passed by. They wanted results but Remus had prohibited them from confronting the lovesick idiots, saying that it should be them that should fix their issues.

Three days went by. Then four. Then five. Until it went on a week. Before they knew it, it was close to a month.

"How is that mudblood friend of yours?" Severus Snape asked with a sneer marring his face.

Regulus gritted his teeth. Snape had been quite aggravating the last couple of weeks, especially when rumors had spread around Hogwarts that James and Hermione had broken up. He was as smug as Evans and had taken to taunting James whenever he could. Sirius seemed to be the one who reacted the most whilst James only reacted if Snape insulted Hermione; other than that, if it was about him, he would only ignore Snape and it was up to Sirius to defend his best mate.

"Hermione is not a mudblood," he spat. "And she is fine. I don't see how that's any of your business, Snape."

He crossed his legs in an effortlessly elegant manner and smirked at him. "Last time I heard, she and Potter are having some... problems."

"Again, how is that any of your business?"

He shrugged nonchalantly. "I don't see why everyone is making such a big deal about it. Hermione isn't beautiful. She isn't that bright. She's average at best. And yet, James is acting like it's the end of the world." He scoffed. "How pathetic."

Angered by his words, Regulus snapped, "Simply because James loves her, Snape. I would've thought that you would've understand considering that you were nearly the same with Lily, who is the mudblood between her and Hermione."

"Don't call her a mudblood!" He jumped up to his feet, seething like a rabid animal.

"Then stop judging Hermione," Regulus countered, snarling at him. Fucking hyprocrite. "They have enough drama as it is. They don't need to add you in it."

"Sentiments," he scoffed. "Ever since you befriended Potter's slut, you've become insufferable, Regulus."

His left eye twitched. His patience was running thin, to be honest. "You know, Snape, if you don't have anything smart to say, do us all a favour and shut your mouth."

He left before he could do anything stupid like hex him. He sighed. Hermione wouldn't have wanted that. She'd always been so righteous even when she was hurting.

One night, Sirius went to him after dinner and took him to the Hogwarts Kitchen. He was revolted when he found the sight of James Potter: he was surrounded with many empty bottles of Firewhiskey, drunk and reeking of alcohol. He was wailing as he hugged a half empty bottle to his chest, saying Hermione's name on repeat. Peter looked nervously at them whilst Remus looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but there.

"She alwaysh hash... the besh... ssssmilesssh," James slurred, hiccuping and emptying another bottle. "She'sh bloody perfect! She... She'sh cariiing, kind, and she'sh shooooo bloody goood! She'sh amaze-hiiiing! Hic! Nobody deshervessss her. Nobody! Not even meh." He laid on the floor and proceeded to sob, tears and snot mixing across his face.

It was disgusting as well as pitying.

"We asked Mary to fetch Hermione," Sirius leaned on to his ear to whisper. "They're supposed to arrive in any minute now."

"He's a wreck," Regulus commented. "This wasn't as bad as the last time."

Remus crossed his arms and stared hard at James. "He saw her with another guy a whilst ago."

Peter winced. "He assumed that she was moving on from him with someone new."

Regulus raised an eyebrow. "You mean James saw Hermione with Albert Goldstein? The Seventh Year Ravenclaw?"

Sirius' eyebrows furrowed. "You know him?"

Regulus nodded. "Only through Hermione. He has no interest in her whatsoever. Probably because everyone in this whole school sees how much miserable they are without each other." He regarded James in mild distaste. "Of course, even if he tried to make moves on her, she would be oblivious of it. She's still obviously in love with James even if she doesn't know it yet." He turned to Remus. "So, are you finally allowing my brother to interfere with all of this?"

Remus sighed. "I don't have a choice," he admitted, conveying with his expression that he wasn't fond of admitting that he was wrong. "Just as what you put it, James is a wreck. Only Hermione can bring him out of this."

"But she's not ready yet," Regulus informed them. "She doesn't know what to do. She's in pain as much as he is, Remus. I don't think that she's ready to choose yet. She doesn't even want to talk about it."

Remus' face was grim. "Then, we'll make her talk. They can't go on like this. I mean, look at the two of them. They're just hurting themselves even worse. It's either they're together or not. They can't go any longer without a decision. Hermione will have to choose because James is obviously incapable of it. Even if he isn't drunk, he will obviously still want Hermione to choose the decision for them." The werewolf sighed. "It's a good thing that we still have the Sober Up Potion from James' party. We never got to use them."

Regulus looked over at James, pity written across his face. He always thought long before that James was too hasty in falling in love with Hermione and that it would bound to bite him in the arse. No one fell in love as fast as that, not to a complete stranger that you haven't spoken to. He was suspicious of him from the start, thinking along with everybody else that he was using Hermione to gain Lily's attention and interest.

Apparently, he was wrong.

The young man was as broken and crushed as Hermione was.

A/N: Two updates in a row because I haven't updated for a long time and this is my apology to you. Sad to say, this story is nearly ending. The next chapter would be Hermione's and you will find out what her decision is in her chapter. I think there are only five or six more chapters before the end? I'm not sure but it's not more than ten.

Also, I think I want to change the title of this story as soon as it ends.

Reviews are welcomed!

~ NR xx