Summary: Regulus is playing a game with history. (French Revolution & its aftermath)
Rating: General Audience
Pairing: Regulus/George Gordon (Lord Byron), Byron/Napoleon? (no. not really)
Warnings: Mindfuck with chronology
Notes: Thanks to statelines for the beta. Prompt at the end of the fic. To be frank, I took my cues from pogrebin's Tomslash.
"...those who understand and love [Byron and Shelley] consider it fortunate that Byron died in his thirty-sixth year, for he would have become a reactionary bourgeois had he lived longer…" -Marx
i. Regulus’ head held up makes a sharp reflection in the looking glass. By standards he would not be fashionable—the style is still of flamboyance and frill and he cannot bear the color and the ruffle. He tucks his red pendant into his vest and smoothes the folds of his tie. His hands tremble as he stretches his arm to touch the glow of magic.
Paris then, like London now, would be humming in the cradle of a new summer. In his mind, he says: that world is changing, this world is changing. For the first time. For the second time. For the third time. He feels that pull beneath him and he is gone.
It will not be the last time.
ii. The Muggle world is crumbling yet again, a bright-eyed man in a cloak says from the deep recess of the tavern’s dark. Regulus nods and replies that he sees it too. It’s too hard to miss. Coming alive in Paris are the most primal of fears and most perilous of angers; among the mud of the roads are the mangled pages torn from pamphlets and cahiers; riddling the city are whispers that spell collapse, spell revolution like firesigns. Regulus grins in spite of himself and swells with the possibilities.
-But this time, it is much more sinister. He bites back the words: and forever.
The man looks at him through the smoke, mouth crooked, gaze incredulous.
Regulus gives him his best smile.
iii. Regulus catches glimpses of the man, a squat figure, in no sense handsome but fierce-eyed, a writer of flames. He is weaving through the throngs of hungry eyes, a book on his hand and Lafayette’s arrest warrant over his head. From the quiet corner of the square Regulus does not wonder why the likes of Brissot and Carlyle would waste useless prose to malign him as an opprobrium—or why Mlle. Fleury would take him under her roof.
He does not wonder why this man is Marat.
Regulus shoves a handful of sous into a paperboy and pockets a copy of Offrande à la Patrie.
iv. There’s a craze pulsing in the streets and he does not wonder why things happened the way they happened.
i. His beauty is not torrential but definite. It is the entirety with which he carries himself that says I have seen, I have done. He is the ode to youth. He is the ode to revolution. Regulus takes George’s hands and caresses the fingers.
-How beautiful you are in the privilege of minds.
-And you are the figments of my dreams. Have I gone mad?
-Yes, this is madness. Regulus has time on his side. George is smiling.
-So this is the bliss of lunacy.
-Lunacy and genius.
The soft sound of laughter is absorbed into the heat of their mouths. Regulus presses his lips between the fold at the neck and whispers spells that soak into George’s skin.
Regulus can sense what he will say before he says it.
-I know you are not from this place.
Regulus can sense what he means to say.
-I know you are not from this time.
ii. Byron's work desk is strewn with words woven into the grand tapestry that will bear him high into the tongues of legend. Regulus does not show him the Don Juan—published March, 1824—he’d nicked from Sirius’ locked drawer; he fetches from his pocket Offrande and neatly rests it on the wood of the desk.
i. regulus claims not to prescience, but he knows hindsight is the best seer.
ii. -You’re playing with fire. It is Sirius—a casual mess—at his door with a hand on the jamb. His eyes are dark. -Whatever you’re messing with, this kind of magic destroys people. You’re playing games with history.
Nothing is pleasant, but Regulus calmly looks at him. -Au contraire dear brother, whatever happened has already happened. He says gently, absently, turning the bend of his tie in the looking glass—he knows where he’s going, what he ought to look like, what he cannot have.
-Besides, so are you, Sirius. Don’t think I don’t I know of your recent acquaintances.
-They are not your business, Sirius hisses.
-Blacks do not mingle with Muggles. Blacks are not revolutionaries, not socialists.
-In case you haven’t noticed, father has done everything but renounce me as his son. I’m not a god-damned Black.
-Sirius, you will be Lord once father dies. And even if father doesn’t care about it, a seat in the House will be yours.
It makes Regulus laugh inside that this is what gets to his brother. Sirius narrows his eyes as his throat stiffens. His anger is beautiful. Regulus catches a name on the spine of a well-worn book and so he adds, to twist the knife, -Crede Byron.
In the mirror he can see how threatening Sirius’ eyes are, how his mouth twists, how the heels of his boots make a clink-clink against the floor and how hard his weight comes down against the wall, wand drawn, hands around Regulus’ neck. He cannot breathe. Sirius hisses: Do. Not. Mock. Me.
iii. the cousins have come, because his mother is fond of parties.
their house is draped in regal green—velvet, silk, linen, persian textures and floating candles—the girls are wearing ruffles with lace, their eyebrows plucked and lined, mouths delicate and smooth. regulus bows and kisses their hands. sirius storms out of the house with his belongings after a snide comment from bellatrix and does not come back for the night. regulus stares at the copy of don juan on his own desk. he knows sirius is not coming back.
i. -I do not think I believe you, my friend.
Regulus arches his brows. George’s lips twist wickedly from the curves of his glass. -Really, do you not?
-No. George drawls on his syllables. -Such things are not possible.
Regulus smiles. For all the talk this man is still so very predictable. -Lord Byron, you of all people to say “not possible.”
George is taken aback. -Ah, but this world does not grant possibilities.
-It does if a will is there. Magic brings so many things alive.
The idea has already germinated and it needs not even root or stem. Byron stands up from the rich fabric of his divan and Regulus can feel his presence grow precariously, years later they will chant his name, how docile he is. How dangerous he is.
-I gave you that pamphlet. I’ve seen him. L'ami du peuple. Regulus replies but says silently: the tongue of the beast.
But George names him the Martyr when he mutters, as soft as a prayer—the name a slither, a lead-weight meaning.
-And this is how you come to me.
-Yes. Lord Byron, the Napoleon of rhymes.
i. when his finger touches the magic, he is pulled everywhere at once. all his surroundings warp and he is the only timeless.
ii. He’s seen it, the guillotine. The thing is the mouth of madness. The mouth of the fiend. It pulls him in because it is hideously beautiful.
iii. the king wears the tricolor of the bastille banner. regulus finds the irony exquisite.
they strip him of his neckwear and bind his hands together. they call him a citizen. regulus fingers the words on the newspaper he’d bought from the square. they allow the king a last speech.
for a moment, all is silent.
but when the blade comes down they are all absurd all at once.
regulus’ hold on his wand tightens. the folds of his cloak clench around his shoulder. the people rush up to the platform, their hands swaying like tentacles of a single fiend, their eyes dull and wild, their mouths open to the madness. their yells are filled with the life of the words spoken beforehand and they are not human, regulus thinks, they are monsters. they dip their fingers in the blood of the king because it is still pulsing. it is still sacred.
he remembers an article he’d read—someone else’s words: I finally believe in the republic.
iv. sunlight filters through them, their hair, their eyes, their throats like glass. regulus has to squint to shield his eyes against it. they are swathed in the red-eyed buzz of a divine lust—too obscene, too sacred to bear a name. into mortal tongue it translates to revolution.
i. His mother catches him in the bathroom one night, clutching at the pulse in his temples and bleeding from the nose. His mind is spinning from the aftershock of magic and he is not sure where he is. On the floor the rug is smeared and pawed with prints of crimson blood—from the nosebleed? —am I wounded? By instinct he touches his sides but the instant he moves his hands he is falling onto the floor.
She narrows her eyes but says nothing.
ii. Sirius writes to him once, but the letter says nothing. Regulus spends the summer tracing Byron’s trip to Italy; he can only construct what happened in Smyrna and by the ruins of Troy.
i. Napoleon has fallen. The concert has begun. Here’s where the drumbeats start, Regulus says to himself. Now is the countdown.
ii. -You have come. There is a smile, but smiles are perilous.
-As I promised. I am a man of words.
-But I am not, it seems.
Regulus pulls out the chain that sparkles from curve of George’s neck. -Ah, the cornelian. His fingers creep up to touch his own pendant through the fabric of his shirt; he thinks: I have seen you die. But he whispers poetry into flesh, his hand unbuttons the jacket slowly. -No specious splendor of this stone endears it to my memory ever. A flame lives in the blood of that language.
George twists away and hides the gem into his breast. -Do you mock me?
Regulus catches Byron’s arms and pins them against the wall. -I do not. A flame lives in the blood of that stone. -I do not, I swear to you.
iii. –Napoleon has fallen. I hold no disillusion; France has failed, but the rest of Europe doesn’t have to.
-Failed in what?
-Failed in the revolution.
Regulus bites his lip again, and doesn’t ask if revolution was ever the goal.
iv. The lamp is flickering when Regulus steps inside; it casts a mystery around the man’s face as he broods into some distance. The fireplace is a counter-shade that brings flame-tongues delicately close to grace the lines of his brow.
-I have something to ask of you.
-I know what you want.
-I want to see him when he was young, in Corsica, before it all. I know you can show him to me.
Regulus smiles and leans close beside him, eyes low, breath by the ear, fingers splayed in folds of hair—whispering into the scent of cologne and the crackling fire: I can’t. This is not a place you’re meant to go. And then he Apparates. He is dissipating into memory.
i. Regulus sees him for the second time on his deathbed in Missolonghi. George recognizes him and calls him by name. -You have come again. He says that Europe believes in him. He says he still believes in the blood of youth. Regulus wants to kneel by the edge and say the rebel is an extinct beast. He wants to say that Europe will twist into the same monster because it believes in him too much. He wants to touch the sick sheen on Byron’s face. Instead, he says, all too coldly: I can end this quickly, if that is what you want.
-No. I want to feel the bite of the fiend.
Regulus says nothing; he thinks: you are the fang of the fiend. But you have no venom.
ii. Byron consigns it to him—to bear into the future. When he lifts his hand, the magic around him hums. It is time, he whispers and hears the echoes of those words. Hanging on his neck is a small red rock.
notes: Byron's letter to Mrs. Pigot, Oct. 28, 1811 (regarding the cornelian, a stone given to him by John Edleston;)
The Cornelian by Byron, the first line of which I shamelessly borrowed
Article from marxist.org that casts Byron in a light different than the idealized rebel-without-a-cause. (From which I got the title of the "bourgeois" sitting-room revolutionary.)
prompt: 3 required request/restrictions: French Revolution, Regulus (but don't kill him!) and the rest of the Blacks.
1 optional request/restrictions: Remus/Sirius