With that, Regulus shut the notebook for now; not that he was concerned of any non-magical people discovering its contents- He’d already charmed it so that all any Muggle would see was blank page after blank page, and he doubted something as mundane as an empty notebook would hold their attention spans for all that long.
Fully aware he’d run out of things to do, the young man sighed and glanced around the park- it was getting close to sundown and he was currently the only one present save for a handful of tourists and hyperactive children being led around by their babysitters. Not exactly his first choice of company.
Nothing to do but think now.
Exposed to it for only a week and already he was at wit’s end with the ludicrousness of the Muggle world- Regulus already knew from his traversing of Charing Cross that Muggles enjoyed watching moving pictures (much like wizarding pictures, but with sound) on heavy-looking boxes they called television. Regulus had attempted to sit through a few programs, but none of them held his interest- Were all Muggles fascinated by such vapid things as secret agent sitcoms and the everyday misunderstandings of older married couples?!
The one thing about television that mesmerized Regulus, however, was the bloody commercials- It seems Muggles had advertisements for just about everything: Sweets, toys, household appliances, movies (as he’d learned; picture stories that could be watched on television or larger screens in what apparently were called cinemas), etcetera. Although Regulus had no intent in buying any product the advertisements showcased; he had to admit that the Muggles who produced the things were damningly clever: They toyed with your emotions, enticing you to want something, even something you would logically have no interest in buying at all.
That being said, based on the sheer amount of commercials he’d seen between breaks on TV shows, Regulus had already come to the conclusion that Muggles were predictably rapacious (somewhat more so than most of the Purebloods, anyway); and resolved that should be find himself wanting to buy one of their products, he should at least analyze if he really needed it beforehand.
In addition to television and cars, Regulus was steadily developing a grasp on Muggle technology in general, (electricity, etcetera) which meant he’d be able to blend into their world all the more easily as he continued his hunt for a job.
Although he could just as easily forge some university credentials through magical means, Regulus had no interest in doing that. After a self-imposed transition period while he was recovering at Charing Cross, he had vowed to never do magic again; even if there was an opportunity to do so safely.
Just another one of the innumerable requirements of his adaption to life in the Muggle world- becoming a Muggle meant exactly that: Not only would he have to live like one until his dying day, Regulus had also decided that it would be best if he never did magic again till his dying day- Although he still had his wand (in the pocket of faded jeans he’d picked out randomly at some charity shop); Regulus knew this would function (along with the notebook) merely as a keepsake only.
He would just have to live this life from the beginning onward. And it was going to start with him getting a job, and at least a semi permanent roof over his head (London, Regulus had found, offered little safe haven for squatters- at least, that he could tell.). And he would start that by leaving London.
London, Regulus found, was too close. Too close to the family on #12 Grimmauld Place he could never return to, and too close to the Wizarding world in general. He would have to settle for someplace smaller, and definitely quieter.
With this in mind, Regulus left the park as sun set; avidly making plans for a future he hoped would not be long in coming.
Autumn came and went. Regulus observed it as he walked past the parks every day; the leaves turning from a soft, lime-colored green to more colorful hues of bright yellow, burnt orange, and violent crimson; all of them eventually withering off the branches to litter the ancient streets. By this time, he’d spent the remainder of the fall working various odd jobs; anything that would pay.
He inevitably became known as a regular in the shabbiest hotels the East End had to offer, staying as long as possible before the managers would inevitably get suspicious of his long stays; forcing him to head elsewhere. Nonetheless, this was Regulus’s routine for the time being; and he was becoming comfortable with it. No need to change it until he had enough money to do so.
Eventually, Bonfire Night passed with little event, and Regulus was astonished at how quickly Christmas seemed to have come that year. Regulus spent that Christmas wandering the streets alone- He currently had no miscellaneous tasks or trivial jobs to occupy him at the moment, as it was Christmas.
Regulus spent the whole evening with his thoughts and thoughts alone. Hurrying pedestrians saw only a strange, too-pale young man with wavy, dark hair in rubber boots, flared jeans, and a heavy wool jacket, smoking a cigarette.
Eventually, he left the brainless crowds behind him and continued further down the snow-covered street, all but gone already save for the unmistakable aroma of tobacco the lingered in the winter air.
By mid-February of 1980, Regulus finally had enough money saved to buy a house in a quaint-sounding little hamlet an hour out of London called (peculiarly enough) Burnhope. After weeks of scouring local papers; he’d found a want ad based in Burnhope that had looked promising enough: A job had opened up at a small, local bar/restaurant called the Dive. Regulus found that hilarious in itself- The place had no poetic superfluous names attached to it; it advertised itself as exactly what it was: A subpar establishment.
But maybe he could change that for the better. It was a possibility. As the advertisement had said: ‘Current barman retiring, position now open. Minimum skill required; but must have decent skills with managing alcohol, and conversational abilities. Steady pay, ask for Derrick Smith. (owner/manager)
Steady pay. Those two words alone were something Regulus could not say no to, and he was relieved to finally leave London behind after the past few weeks of planning. It was time to hit the road.
Regulus managed to hitchhike out of London in the seventy-three minutes required to get to Burnhope. He arrived at the meager, unreasonably cramped house he’d have to get used to calling home (Regulus could understand why the previous owner had been so eager to sell; but he was lucky enough to have even this much.), put away the few belongings he’d acquired in London, had dinner, and crossed town to the Dive at approximately seven pm.
The building looked exactly as it had in the advertisements- A shabby, two-story building made entirely of brick. Two of its windows were covered over with nailed planks; and all manner of weeds were steadily growing on the grass outside the door.
Entering, Regulus saw the interior was much better: A fairly well-lit, (but painfully small) room, where a few dinner patrons lingered at the tables or around the bar counter, immersed in low-key conversations while sipping drink or finishing last bites of fish and crisps.
Curious to see if the Dive’s drinks were as cheap as the rest of it, Regulus saw no harm in ordering a drink or two before his interview with Mr. Smith- Certainly not enough to get him intoxicated, anyway.
Sitting down on one of the padded leather bar stools, Regulus ordered a glass of red wine; quickly adding he didn’t care about the vintage. The barman (whom Regulus would or would not be replacing depending on how well his job interview went.) went to prepare his drink; which took a good ten minutes longer than it should have. Regulus used this surprising amount of time to lose himself in bittersweet memories of him and his brother Sirius- It seemed as though straight from childhood they’d always been contrasted against each other by their parents. Why?
If Regulus was the good son, the presentable son of the family branch; then Sirius was undoubtedly the family embarrassment- He actually seemed EXCITED at the prospect of attending school with half-breed piles of slime like halfblood and muggleborns; even going so far as to give eye contact to any Muggles he met. Regulus was indoctrinated from an early age into believing such behavior was profane and disgraceful; and that if he mirrored Sirius’s actions then he would also be a mortifying stain against the distinguished, respectable house of Black.
The woman sitting a few seats away from him at the Dive challenged all of that, though. Regulus was hard-pressed to say he’d seen a person quite like her anywhere; magical or not. She smirked at him (though not in a way that suggested overt mean-spiritedness), or, smirked as best she could with the charred vestiges of a cigarette dangling between her pinkish lips. Her hair was strawberry blonde and hung limply down her shoulders before it abruptly stopped; the bottom section of it looking as though it’d been awkwardly chopped at with cutlery knives.
The smug-looking woman wore a pale blue button-down shirt; which was surprisingly low cut and appeared to have been crudely hacked at (Much like her hair) to reveal much more cleavage than it likely had originally. She wore a dirty black (or was that dark gray…??) motorcyclist’s jacket over the shirt, tight, acid-washed jeans covered her hips and legs.
She did not seem to notice as Regulus took the stool to her left, though, and continued drumming her ragged, dirt-caked nails against the glossy surface of the counter; singing along with the radio:
“Come take my hand, you should know me; I’ve always been in your mind. You know I will be kind…. I’ll be guiding you. Building your dream has to start now! There’s no other road to take, won’t make a mistake, I’ll be guiding you….. You have to believe we are magic; nothin’ can stand in our way, you have to believe we are magic, don’t let your aim ever stray…. And if all your hopes survive, your destiny will arrive; I’ll bring all your dreams alive….. For you.”
The woman’s voice was low, hard and husky; yet there was a certain rustic beauty to the way she sang the song- and just as Regulus been enjoying the music, the tune abruptly switched as the barman changed the radio station. Olivia Newton-John’s seductive crooning was replaced by the wistful, anguish-packed (but very skillful) voices of The Police:
….There’s a king on a throne with his eyes torn out, there’s a blind man looking for a shadow of doubt. There’s a rich man sleeping on a golden bed; a skeleton choking on a crust of bread…..
She let out an exasperated sigh.
“Are you shittin’ me? Put the Olivia Newton-John back on!”
The barman scowled but reluctantly turned the station back.
“Hey, bright-eyes…. Who do you like? Newton-John or the Police? Both?”
The way the Muggle woman addressed Regulus had a note of condescension to it; but she was smiling, and the smile seemed kind enough.
He tried to smile.
“I figured as much- that’s just bitchin’.”
“No, no, no, the pleasure’s mine! Sit next to me? It gets kinda boring; just me here, you know, all by my lonesome.”
She laughed a bit and patted the seat to her left. Reluctantly, Regulus got up and sat down next to her- By this point his wine had come, so he claimed it and paid the money.
“Now, the name’s Lorraine. Lorraine Rifkind. It's never Lorri.”
“I’m Reginald, Reginald Ballard.”
“Ever go by Reggie?”
Regulus winced inwardly.
Come on, Reg! Let’s play! I know I can slide down the banister faster than you can without Kreacher noticing…..
“No. No thank you. Reginald is fine.”
Lorraine cocked her head marginally, looking concerned.
Regulus shut his eyes tightly for a brief interval, embarrassed at how he must have looked while he was thinking about Sirius moments previous.
“Oh, no. It’s just that…. A friend of mine used to call me Reggie. We don’t see each other anymore though.”
“No, you couldn’t have known.”
Regulus accepted Lorraine’s apology; and the two spent the next thirteen minutes- Lorraine did most of the talking for them, and Regulus was very grateful for that. He heard all about Lorraine’s childhood and adolescence in Muggle America: She was a native of West Virginia and had been born to two parents who were Jewish but never visited synagogues. She was the youngest of four children, three of whom were girls. Because Lorraine’s parents became hippies (Whatever that meant) in the 1960s, it meant that as a young girl, she was regularly dragged off to state fairs and antiwar protests and counterculture music festivals, and in 1969; Woodstock.
To Regulus; all of this sounded surprisingly intriguing, so he could not understand why Lorraine talked of these events with such obvious, derisive loathing. Nonetheless, he (relatively) politely continued to listen to her story until they got to Lorraine’s high school graduation in 1976; when, the following autumn, she’d moved to England to attend college and pursue a career in physics.
When Lorraine’s story finally concluded, she looked Regulus in the eye, with an air of curious playfulness and asked him:
“So, Reginald….. what brings you here?”
“I wanted to work here as a barman.”
Lorraine looked slightly embarrassed at this revelation.
“I’m sorry, I had no idea- You should have told me either.”
“It’s no problem, your stories were entertaining. Thank you.”
“Again, my pleasure.”
Regulus limply waved and offered her a feeble smile before shuffling off for his job interview
Twenty minutes later; Regulus left Derrick Smith's office (Actually his quarters above the bar) with mixed feelings. The current barman, Oscar Oakby, would in fact, NOT be retiring for three more months (there had been a slight misprint in the newspaper ad); but until then, Regulus would work as a barback (or, barman’s assistant); a position he readily accepted.
As he walked down the rickety wooden stairs that led from the restaurant into the apartment above, Regulus found himself lingering on the staircase threshold as he noticed Lorraine, finishing the last sips of a beer as she chatted away with Oakby.
Regulus passed her as he made his way out of the bar, and Lorraine turned to face him, looking dizzy and simultaneously euphoric; the telltale expression of any drunk.
“‘Ey, Reggie…. Ahope you got th’job…”
She slurred, before dumping a fistful of change on the counter and staggering out. Regulus sniffed in distaste and eventually exited in her wake. He had a feeling that would not be the last he’d be seeing of the American Lorraine Rifkind. This offhand prediction would prove correct.