And the most painful thing, really, was how ironic this whole business was: Regulus was now approaching nineteen. Were he still living at Grimmauld Place, his mother would already have been prodding him to find a prospective wife from an equally-wealthy Pureblood family so they could have at least a handful of healthy male heirs.
And yet here Regulus was now, spending his days employed in a trashy Muggle bar, cleaning the tables and stocking the drinks.
Oh, if only Mum could see me now!.
On the other hand; Lorraine was practically a fixture at the Dive on weekends. Sometimes she would show up with a few university friends in tow, and they would laugh, and tease each other and exchange stories Regulus could not be bothered to remember.
But when he was with Lorraine alone, Regulus found he did not mind her company. Beneath her edgy, proud exterior her attitude was carefree (if rather eccentric), and pleasant enough.
Towards the end of May, Oakby indeed retired; giving Regulus full reign of the bar. By now he’d had enough preparation for his current position, and although it would be lonely, he supposed he could handle working alone now, the patrons were certainly company enough.
One night in early June, five minutes before closing time; Regulus sighed and inched towards the liquor cabinet as the little brass bell over the door clanged, signifying an entering customer. He really did hate it when people came in shortly before the bar closed; it all accumulated as one more task he’d have to take care of before trudging home for the night.
Regulus was not particularly surprised, unfortunately, to see that it was Lorraine who walked into the Dive that night, minus her familiar leather jacket. Their relationship had progressed from acquaintances to the point where it could be called an awkward but affectionate friendship at best, though presently Regulus was in no mood to deal with last-minute customers whatsoever.
“What’ll it be tonight, Miss Rifkind?”
Try as he might, Regulus was terrible at hiding the current exasperation in his voice, and Lorraine seemed to recognize this. With a slight swagger in her walk, she approached the bar and sat down.
“You don’t need to call me Miss, you know. But not if you don’t want to, Reggie.”
Regulus returned her sly grin.
“Whatever you say, Lorri.”
Lorraine looked mildly irritated, but soon recovered and adopted a look of playful belligerence.
“Are you English boys always this formal?”
Regulus hesitated- He certainly couldn’t speak for that much of England’s male Muggle population, but to hell with it.
“Yes, as a matter of fact we are. Are you Americans always so…. Brash and stubborn?”
“Isn’t that refreshing?”
Lorraine only scoffed at this.
“In America, we do things differently.”
“I beg to differ, I’m sure there’s not that much of a difference.”
“Revolutionary War sound familiar?”
Regulus faltered on this one- really, who could keep track of Muggles and their countless wars and conflicts?
Their brief verbal battle having come to an awkward conclusion, Lorraine looked satisfied.
“You’re not all that bad to hang around with, Reginald- No, I mean it. You’re a pretty nice guy to work in a dump like this. And oh yeah- I’d like a half pint of Champagne; don’t care about the vintage.”
“I’m not sure if I should take that as a compliment or not…..”
Regulus called over his shoulder as he checked the cabinet for champagne, which they thankfully had. He measured out half a pint for Lorraine and poured it into a glass, which she greedily drained.
“Modest, aren’t you?”
Regulus shrugged, undecided.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call myself that. I was always a little more introverted than my brother; he was always the outgoing one of our family.”
“You keep in touch with your family a lot?”
Regulus already had his cover story ready.
“Can’t. They’re dead. And don’t be sorry; it’s nothing you could have helped.”
Lorraine, although saying nothing, accepted this. So her friend of the past three months’ family was dead. There was nothing unusual about that; she’d certainly known other people with deceased siblings or parents. So she only nodded, accepting this as fact.
“Thanks for the drink.”
“You’re very welcome.”
Regulus swiftly put away Lorraine’s cash as she paid him, and continued his earlier process of closing down for the night as the young woman sauntered out, smiling a bit as she did.
Regulus found himself saying.
“Yeah, same to you. Goodnight!”
And with that, she was gone.
Despite her many obvious quirks; Regulus was beginning to like that girl after all.
June advanced and summer arrived; bringing with it sweltering days and humid nights. If the weather forecasts were to be believed; the summer of 1980 was one of the hottest the village of Burnhope had seen since 1955.
The Dive began closing after dinner starting in the middle of the month- this meant shorter hours for Regulus, and more boredom during the rest of the day. For Lorraine and her questionable group of friends, it meant the end of their final year of university, and thus more time on the town for them to attend parties- it was around this time Regulus noticed that Lorraine was suddenly a rare visitor to the Dive now that summer began, though he was well aware this was none of his business.
For the most part, Regulus had no interest associating with any of Lorraine’s companions anyway; but as fate would have it (as well as the fact that Burnhope had a miserably small population even by village standards), he and Lorraine publicly encountered each other more often than either had been expecting.
It all began one day at the end of June; shortly after Lorraine and her companions had finished their schooling. Regulus had been walking home from work that evening when, on the other side of the street he noticed Lorraine; looking mildly startled, as there was surprisingly no one else on the street.
Lorraine was casually dressed; her wavy hair even more unkempt than usual. Overall, she looked pleasantly frazzled.
She greeted Regulus, approaching him.
“I know, I know, you haven’t seen me- but life happens, doesn’t it? I’ll be moving sometime next year; the only reason I came to Burnhope at all was for school- I was thinking of getting a house in Leeds.”
Regulus just nodded mutely as though he were interested- He listened out of politeness, although he could not say he knew nor cared what was in Leeds, as he’d never been there.
“That’s a nice tattoo. I never knew you had one until now.”
Lorraine was pointing at the red, dormant, but still visible Dark Mark on Regulus’s wrist. The young man felt his cheeks growing hot rapidly- How could he have forgotten about something so damnably simple?!
In winter months, simple long sleeves had been enough to conceal the Mark- which most of the time had the appearance of a fading red tattoo- but now that the weather was getting hotter and hotter; Regulus had just not been thinking when he got up that morning and pulled on a short-sleeved shirt.
“Er, thank you; though I’ve been looking to get it removed.”
This last sentence was the truth, though as he spoke Regulus made a quick mental note to find some other way to cover up the Mark when it was simply too hot to go around in long sleeves.
“You get out much?”
Lorraine said after a somewhat lengthy silence; clearly attempting to revive the conversation after the awkward pause that had ensued. Regulus, too, was grateful for the change in subject and answered:
“No, I can’t say I do. Why?”
“I was thinking; maybe if we were both free at the same time we could get together, maybe, talk a bit.”
Regulus’s mouth hung open.
“You mean, like a date?”
Lorraine instantly regretted her gaffe and blushed a bit, looking embarrassed for having not been more specific.
“God, no. I’m perfectly happy being single.”
She fished around in her pockets for a moment before fishing out a partially-crushed cigarette, lighting it, and taking a drag.
“Want a smoke?”
“No, thank you.”
Admittedly, Regulus had become partial to cigarettes; but he was getting the feeling that there were better times to light up than now.
“I’ll see you around, then.”
Lorraine’s lips curved up into a smile, and she raised one hand in a casual wave; walking peacefully off and disappearing onto a street corner. Her offer, though, was still fresh in Regulus’s mind.
She had offhandedly suggested that they spend more time together, get to know each other better as friends. A perfectly harmless proposal, really. Lorraine had made no implications that there would be anything romantic about these meetings- indeed, Regulus was content to be single as well; for the time being- so he would consider this.
There was a chance that spending more time with Lorraine could teach him more about the Muggle world in general (as Regulus was admittedly curious to learn more about it; everything from important facts to miscellaneous information). In the end, Regulus headed home with a resolve to accept Lorraine’s offer- He could use a friend about now.
The next weekend; (Regulus had Fridays off in the summer, it turned out; Smith insisted the Dive stay closed that one day of the week) Lorraine and Regulus sat together on a dampened, grassy hillside, their designated point of liaison. It was another suffocating and humid day; and the light afternoon rain had done little to alleviate this: The humidity had left an invisible but sticky sensation that clung to their skin and clothes like invisible grease.
They were both dressed lightly and fairly casually: Lorraine in a light yellow blouse with a white floral pattern, and a black skirt; with Regulus in short brown trousers and a red t-shirt. This time, his Dark Mark was covered beneath a handful of colored cloth bands, and Lorraine was polite enough not to ask why. All in all; they looked like two perfectly ordinary young people conversing on a summer’s day, and as far as any rare passerby knew, they were.
Lorraine sat several feet away from Regulus, fanning at herself with a discarded magazine, hair flyaway and clinging to her shoulders in dampened waves.
“So, what’s it like, in America?”
Lorraine looked up slightly.
“Come on. Is it really all that bad?”
“Not all the time- I like to identify myself as American, but that doesn’t mean I accept everything that goes on there. There was Nam a few years back; and my parents got a lot of crap from the other people in our neighborhood because they were really, really antiwar. Everyone my age and older is getting stoned out of their minds,”
Here Lorraine just shook her head, amused.
“And in Russia the commies hate us- that’s why they’re boycotting the Olympics this year.”
Regulus was vaguely aware that the Olympics were some sort of Muggle sporting event- similar to the long-ago Triwizward tournaments if anything he’d heard had been correct.
“But I have British citizenship, and it’s great to be here.”
Having finished her speech, Lorraine slumped back on the grass, brushing a few reddish-blonde locks away from her face and eyes.
“Can you tell me more about America? Some positive things,”
Regulus quickly added as he saw Lorraine’s sour look.
Eventually, after just over ten minutes of Lorraine’s more positive accounts of the United States, she asked Regulus:
“You want to tell me about your childhood?”
Regulus saw no harm in doing this; so long as certain names and locales were excluded and certain portions altered to seem more plausible.
“I grew up on a farm; it literally was in the middle of nowhere so I never had much exposure to technology. My brother and I used to be best friends when we were children, but he ran off when he was young man; I don’t know if he’s still even alive. I didn’t even see much of the world myself until I temporarily moved to London. Then I started looking for a job in Burnhope, and, well, here I am.”
Thankfully, Lorraine seemed to believe this story, except for one detail:
“You’re very pale for someone who apparently grew up on a farm. Not much muscle, either.”
“My family had farmhands who did most of the work for us; you see, my parents spoiled my brother and I.”
“And now you’re out in the world, all by your lonesome.”
“I wouldn’t say that, Lorraine. You’re a decent friend.”
She teased, and for some reason they both laughed at this.
Some half an hour later, they went their separate ways before afternoon could progress into evening. Though Regulus was satisfied with how his afternoon with Lorraine had gone; and this thought was fresh in his mind as he headed for home.
Regulus and Lorraine continued to stay in contact through June’s end, and they were getting along on increasingly friendly terms. In a way, he was even beginning to feel a certain affection for her, and so Lorraine’s awkward suggestion of a first date in mid-July could not have been better timed.
After some negotiation, they settled on seeing a film at the local cinema. Admittedly, Regulus had been curious. He had never actually been inside a cinema before, and thought it would be an interesting experience to see what the Muggles called a movie.
On the evening of Saturday, nineteenth; the awkward new couple entered the darkened theater in which they would watch the movies; dozens of people crammed together into the shadowed, surprisingly cool room.
Apart from the noise of the previews, the environment was silent except for the sporadic crunching of Lorraine devouring her buttered popcorn. Sitting a few rows from the screen, Regulus thought they had excellent seats, until the previews ended and an unreasonably tall man sat in front of them; obstructing their view.
As soon as the last lights dimmed and the film started, however, Regulus found that, although disappointingly tedious for the most part; it indeed had some parts he deemed entertaining. And while the film itself was a pleasant diversion, Regulus discovered that he was truly enjoying the feeling of sitting there for an hour, in the dark, sitting beside his date and whispering romantic things to her, laughing together, until the people in front asked them to be quiet.
When the film was over and Regulus and Lorraine exited the theater, they did not kiss. But Regulus had not been expecting or anticipating that, and he felt, going home for the night; that perhaps the time he’d spent with Lorraine in the darkened cinema was the start of something. Indeed, it was the start of something good.