You are viewing a story from

Regulus - Black As He's Painted? by sauerkraut_poet

Format: Short story
Chapters: 14
Word Count: 15,971

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Violence, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Mystery, Action/Adventure, Angst
Characters: Snape, Sirius, Regulus, Voldemort, OtherCanon

First Published: 08/20/2005
Last Chapter: 12/16/2005
Last Updated: 11/02/2007


Innocent Singing Sensation? No. However, I believe I am not alone in thinking there may be more to Regulus than first meets the eye. This story comprises his life before, during, and after Hogwarts, explaining why he hated his brother, became a Death Eater, and eventually turned against the Dark Lord. New banner by me (12/13/07).

Chapter 1: Primogeniture - An Unfortunate Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N (11/1/07): This is my first fanfic ever, and was written before the release of both the Black Family Tree drawing and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Many details concerning the names and ages of the Black family members are therefore not canon, and the plot is obviously not canon either.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

1. Primogeniture - An Unfortunate Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black

Primogeniture. If there was one word, one concept I could erase from the English language, that would be it. Of course, I shouldn't hate the term entirely - my family would not have our house or most of our other possessions if Father hadn't been the oldest son of the oldest son of the oldest son, etc. of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. The fact remains, however, that I, Regulus, am NOT the oldest son, and therefore will not inherit any of the fortune or heirlooms of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, unless by some lucky chance my older brother Sirius dies prematurely.

I suppose that hatred of one's older brother is a somewhat annoying side effect of the practice of primogeniture. I don't think that Uncle Orion has ever stopped hoping that Father will drop dead suddenly, and that, Sirius and I being underage, he will somehow manage to get his hands on at least part of the family fortune. Not that this will do much good in the long run, as he has three daughters - Sirius would get it eventually.

Somehow, I think I would still hate Sirius, even if the concept of primogeniture had never existed. Even if that hatred was a bit smaller, it would at least be pure, untarnished hatred - hatred uncorrupted by my own feelings of guilt caused by hating for selfish reasons such as the possession of riches. Though, why should I not wish for riches? Why should I, Regulus, of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, have to work like a common Mudblood for the comforts of life? But such is the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. A law which, like the other laws governing conduct within the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, I, at least, acquiesce to with deepest respect and reverence, much unlike my brother, who, with regard to practically every law EXCEPT that of primogeniture, does not acquiesce at all.

Ever since I was born, seemingly, Sirius has taken sadistic delight in subjecting me to each and every one of the millions of pranks to cross his disturbingly vast imagination. While I found these experiences utterly humiliating and demoralizing, Father, along with a good percentage of visitors to our house, seemed to think that Sirius' actions commended praise for being "oh such a sweet, funny, adorable, charming little boy. And what a sense of humor!' Usually these remarks were accompanied by the comment "It's a pity Regulus can't smile like that - if he keeps that frown much longer it'll spoil his good looks!" At this Father would usually emit a nervous laugh of very insubstantial duration, and glare daggers in my direction. Even the age of three is most certainly not too young to think of marriage in old and respectable wizarding families such as the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black - most parents are already scouting out matches for their children.

While arranged marriages are technically illegal according to the Ministry of Magic as of 1927, they are certainly not illegal according to the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. In fact, they are "highly encouraged." And there is absolutely no question within the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black about which law should be followed, if the two conflict. As the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black does not require a marriage contract signed between fathers of the betrothed during early childhood, however, members of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, like those of other old and respectable wizarding families abiding by similar Laws, choose to respect the Ministry of Magic by exercising only "verbal speculation among concerned parties" with regard to their children's futures.

The one thing that renders Father's distaste at my apparent sullenness bearable is that Sirius earns a much higher number of reprimands with regard to making a good impression on the little ladies, mostly from Mother. Every girl sent to our house for the purpose of making his acquaintance has gone home covered in stinksap, with hair full of flobberworms, or something of the like. Mother has always had a soft spot for me, while Father generally favors Sirius. If only Father were to get a true glimpse of daily life in the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, he might formulate a different opinion. As it is, he goes to work - an extremely well-paying job which requires extremely little effort, no less than what a true member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black deserves - and comes home, where he tolerates the presence of his older son, and glares at the younger.

It is Mother, not Father, who is daily subjected to the viewing of Sirius' loathsome pranks, the very pranks which in recent days have caused so much material catastrophe that one of our house-elves had to be replaced. Disgusting little creatures. At least they know their place. Which my brother does not. And which I, most unfortunately, do.

Chapter 2: The Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

2. The Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin

Finally, after subjecting me to nine long and torturous years of his presence, Sirius, by Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, departed for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Much to our parents' dismay and my delight, he was Sorted into the Most Blasphemous and Inferior House of Gryffindor. Spending one's time at Hogwarts as a member of the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin seemed to be an Unofficial Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Most likely no member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black had ever expressed behavior so abominable as that of my brother, therefore rendering such a law unnecessary.

I enjoyed two blissful years at home, in which Father went to work, I studied spellbooks, and Mother sat in her throne and assured the house-elves of their proper place in the family, often rather violently. Occasionally she would stop this activity long enough to compliment me on my habits, or to write Sirius Howlers which most certainly did not compliment his habits. For both of these actions I dutifully expressed my sincere gratitude, especially when the aforementioned actions took place in Father's presence. Father occasionally listened appreciatively but usually fell asleep. He did not, however, make any disagreements with Mother's observations, or speak of Sirius in anything but a negative light. Not that he spoke of me in anything but a negative light either, but at least it was an improvement.

These two blissful years soon passed, and I, too, received my Letter of Acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Tensions between my parents ran high in the month before my departure. Father speculated that someone of such "unfortunate character" as myself could only find a place in the Most Blasphemous and Inferior House of Gryffindor, or, even worse, the Horrible, Hideous, and Most Completely and Terribly Worthless House of Hufflepuff, while Mother staunchly insisted that I could end up nowhere but the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin alongside each and every other member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.

Sirius, who most unfortunately coinhabited our dwelling during the summer months, agreed wholeheartedly with Father. He, of course, seemed to find the prospect of my placement in the Horrible, Hideous, and Most Completely and Terribly Worthless House of Hufflepuff by far the most probable and amusing of the two options. When the possibility of my placement in the Most Blasphemous and Inferior House of Gryffindor was vocalized, his face seemed to contort itself into a wistful smile, but long years of experience had taught me that most facial expressions sported by my elder brother should be blatantly mistrusted. I was thoroughly convinced that any desire of my brother's to have me in the same House as himself was based solely upon the convenient access to a torture subject that such close proximity would inevitably create.

The long-dreaded day of September First soon came, and with it my first experience of Side-Along Apparition. Our school letters had requested that we arrive by Muggle transport, but as "simulating and/or subjecting oneself to any aspect(s) of the Muggle lifestyle" clearly violates Clause 2a, Section 3 of the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, Mother decided we would arrive by means of the magical form of transport least likely to offend authorities. Which, much to my dismay, did not mean our Luxurious Levitating Limo-Carpet.

After Mother departed from the platform, Sirius told me to wait while he reunited with fellow members of the Most Blasphemous and Inferior House of Gryffindor. Instead, I searched for my cousin Narcissa. Mother had made it very clear which students came from respectable families and were therefore safe to associate with, and I needed someone to help me discern their appearances. The idea of accidentally consorting with a Mudblood terrified me - everyone knew that if you associated with one long enough you would gradually lose all your magical abilities until you became no better than a Squib, and when that happened your parents would have no choice but to subject you to the Cruciatus Curse for thirteen hours and then feed you to the family snake.

Narcissa, thankfully, assured me that the compartment in which we would be sitting would not be befouled by any creatures of the sort. Once there, I leaned my head against the window and tried to sleep. I hadn't slept the previous night due to excessive worrying concerning the Sorting - if, by some evil twist of fate, I did end up in the Horrible, Hideous, and Most Completely and Terribly Worthless House of Hufflepuff, I didn't know if I could live with myself, and I was sure that Mother and Father could not. As I sat there, fear of the Sorting continued to harass my brain. With each passing second I became increasingly convinced of my inability to wait another minute for the initiation of that much-dreaded Ceremony.

Luckily, my wait was not of an excessive duration. One of the many advantages of belonging to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black is its close proximity to the beginning of the alphabet - I was third to be Sorted. With great trepidation, I donned the ragged-looking object handed to me by the Deputy headmistress. For a moment, my fear of the Sorting was almost overcome by my fear of touching an object which strongly resembled the garments of a very elderly house-elf.

At the sound of a voice in my ear, I almost toppled off the stool. "Hmm..." the voice mused, "Where to place you? Difficult, very difficult. You're a hard worker, with fierce loyalty to your family, good qualities for Hufflepuff..." - I almost threw up - "A fair bit of Gryffindor courage, though not as much as your brother. No, not nearly as much... No Gryffindor or Hufflepuff for you, then." - I almost cried from sheer relief - "Ravenclaw? Now that might work, actually. You possess a great love of studying, and you have the brains for it, too. What do you think about that?"

The tattered, filthy piece of fabric covering my head was actually asking me a question? This was without doubt the single most terrifying experience of my entire life, far more horrific than anything Sirius had ever done. My brain remained suspended in shock for a good few moments before having the sense to scream out "NONONONONONONONONO!" at the highest level of thought process.

"Well, that only leaves Slytherin, you know," the voice went on, "though I suppose you'd do fine there really, you've certainly got a strong desire to prove yourself - plenty of ambition..." 

My brain rejoiced at these words. "Yes. Slytherin. Please. Slytherin," it silently begged the voice. 

"Well, as long as you're sure," the voice replied. "Your brother begged me not to place him in Slytherin, you know. Not that I would have anyway, but it was rather unusual to find a Black who didn't want to be in Slytherin, regardless of their qualifications. And I stand by what I said, you'd do excellently in Ravenclaw." 

Would the voice ever stop rambling? Of course I was sure! "All right then," it continued, before screaming to the entire hall: "SLYTHERIN!"

With a feeling of greatest relief, I stumbled off the stool and began to traipse toward the Slytherin table. As I passed the Gryffindor table, I was surprised to discover that the banner levitating over it read simply "Gryffindor," not "The Most Blasphemous and Inferior House of Gryffindor," as I had been taught. Perhaps only members of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black were privileged enough to know its full title. Near the middle of the table Sirius slumped over the bench, looking truly depressed. Well, of course he was depressed. Now Father would favor me, and knowing Father, this favoritism would be quite evident. Why he asked that rag to put him in the Most Blasphemous and Inferior House of Gryffindor, I could never guess. Well, it served him right. If he still could not comprehend the obvious truth that only by following the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black with true reverence would he accomplish anything of value, it was no longer of my concern.

Chapter 3: On the Misfortunes of Others
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

3. On the Misfortunes of Others

The news that I had indeed been placed in the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin brought about a marked change in Father's attitude toward his two sons, and his wife. Mother never lost an opportunity to remind him of the accuracy of her past predictions concerning the true nature of Sirius and myself, and from that moment on Father submitted meekly to her every wish and demand. Starting that first summer, when company came, Sirius remained locked in his room, while I sat at table with our honored guests. When a member of the visiting party expressed curiosity at this arrangement, Father informed them briefly that Sirius was being punished due to his complete inability to submit to the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, after which he launched into a sufficiently lengthy speech praising my virtues as a true, honorable, and obedient member of the family.

To my dismay and utter incomprehension, Sirius seemed completely unaffected by this sudden change in Father's attitude. Father's disapproval alone was enough to depress anyone, let alone the disapproval of both parents. Was my brother completely devoid of emotion? Most likely the answer was yes, if his actions at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry were anything to judge by.

At Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Sirius was, if anything, more determined than usual to desecrate the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Neither Mother's frequent Howlers nor the seemingly endless string of detentions seemed to deter him from his unspoken resolution to commit at least three pranks per week. Surprisingly, I found myself the target of only a minuscule percentage of these abominations. The vast majority, I soon discovered, centered around a third year Slytherin known to most as Severus Snape.

In a vain and selfish way, I was glad of this - glad to escape the unwanted attentions of my loathsome brother, glad that for once it was someone other than myself on the receiving end of his pranks. On the other hand, I truly could not see what characteristic Severus Snape possessed that would render him so utterly detestable. I must admit that his appearance left much to be desired, but one could not expect everyone to reflect the hygenical standards of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, and surely even Sirius would not diminish himself to the level of judging people solely on their image - after all, he counted Peter Pettigrew among his close friends. The only plausible explanation was that Severus Snape must radiate the virtues of the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin so strongly that Sirius, in his crusade against such virtues, would not rest until he believed Snape completely defeated and humiliated.

Conversely, the vast majority of the female population of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry did not concern themselves with the personality traits of either Snape or my brother. They fawned over Sirius in his pathetic attempts to resemble a teenage supermodel, while laughing themselves silly at Snape's apparent unawareness of the existence of hair cleansing potions. I was shocked and disgusted at the shallowness of their thinking - judging males on their appearance alone, while completely overlooking Snape's academic brilliance and pureblooded virtue, and my brother's lack of both. Sirius, however, seemed to enjoy their attentions immensely. Perhaps he attacked Snape solely for the purpose of their amusement - he was certainly cruel and unsympathetic enough to do so. The more I contemplated this, the more credible it seemed. After all, what possible virtues could Snape have that would not be possessed in greater quantities by a true member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black such as myself?

For the first time, I was truly angry at Sirius on another's behalf. I did not, however, dare to act on these feelings, being too grateful that I myself was, if only temporarily, out of his line of fire. Too grateful was I also of my father's newfound affection - if one could truly call it affection - to risk losing it by bringing even one detention upon myself. I therefore put all the energy of my being into achieving the highest marks possible in each and every one of my numerous classes. However, I did not forget my rightful indignation at the numerous injustices perpetrated by my brother against Severus Snape. How could I, when unwillingly subjected to the viewing of such events on an alarmingly regular basis?

Chapter 4: Discovery of a New Emotion
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

4. Discovery of a New Emotion

It was in January of my third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when, still fuming over one of my brother's unjust humiliations of another student, I unwittingly collided with a female of greater-than-average attractiveness whom I identified as a fourth-year member of the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin. Scrambling to my feet, I hurriedly collected her scattered belongings, apologizing profusely as befits a gentleman of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. As she had accepted my offer to transport her belongings to the location of her choice, I luxuriated in the pleasure of accompanying her to the Slytherin common room, so distracted by her delectable appearance that my brain barely processed a word of her conversation. It came as such a shock to realize that we had arrived at our destination that I was barely able to stammer a farewell greeting, one highly unbecoming to a person of my social prowess.

Over the course of the next few months, my eyes could not help but seek out this human embodiment of artistic perfection at every possible opportunity. I was elated to discover that, in addition to magnificently enticing physical characteristics, she also possessed a great deal more kindness and sympathy towards others than most members of the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin, routinely engaging in activities such as helping younger students locate classrooms and complete assignments. An abnormal feeling arose in my chest each time she happened to glance in my direction. I, Regulus Black, was completely and hopelessly in love.

One night, close to the termination of that school year, I staggered into the common room, exhausted from an exceptionally lengthy sojourn in the library, during which I had completed a particularly meritorious essay for the subject of Herbology. The finalization of such a commendable work of literature left me feeling so elated that it seemed scarcely possible that anything could increase my euphoria. However, one glance at the couch informed my heart that I was previously mistaken. In front of me shined the opportunity of my dreams: the girl I so admired, resting gracefully atop the green velvet cushions, alone. Summoning up every ounce of courage within my entire being, I eased my body onto the seat beside her.

"Hi, Regulus," she smiled.

"Uh... hel-hel-lo," I stuttered. "How - how are you? You look, er, awfully, uh... pensive..."

Dear Slytherin! How had I managed to forget all my extensive training in aristocratic conversational technique within the last thirty-seven seconds? What use was the tedious study of courtly language if I had not the ability to recall it at the very moment its use was deemed most necessary? Perhaps Father was right in the beginning; perhaps I, Regulus, could never truly live up to the social standards of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.

"Is... everything all right?" I continued, "Anything I can do? I mean... I'm really sorry, you know... about earlier... I kind of, I mean, well, crashed... into you... and..."

"Regulus," she stated, eyeing me curiously, "that was months ago."

"Oh... er... right." I agreed. "Well... well, then, what... I mean, is anything wrong?"

I sat rigidly on the edge of my cushion, half expecting her to explode with laughter any second at my deplorable attempts to demonstrate proper social graces.

"No," she sighed wistfully, "I was just thinking."

"Oh... about what?" I ventured.

"Your brother, actually," she replied.

"My - my BROTHER?!" I erupted, "You mean, Sirius? He - he hasn't done anything to you, has he? Like, any pranks or anything? Because, if he has, I'll - I'll - "

To my utter amazement and incomprehension, she was giggling hysterically. Once again at a loss for words, I waited patiently until her ability to speak had returned. 

"Sorry," she gasped, "I didn't mean to laugh at you. It's just - I didn't expect you to get so... concerned, I guess. There's no need to worry - he hasn't done anything."

"But then... why..." I wondered.

"I just think he's awfully handsome, that's all," she confided, "and funny. I love the mischievous twinkle in his eyes, his sexy hair, the way he grins... I mean, all the girls like him. I'm surprised you didn't notice."

The anger bubbling within my chest increased steadily with every word she spoke. My brain struggled vainly to uncover a suitable manner in which to respond to the deepest blow of all my brother had inflicted upon me thus far. I was deploringly aware of the manner in which Sirius ensnared, and subsequently trifled with, the hearts of the vast majority of the female population, swaggering around with a different girl on his arm every week. Frankly, such behavior disgusted me, proving beyond doubt my brother's complete disregard for the feelings of others. Had it never occurred to his diminutive brain that people's hearts were fragile and easily broken? Or that breaking the heart of another was an impermissible crime? For now, indirectly, he had broken my heart as well.

How could the most celestial member of the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin possibly be attracted to such a detestable being, devoid of all virtue? What singularity did he possess that could possibly endear him to such a heavenly personage? She had spoken of his physical attributes, but those were scarcely different from mine. The only discrepancy of any significance was that I chose not to display my tantalizing appearance on a pedestal for all to worship. Unlike Sirius, I had no desire to seize more affection that I could possibly return.

"Regulus?" A voice broke into my reverie. "Are you all right?"

Far as I was from the logical realm of thought, I found myself horrifically unable to gather the strength necessary to conform to proper conversational etiquette.

"NO!" I screamed. "I am NOT okay! For the last few months, I have been languishing under the delusion that you were a lady of immeasurable virtue, caring and sensitive towards the feelings of others. As of this evening, you have proved yourself no better than a common Mudblood, seduced like so many others by one who continually desecrates the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. You waste your heart on him, that abomination of the Wizarding race, who, lacking all sense of honor and righteousness, will dispose of your affections within the week! By this alone I am now thoroughly convinced that you deserve whatever misfortunes he has to offer you!"

The terrible, treacherous enchantress gaped silently at my alarming outburst, while ever so slowly, my brain regained control of its logical thought process. Once this procedure was completed, I, most sensibly, turned and ran.

Chapter 5: The Befriending of the Prince
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

5. The Befriending of the Prince

Sleep evaded me that night, consumed by hatred of my older brother. I finally dragged myself out of bed around the fourteenth hour of the next day, forced to abandon my sullen brooding by the un-evadable call of my stomachic muscle imploring license to supply nutrients to my expended cerebral apparatus. Upon reaching the Great Hall, I was immensely relieved to discover that all the fifth-year students seemed to be missing, most likely due to another of their Ordinary Wizarding Level Examinations. I knew without any misgiving that had I been exposed to Sirius' presence at that time, I would have assuredly behaved in a manner most unbecoming to a member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, an inexcusable crime which I had recently committed multiple times within the presence of the former object of my affections.

To avoid further abasement among fellow members of the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin, I speedily abducted a sizeable number of muffins and darted off to a more sparsely populated region. Upon my third circuit of the lake, however, my eyes involuntarily settled upon a scene of utmost vulgarity. Severus Snape was dangling upside down in midair, clothed in naught but grimy, deteriorating underpants. Manipulating him with their wands were none other than Sirius and his infamous Comrade-In-Delinquency, James Potter. A number of females were also present, viewing this abomination with an air of supreme hilarity. To my greatest horror and revulsion, the girl who had so recently captivated my heart lounged among them, gazing up at Sirius with an expression of complete adoration plastered on her exquisite face.

Never one to waste time with extravagant declarations of hatred and revenge, I merely whipped out my wand, stunned James and Sirius, released Snape, and stormed away. None verbalized their reception of my performance - Remus Lupin had rushed to the aid of Sirius and James, while Peter Pettigrew goggled at me, openmouthed. Several females gasped in shock, and one even developed highly overactive eye moisturizing glands.

Snape, after regaining consciousness, followed me towards the edge of the forest, where I collapsed from sheer exhaustion.

"Black." Snape pronounced my name hesitantly, his voice almost a personification of the oil adorning his hair. At the time, I was too deeply overcome with hatred of Sirius to find this in any way disturbing. 

"Your actions seem rather unusual today. Has something happened?" he continued.

Silence permeated the atmosphere while I regained control of my respiratory system. 

"I. HATE. SIRIUS." was all that I finally managed to gasp out.

"I see," replied Snape. "Did you just realize this?"

For lack of a more suitable response, I shook my head.

"Yet, you have not previously sought to physically express your hatred," Snape went on silkily. "I wonder... has something more substantial occurred?"

All the effort I had put into dutifully containing my emotions that day dissipated with his remark. My animosity towards Sirius was no longer something that could be contained within my being. Each and every one of my vexations against my brother poured out my mouth, from the time he mixed finely chopped flobberworms into the scrambled eggs the morning of my third birthday, through the extraordinarily ridiculous and unjust practice of primogeniture, to that most recent incident in the Slytherin common room which had pushed my hatred to the realm of physical expression, as Snape would put it.

Much to my surprise, Snape listened patiently throughout my whole tirade, occasionally mumbling words of sympathy. I found myself overcome with heartfelt appreciation - no one, not even Mother, had ever expressed concern as to the state of my emotional well-being. Thus I became what one could call friends with Severus Snape. Not the closest of friends, for Snape, I think, preferred a solitary existence, and did not have anyone that could truly be called a close friend, as far as I recall. However, I did become close enough to earn a little extra help in brewing particularly difficult potions, close enough to learn of the Dark Spells he invented in his spare time, and close enough to know and salute him by the title he preferred: the Half - Blood Prince.

Chapter 6: A Most Respectable Organization
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

6. A Most Respectable Organization

Close enough were the Prince and I, that he saw fit to appear unannounced on my doorstep one evening during the winter holidays of my seventh and final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, although he himself had taken leave of that institution two years previously. Mother, Father, and I had just sat down to the first appetizer of our usual seven-course supper - Sirius had most auspiciously severed all ties with the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black towards the end of the summer after his fifth year at Hogwarts - when our house-elf Kreacher appeared in the doorway, much to the shock and disapproval of everyone present.

"Imbecilic elf!" screeched Mother. "Haven't you been told never to set foot in this room during mealtimes? Go shut your ears in the oven for half of an hour, and your toes for the other half! Perhaps that will teach you to respect the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black!"

"Kreacher is terribly sorry, O Most Imperial Mistress. Kreacher will stick his ears and his toes in the oven for half an hour each, and never intrude on the mealtimes of his cherished Mistress again, for Kreacher knows that the word of his Mistress is Law. Kreacher will even stick his fingers in the oven for extra punishments, in hopes that his Most Benevolent Mistress will have no further doubts about Kreacher's loyalty to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black." Kreacher squeaked, bowing low with the completion of each sentence. "Kreacher only wishes to inform Master Regulus that there is a man here to see him. He is one of Master Regulus' friends from school, a fellow member of the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin. He wishes to know if Master Regulus will be able to speak to him tonight."

I glanced at Mother, who gave the slightest nod before instructing, "Kreacher, you shall remove everything from this table, and replace it with our finest goblin-wrought silver. Prepare the full thirteen-course meal for four. When you have done this, you shall complete your punishments. If our guest is not sufficiently impressed, further punishments shall be assigned."

After Kreacher had sluggishly backed out of the doorway, bowing low with every step and muttering, "Mistress is too good to Kreacher, for Mistress has only given Kreacher two punishments, but Kreacher will do three punishments, yes, for Kreacher has been a bad house-elf..." Mother turned to me, saying, "Come, Regulus, let us greet your guest."

I followed my parents wonderingly, for it was rare indeed that a friend of mine would arrive in such a spontaneous fashion. Upon reaching the entrance hall, I was startled to behold a face which I had not seen in several months.

"Regulus." stated the Prince. "How excellent to see you. You must be Mr. and Mrs. Black."

"We are." said Father gruffly, looking the Prince up and down as if trying to detect some sign of contamination. "What is your lineage?"

"My mother was Eileen Prince." he replied.

"Prince?" interjected Mother. "I knew Catherine Prince during my days at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She came from quite a respectable family, of course - one of such preeminent social standing as myself would hardly associate with anyone else. I assume your mother is the older sister she always spoke so fondly of?"

The Prince emitted a barely audible noise somewhat reminiscent of a grunt, which Mother took as an affirmation of her inquiry, and I took as an indubitable sign that Eileen, like Sirius, had been speedily blasted off the family tapestry. Evidently Catherine had more than one older sister.

"What of your father?" continued Mother. "I'm sure he came from a highly respected wizarding family as well - "

"Of my father I do not speak." the Prince cut in, with a tone so definitive that none dared argue. "Neither do I use my surname. You may call me Severus."

"," Father stuttered, clearly shaken by the Prince's glacial response, "the house-elf should have prepared the supper by now... if you would like to come in..."

"Thank you. It pleases me greatly to accept the generosity of a family of such noble lineage." the Prince replied, hints of oil sliding back into his voice as he attempted to rectify the disturbance he had just caused.

“It would be unbefitting for a member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black not to offer appropriate courtesies to a Prince such as yourself.” Father countered, loath to be outshined in the art of polite conversation.

Sensing this, the Prince wisely terminated the exchange with a simple “Thank you,” before following Father into the dining room.

“So, Severus,” Mother began as we embarked upon our fifth course, “What brings you here tonight?” 

Ever so slowly, the Prince set down his fork and knife. “I am here,” he almost whispered, “to inform Regulus of a possible… career opportunity.”

Mother, Father, and I froze in shock, listening expectantly. As Mother had spent the greater part of the past four courses interrogating the Prince about his academic achievements, my parents no longer had any doubts as to the excellent standards by which he evaluated all potential opportunities for employment.

“Perhaps you have heard,” the Prince continued, “of a certain… organization… which has recently come into being? It is a most respectable organization, concerned primarily with ensuring the purity of the Wizarding race. While many of noble lineage have joined already, including, I believe, your niece Bellatrix, I know without doubt that our Lord would be most pleased to acquire a follower of such cleverness and prestige as Regulus here.”

The Prince had chosen his words carefully – clearly Bellatrix had enlightened him as to the rivalry between Father and Uncle Orion, a rivalry which had always been present due to Orion’s jealousy of Father’s inheritance, but had vastly intensified upon Sirius’ departure, and more recently upon my cousin Andromeda’s elopement with a Mudblood. Normally, of course, our family would have expressed our deepest sympathies towards others suffering the shame of relation to a blood traitor, but as Uncle Orion had so eagerly seized upon an excuse to disparage Father when Sirius officially denounced the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, we now reveled in the opportunity to endow him with equal misery. By mentioning Bellatrix’s name, the Prince had ensured that my parents would now concentrate all their energies on persuading me to join this organization, so that within the group I could rise to a level of power and prestige far above her measly status, and therefore bring further shame and embarrassment upon the family of my father’s brother.

Silently I resigned myself to this fate. Although I had long debated with myself as to the identity of the most pleasing and appropriate career choice for the heir of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, I had not yet found a definite answer, and a distinguished position in an organization of respectable intent seemed as befitting as any of the other possibilities, although slightly less conducive to the freedom to exercise my academic brilliance to its full potential. While the Prince had not offered me any position of power, I possessed a certain determination which had enabled me to become firstly a prefect, and secondly Head Boy of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and no one in my family harbored any insecurity that I might not do likewise in each and every institution which I became a part of.

Father’s reply pulled me out of my thoughts, “We would be truly honored to bequeath the future of our only son to an organization of such meritorious intent. May I ask the name of this noble coalition?”

Slowly, the Prince articulated the words which would come to govern my future for the next phase of my life. “We are called… the Death Eaters.”

Chapter 7: A Symbol of Purity
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

7. A Symbol of Purity

Barely a week had passed after my final departure from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when the Prince first took me to see the Dark Lord. We traveled there by a means I thought I had long outgrown – side-along apparition. I did not, however, vocalize my complaints, primarily out of trepidation against making an unsatisfactory first impression upon my future employer.

Opening my eyes and releasing the Prince’s arm, I found myself standing before a man of middle years; tall, dark-haired, and slim to the point of anorexia, with sinister ruby-tinted eyes that I sincerely doubted any human could view without experiencing some sense of revulsion. The Prince immediately sunk to his knees before the Dark Lord’s ostentatious throne, silently bidding me to do likewise.

“Severus,” greeted the Dark Lord. “I see you have brought a guest.”

“Yes, Master,” the Prince replied. “This is Regulus, of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. He has come here today seeking initiation into that most fortunate congregation whom you esteem your followers.”

“I see,” said the Dark Lord. “You may both rise. Regulus, for what reasons do you wish to enter into my service?” 

I took a deep breath before launching into my brief but much-rehearsed response: “As a dutiful follower of the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, I esteem it my duty to preserve the purity of my house, and to help ensure the purity of the entire Wizarding race.” 

The Dark Lord paused to consider this for a moment, before demanding: “Recite for me the Complete and Unabridged Version of the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, please.”

I blinked in surprise. This was a most unexpected request, but certainly well within my capabilities; ever since Sirius had been Sorted into the Most Blasphemous and Inferior House of Gryffindor, Father had made mandatory a weekly conclave wherein all members of our immediate family would jointly recite the Complete and Unabridged Version of the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. At first Sirius mumbled the words halfheartedly, but soon stopped saying them altogether, feigning misrecollection. This, of course, resulted consistently in his being sent to his room without supper. On the day he first dared to openly criticize the Law, he left our house forever.

“Very good,” nodded the Dark Lord after I had finished. “I assure you that none of the tasks you shall be assigned will in any way conflict with the most inviolable law of your family. You have also proven yourself to have a reliable memory of finer details; therefore, I would like to entrust you with duties which make good use of your mind – I already have plenty of brainless worshippers to perform the more violent chores. I hope that you will not be too disappointed?”

“No, Sir, I will not be disappointed. I would much prefer… that kind of work, Sir.” I replied, giving an involuntary shudder at the prospect of having to engage in physical brutality. Even at eighteen years of age, I still could not behold one of Mother’s notorious House-Elf Beheading Ceremonies without darting to the lavatory to regurgitate the entire contents of my stomach halfway through.

The Dark Lord raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Very well,” he concluded, “that is settled, then. From now on, you shall call me Master. Later this week, the Head of the Floo Regulation Panel will… suffer an unexpected illness…”

“But how do you know? What if she doesn’t?” I blurted tactlessly.

“I know – because I am oh-so-skilled at Divination,” the Dark Lord glared sarcastically. “And do not EVER interrupt me again, if you value your life!” He took a minute to regain his composure, while I remained trembling from his wrathful gaze, before continuing to disclose his orders: 

“As I was saying, the Head of the Floo Regulation Panel will be forced to retire most unexpectedly later this week. You will arrive at the Department of Magical Transportation early Friday morning, seeking employment. I am sure that they will be most grateful for your services. Once you have secured a permanent position within the Floo Regulation Panel, you shall come to me for further instruction.”

I bit my lip nervously. I had come before the Dark Lord expecting to be granted an occupation which would bring me honor and prestige within the greater wizarding community, and a position within the Floo Regulation Panel most frankly did not meet those criteria. Cringing inwardly at the thought of Mother’s probable reaction to this circumstance, I silently weighed all potential options in my mind before coming to a rather hasty decision. While Mother’s wrath was formidable, it was nothing compared to the wrath of the Dark Lord.

“Thank you, Master. I am most grateful – “ I began.

“One more thing,” the Dark Lord interrupted. “You must receive the Mark.”

“The Mark?” I repeated, puzzled. 

“Yes. The Dark Mark. Show him please, Severus.”

The Prince rolled back his left sleeve to reveal a hideous burn, the shape of which was somewhat reminiscent of a snake, twined sinuously around a skull.

“Is it… a symbol of purity, then, Master?” I ventured uneasily.

The Dark Lord smiled indulgently, with the tiniest hint of a sneer. “A symbol of purity? Yes, I suppose one could call it that. Its main purpose, however, is for communication. When I touch it, you must apparate to wherever I am at that moment. This way you will not be able to reveal my whereabouts to anyone who I would not wish to see.”

“But, surely, Master,” I stammered, “the leader of such a respectable organization should not have reason to hide from anyone.”

“Ah, Regulus,” sighed the Dark Lord. “You will soon come to see that there are many… misguided… people in the wizarding world, who would wish to thwart our attempts at ensuring the purity of our race. It is terribly unfortunate that so many do not see the truth, as you and I do, but this is all the more reason we must battle on against those who would knowingly pollute the wizarding race, and if we must begin this battle in secret, then that is what we must do. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Master.” I mumbled.

“Good,” he replied. “Now, show me your left arm.”

Chapter 8: Summons of a More Vital Nature
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

8. Summons of a More Vital Nature

As the Dark Lord had predicted, I procured employment within the Floo Regulation Panel quite easily, although several department members of more aristocratic lineage rightfully expressed their concerns that a member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black should occupy a position of such negligible rank. It was, truly, a most platitudinous occupation. Day after day I lounged at my desk, connecting and disconnecting fireplace after fireplace to that notably unhygienic system of transportation known as the Floo Network.

Occasionally I would be awakened in the middle of the night by a torrid, blistering pain in my left forearm, a pain so salient and agonizing that I could waste no time in appearing before the Dark Lord, who seemed to find the sight of me bursting out of thin air with tousled hair and rumpled pajamas, clutching my left wrist in agony, highly entertaining. During those times I was reminded vaguely of a seven-year-old Sirius, doubled over with laughter at my small figure standing in the kitchen doorway, rubbing my eyes drowsily before almost falling over in shock upon the realization that my hair was, in fact, a most magnificent shade of purple.

However, I did not fail to note the major disparity between the two scenarios: Sirius, while insensitive to my emotions, never went so far as to inflict any type of physical pain upon me. Neither did he employ threats or intimidation against me. As summons from the Dark Lord came so irregularly, I consistently pushed these thoughts out of my mind. However, these nighttime visits grew more and more frequent as the months progressed, and with them the feelings of exploitation gnawing away at the back of my conscience.

After the pain had subsided enough for me to cogitate properly, the Dark Lord would set me to memorize a list of fireplaces which I would then affix to the Floo Network at specific times over the course of the next week or two. I did not dare ask why these fireplaces must be conjoined without Ministry approval, nor was I certain that such knowledge would do anything but haunt my dreams in a most vexatious manner.

While Mother and Father lamented the lowliness of my Ministry position, they did at least find solace in the fact that Bellatrix had, indeed, been assigned to the “more violent chores” which the Dark Lord had reserved for those with less mental capacity than myself. While some of her actions may have had greater consequences and thus earned her greater respect among the Dark Lord’s followers of similarly negligible intelligence, I felt certain that many of these tasks could not have been accomplished without my facilitation. Many witches and wizards had set up Anti-Apparition Wards on their homes in recent years, and thus could only be reached by that green-flamed powder I now held the bane of my existence. For this small ounce of preponderance which I possessed, my parents were proud.

Thus I continued my deplorable existence, fearing the wrath of the Dark Lord as well as the disapproval of my parents for incurring his vengeance. I did not hesitate to reply to each and every one of his summons, nor did I hesitate to acquiesce to each and every one of his requests, however skeptical I might be as to the laudability of their outcome.

One Friday night when I apparated at the Dark Lord’s feet, I knew immediately that this particular summons was of a more vital nature. The pain in my arm was somehow sharper and more acute, and the Dark Lord did not wait for me to recover before beginning his instructions.

“Regulus,” he commanded, “I bequeath unto you a task which will draw upon your innermost resources of cunning, which are as of yet untapped. While your endeavors thus far have been confined to within the Floo Regulation Panel, I must now ask you to venture beyond this line of work, for now an… acquaintance… of mine, who is most disadvantageously unable to apparate, must journey to a location where no fireplaces can be found. I therefore ask you, who have dutifully provided transportation for many of my followers for almost a year, to now secure for me a Portkey to this location.”

“Yes, Master,” I answered, bowing low as my brain committed to memory the shining green symbols representing geographical coordinates which had previously emerged from the tip of the Dark Lord’s wand. 

“The Portkey should be made from this object,” he continued, handing me a half-empty bottle of a type of alcohol which I did not recognize. “You must charm it so that its transportational properties are only operative after nightfall, every day until I instruct you to desist.”

“Yes, Master…” I replied, perhaps a little too skeptically for my own well-being.

“You are wondering why I could not do this myself,” sneered the Dark Lord, delving into my thoughts. “How wrong I was in my assumptions that you possessed even the most microscopic scrap of intelligence. Surely an employee of the Department of Magical Transportation would be aware of the many ways the Ministry has of detecting unauthorized Portkeys?”

“Please forgive me, Master.” I mumbled. Dear Slytherin, how my sycophancy disgusted me.

“You will be forgiven if you perform this task well,” he spat, “but on the occasion that you do not, I think you are aware of the consequences.”

“Yes, Master,” I whispered.

“Good,” smirked the Dark Lord, satisfied. “You must, of course, perform the necessary Portkey Authorization spells each evening. I believe they must be executed within the Portkey Office to work effectively?”

“Yes, Master,” I confirmed.

“One more thing,” he added, “this Portkey must function properly when touched by Muggles.”

“M-M-Muggles, my Lord?” I stammered.

“Yes, Muggles!” he snapped. “I trust that you can find the proper spell to accomplish this?”

“Yes, Master,” I agreed, fervently.

“Good,” he nodded. “Every evening after you have completed all the necessary spells, you will then place the Portkey in this location:”

A scene flashed momentarily before my eyes; that of a small, dingy room, occupied by a few pieces of mismatched furniture resting wearily upon the black-and-white tiled floor. Across from the narrow, cluttered desk I spotted a small table, slumped awkwardly between two rickety chairs. Upon this table sat a bottle of alcohol similar to the one which the Dark Lord had so recently produced. It was a brief glimpse, but not overly so. Long enough that I could apparate there, if I wished. Or, in this case, if I must.

Chapter 9: A Mishap of Fatal Consequence
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N: Many thanks to Drommen for helping me revise this chapter! =)

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

9. A Mishap of Fatal Consequence

Over the course of the next few days, I dutifully charmed the bottle every evening before placing it in its rightful location at precisely eighteen o’clock. Only Mudbloods called it six o’clock. In any case, this time fell precisely in the middle of the dinner hour, when the normal occupant of the room would not be present to witness my intrusion. I was lucky, indeed, that the Portkey Office had been consistently vacated half of an hour previous to my scheduled departure. But alas, my luck could not persist indefinitely.

At precisely sixteen minutes before my time of appartition on Thursday afternoon, I strode down the hallway towards the Portkey Office under the pretense of using the lavatory. To my immense dismay, I could clearly distinguish the sound of numerous voices conversing heatedly behind the door. I waited, trembling, beside the doorway, growing steadily more apprehensive with each passing second. As I had completed my daily tasks and informed the supervisor of my departure, I could not possibly return to the Floo Regulation Center – such behavior would appear highly suspicious. Therefore I had no choice but to linger outside the Portkey Office, praying desperately for its imminent evacuation. On the one instance in which a fellow employee sauntered past me on his way to the elevator, I hastily dropped to one knee, pretending to re-knot my bootlace.

Left unoccupied, my imagination began to construct horrific scenes of the tremendous agony which doubtlessly awaited me, should I fail the Dark Lord. Mother and Father would not be pleased. As I vaguely wondered what punishments they might inflict upon me, my mind wandered backwards through time, recalling my exultation at Father’s reaction to the results of my Sorting. I knew without doubt that the speed with which his graces had been gained was utterly lethargic compared to the celerity with which these sentiments would be dropped, should I ever displease him. It was a most depressing actuality, although not half as terrifying as the probable reaction of the Dark Lord. While I had not yet experienced his full wrath, I knew it to be formidable.

At least thirty minutes had passed before I began to hear the unmistakable sounds which signified the removal of cloaks and scarves from their pegs. I darted to the lavatory, waiting breathlessly until the noise in the hallway had died down. As soon as it was silent, I raced to the Portkey Office, so anxious to complete my task in a timely manner that I failed to notice the lone cloak hanging by the open doorway. Hurriedly, I grabbed the book necessary to complete my duties, flinging it unceremoniously on a desk and flipping through it as fast as my fingers would allow. After what seemed like ages, but in reality was no more than five minutes, I managed to locate the correct page and hastily mutter the necessary spellwork. Sighing in relief, I pocketed my wand and tucked the bottle of alcohol carefully into the lining of my robe.

I had just returned the book to its original location when a sudden noise practically caused me to jump out of my skin. I glanced to my left, my eyes glazing over with fear as I beheld my supervisor, fixating me with a glare that could kill a dragon.

“Black! What are you doing?!” he exclaimed angrily. When I failed to reply, he stormed across the room, searching in vain for some evidence of my misbehavior.

“I’m surprised at you, young man,” he continued. “You come from a decent family, I’d have thought better… wandering around the Ministry after hours…” He shook his head sadly. “I just can’t believe it… Horace Slughorn always spoke very highly of you – Head Boy at Hogwarts and all… usually we wouldn’t even hire someone on such short notice. Now, as there’s no evidence that you’ve done anything wrong, you won’t be arrested immediately, but I’m going to have to ask you to attend a disciplinary hearing tomorrow morning to investigate your behavior. We will, of course, need to look through the records of all the work you’ve done at the Floo Regulation Panel, just as a security precaution… Silly, really, if you’d done anything suspicious I would have noticed by now – it’s not like they’ll find anything. Still, I hate to say it, but you’ll probably be fired, if not arrested. Old Barty Crouch is looking for an excuse to send just about anyone off to Azkaban nowadays. These are dark times, and we can’t trust anyone… Go home now. I’ll see you at the hearing tomorrow.”

Shaking, I grabbed the bottle of alcohol and stumbled out the doorway. The vague fears rambling through my mind less than ten minutes earlier had now become reality. I could not possibly go home, as my supervisor had suggested; the disapproval of my parents would be far too much to bear. I had, truly, failed not only the Ministry, but, more importantly, the Dark Lord, the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, and the rest of the world in general. I wondered what would now become of me. Would the Dark Lord still have use for me? Or would I be tortured and killed, as he had so often threatened? My stomach lurched unpleasantly. How could I possibly reveal to him this news? He would know anyway, I reminded myself, when I failed to activate the Portkey the following evening. He would also know if I failed to place it in its proper location tonight. Desperate to postpone the hour of my condemnation, I hurriedly pulled out my wand and apparated.

A loud shriek pierced the air as I materialized in the now-familiar room. My eyes widened in shock as they settled upon a thin, elderly woman, desperately clutching the arm of her rickety wooden chair. Her eyes gaped prominently at me from within the sharp features of her face, and the many creases lining her forehead suggested that she had lead a worrisome life. Evidently, though, nothing had previously alarmed her nearly as much as my unexpected intrusion. Silently, I cursed myself for forgetting the time.

“T-Tom… R-R-Riddle…” she stuttered. “No… no… you’re not him. But he… you… you can do magic!?” she exclaimed suspiciously.

I gasped at the realization that this woman must be a Muggle. Not just any Muggle, but the Muggle whom the Dark Lord had intended to discover the Portkey currently in my possession.

“Do you know him?” she added as an afterthought.

“I’m sorry,” I stammered, “I don’t know who Tom Riddle is. I – I am a wizard though. I think – I think that my master – that he wanted to give you… this.” I held out the bottle of alcohol. Curiously she reached forward to take it. As her hand touched the bottle, ready to remove it from my grasp, I felt a familiar jerk behind my navel, and the old woman and I were sucked away in a tempestuous swirl of color.

Chapter 10: The Journey to Immortality
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

10. The Journey to Immortality

My body slammed into the ground with a sickening crunch, the old woman sprawled on top of me in a dead faint. Tediously, I extricated myself from this incommodious position and pulled out my wand, reviving her. Shivering, she snatched the now inactive Portkey from my grasp, downing almost half of its contents in one gulp.

“W-Where are we?” she spluttered, glancing around nervously.

“I don’t know,” I answered truthfully. We were situated near the edge of a steep, jagged cliff, with colossal, truculent waves lashing violently at its sides. A steep vertical incline loomed forebodingly in back of us, rendering nearly impossible all forms of escape minus apparition. Directly in front of this ominous backdrop stood a lofty chunk of rock, dotted sparsely with straggly clumps of bushes.

“What do you mean, you don’t know?!” the old woman shrieked agitatedly, all fear at being in the company of a wizard now abandoned. “You’re the one who brought us here!”

“I – I didn’t mean to!” I stammered. The statement was, at least, partially true – I had never meant to accompany her to this location. Now that I was here, however, her apparent frailness compelled me to remain by her side, ensuring that she remained free from harm. I could not bring myself to abandon a creature so helpless, however worthless they might be according to the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. With the hour of my condemnation drawing nearer, respectability, honor, and loyalty had lost their significance. I had accepted my fate.

“Now you listen here, boy,” the old woman began heatedly, disrupting my thoughts. Evidently, she possessed vast experience in the art of chastisement. “I won’t stand for any of that nonsense, now. You either tell me the truth, or I’ll - ”

“You are forgetting that I am a wizard.” I interrupted. “Nothing that you are capable of doing will have any effect against me.” The old woman’s face contorted in despair.

“However,” I continued soothingly, “I will swear to you upon my honor as Heir of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black that I have not lied to you, nor do I intend you any harm. I cannot, however, speak for my master on that account.” I solemnly concluded. 

“Thank you,” she choked tearfully, resting her head upon her knees. Wordlessly I removed my cloak, draping it over her tiny shoulders in the only gesture of comfort I could offer.

The two of us remained in watchful silence, waiting for something – anything – to happen. After about an hour, I slowly rose to my feet.

“I have to… use the lavatory,” I stated in a rather undignified manner. The old woman merely nodded.

I headed up the first incline towards the nearest clump of bushes. Brambly and fairly tall, they formed a perfect ring, so that one could almost stand in their midst without being noticed by another outside the bushes’ dominion. I darted inside this enclosure, relieving my overfilled bladder. I had just begun the process of tediously re-buttoning my robes when a loud crack signaled the appearance of another wizard in the vicinity.

I froze in shock, peering cautiously between the brambles. The old woman shrank back in fear, eyes gaping wildly up at a figure I recognized all too well. My cloak, which she had thrown off in surprise, lay forgotten, camouflaged against the slate-colored rock in the midst of a gloomy puddle. I was thankful that the Dark Lord had not noted its existence.

The Dark Lord spoke first. “Do you know me?” he inquired of the woman.

“T – T – T – Tom Riddle?” she stammered questioningly.

“Ah, I see you have not forgotten,” he replied smugly, much to my shock and surprise. Impossibly, this elderly Muggle woman had known more about the Dark Lord than my own skull-branded self. 

“It has been a long time, has it not?” he continued. “But now I must educate you, for the man standing before you is no longer Tom Riddle. No.” He paused, before whispering menacingly, “I am Lord Voldemort.”

I was lucky indeed that my sharp intake of breath upon the sound of the Dark Lord’s name coincided with that of the old lady, enabling my presence to remain unnoticed.

“Have you heard the name, then?” he chuckled, eyeing her unease with unconcealed delight. “Feared, am I not?” he questioned. When the old lady failed to respond, he stooped down to her level, planting his face not two inches away from her own.

“Yes, I am feared, woman!” he sneered dangerously. “The most feared wizard that has ever existed, or will ever exist!”

The old woman winced, but did not shrink back from his rage. Slowly, she stood up, not taking her eyes off his for a single second. 

“You forget, Tom Riddle,” she stated confidently, “all that I have taught you. I shall not fear, for the Lord God is with me. I have followed His Commandments, and thus earned my place in Heaven. Nothing you do to me can ever change that. You, on the other hand, have forsaken God, and fallen into darkness, making sport of the misery of others. If you had only remembered the virtues of obedience, and respect for one’s elders, values I tried to impart upon you as a child, this would not be so.”

The Dark Lord eyed her levelly.

“Yes,” he replied, “you did teach me obedience, when I was young and helpless. Now, however, it is you who are helpless. It is time, Mrs. Cole, for me to teach you what true obedience really means.” He paused, twirling his wand. “Imperio!”

I did not need to see the woman’s face to know what had happened. As a Muggle, she was completely helpless to resist such a powerful enchantment.

“Now,” the Dark Lord began, calmly, “You shall walk that way, towards the ocean. Do not stop walking unless I tell you to.”

As the woman neared the edge of the cliff, I leaned over, feeling the bile rise in my stomach. All courage had deserted me in this moment of terror.

“Stop,” commanded the Dark Lord. “Come back here.” I sank down on my knees, sweating profusely, as he lifted the curse from her mind. Relieved as I was that the woman had not yet fallen to her death, I could not help harboring a distressing notion that the Dark Lord’s choice to restore her mind to its normal state was intended only to make her experience completely whatever torment he was about to inflict upon her.

“It would be too simple,” he continued, “to kill you in such a manner. Before I end your life, I must make sure to reward you for the way you treated me, as a powerless child. Of course, your ways of ministering physical pain were quite… crude… compared to what you will now experience. However, it would be most unfair to treat you differently than my other victims, would it not? Therefore I ask you to prepare yourself for the most agonizing pain yet known to mankind. Crucio!”

At the sound of the old woman’s screams, I toppled against the brambles, vomiting violently into their midst. When I finally righted myself, the Dark Lord had paused, apparently to speak again. 

“You think very highly of your Lord Jesus, do you not, Mrs. Cole?” he sneered. “Yet, Jesus was not powerful. No. He let himself be killed. Killed by Muggles, at that. But I, Lord Voldemort, shall never be killed. I, alone, shall escape death. Forever, I shall reign immortal over all this Earth. And you, Mrs. Cole, shall help me upon that journey to immortality.”

I froze, holding my breath, while the Dark Lord removed a shining golden locket from around his neck, mumbling a few spells I could not discern. 

“Do you know what I am doing, Mrs. Cole?” he inquired. The old woman stared at him blankly. The Cruciatus Curse had eaten all of her words. 

“This locket,” the Dark Lord continued, “is no ordinary locket. It once belonged to my noble ancestor, Salazar Slytherin. Within it, I shall place a piece of my soul, to reside there for eternity. No one shall destroy me without first destroying this locket. And no one shall find this locket, for no one shall discover the cave in the rock beneath us, in the midst of which a piece of my soul shall reside, encased in a potion so deadly that none can drink it without going slowly insane, wishing above all for their own demise. Do you remember this cave, Mrs. Cole? I would not have discovered it, along with dear Dennis and Amy, of course, had you not kindly thought to take us all on that little outing, so many years ago. Fitting, is it not, that I chose to return to this site, to finally dispose of you, who made the first years of my life so miserable?”

The Dark Lord paused, poising his wand. I barely had time to register his intent before a blinding green flash of light shot towards the old woman, accompanied by none other than those two ever–feared words: “Avada Kedavra.”

Chapter 11: Resignation to Martyrdom
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

11. Resignation to Martyrdom

Tiny rose-colored buds of light were just beginning to make their way across the edge of the horizon when I finally awoke from my faint. Struggling to disentangle my robes from the brambles, I sat up, wiping stale vomit off my face with the back of my sleeve. Pulling out my wand, I hurriedly vanished the remainder of the mess, silently cursing my own weakness. Even my most abominable brother would not have lost consciousness in such a grave situation. Why had I not been endowed with the same physical prowess?

I retched again at the thought of the previous night’s events. Why had I not come to the old woman’s rescue? It was, I supposed, for the very reason which, so many years ago, the Sorting Hat had failed to place me in the House of Gryffindor alongside my brother. Self-preservation ranked too high within my subconscious, which knew I could not prevail against the Dark Lord. So I had sat there, complacently, watching the performance of the most heinous spell known to mankind.

The Dark Lord had, truly, rendered himself invincible. Even one strong enough to defeat him in combat would have killed in vain, for a piece of his soul would remain in that locket forever. His destruction could not be complete without the destruction of the locket. Thus his immortality was secured, for who would ever learn of the locket’s existence, other than myself? And what significance could my knowledge hold, with my own destruction approaching so rapidly?

After witnessing the Dark Lord torture and kill a helpless Muggle woman without due reason, I felt certain that I, who had failed him, would suffer a much worse fate. What use could I be to him now? More importantly, what exploitation of my talents would I ever agree to, after witnessing such a horrific spectacle? While others could persecute those of lesser status with ease, my heart would never acquiesce to such a violation of its inherent principles.

Thus I resigned myself to martyrdom. There was no place I could hide where the Dark Lord would not find me, and no one with whom I could seek refuge. For the first time, I fully appreciated the fear which his name held for so many wizarding families. Now I yearned as much as any of them for the defeat of he whom I had once considered my master.

I sighed again as I pondered the implausibility of this desire. As none but myself knew of the existence of the Dark Lord’s horcrux, it could not possibly be destroyed, unless, of course, I myself destroyed it. As I began to seriously consider this possibility, the old woman’s face floated through my mind once again, as if calling me to avenge her. My decision was made. With my demise already inevitable, how could I not devote these last few days on Earth to an attempt to atone for my previous wrongdoings?

Tottering to my feet, I departed from the sanctuary of the bushes, striding purposefully towards the edge of the cliff. If the cave in which the horcrux was hidden was indeed directly beneath us, I assumed that its opening would be visible from my perch. While I could not ascertain its exact location, careful examination of my surroundings revealed a number of seemingly perilous niches in the rock face, which I supposed could be used to accommodate one’s descent. Mistrustful of my own climbing abilities, however, I chose instead to perform a simple Parachute Charm, which the Prince had most fortuitously envisioned barely a month ago.

I landed softly atop a slippery boulder, hastily muttering another of the Prince’s spells, which allowed me to retain my footing. Glancing around, I soon espied the opening to the cave which the Dark Lord had mentioned. Unfortunately, a sizeable expanse of water loomed before it, which, under normal circumstances, would have been reason enough for me to turn back. Strangely, however, my determination seemed to increase the closer I ventured towards my goal. If I drowned, I reminded myself, it would only be hastening my death a couple of days at the most.

Skeptically, I cast a Bubble-Head charm upon myself and lowered my body into the sea. At first I tried to paddle along the surface, but soon resorted to simply walking upon the ocean floor – my copious vomiting had left me exhausted. Soon enough the submerged boulders began to form a sort of underwater stairway, leading up to the cave’s entrance. Awkwardly, I clambered up the slippery surface, finally emerging soaked and shivering from the ocean’s depths.

I paused briefly to dry myself before cautiously venturing into the mouth of the cave.

“Lumos,” I whispered shakily, holding my wand out in front of me like a shield as I treaded carefully upon the slippery rock, almost injuring myself when the narrow passageway turned to the left. Shockingly, I soon found myself confronted by a blank wall. Yet there was something unnatural, almost magical, about its appearance. Something which indicated that it was a barrier which could be passed through, if only I knew the correct procedure.

I sat down upon a nearby boulder, racking my brains for any possible solution. After I had vainly employed every remotely relevant Dark spell I had gained knowledge of in the past few years, I allowed my mind to wander back to the days of my childhood previous to my enrollment at Hogwarts, when I had sat, week after week, poring through the entire Library of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black for lack of a better occupation. Failing to remember anything of use, I sighed, recalling the stories Kreacher used to read to me before bedtime. They had been full of heroic acts against cruel Muggle opressors, victorious wizards righteously demanding tribute, not just of food but of gold, and jewels, and… blood?

I sat bolt upright, sweating profusely. Was it possible? So ancient, and yet so simple? Without hesitation, I pulled out my wand, slicing open the flesh of my forearm and rubbing the wound vigorously against the solid rock. Almost instantly, a silver archway appeared upon the wall, before the middle portion of rock vanished. Trembling, I stepped inside.

Chapter 12: An Alteration of Fate
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic. The quote in italics is from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling.

12. An Alteration of Fate
I found myself in a vast cavern, completely dark except for a pale green mist emanating from what appeared to be the center of a colossal lake. Treading carefully around the water, I searched painstakingly for some sign of how to reach the center, where I knew the horcrux to be located. Try as I might, however, I discovered nothing which could possibly function as a transportational apparatus. 

Distracted by my brain’s fervent speculation, I tripped upon a large rock, clutching vainly at thin air as I sank to my knees. To my immense surprise, my fist closed on something solid, yanking it downward with the rest of my body. Upon closer examination, it appeared to be a copper chain. I tugged it again, feeling the unmistakable resistance of an object on its other end. Continuing to pull the chain towards myself, I noticed a slight ripple on the lake’s surface. 

Curious to what the Dark Lord might have concealed in its depths, I inched toward the shore. Squinting, I espied a boat, gliding smoothly towards me out of the mist. Soon enough, it had come to rest by my feet. Without hesitation, I clambered over the boat’s side. Ever so slowly, it began to move, carrying me to the center of the lake. The green mist became so dense that I barely noticed when we anchored against a basin, filled with an odious-smelling potion. This, of course, was the potion in which the horcrux resided. And, according to the Dark Lord, it had to be drunk. 

Drawing upon my innermost resources of bravery, I conjured a goblet and plunged it into the potion’s surface, bringing it shakily to my lips. With my first gulp of the potion, gold stars began to form in front of my eyes, obscuring my vision. As I swallowed the second gobletful, long-neglected childhood memories swam to the surface of my thoughts. They were not the usual recollections of my indignation at Sirius’ pranks, but rather, my nauseating smugness at the misfortunes inflicted upon him by our parents. I glimpsed his wistful smile, expressing hope that I would follow in his footsteps as a Gryffindor, and his brokenheartedness when I failed to do so. 

I knew in that instant that my brother had indeed cared for me, far more than Mother, Father, or even the Prince. His childish pranks were committed not out of malice, but as a desperate attempt to infuse even the smallest amount of joy and laughter inside the depressingly somber walls of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. What I had formerly viewed as insensitivity in his treatment of females was nothing more than a terrifying fear of love, for when in his childhood had he ever given love and not had it thrown back in his face like dirt? And who had ever rejected his love more callously than I? 

Burning in guilt, I drank a third gobletful. This time, however, I did not immediately recognize the images which flashed before me, all of them grotesque displays of torture and murder. In each scene, the masked attackers emerged out of emerald-colored flames. With a jolt, I realized that the provider of these flames was none other than myself. As I downed the fourth gobletful, the previous night’s events replayed over and over again in my mind, emphasizing my failure to rescue the old woman, and prevent the creation of the Dark Lord’s horcrux. 

The fifth gobletful was too much. My brain reeled, threatening explosion, as my body slumped against the cauldron. Never before had I experienced such extreme unhealth, and my mind was certainly in no state to discover a remedy. Drawing upon childhood habits, my mouth cried out, “Kreacher?” 

With a miniscule popping noise, the house-elf appeared at my side, viewing my situation with shock and horror. “Master Regulus does not look very well,” he ventured timidly. “What must Kreacher do?” 

My brain tore itself away from its agonizing realizations of guilt long enough to register the elf’s presence, while my mouth struggled to form words. “Must… drink… potion…” was all I managed to croak out, before the gold stars filled my vision completely, and I collapsed against the cauldron in yet another faint. 

After what must have been an hour, I awoke in a state of desperate panic. Sitting up groggily, I noted a small figure slumped across the boat next to me. “Kreacher?” I whispered, shaking the elf worriedly. 

Kreacher slowly righted himself, his already large eyes gaping up at me as if in a trance. “M-Master Regulus,” he began shakily, “Please. Please. Kreacher… bad house-elf. Please… Kreacher… head… go with Mother’s. Mother’s head… sit on board… next… next to… staircase. Kreacher’s head… there… too. Please… Kreacher… bad…” 

My own head still reeling, I gasped in horror at the pitiful sight before me. What had done this to him? My breath caught in my throat as my eyes turned upon the now-empty cauldron. I had not meant for him to drink the potion. What horrific images had crossed through his brain, I did not know, yet my own guilt at causing a creature, no matter how inferior, to suffer such an experience was unbearable. Now, because of my carelessness, he would spend the rest of his days wishing for nothing more than to have his head mounted on the wall alongside his mother’s. 

Staggering to my feet, I retrieved the heavy golden locket, my brain struggling to formulate an acceptable course of action. While I hated to ask anything more of Kreacher, it had become painfully clear that this elf was now my only hope. 

“Kreacher,” I addressed him, “Please… take this locket. Put it in the drawing room, in place of the old locket which once belonged to my ancestor Phineas Nigellus. Bring that locket to me, along with a quill and parchment. Inform no one, not even a member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, of your mission.” 

Bowing weakly, the elf disapparated. As I slouched against the side of the boat, awaiting his return, I speculated on how to best inform the Dark Lord of the loss of his horcrux. I certainly could not tell him to his face, for then he would simply use my death to create another. Thus, the destruction of the horcrux must be kept secret as long as possible, for the safety of all the world. Yet, when the Dark Lord did discover his loss, as he inevitably would, I wished to take credit for the disappearance, and be remembered for my efforts. To leave a note seemed the most suitable course of action. 

Soon enough, Kreacher returned, quill, parchment, and locket in hand. After relieving him of his burden, I began, trembling, to write the words which had been forming in my mind: 

“To the Dark Lord: I know I will be dead long before you read this, but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. I have stolen the real horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can. I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, you will be mortal once more.”

I scanned the note briefly, before adding my initials: “R.A.B.” Folding the parchment, I stuffed it into the locket which had once belonged to Phineas Nigellus, and dropped it into the cauldron.

“Kreacher, do you remember the potion which you drank?” I asked. The elf nodded. 

“Good,” I continued, “You shall brew that potion, return here, and place it in this cauldron. This way, the Dark Lord shall suspect nothing.” 

Kreacher’s eyes widened at the mention of my former master. Silently, I cursed myself for revealing too much information. 

“Now, please help me apparate.” I requested. 

“A-Apparate where, Master Regulus,” he inquired. 

“Somewhere… remote…” I faltered. The potion had taken its toll on my mind, and my ability to speak and think coherently was rapidly waning. Before I knew what was happening, Kreacher had grabbed my arm, and with a small pop we materialized in the middle of another, much smaller cave. 

I sighed, slumping against the wall. Turning towards Kreacher, I gave him my last instructions: “Kreacher, you are to tell no one of anything which has happened tonight, not even if a member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black commands you to do so. Do you understand?” 

“Yes, Master Regulus,” he replied, before disapparating, leaving me alone in the middle of the cave, with the knowledge of my accomplishment; I, alone, had altered the Dark Lord’s fate.

Chapter 13: A Prompt Confrontation
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

13. A Prompt Confrontation

After countless hours of uneasy slumber, painful growls of hunger gradually pulled me back to consciousness. I realized with a jolt that at least a day must have passed since I had last eaten. Never before had I denied myself nourishment for such an extensive duration. My first instinct was to call for Kreacher, but a sudden noise halted my intake of breath. Perhaps the elf had come to check on me. Much to my dismay, however, the figure that soon appeared before me was not that of my devoted servant. Rather, I found myself confronted by the sneering face of my cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange.

“Well, well, what have we here?” she smirked.

I gaped silently up at her, too shocked by her sudden appearance to formulate words. 

“Wittle Reggie got scawed of the Dark Lord and twied to wun away,” she mocked, donning the ever-irritating baby voice she had once used to torment her sisters for their overzealous admiration of my infantile cuteness, before the rift between our fathers had expanded to its current dimension.

“H-how did you get here?” I spluttered. While I held my discovery inevitable, I had not expected it to occur so soon.

“Kreacher,” she replied smugly.

“But I ordered him -” I exclaimed indignantly.

“Yes, I know,” Bellatrix continued in a rather bored voice, “you told him “to tell no one of anything which has happened tonight,” a silly instruction really – why would it matter if he couldn’t tell me that you were hiding, if nothing prevented him from telling me your whereabouts? Mind you, it was hard to coax it out of him, but he is sworn to obey me, after all. He did seem a bit mad though – kept begging me to chop off his head. I would have obliged gladly, but unfortunately your mother’s the only one with rights to do that.” She sighed dramatically.

Inwardly, I sighed in relief, though I had the wit to let my outward appearance remain trembling. Kreacher’s faithfulness had been tested and proven. If he had not informed Bellatrix of the locket’s existence, he would reveal it to no one. Now, at last, I could rest in peace.

“I congratulate you on your extraordinary cleverness, dear cousin,” I countered sarcastically. “What an incredible amount of guile it must have taken to beleaguer a defenseless house-elf into presenting you with such information. Truly, I did not expect such a prompt confrontation.”

“Stupid fool!” she shouted, all mockery now consumed by rage. “Did you really think such a pathetic excuse for a human as yourself could outsmart the greatest wizard of all time? Such lowly scum, you defile the name of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black! You dare to count yourself a part of the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin, who possess not a scrap of the cunning and sagacity embodied by our most revered Founder?”

Despite my predicament, I could not help but smirk inwardly at these remarks. How ironic of my cousin to accuse me of lacking slyness when only the previous day, I had singlehandedly managed to destroy one-half of the Dark Lord’s soul, without alerting anyone as to my accomplishment. Bitterly, I supposed I had been placed in the Most Noble and Superior House of Slytherin for a reason after all.

“Why did you not just kill the man?” Bellatrix demanded impatiently. 

I stared at her blankly, my brain struggling to recall what man she could possibly be talking about. Sensing my bewilderment, Bellatrix continued:

“Are you telling me that you don’t even remember something that happened barely twenty-four hours ago – the very reason why you are supposed to be in hiding? Unless, of course there is something of which I was not informed?”

She paused dramatically, skimming the surface of my thoughts. Suddenly, memories came flooding through my brain, of loitering surreptitiously outside the Portkey Office, and my subsequent accostal, lecture, and sentencing. With my last ounce of strength, I shut the doors of my mind.

“You mean… the… the man in the Portkey Office?” I stammered, bewildered. “But… why on earth would I want to kill him?”

Bellatrix stared. “You’re serious, aren’t you?” she whispered, shaking her head as if to clear away confusion. “I thought it would have been obvious.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Reggie, you do realize what’s happened, don’t you?” she continued, her voice softening slightly. “That man discovered you under circumstances suspicious enough to lead him to make a thorough investigation into your personal record. He uncovered all the illegal floo connections you made for the Dark Lord, and presented them at your hearing this morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up on the front page of the Daily Prophet tomorrow. If you’d just killed him on the spot and disapparated, you’d still have your job, and the Dark Lord’s respect.”

“H-how angry is he?” I spluttered anxiously.

“Considering you were stupid enough to wreck his entire transportation network in one go, to say that he’s upset would be putting it mildly. After this fiasco, they’re not going to let a single floo connection go by unapproved. Your position was quite significant, even if it was meant for one of… ah… lesser physical ability. However, I imagine after putting you through a few rounds of the Cruciatus Curse he’d be more than happy to have you come along on a few of the less exciting Muggle killing sprees,” she smiled patronizingly.

“What if I don’t want to?” I retorted, exhibiting a courage much greater than any I felt inside.

Bellatrix’s expression hardened instantly. “To turn against the Dark Lord means death,” she growled. “Which, coincidentally, brings me back to the reason I’m here… The Dark Lord, kind and benevolent master that he is, has agreed, at the request of your dear friend Severus Snape, to consider the possibility of giving you a second chance. I suppose, if you grovel enough, he might actually follow through with his promise. It’s worth a try, anyway – your other option is, of course, to let me dispose of you here and now.”

I paused briefly, considering her offer. I could either condemn myself to a life of misery and torture, or exit this realm altogether. Sensibly, I opted for the latter. Sooner or later, it would have to happen, and the potion coursing through my veins informed me that, considering the immeasurable havoc I had managed to wreak in my short time on Earth, the sooner I departed, the better.

“I shall no longer serve that crazed madman,” I replied, rather haughtily.

“Very well, then,” Bellatrix smirked, poising her wand. The potion within me bubbled joyously as she articulated the last words I would ever hear: “Avada Kedavra.”

Chapter 14: Epilogue - A Honorable Death?
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N - Thank you to all who have faithfully read and reviewed this fic over the many months it's taken me to complete it. Your support and encouragement have helped more than I know how to say. I hope you all enjoy the final chapter.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or locations, objects, etc. mentioned in this fanfic.

14. Epilogue - A Honorable Death?

Two days later, Mrs. Black slouched in her drawing-room throne, watching through bleary eyes as Kreacher tediously embroidered a new piece of information onto the family tapestry. A scowl crossed her face as she viewed the small round burn mark next to Kreacher’s hand. Why was it that her one true son had been the one to depart so quickly from the land of the living? She would have given everything she owned to exchange the fate of her younger son with that of the elder, but alas, Regulus lay in his grave whilst the filthy blood-traitor lived on.

Her niece, Bellatrix, had tried to convince her that Regulus had been a blood traitor as well. Mrs. Black wouldn’t believe a word of it – throughout his depressingly short life, Regulus had shown naught but complete reverence for the Law of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Bellatrix’s declaration was undoubtedly another ruse of that accursed fiend Orion, who, Mrs. Black reflected bitterly, would stop at nothing to heap as many stones of despair upon his brother as possible. Besides, she had more reliable testimony, she told herself, letting her mind wander back to the events of the previous morning.

Usually, the sheer displeasure of being roused at five o’clock would have caused Mrs. Black to erupt into one of her notorious screaming fits, but something about the haggard, listless appearance of the man standing before her compelled her to hold her tongue. She gazed apprehensively into his familiar brown eyes, wondering what possibly could have warranted such an urgent visitation.

“Hello, Severus,” she greeted him shakily. “Regulus isn’t home at the moment. Is there anything you need? You look a bit… paler than usual.”

“I… I can’t stay long, Mrs. Black,” Severus mumbled. “I just came to tell you that Regulus… well… he… he won’t be coming back.”

“W-what do you mean?” stammered Mrs. Black, alarmed. Such hesitant articulation of words on the part of perhaps the most eloquently versed wizard she had ever encountered presented a clear sign that something dreadful had occurred.

“What I mean is that… he… he’s dead. Dead in the service of the Dark Lord.” Severus did not take his eyes off the ground as he spoke.

The shriek Mrs. Black emitted was by far the most agonized sound to ever reach the ears of the numerous Dark creatures slowly beginning to infest the walls of No. 12 Grimmauld Place. Hesitantly, Severus drew her into an embrace, fighting back the tears which threatened to drip down his crooked nose while she sobbed fitfully against his chest.

As the sun crept slowly over the horizon, Mrs. Black synchronously lifted her eyes to meet those of her comforter.

“He did… die honorably, did he not?” she managed to choke out.

Severus bit his lip, frowning, while Mrs. Black glowered impatiently up at him. Yes, Regulus had left the world despised by most respectable wizarding folk as the Dark Lord’s accomplice, yet scorned by the Dark Lord himself for failing to comply with his orders. But was there anything truly dishonorable in such a rebellion? The inner workings of Severus’ brain seemed to defy time as they whirled haphazardly, slamming to an abrupt halt on what would come to be the most important decision of his entire life.

“His death was indeed honorable,” Severus concluded hoarsely, muffling the emotions coursing uninvited through his being with a dignified cough. “He has done nothing but bring utmost glory to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.”