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The Brightest by No_oneKnows
Chapter 1: He Will Burn
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He will glow. He will burn. He will be brighter than him...
The air was stiff with silence as Regulus rowed gently towards the middle of the lake, the black water beneath him unnaturally still. Slowly and gradually he began to hear his own heart thumping violently against his chest. His lips were sore and chapped and his eyes grew moist to the eerie green light that illuminated the cavern.
What was he doing here?
He had asked himself that very question countless times since his arrival, but the sound of a small whimper reminded him of what must be done, of why he was there.
Regulus threw a quick glance at the house-elf trembling in between his long legs.
“Kreacher,” Regulus’ voice was soft but deep, a slight quiver present in it as he tightened his legs around the creature as a means of comfort. “It will be okay. I won’t let them hurt you.” Regulus’ light grey eyes were gentle and kind as he continued to gaze at the house-elf.
Kreacher’s ears twitched as he turned his head towards his master. His own large sapphire coloured bauble eyes were wet, tears threatening to flow down his thin cheeks. Kreacher was no foreigner when it came to this place. He was familiar with it. It had brought back painful memories, painful nightmares and a darkness so dark.
Regulus could see it in his eyes. The desolation. The evil. The cruelty he had endured because of the Dark Lord… Lord Voldemort. Regulus forced a small smile at Kreacher, knowing full well that the closer they got towards the tiny island in the centre, the harder escape sprinted the other way.
Accepting this fact with a hint of resignation Regulus found himself thinking about his life. The life he was about to throw away, discard within this blackened cavern. The dark skull inked onto his left arm throbbed as he thought of his cousins, Bellatrix and Narcissa, sisters to him under the union of the Death Eaters. They would hate him; mark him as a traitor if they had ever found out where he was right at that moment.
He thought of the tall, thin and hawk-like yet beautiful woman who was his mother – Walburga. He thought of how she would often gaze out the window, a faraway look in her eyes whenever she thought no one was looking. Then, the thought of his large and towering father flitted through his mind. Orion. Orion, whose name matched the title of being the most recognisable constellation in the heavens.
Though they were naturally cold people, Regulus had loved them for who they truly were. His parents. They had raised him and tried their best to love him back. But it was difficult. Regulus knew it was.
And then, finally, he thought of him.
Sirius. His brother. A lifetime ago, his best friend. Sirius. For a long time, Regulus had hated him. Not because he was, what Bella would incessantly call him, a ‘filthy blood-traitor’, but because he had left. Just like that. Sirius had left without so much of a thought as to how the burden of the Black legacy would fall to him, Regulus.
He was left to pick up the scattered, broken pieces.
But no matter how many pieces he had endeavoured to fix, his life, his family had remained broken. Every effort was not enough. Not enough to make his parents love him the way they loved him – Sirius.
Sirius would never know how his – their – mother would conceal her tears with angry blinks, how she would mutter under her breath how much she missed him, how she wishes he was still here. How it should have been him, Regulus, to leave, to abandon them, not Sirius… Never Sirius.
An angry thought occurred to Regulus suddenly. How could he have been so selfish? So inconsiderate? With this instilled in his mind, Regulus rowed the boat faster; his anger exuded through the physical task.
He’d never thought of anyone but himself from the very beginning, yet, mother and father had loved him so dearly…
Kreacher let out a small squeak, bringing Regulus’ attention to the quickly approaching island of jagged rocks, the green glow engulfing them both. The boat hit the edge of the island with a thud that echoed throughout the cave, its emptiness sending shivers down Regulus’ back.
Shake it out, he thought, eyes averted to adjusting the oars. He had hoped that Kreacher didn’t see him losing his nerve.
In an attempt to regain his composure, Regulus straightened himself, holding out his hand for Kreacher to take. Kreacher did so, his little figure trembling violently as Regulus led the way to the stone basin in the centre.
“Is this it then, Kreacher?” he asked softly, fingers slowly tracing the smooth rock as his eyes reflected the emerald green potion that rippled silently, though the air around them was still.
Kreacher had begun to cry, his whimpers and hesitant nod told Regulus it was. Regulus let go of his elfin hand and hastily pulled out a carefully folded piece of parchment, hesitating.
“Promise me, Kreacher, promise me you’ll do everything I ask of you.”
The look on the elf’s face was more than agony. He didn’t want to. He had never wanted to come back to this desolate cave. But he had to. Because Master Regulus had commanded it.
“Destroy it, Kreacher. You must do that, do you understand?” Regulus crouched down, taking care not to slip on the slimy rocks. He placed his hands firmly on Kreacher’s tiny shoulders, careful not to hurt him. The elf gave a jerky nod, tears endlessly sliding down his face.
“Do not tell anyone, do you understand?”
Kreacher gave a more convincing nod this time, his lips quivering vehemently and his howl of despair on the verge of breaking loose.
Regulus felt his heart breaking as he continued gazing at him, the one being in the world that had loved him wholeheartedly, the one being who had seen him – not as Sirius’ shadow – but as a person.
He knew this would be hard for Kreacher, so he let go of his shaking body and decided to do it quickly. Regulus whisked his wand out, producing a silver goblet that fell into the potion with a splash. Kreacher had joined him next to the basin, clutching onto the hem of his robe tightly.
With a deep breath, Regulus filled the goblet to the top, smiling sadly as he brought it to his lips.
So here’s to drinks in the dark… at the end of my road.
The minute the poison had reached his lips his entire body had flared into one of agony. His insides writhed with a scorching as though an inferno had ignited within him. His throat had erupted in excruciating pain and the sound of his heart beating deafened Kreacher’s loud wails.
“Master Regulus!” Kreacher’s cries resonated around the cavern, the picture of Regulus thrashing around clutching his throat made him want to stop.
Suddenly, Regulus grabbed hold of the elf’s rags, desperation in his eyes.
Kreacher understood. He scooped another goblet full of the murky green potion, pressing it against Regulus’ lips. “You must take this, Master Regulus.” Kreacher wished he would order him to stop.
But Regulus didn’t. His mind had gone from this world. Instead, Regulus saw himself far away from this place. Instead, he saw Sirius. The brightest…
Another swallow and Regulus found himself staring at his mother, her blue eyes bulging with fury, a stream of grey smoke materialising from the black cigarette burn that had now replaced Sirius’ face on the family tapestry. “It should have been you.” She hissed, her eyes bright with tears. “Not Sirius. No, you have always been the disappointment.”
Regulus shook his head vigorously, the poison seeping into what felt like his blood stream, sending his entire body into an unbearable spasm of pain. He caught the look of Kreacher before him, pulling at his rags once more to urge him on. Then he had gone. He was back, trapped in his memories.
Memories of his father and a younger Sirius, who was eight at that particular moment. Regulus remembered this moment vividly as it had ripped his insides in the same manner that the potion had currently been doing.
Sirius was perched on his father’s knee, grinning at the miniature wand he had just given him.
“So I can be a good wizard like you?” Sirius looked up at his father who had, amazingly, smiled back down at him, as though fond.
“You can be better.” Orion’s voice was strangely tender, “You’ll be better than any of us.”
At this point, Orion had started to laugh. They were unaware that Regulus had been listening.
“You’ll always be better than him, Sirius, remember that.”
The poison had reached Regulus’ skull, threatening to rip his scalp open.
“Do you know what you’re named after, Sirius?”
Sirius shook his head, his black hair dancing. Orion waved his wand and Regulus watched as the wall to the right turned into a large, clear window.
“Do you see that star over there?” Orion pointed his thick finger at the brightest star in the night sky. Sirius nodded. It was unmissable.
“That’s Sirius, the dog star. The brightest star in the Heavens.” His hand went down to Sirius’ shoulder, gripping it tightly with a proud smirk on his face while Sirius’ grey eyes glistened, reflecting the unparalleled radiance of Sirius – the star.
“And that over there,” – he pointed at the cluster of stars beside Sirius, “is Orion. Orion the Hunter.” Sirius’ mouth opened slightly, absorbing it all.
“What about Reg? Where is he?”
Orion waved his hand unconcernedly, “That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re always by me, by my side, like the Dog Star is with his hunter.”
“Please, Master Regulus, one more! Please!” Kreacher’s screech brought Regulus back. He was unaware of the amount of screaming he had been doing and found it immensely difficult to breathe, his throat prickling as though coarse. “One more, Master Regulus, Kreacher has one more.”
Regulus nodded. One more until it was all over. He handed Kreacher the piece of parchment that had been crumpled in his tightened hands, red, bleeding nail marks visible on his palm.
“Put it in,” he managed to croak hoarsely, passing Kreacher the locket too. Kreacher’s blue orb-like eyes glittered with salty, unending tears as he took hold of the fake locket.
“I beg Master to reconsider,” Kreacher knew it was no good; he knew this was the end.
Regulus shook his head as firmly as he could, reaching out for the goblet with a shaky arm. “Put it in, now.”
Kreacher turned away with what seemed to be all the power he could muster. Regulus attempted a smile; gracious for that little creature before him who had always been so loyal.
One more, he thought to himself, closing his eyes to what was now pitch darkness apart from the slight glow of the goblet. One more…
Regulus skulled the rest of the goblet in one take, an unnerving quiet before yet again, he was plunged into a disturbingly dark moment in his life.
“Come away with me, Reg.” Sirius murmured, eyes staring intently at Regulus’, the stars and the moon illuminating half of his sad looking face. “Come away from this place.”
Regulus wanted to. But he couldn’t. Not anymore.
He shook his head.
“Why not, Reg!” Sirius was frustrated as he shut his trunk with a slam, “What’s keeping you here?”
Regulus couldn’t answer. But deep down, he knew this was his chance. His chance to burn brighter than his brother ever did.
“Fine. I’m leaving, then.” Sirius had always been reckless… selfish… Why couldn’t he, Regulus, be selfish for once, too?
Suddenly, he had realised. Regulus realised...he was never the brightest…because the brightest was inimitable.
Rather, Regulus had realised it far too late. That moment his left arm had been branded was the moment he had fallen… When his flames, his radiance had been extinguished…
"Water,” he let out a husky groan, reaching out at Kreacher for water. Kreacher shook his head fervently, begging Regulus not to command him to retrieve water. Regulus took hold of the elf’s shivering hands, the chain of the locket… the horcrux rattling also.
“Destroy it,” he managed to mutter, “Kreacher, destroy it, no matter what.” Kreacher nodded, his face distinctly wet. “Now, get out of here.”
The elf muttered incoherently, eyes pleading with Regulus to say otherwise. Regulus didn’t. Instead, he pulled himself towards the edge of the bank, the only source of water available.
Kreacher pulled on his robes aggressively, “No! Master Regulus must not touch the water!”
This time, Regulus managed an affectionate smile. “Kreacher,” Kreacher shook his head continuously, his muttering growing louder and louder, “I order you-” Kreacher gasped, his hands tightly clasped against his ears, his mutters the loudest, “- to go. Don’t look back.” Kreacher let out a deafening wail as Regulus pushed off of the rocks and into the depths of the black water.
It was immediately silent inside the lake, neither cold nor warm, the surface slowly growing faint and obscure as the tight grips of the inferi pulled him further down, into the darkness.
It’s always darkest before the dawn… Regulus thought, a small sad smile visible on his drowning face. Kreacher would not fail him; he knew it. He could never fail him…
Images of his parents flew by what was left of his mind, waving their hands at him and calling him towards them, a genuine smile on their face as they gazed lovingly at him, pulling him in…
Then came Sirius, the familiar beam on his face…
He’ll always be the brightest star in the heavens…
It’ll always be Sirius. But, at least, in death, Regulus will finally be selfish. He will finally do something Sirius could never.
He will glow.
He will burn.
He will, for a moment, be brighter than him…
And that was the end.
Regulus, one of the brightest stars in the Heavens, had been truly extinguished.
Author's Note: Hello there!
I've always wanted to write a one-shot regarding Regulus' death and his thoughts but it was these challenges - SamMalfoy93's "Shake It Out" Challenge & ScorpiusRose17's Favourite Canon Challenge - that gave me the incentive to do so! (My first ever challenges! Ah!!)
I was actually under quite a bit of pressure to do this piece since both challenge setters had expressed how much they liked Regulus. I can honestly say that I'm quite nervous of how people will react to it! Eek!
Anyway, this is my interpretation to how each of the characters had felt - which I'm sure will differ to a lot of you - and hopefully, I have done Regulus some justice by writing this piece!
Thanks for reading and please don't forget to tell me what you think! :D