A/N: This chapter was particularly hard to write/get into. I got about a page done and then realized I had made a crucial plot mistake and had to erase it all and start again. Even when I finally hit my stride, it was difficult. I'm not entirely happy with the chapter, but hopefully that's just me being overly critical. Tell me what you think of it? P.S. - Accidentally deleted & reposted!
I could tell you what I've done
Or should I tell you where I went wrong?
Well the more that I start to play
My deceitful, evil ways
Keep growing stronger by the day
Oh Lord have mercy on my soul
For I have walked a sinful road
~Mercy On Me, Christina Aguilera
Regulus never really thought much about death in his youth. The fact that people died was, of course, inevitable – but he was disconnected from it wholly. Nobody he had been extremely close to had ever died. The closest he had ever gotten to seeing death was the night his brother’s blood had run freely down his face, and the Killing Curse had blinded them all with green light. He did not think much of the mechanics of death; he preferred not to think of it at all. The fact that one moment a person could be living and breathing, seeing and smelling, laughing and talking, and the next, they could be vacant and wholly unknowing . . . . It was somewhat of a horrifying mystery to Regulus, who had never been made to understand much about the ‘afterlife’. His main goal in life, the thing his parents had stressed upon him from the moment Sirius had turned out so disappointing, was that he must protect the bloodline; he must behave honorably and like a Black – proud, unaffected, poised, and regal. His parents had never spoken to him of being a good person. His parents had never spoken to him about his soul and therefore, Regulus never really thought much about it. He knew he must have one, but for all he knew of it, it certainly did not trouble him much . . . He figured it would only matter in the unlikely event that a dementor got a hold on his face and started lowering that dread hood of theirs.
The fact that he would see death eventually, he had of course expected. The fact that he would die was something he must come to accept, though he liked to avoid the thought. The thought, however, that he might one day have a hand in taking a human life . . . . Regulus had thought about this as much as he thought about his soul – that is to say, hardly at all. It was an unreality, something that did not affect his person or life immediately, and therefore pointless to focus on.
Except that lately, he noticed he was focusing on the both of them quite oftener than usual. As soon as the unspoken word ‘Ruthless’ had passed through his somewhat petrified mind in the company of his two cousins, he seemed to have broken through a wall of denial and composure that had thus far protected him from thinking too much about his actions and the consequences of them. Regulus, frankly, just didn’t have much time for that sort of thinking. He was far too busy focusing on elevating the Black family name up to where it should be – he had no time to think about his soul.
As he walked through dark streets, a sultry summer night pressing in on him heavily from every direction, Regulus wondered very briefly if he was doing the wrong thing. He wondered, as he watched his cousin skip through the streets, a wide smile on her face and her hair blowing out behind her as she twirled and danced to their destination – a quiet little house with one light on in the upper story –, he wondered if she was not leading him into the same darkness that seemed to swallow her up, sometimes.
"Regulus, Regulus, Regulus Black," Bellatrix crowed happily, spinning around with her arms outstretched and reveling in the night air on her cheeks. Regulus watched her, wondering how it was that she could be so carefree and happy when his own guts were in knots that seemed untie-able. He licked his lips nervously. "How handsome you look in your mask! Come here and kiss me, cousin."
Bellatrix ignored her own request and approached him instead, sidling over to him and throwing her arms around his neck, kissing him squarely on lips that were not hidden by the mask that covered the rest of his face. Regulus stayed motionless as she kissed him, his mouth unmoving and closed against her own, and when she broke away she looked up into his eyes with a smirk of displeasure on her face.
"What’s wrong, Regulus? Afraid of a little kiss?"
"I think it’s generally a bad idea to go around kissing family members," Regulus replied tonelessly, trying to hide the twinge of repulsion he felt. Bellatrix laughed.
"You’ll have to loosen up if you ever want to provide us with a little heir," said Bellatrix, twirling around and skipping on ahead of him once more. Regulus was happy to see the back of her, even if it was only for a moment. "After all, my mother was a Rosier."
"Well, and? What does dear Aunt Dru have to do with me creating an heir?" Regulus asked, rather impatiently – the house that was their destination was looming ahead of them, and he was too nervous to be discussing a subject that could only, if it was possible, unsettle him more.
"My mother has nothing to do with it – but her brother has got two daughters, and you’re going to marry one of them. We’re still not quite sure which one. What do you value more, Regulus – wit or beauty?"
Regulus faltered and his heart plummeted at the news that his cousins were narrowing down on a match for him so quickly and efficiently – they worked fast. And a Rosier . . . they were related, in a way, though it wasn’t as bad as it might have been. But of course Bellatrix would want to keep it in the family . . . He almost felt like laughing at the thought, though he didn’t know why, seeing as though the situation was probably the least amusing thing he had the misfortune to hear of since Bellatrix had first mentioned that she would be picking his bride.
"Find me one who isn’t a crazy shrew like you, Bella, and I’ll be quite content," Regulus replied laconically. Bellatrix turned and smirked at him. She did not seem perturbed that he had called her a crazy shrew, but then she was the type of woman who would find it more of a compliment than an insult.
"Well then, that narrows it down to one. But be quiet! We’re getting too close now to be speaking."
And they were. Regulus could make out the tinier details of the house, now – there was a sign on the doorway that looked cheerful and inviting, and the light in the upstairs window seemed to have a reddish tint, as if the window was covered with rose-colored curtains. He could smell the faintest tinge of begonias on the air. For some reason this made him feel uneasy.
"We’re paying a little visit to Timothy Rawle – he’s a Mudblood who works at the Ministry of Magic, in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. He’s part of the Muggle-Worthy Excuse Committee," Bellatrix whispered, with a throaty chuckle. Regulus wasn’t quite sure why this was funny, but he smiled weakly at her nonetheless. "I wonder what excuse they’ll come up with after tonight . . ."
"And why does the Dark Lord want us to ‘pay a little visit’ to this man?" Regulus whispered back, looking up at the rose-tinted light in the window. He wondered what Timothy Rawle was doing, and if he expected to be accosted in his home by two Death Eaters.
"He speaks out against our cause quite vociferously in the Ministry, the washed up vermin. We think that he might be thinking of joining the Order of the Phoenix. We’re here to . . . convince him otherwise." Bellatrix flicked her hair over her shoulder and smiled wide.
Regulus gave a resolute nod of understanding and followed Bellatrix up the walk. They paused halfway to the front door, and Bellatrix looked up to the second story window that was alight. She licked her lips and then looked back to Regulus, and he was momentarily taken aback by the hard-as-flint gleam he saw sparkling in the blackness of her eyes. Unbidden, the word ‘ruthless’ crossed his mind for the second time.
"Apparate up into that room," Bellatrix hissed to him, her voice barely audible over the whisper of ferns and tree branches blowing lazily in the summer breeze. She turned her face back up to the window and muttered, "Surprise, surprise . . ."
Regulus pulled out his wand, closed his eyes and focused on the room with the rose colored curtains, spinning on the spot, the smell of begonias intensifying briefly in his nostrils; the first noise that met his ears and told him he had succeeded was a frightened yelp from a man he could only assume was Timothy Rawle. His eyes opened just in time to deflect a defensive spell that the man tossed his way, and then, just as quickly, Disarm him. Bellatrix, standing beside him, caught the man’s wand easily.
"Tut, tut Timothy," Bellatrix chided, fingering the wand in her hand. "So good at making up excuses and speaking out against the Dark Lord’s cause, but not at all skilled when it comes to protecting your flabby little backside. Hmm, but what else would you expect from a Mudblood?"
Regulus surveyed his surroundings minutely, taking in the smaller-than-average bed that was stationed in the room. There was a book sitting on the night stand, and by the looks of it, it was made by Muggles. The room was lit in Muggle fashion. There were several pictures hung on the walls, and perched on the dressers, all of them unmoving and depicting happy looking people – a middle-aged and plump woman, and a boy, no older than sixteen or seventeen, with dark hair and a wide smile. The entire room spoke of a person of common blood. And, Regulus noted, so did Timothy Rawle. He was a distinctly unremarkable looking man, with a copious amount of rust-colored hair and a large forehead, which was currently beaded with sweat. He was bent slightly at the knees, his hands outstretched, palms outwardly facing, his back bowing in an expression of surrender. The man’s somewhat watery eyes were flickering all around the room, looking for exits, searching for a way that he could escape or perhaps steal back his wand. The dewy eyes fell, in their inspection of the room, on Regulus, who was standing quite motionless, his wand out and steady; the pupils of the watery eyes dilated for the briefest of instants, before flickering back to Bellatrix.
"This is how you lot work, is it? Sneaking up on a man in the dead of night, Apparating into his private –"
"But you didn’t think to place charms around your humble little abode to really make it so, Timmy! If you insist on acting like a Muggle, then we have no choice but to treat you like one," Bellatrix admonished, the wicked smile still twisting her lips.
"Oh I know all about the way you treat Muggles," Timothy choked out, taking a step backwards. A bead of sweat streaked down his cheek and he wiped it away with the back of his hand. The watery eyes had stopped scanning the room, and were now focused solely on Bellatrix; there was a hardness in them, now that the shock was over and Timothy Rawle seemed to understand that he was cornered, that Regulus had not expected to find in them. "You’re fiends! Torturing and maiming, hiding behind whatever ‘cause’ gives you an excuse to spill the most blood!"
Rawle puckered up his lips and spat viciously at Bellatrix’s feet; from the corner of his eye, Regulus saw that Bellatrix’s smile had twisted into a ferocious looking snarl. She had the appearance of a bloodthirsty jungle cat with its prey caught just beneath its massive paw. She pointed her walnut wand at the man, who had straightened up into a posture of upright defiance, and Regulus wasn’t sure what spell he expected her to use on him, but for some reason the one she did had never crossed his mind.
"Crucio!" she hissed, and Regulus caught his breath as Rawle crumpled to the floor. His shrieks filled the room; manic, hoarse, and horrendous in the raw intensity of them. Regulus had never heard somebody scream like that, had never heard a man make such noises, noises like the screeching of demons– an insane, ungodly shouting that made Regulus flinch and recoil from it. He wanted desperately to stop it all, so that he did not have to hear the screams for a second longer.
And then the screams died, the echoes of them resounding in Regulus’s ears, and he looked to Bellatrix, who was staring at him with that glint in her eyes – she was waiting for his jeer, for his own twisted smile, but Regulus couldn’t move a muscle. He stood motionless with his arm outstretched, his wand pointing at a man who was no longer standing, but who was curled up out of sight on the side of the bed; Regulus could hear the choked whimpers but could not see the man who made them.
"You see how pathetic these Mudbloods are, dear cousin?" Bellatrix mused. Her wand was still pointing lazily at where the man had fallen to the floor. She didn’t seem to be shaken by the fact that she had just tortured a man – Regulus knew without pondering further that she had undoubtedly done it before. He wondered that the thought had never crossed his mind before that moment, and why he hadn’t expected this to be on the menu for tonight. She looked at him expectantly, waiting for his answer. His mouth was dry, and it seemed to take an excessive amount of effort to wrench his lips apart, and when he did, his words failed him. There were soft footsteps approaching him, and then an arm snaked around his abdomen and pulled him back against her, while her other arm shadowed his own outstretched one, and her fingernails bit into the back of his hand, directing his wand at the man who was struggling to pull himself back up. Her breath was hot on his neck as she murmured, "Your turn."
Regulus’s mind went completely blank, and he heard Bellatrix’s words echoing strangely in his head; it was as if they were drifting, floating across an empty black void, like space. Your turn . . . Your turn . . .
His turn to do what? He had almost forgotten that he was a wizard, that he was a Death Eater, that he was a Black – he felt like a little boy, cowering in the darkness, trying to hide from the monsters that lurked in his shadows. Except his monster was standing right behind him, with her hand pressed firmly against his navel and her lips resting on the base of his neck, waiting for him to do it . . . and all the while the man was pulling himself to his feet with the assistance of that small little bed.
"Focus, baby Regulus," she crooned in his ear. "You have to mean it. The Dark Lord demands that you mean it . . . Think of all of those vile Mudbloods, clogging up our Ministry, telling everyone that purity of blood means nothing . . . Nothing! All that you have worked for, everything that you stand for, the very blood that runs in your veins, Regulus, this man is against! Show him that we Blacks do not take kindly to those who would put us down and stamp us out! Do it . . . do it now!"
Her fingernails bit into his stomach and the back of his hand respectively, and he felt a hot rush of frustration and fear. He was pausing, ruining it all with his inability to act. The faces of his two cousins swam across his vision, beautiful but coldly speculative in his abilities . . . The Dark Lord was placing the tip of his wand to Regulus’s forearm and welcoming him to his ranks . . . . His classmates were smirking at him from behind their hands just after Andromeda’s elopement . . . . Do it, do it now.
He inhaled sharply and cried out, his voice cracking, "Crucio!"
The man sprawled out across his bed, his face pressed into his sheets as he howled with pain, his limbs thrashing and twitching, his rusty hair sticking to a sweaty face that was distorted with agony, the watery eyes rolling in the sockets madly. Rawle slipped from the bed with all of his flailing and crashed in a heap onto the floor, his limbs making dull thumps against the floorboards as he writhed. Regulus heard the excited, breathless panting of Bellatrix in his ear, and felt her hand creeping lower down his abdomen. His stomach was churning and his insides seemed to be burning; he felt as though he was going to be sick. There was a tightness in his throat, and he almost felt like he wanted to scream, but all that he could utter was a choked sort of pitiable cry. Rawle was screaming, screaming, and Regulus’s eyes flickered up to a large portrait hanging above the bed, with Rawle and the dark haired boy standing behind a sitting woman with dark hair flecked with white. The boy with dark hair and a wide smile, and in no other picture was he smiling wider than in the one hanging above the bed . . . . Regulus wasn’t much older than that boy . . . . He wondered if the boy in the picture had ever tortured a man before, the way he, Regulus, was currently torturing the boy’s father. . . .
The shrieks ended as Regulus stumbled forward out of Bellatrix’s panting grasp, ending the curse. He felt winded, and his chest was heaving, his gasps wracking his body sharply and painfully. He couldn’t breathe, and the mask on his face seemed to be suffocating him; he ripped it off without thought and drug trembling fingers through his hair. He felt as though he could breathe easier without the mask on his face, as if he was free of some heavy, vice-like weight.
"You did quite well for a moment there, baby Regulus," Bellatrix said from behind him. "But you stopped, you let it end . . . perhaps when we leave I’ll torture you until you learn to keep your wand steady and your resolve firm. Like this."
And without giving the man on the floor time to recover, she pointed her wand at him once again and shouted out the Cruciatus Curse. It did not end, but went on and on and on, until Regulus wasn’t sure if he had ever heard another noise in his entire life that wasn’t the insane screaming of a tortured man. It went on until Regulus felt his breath catch in his chest, and his throat tighten to the point of pain, and his eyes sting. His held his wand limply in his hand and for a moment, as he watched Rawle claw at his own face in an effort to seemingly pull the pain off of him, Regulus contemplated turning it on his cousin and stopping it all. And then Bellatrix lowered her wand, and Rawle’s limbs fell limp beside him as his chest heaved and his eyes stopped rolling. Regulus, standing at the foot of the bed and supporting his weight against the bedpost, could not take his eyes off of him.
"A little breather, I think," Bellatrix crowed happily from behind him. "Would you like to take another turn, Regulus?"
Regulus did not answer; he was drenched in sweat but he felt unbearably cold, like his entire body had been doused in icy water . . . Like his very soul was drenched in icy water . . .
Rawle shook as he pushed himself up onto his knees. He stayed in that position, on all fours on the floor of his bedroom, for what felt like an eternity before trying to pull himself up with the help of his bed, once again. He must know that it was pointless, that she would strike again and knock him to the ground, and yet he did not seem to want to take it lying down. His grappling hands pulled at the bed sheets in his attempt to right himself, and he was panting in his effort and in the aftermath of his pain. Surely he had had enough? Surely they had gotten the message through to him by now?
Rawle looked up with unfocused eyes, and his gaze fell upon Regulus, still leaning heavily against the bedpost. The man’s mouth fell open and his face started to redden, and Regulus was horrified to see that there were tears swimming in the watery eyes that had lost all of their former hardness and defiance. One shaking hand reached out to Regulus and his shining, vast expanse of forehead crumpled with emotion that words alone could not adequately express.
"My . . . my son . . . save me . . . my boy . . ." Rawle’s pleads were cut off by the choking sob that wracked through his body, but his hand was still outstretched, still reaching for a hand that would not, could never, grasp his own with the comfort and love the old man desired.
Regulus’s hand slid from the post, and he wanted to reach out and . . .
There was a flash of green, and the light in Timothy Rawle’s eyes went out. The outstretched hand fell limp onto the bedspread, and the portly little body moved no more. Regulus stared down at vacant eyes that had once been watery and courageous all at once, and a lolling mouth that had seconds before begged silently and tremulously for his absent son to take his hand. Regulus felt his own mouth open in horror as he looked down at Death for the first time in his life.
"You killed him," Regulus said finally, and he was surprised at how dead his own voice sounded.
Bellatrix laughed shrilly and replied, "Why of course, baby Regulus! How else were we going to persuade him to rethink his loyalties?"
She laughed again, and Regulus pushed himself away from his supportive post, standing hunched and pale, staring down at the unknowing eyes of Timothy Rawle. This had been the plan, all along. Torture and then murder . . . He had not seen it, but he had been blind not to. Just as Timothy Rawle had been blind . . .
"Come on, come on, what are you waiting for?" Bellatrix asked impatiently, but Regulus was hardly listening. "Send up the Dark Mark, Regulus!"
His hand faltered for an instant, and then mechanically, as if it were somebody else pulling the strings that had him dangling in life, he raised his arm over his head and whispered, "Morsmordre!"
There was a flash of green. Bellatrix let out a purr of pleasure and said, "Good . . . Now our job here is done, baby Regulus. Next time, you’ll do better . . . or I’ll be giving you a taste of what happens to those followers of the Dark Lord who show weakness during their missions."
Bellatrix disappeared with a crack, and Regulus was left standing in the room alone with the dead man who had once been called Timothy Rawle. Regulus knew he was nothing now; he was nobody. His soul was gone, the light in his eyes was forever extinguished, and his son would never again see the indulgent, loving smile that he donned in the numerous pictures hung and perched around the room. His last request had been for his son to save him, but he had made it to the wrong man, to the wrong dark-haired boy.
Regulus felt a swooping sickness in his gut and spun on the spot. When he stumbled and fell forward, it was onto his own floor, and it was there that he retched, and it was there that his weak arms collapsed beneath him and he lay trembling on the ground, his face pale and sweaty. He might be horrified of everything that had happened that night; he might be horrified of what he had done and what he had witnessed, and of the murder that he had taken part in, that he had watched happen, that he had let happen without raising his hand to stop it; he might be horrified of what would happen to his soul once it left his own body, after what he had done that night; he might be terrified that the curse he had used that night would prove truly unforgivable, even after he was dead. He might be horrified, terrified, but he would not let anybody else see it.
Because he was a Black, and Blacks are not afraid for their souls.
Blacks are not afraid of anything.
A/N: Well, was it awful? Were you bored silly, and distinctly less-than-impressed? Hopefully not. Next chapter will introduce Regulus's betrothed, one of the Rosier girls. Obviously I have no proof that such girls existed -- but so few pure-blood girls are mentioned from that time that I had little to go off of, based purely on fact. I knew that Evan Rosier was a Death Eater, and so I figure, why couldn't he have a few sisters? It's possible that he could have, though in the future, of course, they would have married and taken different last names. Of course, as always, review! lest I get so discouraged that I quite writing entirely! P.S - Begonias = Beware. A little bit of flower foreshadowing, hm?