I sing what was lost and dread what was won,
I walk in a battle fought over again,
My king a lost king, and lost soldiers my men
- W.B. Yeats
“My little prince,” his mother would coo as she introduced him to her acquaintances. The men would shake his hand firmly and tell him he was destined to be a great wizard one day. The women fussed over him and giggled because he was so handsome. No one could stop talking about how much he looked like his father.
Regulus thought he looked more like his brother, but no one ever mentioned his name.
“Where are you going?” he demanded as he stood in the doorway and watched his older brother toss clothes and books haphazardly into his trunk.
“I’m leaving,” Sirius replied gruffly. He looked around the room, searching for anything he might have missed. He didn’t even look at Regulus.
Sirius laughed, but it was humourless and his eyes were dead steel when they finally made contact with his. “Mother would celebrate if this was the last time she saw me. I’m a blood traitor, shame of her flesh,” he sneered.
Regulus frowned. He knew Sirius didn’t agree with their family’s views on the war against Mudbloods and half-bloods but he didn’t understand why. The Blacks were his family, his blood, and he was turning his back on them.
He looked at the boy who used to be his best friend, before the Hogwarts letter arrived, before Sirius disgraced the family name by being Sorted into Gryffindor, and he wondered what happened to the older brother who used to protect him from his father’s rough hands and his mother’s angry tongue.
“Don’t leave me,” he begged, feeling slightly ashamed at how juvenile and naive Sirius made him feel.
Sirius paused for a moment while packing but he didn’t say anything. Regulus sat down on Sirius’s bed and watched him in silence.
Finally, Sirius said, “You’ll be fine. You’re their favourite son. It’ll be like I never existed.”
He may have been the favourite, groomed since birth to uphold the family honour, but Sirius’s betrayal ran deep. None suffered his absence more than Regulus, who felt abandoned by his own brother, left to fend for himself against words that were meant to mould him.
He was easily shaped.
Everyone always talked about how reckless Sirius was and though he shared his brother’s good looks (dark and handsome, the girls would whisper between coy looks and giggling), Regulus himself was too soft, too precise and cautious. So Sirius said.
“The heart of a lion,” Sirius scoffed as he and Regulus stood in the shadows of the garden, watching the respectable Pureblood families mingle around trays of champagne and fruit. Regulus felt uncomfortable under Sirius’s scrutinizing stare. “You would’ve made a better Hufflepuff. You’re too soft, too easily influenced by those with more power than you. There’s as much Slytherin blood in you as there is in me.”
Regulus had been angered by that comment though he always held his tongue when Sirius provoked him like this. He didn’t have to prove to Sirius that all he bled was green and silver; he acted as his parents expected him, like he was royalty and that was enough. Little prince, indeed.
One day he would be king, and Sirius, he would be nothing more than a boy who had lost his crown.
Regulus flinched slightly as his cousin, Bellatrix, pushed him inside the dark room. The only light came from the candles placed in a decorative pattern on the stone slab in the centre of the room. He glanced at her quickly and saw her eyes, the fire dancing in her black pupils, glinting with a manic delight he had never seen before. She was focused on the man in front of him. She smiled at Regulus, though there was nothing pleasant about the way her dry, cracked lips curled over her gleaming white teeth.
“Ah, another Black,” Lord Voldemort said as he walked in a circle around Regulus, taking in Regulus’s trembling hands and pale face with an amused look. “You’re sure this one is ready to take my Mark?”
Bellatrix shot Regulus a glare. “Of course he is, Master. He is young and will do as he’s told. His parents taught him well, unlike his blood-traitor of a brother,” she snarled and Regulus was reminded of a wild, rabid animal.
He would never admit it to anyone but Bellatrix terrified him. Regulus swallowed hard and forced his eyes to remain open when Voldemort stepped into his line of vision again.
“Indeed,” Voldemort murmured. Then loudly, he said, “Will you take my Mark, Regulus Black, as a sign of your loyalty to me?”
He released a shaky breath and looked around the room. He knew there were classmates and older family acquaintances that had already pledged their allegiance to Voldemort. But they all wore black cloaks and stood in the shadows, their faces masked by the darkness. He felt a sense of comfort that there were others here who believed in the same ideals he did.
Regulus took pride in his Pureblood heritage, in the ancient magic that ran deep in his veins. They were a dying breed and they had to be preserved. He could see no other way out of this and he wished, for a short moment, that Sirius could understand why he had to do this. He nodded shakily and Bellatrix was quick to push him to his knees.
“Pull your robe sleeve up,” she hissed in his ear, her breath hot and uncomfortably sticky against his face.
Regulus did as he was told with a steadier hand than he would have imagined. He exposed the pale, unmarred skin of his left forearm and braced himself as the tip of Voldemort’s wand pressed into his flesh. He hissed as the wand was dragged in an outline of the Dark Mark but felt a deep-rooted pleasure at the sharp stinging pain that pulsed along each line of ink.
He let loose a low moan when Voldemort pulled the wand away and watched in morbid fascination as the Mark darkened and burned before the pain faded into a dull throb.
Bellatrix jerked him to his feet and he stumbled slightly though the tight grip she had on his arm prevented him from falling. He turned to her and she was looking at him gleefully. “Your mother and father will be so proud,” she was whispering excitedly as Voldemort met the eyes of every other member in the room. “They’ve wanted this for you for so long.”
“My loyal Death Eaters!” Voldemort exclaimed, throwing his arms into the air. “Welcome your newest brother, Regulus Black.”
Cheers erupted from the darkness and soon, there were bodies pressed against him; firm hands were shaking his and he felt people patting his shoulders. He heard murmured congratulations and he felt a surge of emotion, a sense of belonging and pride.
He had endured hours of criticism in Sirius’s absence, scathing comments about how he mustn’t fail The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black like his brother had. Sirius might have been the Black brother with the heart of a lion but standing there, amongst fellow Death Eaters and under the watchful eye of Lord Voldemort, Regulus knew his brother’s courage and recklessness wouldn’t be enough to save him.
He had watched the crown slip from Sirius’s fingers into his rightful hands. He felt the slow burn of the Dark Mark and he smiled, dark and beautiful like his brother. He would make his parents proud and carry on the legacy of the Black family name as the true heir. Little prince, so rightly named.
One day I will be king.
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