Chapter 70 : Happy Christmas – I
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Happy Christmas – I
Regulus was surprised to find Bartemius' name on the list of students staying at Hogwarts over Christmas Holiday. The moment he spotted it, he went in search of the boy, finding him sitting on the edge of his bed in the sixth year boys' dormitories. “Barty?” he ventured softly, climbing onto the boy's bed behind him. He rubbed his hands over the blonde's shoulders and brought his face around to see him better. “You're not going home for Christmas?”
“My dad has some big Ministry party planned for Christmas and he doesn't want me around to interrupt,” he answered, pulling away from Regulus and getting to his feet. “I don't care though. I've always wondered what happened around this place over the holiday.”
Bartemius was putting on a brave face, but Regulus could hear the wounded tone in his voice. The boy took his friend by the hand and pulled him back over to the bed. “I was hoping I'd see you over the break. Bella's having a party and I -”
“Well I can't go.” Bartemius jerked his hand away and dragged his fingers through his hair in upset. The boy immediately groaned with what he'd done and raced over to his mirror to fix his perfectly coiffed locks.
“You look fine. Come here a minute,” Regulus insisted. When the blonde made no signs of coming to his call, the young Black narrowed his eyes and adopted a sharp tone. “Barty, I'm leaving soon and I want to see you before I go. Besides....” He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a tiny box. “I have your Christmas gift.”
At the word gift Bartemius got a much more pleasant look upon his face and hurried back over to Regulus. “You got me a gift?” he asked with a huge smile on his lips. The boy planted himself on the bed as close to the other as he could get and leaned against him. “That's really small. What is it?”
“Just open it.” Regulus started to hand over the tiny silver-wrapped box, but pulled it back at the last moment. “Only don't...don't read too much into it, alright?”
Bartemius raised his eyebrows and took the box from Regulus, even more eager to see what was concealed within now. He tore free the shiny paper and let it fall to the bed in an unusual mess for the typically pristine boy. His dark brown eyes widened when he lifted the lid from the cardboard box. Sitting in the bottom on the box was a small, silver band, almost identical to the one he'd given Regulus months prior. “Regulus this is....” He licked his lips and dared to glance up at the other boy. “What is this?”
“I wanted us to match.” Regulus bit his bottom lip and pulled the ring out of the box. “Wear it here, in the same place.” The boy slid the ring onto Bartemius' right hand middle finger and grinned. “Like I said, don't read too much into it though. This isn't...this isn't the same thing you meant.” He glanced up into the other boy's eyes and shrugged. “It just means that I don't want you to think that I've forgotten my promises. I still plan on fighting to keep you if anything tries to tear us apart.”
Bartemius slipped his arms around the dark-haired boy's neck and kissed him deeply, pushing him back against the bed and moving to sit on his lap. Just as the kiss became intense, the other two sixth year boys burst into the room, each making a loud and shocked guttural sound at the sight on the bed. The two boys jumped apart, Regulus falling into the floor with a thud. Bartemius' roommates exchanged unreadable glances and walked over to their respective beds without a word.
“I should go.” Regulus got to his feet and adjusted his bunched up robes. He threw Bartemius a fleeting glance and headed for the door, hesitating at the brink. “I'll write,” he assured the boy, flashing a sweet smile to the blonde, figuring there was no use putting on a front for the roommates any longer. “See you after Holiday.”
The Hogwarts Express had never been so lonely before. Without any of his usual companions, or even his usual enemies, Regulus attempted to sleep the ride away rather than endure the heavy silence in his empty compartment. Perhaps it was the uncomfortable seats, they really weren't made for sleeping on; perhaps it was the jerking of the train; perhaps it was the impending weeks with his family and the Dark Lord; whatever the reason, he couldn't fall asleep. The boy resigned himself to working on a History of Magic essay that wasn't even due until March in order to keep from losing his mind.
Bellatrix met Regulus at the train station alone, which worried him. The boy narrowed his eyes and surveyed his cousin as he followed her silently through the crowd. She seemed so excited. That worried him even more. His suspicions that something was afoot were confirmed when the woman informed him that he was to be spending the evening at her home for dinner and meeting with the Dark Lord.
Regulus hated the idea of having to be subjected to stuffy dress attire and orders on his first day of break, but he put up no fuss about it. He dressed in his finest and joined his parents, Bellatrix, Rodolphus and the Dark Lord for an elegant dinner.
Around the fourth course, a nice lemon sorbet with fresh mint, Orion Black started getting twitchy. His manner of speech became tense and weighted, his every word designed to flesh out what the purpose of the little gathering was for. Bellatrix and the Dark Lord both seemed to find this amusing. They continued to steer the conversation into more superficial waters such as the latest Ministry Gala and an upcoming wedding. Regulus might not have been so nervous if it weren't for his father's clear worry.
Dinner seemed to drag out, but eventually the plates were cleared and Rodolphus got to his feet. “Orion, why don't you and I retire to the parlor for a brandy? The ladies can go into the sitting room and discuss the menu for our New Years Party.”
Regulus couldn't help but smirk. He quite liked his cousin's husband, but to see the man act as if he had any say over the night's events was comical. If Bellatrix was to agree with him, it would only be because she told him to make such a request before dinner.
“That sounds like a marvelous idea,” Bellatrix cooed, also taking to her feet. The woman pressed a kiss to her husband's cheek and turned her steely eyes onto Orion. “Don't you agree?”
Orion nodded silently and guided his wife from the room. He didn't dare look back at his son. Bellatrix, on the other hand, turned to Regulus and grinned at him like a cat with a mouse. The boy felt his stomach knot, but did nothing to show how sick with worry he was.
Once Bellatrix and Rodolphus took their leave, Regulus dropped his eyes to his lap and stiffened in his seat. “Have...have I done something wrong, my Lord?” he asked hesitantly.
“Certainly not,” the man answered. He relaxed back into his seat, one leg crossed over the other, his arms lying languid over the chair arms. His fingers curled around the edge of the chair's arms, gripping the deeply coloured wood so tight his hand would have paled were there any colour to his skin to begin with. “I have a task for you.”
The boy perked up his ears but did not speak or move.
“Consider it your second chance at a previous task, actually.” The Dark Lord chuckled softly and cast his slitted eyes over Regulus, watching for any signs of reaction. “I don't like to give second chances. And I refuse to give third.”
“Of course, my Lord.” Regulus waited.
The man slipped his hand into his pocket and withdrew a small, silver vial. He placed the container on the table before Regulus and met the boy's questioning eyes. “Poison. Simple, fast-acting and undetectable. You can slip it into anything and he won't even notice the taste.”
“When you say he you mean...?” Regulus picked up the vial and shivered. It was no bigger than his pinky finger and felt like ice to the touch. “Sirius,” he answered for himself, only receiving a nod from the Dark Lord. “I'll go straight away.” The boy held his head up high and pocketed the vial.
“No.” The Dark Lord shook his head and picked up his wine glass from dinner, giving the remnants a swirl. “Seems that many of our Phoenix foes are away for the week. Your brother will not be home until the twenty-fourth. You will go the following day.”
“Christmas? You...you want me to kill my brother on Christmas?” Regulus swallowed back a lump of sick and nodded obediently. “As you wish, Sir.”
“Be mindful not to fail this time, Regulus. The consequences would be...most severe.” The man lifted his glass to his lips and drew the sweet red liquid into his mouth. A soft, pleasure induced moan escaped the Dark Lord and he placed the glass gingerly back upon the table. “I would hate for anything to happen to you. Or your parents. Or...anyone else who may follow your distinct blood line.”
Regulus' eyes widened just slightly, but it was enough to bring a smile to the Dark Lord's pale lips. “My Lord?” The boy wasn't quite sure what his leader had just threatened. He perfectly understood that failure could result in his and his parents' death, but the last of the man's threat. Anyone else who may follow your distinct blood line.
“You're dismissed,” was the man's only answer.
Regulus nodded once more and clambered to his feet, then made a quick line to put as much distance between himself and Voldemort as possible. He bounded up the stairs and charged straight for the bathroom on the third floor of Lestrange Manor. No sooner than the door closed, Regulus was sick. The seven course dinner and red wine was quick to leave his system. Even empty, the boy could not stop his stomach from lurching and his throat from burning.
He wasn't certain, but he was fairly sure that the Dark Lord had just threatened to kill Sarah's child if he failed to kill his brother on Christmas Day. His own life, his parents' lives...for a brief moment in the dining room, Regulus had considered forfeiting them all to spare his brother. But could he condemn an innocent child, his own child, to death?
A Note From the Author: Next chapter will pick up where this one left off. Regulus has quite the choice to make. What do you think of his brief consideration in the dining room? How do you think Regulus is going to get out of having to poison his brother? Or will he get out of it at all...? Thank you so much for reading! --Jenna
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