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Haunted: the Life and Times of Regulus Arcturus Black by Jenna822
Chapter 71 : Happy Christmas – II
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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Happy Christmas – II

Dec 20, 1978 - Dear Barty,
Seems a bit silly writing so soon. I've only been home for two days now, but it seems like ages since I left Hogwarts. There's so much happening right now, but I can't tell you in a letter. Bella says that our mail is being more heavily tracked. Can't take the risk. I'm sure you can guess what it's about. I'll tell you every detail when I get back to school.

I hope that you aren't too miserable being there alone. Surely the house-elves are making sure you're nice and comfortable. I bet if you ask them, you can get some of their apple cider before Christmas morning. I know how much you enjoy that. If only you were coming for New Years. The party just won't be worth it without you. Maybe if you write to your mother, she can bring you home after your father's Christmas party is over. It's worth a try at least. I really wish you were here. - R.A.B.

Regulus laid his quill on the desk beside the letter and stared down at the scrawling. He hated that he couldn't explain more, but the boy knew if he mentioned his orders there was a chance some member of the staff or worse, a Phoenix, could snag onto it. There was so much more he wished he could say. Not just about Sirius or the baby or even the Dark Lord, but personal matters. The boy folded his letter in silence and toyed with the silver band around his middle finger. Staring down at the ring, he was painfully reminded of all that he could not say.

The young Black turned the letter over in his hands, sealed it with the family crest and scratched Bartemius Crouch, Hogwarts, Slytherin 6th Year on the outside. A quick glance at his clock assured him that it was far too early to call on Kreacher or even fetch the family owl himself. The sun had not even considered rising for the day. The time did not matter to Regulus, he had yet to see his bed that night. Or the previous one. And how could he sleep after what happened at Bellatrix's dinner?

His mind had started racing from the moment he pulled himself up off his cousin's bathroom floor. Was the Dark Lord's threat really aimed at Sarah's child? The child even he made no claim on; the child he'd told no one other than Bartemius about. Would the Dark Lord go as far as to kill an unknowing infant just to punish Regulus' failure? And how could He even know about the child?

In a moment of heated anger, as Regulus stared at himself in the bathroom mirror, his face pale and soaked in sweat, he considered walking into St. Mungos and cursing everyone he came across for answers. He wanted to hold his wand on Thomas and demand to know what he shared with anyone about Regulus' visit. He wanted to kill his former Housemate. He wanted to burn the hospital to the ground just for existing. He wanted to spit upon Sarah for her foolishness; if anyone could be blamed for the Dark Lord's new leverage, it was her.

But what would be the point?

Even if Regulus tore apart each and every person who played a piece in allowing his ultimatum, it would not erase the threat. It would not change what he had to do.

The boy slid his hand into his pocket and closed his fingers around the chilled glass vial that lay in his pocket. He refused to part with it, constantly carrying it around in his trousers for fear that he may lose it. He'd tried everything he could think of to warm the glass: held it tightly in his hands, set it on the window sill in direct sunlight, hovered it over the flame of a candle. All in vain. The tiny potion still emanated with a cold so powerful it burned. Regulus wondered if that was how death felt.

He hated how much he thought about the potion. It remained on the forefront of his mind in every moment. Regulus wondered if it would hurt when Sirius died. Was the potion some melting concoction that would leave his brother screaming on the floor at his feet, or would the older Black slip into a peaceful rest that he could never awake from? Regulus wondered if the potion would be quick. Would he have to stand by his brother and watch as he writhed in pain for hours on end, or would a single sip send him into instant death?

In his weaker days, Regulus might have seen an escape in the potion. His ticket out of that life; his key to the chains that bound him into devious servitude. He couldn't help but wonder if the Dark Lord wanted him to take the coward's way out. After all, what real purpose would killing Sirius serve? No, Regulus had long since realized that Sirius' death, or lack there of, would only prove to as an example for the Dark Lord to call upon when needed.

The boy closed his eyes and slipped the vial back into his pocket. Five days. He had five days.

Dec 22, 1978 - Dear Regulus,
Don't feel silly. I was hoping you'd write straight away. Do you honestly think someone is going to go through our mail? We're just two school boys who happen to be writing over Christmas holiday. If anything, they'll merely suspect that our relationship is more than we allude to and after all, it is. While I'm on that, don't worry about my roommates, they won't exactly remember what they walked in on before you left. I know you didn't ask me too, but I'd rather not have more problems than are necessary. It's hard enough without a couple of blokes holding something over my head.

I really want to come to the party. I wrote my mother like you suggested. She'll probably write back the moment it arrives, so I can tell you her answer when I write you again. Do you really wish I was there right now? Would you really want to spend your Christmas holiday with me? Just out of curiosity, is Will going to be attending this New Years party? Or seeing you over the holiday at all. Not that it matters, it's alright with me if you see him, but after what happened last time, you can't blame me for being a bit skittish about him. I miss you. - With Love and Truth, Barty

Regulus grinned down at the letter in his hands and shook his head. Bartemius couldn't have been more obvious if he'd tried. The boy had half a mind to write back and chastise him for being so open in a letter; something that could have been taken, read and returned to normal without anyone's knowledge. Bartemius could have gotten into trouble for what he did to his roommates. Not to mention the possible ramifications for being so free speaking about his feelings.

But the fact remained that Regulus was smiling. The first smile he'd worn since he arrived home. Nothing was going to make him ruin the fleeting moment of peace he found in that letter. He read it over and over again, carried it in his pocket to call upon whenever he wanted. There was nothing particular in the letter that brought him such comfort, but it was the tangible proof that he wasn't alone.

Dec 24, 1978 - Dear Barty,
Your jealousy and insecurity is beyond transparent, Barty. I haven't seen Will since I got home and I don't plan on changing that. As for the party, I don't know who all will be there. But if you get permission, then it won't matter if he's sniffing around. And I do wish you were here now. Tomorrow is such a big day and I could use some of your cheering up.

As for your roommates, it was probably for the best what you did. I might have done the same, myself, had I not been leaving and had my mind in another place at the time. Hope to see you soon. - R.A.B.

Regulus let out a long breath, addressed the letter to Bartemius and passed it to Kreacher. “Send this off for me,” he whispered before getting to his feet. The boy stood at his bedroom door until the house-elf took his leave, then closed the door behind him. The moment the latch clicked, Regulus regretted shutting himself off. Left alone with only his thoughts, the ones he'd been trying to suppress were the first to surface.

It was late and morning would be upon him sooner than he'd like. The vial of poison seemed so heavy in his pocket, though it couldn't weigh more than a few ounces. He could feel the cold pressing against his leg through the heavy fabric lining. He knew he should try to sleep, unless he wanted to look like death when he arrived at his brother's home the next morning.

Brother. How odd that word felt after all the two boys had been through. Regulus pulled his door back open and charged down the short hallway that stretched between his own and Sirius' bedroom. The boy stood in front of his brother's door, his fingers tracing the edge of a small nameplate. Thick dirt covered up what Regulus knew to read Sirius. He assumed Kreacher had been making some form of statement by refusing to clean the name or even venture into the room.

With the sleeve of his robes, the boy wiped off the nameplate until the silver shined. “There,” he said to no one at all. “I'm sorry.” His grey, bloodshot eyes didn't move from his brother's name as he spoke. “I'm sorry that it has to be this way, but you made your choice. You didn't have to leave. You didn't have to turn your back on this family, but you did. And now....” Regulus looked away from the door and closed his eyes. “Now you've left me with no choice.”

He couldn't wait. He couldn't spend one more night laying in his bed, tossing and turning and fighting with the sheets. He couldn't stretch out the inevitable another day, another hour even. Regulus swallowed hard and walked downstairs. “Kreacher?” The boy looked down at his loyal house-elf and considered his words carefully. “I'm going out. If mother or father asks where I've gone, just tell them that I'm on orders from the Dark Lord.”

“Yes, Master Regulus,” the tiny elf answered, nodding his head towards the young Black.

Regulus turned his back on the creature and left his home. The night was frigid but he didn't care. He wouldn't let anything change his mind. His slickly polished shoes collected snow and dirt as he crunched through the yard until he was far enough away to Disapparate.

With a tiny pop he squeezed through space and landed on the other side. He caught his balance on the rails of the steps leading up to a tiny brownstone. The place looked a worn down, but well taken care of, like a losing battle with time that the owner wouldn't concede in. A light flickered in the front window, assuring Regulus that his trip would not be in vain. With a shaky hand, the boy knocked on his brother's door and took a deep breath.

A Note From the Author: A chapter of reflection and transition to prepare Regulus for the big day. Let me know how you think everything will play out now that he's only an open door away from his task. Thank you so much for reading! --Jenna

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