The sound of a muffled voice carried to Regulus from the other side of the door. The boy's hands were shaking, be it from fear or the cold he wasn't sure. Inside, he could hear feet clomping closer and closer. He held his breath as the clicking of locks and clanging of latch chains signaled that the door was about to be opened.
The thick wooden door swung open wide, revealing a haughty Sirius Black in his nicest of robes, his hair neatly combed. “About time you got he- Oh!” The young man's eyes widened, the smile intended for his expected visitor frozen on his lips. “Re...Regulus?” He swallowed back his shock and threw a worried glance behind him into the entryway. “You're alone?” he asked, his eyes flashing back to his younger brother.
“Yes.” Regulus didn't recognize his own voice, it was so stiff and heavy.
“I'm not.” Sirius folded his arms and stood up a little straighter. “James is here. Peter and Remus are here too. And...Lily. And Dorcas. So whatever you're up to, you can just forget it. You're outnumbered.”
“Out...numbered?” Regulus would have been offended more if he wasn't there to kill the person now accusing him of being up to something. “I don't care if you're alone. I'm not up to anything. I....” He let out a shaky breath and stared at the pavement below his feet. “I just wanted to see you,” he whispered, feigning the most broken tone imaginable. “I know that you don't have a reason to trust me, but if you just give me a few minutes....” He reached up and dragged his palm across his dry eyes for effect.
“Regulus, I...I don't know.” The older Black gripped the door-frame, staring over his brother in silence. He tapped his foot, watching the younger boy fidget and squirm in place. Finally, Sirius let out a long sigh and stepped out of the door way. “Come in.” He waved his hand and frowned. “I swear if you try anything funny, I'll kick your ass.”
Regulus felt his stomach turn as he stepped past his brother and slowly made his way down the small entrance hallway. “I thought you said you weren't alone,” the boy noted, seeing absolutely no one else in sight. He peeked around the corner into the living room and pushed straight through into his brother's kitchen, still seeing no one else around.
Sirius narrowed his eyes and looked around the kitchen as though he was searching for something...or someone. “I lied,” the young man said simply, resting his gaze back on Regulus. “Can you blame me? Death Eater shows up on your doorstep, last thing you want is for him to know that you're alone.”
“So you say.”
“I am!” Regulus snapped. It didn't matter what his intentions were, he wouldn't stand for being accused of something he hadn't done. Regardless of his mission, he was alone. “You really don't have anyone here?” he asked, eying his brother's fancy clothing.
“Do you see anyone here?” the other countered. “I was just about to go over to James' for some Christmas Eve drinking. Just waiting on Remus to get here so we can go together.” Sirius shrugged and leaned his hip against the kitchen counter. “Thought you were him when you knocked. Guess I shoulda known better, that pushy bloke never knocks.”
Regulus offered a tiny smile and stared at the floor. His mind lingered on the vial sitting in his pocket, the chill against his leg a constant reminder that it wasn't leaving. “I've been thinking about some things lately. There's been some...new developments in my life that....” He took a moment to refocus his thoughts and rubbed his hands over his face. “Let's just say there's been some things come to light and I realize what I have to do.”
“Why, Regulus, it almost sounds like you're speaking for yourself.”
“I am speaking for myself.” Regulus took a seat on one of the stools resting against the tiny bar at the edge of the kitchen. “I need your help.”
“My help?” Sirius didn't bother to hold back his barking laughter. “You think that I'm going to help you? After everything you've done! Regulus, you're beyond help now.”
“You've tried!” The boy looked up at his brother, tears lining the bottoms of his eyes. “Even after you swore you were done with me, you still tried to help; you still tried to be there for me. I...I saw it, Sirius! I saw your Patronus! That day at the apothecary wh-”
“Oh, that day when you and your mate tried to fucking kill me and Ed?” He slammed his hands on the bar in front of his brother and leaned closer, his eyes flashing with anger. “You mean that day?”
“Yes,” Regulus whispered, turning away from the older boy's stare. “I didn't put it together at first, I was really confused, but then I did a little research and I learned that a Patronus and an...an Animagus always match.”
“And your point?”
“My point is, it was you! Polaris was you the whole time. You were there for me when I was upset, you tried to keep me away from Barty, you showed me that Sarah was sneaking around, you listened to everything. You heard me confess things that I...that I -”
Sirius turned his back on his brother and shook his head. “Oh I heard things alright. The kind of things you can't un-hear either.”
“I almost killed you.”
“I remember,” Sirius snarled. “Bet you're regretting that choice to let me go now, aren't you?”
“No!” Regulus didn't know where the words were coming from. It was far from the conversation he planned to have. He wanted to stick to surface topics, get some tea and get it over with as quickly as possible. But he couldn't stop speaking. He couldn't make himself stop. “I regret a lot of things in my life, Sirius, but that...that was the one thing I did right.” Regulus' mind was quick to remind him that he was now faced with the exact same choice to make. Kill Sirius or let him go?
“Is that why you're here? You want a thank-you for not killing me?”
“No, Sirius stop.” The boy raised his hands to his hair and fought to catch his breath. His heart raced so hard it was painful.
Sirius took his brother's hands and pulled them away from his head. “Calm down, Regulus,” he whispered. “Just breathe okay? You pass out on me and I'm going to roll you out into the snow, do you hear me?” he threatened. When his brother nodded, the older Black retreated into the kitchen and pulled two teacups from the cabinet. “I'll make you some tea and then...then you're going to tell me exactly what the hell you're doing here?”
Regulus' breath hitched in his throat and he merely nodded. Minutes later, two cups of tea rested on the counter. The boy grabbed his and sipped at it for the warmth. He stared down into the cup, watching the tiny amber ripples dance across the top of his tea. He didn't know what to say. He'd thought of several ways to get his brother to leave the room when he was making his plans, but sitting there then, none of them came to his lips.
But he didn't have to say anything. Sirius placed his tea back on the saucer and cleared his throat. “I'm going to go Floo Remus and tell him to go on to James' without me. I'll stay here tonight. You...you can stay here tonight too. If you're serious about making a change.... Well, we'll get to that.” He nodded and excused himself into the living room where his fireplace sat.
Grey eyes followed Sirius from the room, then darted to the older boy's abandoned tea. Regulus slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out the chilled vial. The glass glinted from the harsh kitchen lights, reflecting his distressed face in the tiny surface. It was easy enough to pull the stopper from the poison. Regulus barely realized he was holding his breath. His hand moved above Sirius' teacup and occupied the air for what could have been an eternity.
Regulus knew it wasn't just his life or Sirius' on the line. Tip the vial and Sirius would die; simple as that. Don't tip the vial and not only would his own life be lost, but the life of his parents, Sarah, the baby whose name he suddenly regretted not learning. His hand shook so hard he almost dropped the vial into the teacup. The boy closed his eyes tightly, fighting off the sting of tears. “Sirius, forgive me,” he whispered. “I hope your death is quick.”
Regulus' fingers barely flinched but that was all it took. A steady stream of clear potion eased into the teacup below his hand. The tea didn't even move when the poison seeped in. The boy couldn't stand to see it, but his eyes could look nowhere else. It was eerie and wrong to see the drink so still, so calm, no knowledge of its deadly addition. He supposed that was the point, for the poison to be undetectable in any way.
A Seer could not have timed things more perfect. The instant Regulus slipped the empty vial into his pocket and resumed his innocent position, Sirius walked back into the kitchen. “Alright, Moo-uh, Remus isn't coming tonight.” He dragged his fingers back through his hair and smiled over at his brother. “You know, you picked a rather bad time to decide to turn yourself around, but...it'll be nice to spend Christmas with you.” He settled onto the stool beside his brother and pulled his tea over to him. “You've got a lot to work on and you'll have to – What?” The young man stiffened and peered down into his tea with a look of sheer horror on his face.
“What? I didn't say anything.” Regulus looked between his brother and the tea in confusion.
“I wasn't talking to you,” Sirius whispered, his voice shuddered and broken. The older Black knocked the back of his hand against his teacup, sending it sliding across the bar and crashing into the floor. “You...you tried – to – kill – me.” He slapped his hand against his mouth and rounded on his brother, his eyes a mix of fear and loathing.
Regulus couldn't think. He shook his head over and over, his eyes holding his brother's angry stare. “Sirius, I...I had to. I – I – had to. I didn't have a choice.”
“Oh you had a fucking choice!” Sirius grabbed his brother's robes and pulled the boy to his feet. He shook his brother roughly, the boy putting up no resistance from shock. “I was going to help you! I was going to protect you.” His eyes shined with tears as he shoved his brother backwards.
At first, Regulus thought he hit a wall. His body collided with something hard, but it gave way beneath his weight. Two oomphs rang out at the contact and Regulus tumbled into the floor over another body that he couldn't see. The boy was too confused to put together what was happening. It wasn't until James Potter's head appeared out of thin air that he understood.
“Get off me!” James shouted, frantically dragging the remainder of his Invisibility Cloak from his body. “Sirius, get him off.”
Regulus' first instinct was to Apparate, but he could feel the magic pressing down on him, restricting his movement, indicating there were anti-Apparation charms on the home. “Sirius, don't!” he cried out when his brother raised his wand and pointed it straight at him.
It was too late, a blinding red light was the last thing Regulus saw in Sirius' home.
Write a Review Haunted: the Life and Times of Regulus Arcturus Black: Happy Christmas – III