Regulus wasn't sure how long he'd been out of it. His head throbbed with pain; his mouth was so dry his tongue felt glued to the top of it. He couldn't move his arms and his wrists felt like something was cutting into them. It burned to open his eyes but his vision was so blurry he didn't bother to do so more than once.
He tried to Apparate but, like he expected, there were charms preventing it. That only worsened his condition as the magical ropes binding his wrists tightened with his attempted escape. He pulled at the restraints but they were firm in place, holding him against some sort of solid pillar behind him. He was captured and trapped, of that he was certain. But where was another matter.
The room smelled musty and old, the air felt damp and, if he stayed perfectly silent, he could hear distant sounds of water crashing on a shoreline. Regulus tipped his head back against the pillar and sighed with defeat. He didn't know where he was or what was going to happen. Prison was the first thing to jump to mind. He'd attempted to murder his brother in full view of a witness. A sneaky, hidden, prat of a witness, but one the courts would be quick to believe. He wondered if the Dark Lord would allow him to be dragged off in chains and thrown in amidst the Dementors to rot out the rest of his days. The boy almost laughed. Of course He would.
As time slowly ticked by, Regulus' vision cleared enough to look around. The room was tiny, filthy and broken down. It looked like some sort of storage shack for boating equipment. Abandoned long boards and busted canoe lay in a dust covered heap in one corner. The door was cracked and half hanging off the hinges. He shook his head, feeling even more pathetic that such a beaten down old shack could hold him against his will. Although, it was the magical constraints doing most of the work.
The tiny, grime-coated window to his left assured Regulus that it was early morning. The sun had not yet begun to glint on its surface and the sky was still bathed in deep blue. He could only hope that it was Christmas morning and he hadn't been held for over a full day.
His pondering was cut short by voices outside of the door. Instantly, Regulus hung his head and closed his eyes, hoping to look as weak as possible and give the impression he was still unconscious.
“I still say we should give him over to Crouch. Send his ass straight to Azkaban!” Regulus' heart raced at the sound of James Potter's angry voice. It had been just as he feared, prison awaited him.
“I'd feel better if we waited for Dumbledore to handle this.” Sirius sounded broken and weak. His words were shaky and unsure. The door swung open to his touch and the two Phoenixes stomped into the shack. “I didn't want to believe it. But this...” Sirius paused and Regulus could only wonder what he was indicating “...it proves what he was up to. I can't believe I was so stupid, James.” The older Black's voice grew louder and louder as he approached his brother.
“You weren't stupid, Sirius. He's your brother, you wanted to believe him.”
“Yeah, I did want to. But I shouldn't have.” Regulus felt something small strike him in the side of the head so hard it made him dizzy. His eyes slit open enough to see the poison vial, that had previously been at home in his pocket, clatter onto the floor and roll against the distant wall. “Take it back. I'm sure your poxy Lord will want to have his property returned.” Sirius laughed but it wasn't amused, it was the laugh of a broken man, cold and manic. “Maybe we should dump you on his doorstep, eh? After all, that's what you are too. His property.”
“Sirius, let's wait for Dumbledore at the house,” James whispered.
“No. I want to be here when he wakes up. I wanna tell him what an idiot he is right to his damn face!” Regulus felt a foot strike against the side of his leg, but it lacked any malice. “Are you awake now? Are you, little brother? Sitting there, tied to a fucking post, helpless and alone. Where's your Dark Lord now? Where are your little Death Eater mates?”
There was a small scuffling sound and some protesting grunts. “Sirius, just come on. Leave him be. He's not your problem anymore,” James pleaded. “Sirius....” More scuffles and some rather loud cursing. “Sirius, damn you, come on!” The scuffles grew louder until the slamming of the shack door cut them off completely.
Regulus squeezed his eyes closed and fought off the stinging urge to cry. “Are you proud of yourself?” The boy stiffened at the question. He wanted to reach up and cover his ears to block out the voice but even if his wrists weren't bound, it wouldn't have mattered. He very well knew that he couldn't hide from that voice. He couldn't hide from those questions. He couldn't hide from him, the one who could torment Regulus even after his death. “I asked if you were proud of yourself.”
“Leave me alone,” Regulus hissed. The boy pulled his knees to his chest and hung his head even lower. “I didn't have a choice. He was going to kill everyone.”
“Why do you even care? Sarah, your parents, your son, none of them matter to you.”
“That's not true.” He was shocked at his own words. The boy shook his head and begged for the voice to go away.
“So Sirius doesn't matter to you then?”
“He does!” Regulus swore loudly and dragged his feet across the dirty hardwood floor. “I didn't have a choice. It was us or him.”
“How convenient that you chose the side that would spare your own life.”
“Shut up! Shut up!”
The door swung open and slammed heavily against the wall, sending vibrations through the shack and knocking a long board from its place. Regulus flinched as the board crashed onto the floor and glanced up at the intruder.
Lily Evans stood in the doorway, wand at-the-ready, her eyes frantically searching the room. “Who are you talking to?” she demanded, taking a cautious step into the room.
“You were shouting.”
“I was talking to myself!”
The red-head smirked and lowered her wand slightly, though the tension in her freckle covered arms was still obvious. “Finally gone off the edge then, Black? A full nutter...carrying on with yourself.”
“Fuck you.” Regulus sneered up at the girl and tightened his jaw.
“Now, now, is that any way to speak to someone who is about to decide your fate?” Lily tipped up her head and stared down her nose at Regulus. “Such a pity. I honestly hoped that Sirius would help you see the light. James says that you tried to poison him. Is that true?”
Regulus merely quirked a brow at the girl and frowned.
“I'll take that as a yes,” she sighed. “Not even going to try denial?”
“I did what had to be done.”
Lily clicked her tongue and tucked her hair behind her ear. “I'm at a crossroads, you see? On the one hand, you tried to murder one of my best friends. And you would probably attempt to take my life if you were armed.” She began to pace back and forth in front of Regulus, her gaze never leaving his face even in her turns. “You work for Voldemort – oh come now, can't stand to hear your own boss' name?” Her lips pulled into a smile, clearly amused at Regulus' involuntary flinch. “You're a Death Eater and a murderer. You and your kind are violent, cruel and twisted.”
“Sorry to interrupt your little tirade, but what are you doing here?” Regulus didn't need to be reminded of all that he was. He had to live with it and he'd be dammed if he was going to let some Muggle-born, do-good Phoenix member talk down to him.
“Well, you see,” she went on, unaffected by his tone. “Professor Dumbledore says that you aren't a lost cause. He says...well he says that there is still hope for you in this world. He seems to think that you can change.”
“That's what James said.” She nodded and carried on with her pacing. “Sirius...he's not saying much on the matter. Bit distressed I'd imagine. What with everyone sitting around deciding what to do with his brother. So far things aren't looking too good for you.”
Regulus twisted his face in confusion and opened his mouth to speak, but she wouldn't allow it.
“We're having a meeting right now. Everyone we could find on such short notice. Dumbledore is putting in his thoughts about you, claiming that he can take you and force you to turn yourself around. The others aren't having it though. We all trust him with our lives, but it seems no one trusts him about yours.”
“They want to kill me?”
“Not quite. Just pitch you in prison and be done with it.” She knelled in front of Regulus and pointed her wand at his chest. “They're voting on it. And, I'm very sure that the voters are going to side with James; he can be very convincing when he wants to be. But I'm not convinced. That day in the Hospital Wing, I heard something in your voice. Dare I call it doubt?”
Regulus refused to look up at her.
“And I trust Dumbledore. Completely.”
Lily slid her wand behind Regulus and he felt the magical bindings fall away. The boy pulled his hands in front of him and rubbed at the red markings on his pale skin. “You'll lose their trust. Potter will be furious with you.”
“I know what I'm doing.” She stood up and turned her back on Regulus, making her way to the door. “Once you're ten meters from the door, you can Disapparate. And Black....” The girl took a deep breath and glanced over her shoulder. “Don't make me regret this. Because as much as I trust Dumbledore and as much as I feel I've done the right thing here...I won't hesitate to take you out if you ever go near Sirius again.”
Regulus watched the girl vanish from the door and, after a moment, heard the almost silent pop of her Disapparation. He pushed himself to his feet, groaning as his muscles stretched. He stumbled a bit as he tried to regain his sense of balance and leaned against the door frame for support. The boy breathed the sea-water-tainted air of freedom and closed his eyes to take it in.
“I could run,” he whispered to no one at all. He opened his eyes and peered out across the ocean waves crashing onto the of the shore. “Disappear and hide as a Muggle, ride out this bloody war in peace.” He didn't need any foreign voice to convince him what a foolish idea it was. “But then I wouldn't have my chance...to make a difference.” He rubbed his hands over his face and jogged away from the shack, Disapparating the moment he felt the charms break away.
Regulus landed in a crumpled heap in his front yard. His insides burned and he could only guess that he'd splinched something when he Apparated. He wrapped his arms around his stomach and stood up, wincing in pain. The boy moved carefully towards his front door, trying not to stand up fully because the pain was near blinding when he did. He leaned against the doorbell and waited for Kreacher to open the door, for he had neither key nor wand to get inside himself.
The house-elf's eyes widened with worry when he spotted Regulus in such pain. His tiny hands tugged the boy inside the house and shut out the world behind them. “Master Regulus should go to his bed and Kreacher will bring some tea and potions.”
“That sounds like a brilliant idea,” he whispered, clinging to the stair rails for support.
“Mistress Bella is in the kitchen,” the elf added in a fearful tone. “She wants to be notified of your return if Kreacher sees you first.”
“Tell her I'm here.” Regulus looked down at the house-elf and sighed. “We have much to talk about.”
A Note From the Author: Thank you for reading. I would love to hear what you think of Lily's rescue and everything else so far. We're so close to the end of the story that it's almost painful. I feel like my baby is all grown up and about to leave home. --Jenna
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