Chapter 74 : This Heart Still Beats
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This Heart Still Beats
Regulus could feel his cousin's cold, grey eyes watching his every move. He did his best to shut her out of his mind while he stripped off his traveling robes and eased onto his bed. His abdomen still burned with the damage done from his halfhearted Apparation. He was grateful for the healing potion Kreacher brought up to him, though he left the tea and biscuits untouched on his night stand.
“If you're through with your simpering, I would like to know what in the world happened.” Bellatrix laid her hands on her hips and stared down at Regulus like a mother scolding a child.
He closed his eyes and rubbed at his temples. “Can't we do this later?” The look on his cousin's face was all he needed to realize she wasn't leaving without some answers. “Fine,” he groaned. At least if he got the story over with quickly, she would go, leaving him to rest and heal. So he began the story, giving each detail on what he and Sirius did. The boy was sure to leave out any bits of conversation. He didn't want Bellatrix knowing about Polaris or Sirius' ability or that he'd been so daft as to trust a dog with his innermost secrets.
When Regulus reached the part in his story about James coming from thin air, Bellatrix's eyes widened and she held up her hand. “Potter has an Invisibility cloak?”
“So you allowed someone under a cloak to ruin your entire plan?”
“I didn't know he was there!”
“I think that part is obvious.” Bellatrix curled her lips in disgust and shook her head. “I wonder if you're ignorant or just lazy.”
“Excuse me?” Regulus didn't care that he was in pain, he stood straight up and met his cousin's eyes dead on. “I'm neither.”
The woman only scoffed. “Too ignorant or lazy to cast a simple Homenum revelio spell.”
“I had no reason to suspect we were being watched. And if I'd cast anything, he would have tossed me out for being suspicious!” Regulus took a step towards his cousin, uncaring when she went for her wand. “And furthermore, I don't recall an Invisibility cloak being on any in-tel reports about James Potter. And who the hell made those lists, huh?”
“How dare you imply that this is my fault?!” Bellatrix flicked her wand and sent Regulus flying backwards. The boy slammed back against his bed and toppled heels over head into the floor on the other side. The woman raised her wand again, her eyes full of excitement. “I've been waiting to teach you a proper lesson, you insolent little twit.”
“Now, now, Bella.” The woman ran cold at the sound of her Lord's voice. She lowered her wand, turned to Voldemort and tipped her head respectfully. “It isn't sporting if he's unarmed, now is it?” the man asked, casting a glance at Regulus while the boy scrambled to his feet. “Besides, I need him awake and alive in order to get more information from him.
“Of course, my Lord. I'll go.” Bellatrix threw one last scathing glare at Regulus before walking out.
The Dark Lord slowly pushed the door closed, cutting them off from Bellatrix's stare. “Explain yourself,” he ordered, his voice steady and calm. The man's long, pale fingers stroked the antique locket which still hung around his neck.
Once again, Regulus told his story, exactly as he had to Bellatrix. Rather than interrupt, the Dark Lord let him continue on until he reached the part about waking up inside the broken old shack on the sea side. The boy cleared his throat and turned away from the man as he went on. “I guess whoever tied me up didn't do a very good job. I slipped my wrists out and left. They didn't even lock the door. I Disapparated straight back here once I was far enough away.” Nothing would have made Regulus confess that his freedom was granted by a Muggle-born girl.
The Dark Lord hummed with an indistinguishable tone. Regulus wasn't sure if he was mulling over his story or calling him on his lies. “You're not telling me everything,” the man finally concluded. “Something about your brother.”
“My brother?” Regulus raised his eyebrows and took a seat on the edge of his bed. He was starting to feel a bit too dizzy to stay standing. “What about him?”
“You're not...concealing any information about him, are you?” The Dark Lord walked closer, his eyes locking firm on the boy's. His hand lay delicately on Regulus' bedpost, supporting himself as he leaned over the boy. “I don't like when people try to hide things from me, Regulus.” His voice was cold and snake-like, hissing the final sounds on the boy's name. “You would never keep things from me...right?”
“No. No, Sir.” Regulus shook his head vehemently. “I would never, my Lord.”
Lord Voldemort leaned closer to the boy, bringing his lips near enough to Regulus' ear that he could whisper. “That's good....”
The ancient, heavy locket draped around the man's neck fell against the boy's shoulder. Regulus felt as though he was being touched with a blade made out of pure ice. The locket lay frozen against his skin, only hindered by his thin dress shirt. And it was pulsing with a steady beat that mimicked the Dark Lord's breathing. It made his stomach turn. He wanted to scream and push the man away, just to get the foul locket off his shoulder, but he remained in place, steady and resolute.
“I remember when I first met you,” the man breathed. “You had such...promise. But now -” he huffed a tiny laugh “- now your life hangs by a very thin thread, Regulus Black.” The Dark Lord stood up and straightened his robes, looking down his nose at the boy on the bed.
Regulus stayed silent. He was already aware of how thin a thread he was hanging by. A thread that was only there because of his last name. Despite all his failures, the name of Black still held weight and power inside the Wizarding world. And great wealth. Voldemort would, of course, be slightly hesitant in killing the only remaining heir to that title and fortune. Hesitant, but not completely opposed. Regulus' last name didn't buy his immunity; it was only a stay of execution.
“Your wand was taken from you, was it not?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Perhaps that is best. Clearly, you aren't doing much good with one. You've been set the same task twice now and twice you have failed miserably. Both times ending up severely wounded in the process. I'm beginning to wonder how you manage to get through the day in one piece.” The man turned his back on Regulus and approached the boy's desk. “You aren't to have another until I say so.”
“What about school, my Lord? They won't allow me to go without one.”
“School?” The man let out a ghostly laugh and began rifling through the tiny stack of letters and homework on Regulus' desk. “You're lucky that you aren't in Azkaban, child. You won't be allowed back into Hogwarts. They'll arrest you no sooner than you step foot on the Platform.”
Regulus paled. He hadn't even considered that. His foolish missteps had taken away the one and only thing that had brought him peace over the last year. His mistake had taken away -
“Bartemius Crouch?” The Dark Lord plucked one letter from the stack and held it before his eyes, squinting at it in disbelief. “I'd wonder if you were writing to the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, were this not addressed with such child-like handwriting.” The man rounded back to Regulus and held up the letter. “His son, I presume.”
“Yes, Sir. He's a Slytherin as well.”
“In your year?”
“The one -” he cleared his throat and sat a bit straighter “- just below myself.”
“And a Pure-blood, I'm sure.” The Dark Lord awaited Regulus' confirming nod before going on. “You are...on close terms with this young man?”
Regulus floundered for a moment, his head bowed. “I am.”
“I care not what you do in your bed, child. Merely who you consort yourself with. Wouldn't want to have a repeat of last time, now would we?”
“He is a Pure-blood. And very loyal. He despises his father and shares your – um, our views on how things should be run around the Ministry.” Regulus had to force himself to stop speaking. He knew that doting on the boy too much would merely look like he was trying to gain approval. He didn't want, or need, the Dark Lord's approval, but he wouldn't sit by and allow the man to strip him of his only companion. He'd made a promise and, for the first time in his life, he was going to keep it.
“Does he?” The man placed Regulus' letter back upon the desk and folded his hands in front of him. “Then I look forward to meeting him.” A sinister grin tugged at the man's thin, white lips, sending a chill down Regulus' spine. “I would love to continue this, but I have a prior engagement that takes precedent. We will finish discussing this tomorrow.” He pulled open the door to reveal Bellatrix still standing in wait. “Ah, Bella, so glad that you didn't dash off. I believe you still had a few words for Regulus.” The man stepped out of the way, allowing the woman entrance to the room once more.
Bellatrix played with the tip of her wand and tilted her head, an eager smile on her face. “Yes, my Lord, Regulus and I were just getting started.”
In all of his seventeen years, Regulus had never seen the inside of his father's study. Orion Black had always shut himself off inside, making certain to lock the door. So when his father stood at his study door and called for Regulus to join him, the boy knew it was serious. He didn't question the man, he just stepped inside and allowed his eyes to roam.
There were piles of papers scattered over the large desk. Two wing-back chairs sat in the corners, stacks of books upon them, some of which had tumbled into the floor around. The entire study smelled of dust and Regulus had to resist the urge to sneeze from it. Brandy bottles stood empty on a drink cart and glasses sat haphazardly around the room. Clearly Kreacher was not permitted inside the study either. It was a bit throwing to see Orion, the typically neat and well groomed man, standing amidst a mess of his own creation.
“I have something for you.” Orion pushed past his son and began to shuffle through a small stack of papers on the edge of his desk. “It's here somewh- Ah, here.” The man thrust a crumpled bit of parchment into Regulus' hands.
The boy glanced down at it and raised his brow at the official Gringotts seal gracing the top of the paper. “What is this?”
“It's a vault. It's your vault. You're seventeen now and it's about time you had your own. And...your own money. There's a bit in there to get you started, about eight-hundred Galleons. I've been sneaking bits into it here and there, taking it from places your mother wouldn't notice.” He picked up the nearest brandy bottle to him and frowned at seeing it stark dry. “Oh, right, and this.” The man pulled his wand from his pocket and stared down at it like he was seeing a dying friend for the last time.
Regulus widened his eyes when his father handed over his wand. “What...? What is this? You can't give me your wand.”
“I can. It's mine to give.”
“But I'm not even allowed to ha-”
“Damn it, Regulus!” Orion gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes. “You are a Wizard. It is your right and honour to carry a wand and no one, I mean no one, is going to take that from you. Do you understand me?”
“But why?” Regulus tucked his father's wand into the inside pocket of his robes and held his breath, almost fearful for the answer. “The money, the wand.”
“I just want you to be taken care of if something happens to me.” Orion turned his back on his son and ducked his head. “And if you wanted to leave the country....” He sighed and shook his head. “Go on back to your room, now. I need some rest.”
Regulus nodded and stepped out of his father's study, his mind racing with possibilities.
A Note From the Author: Okay, if you're not sure what's up with the locket, you should probably go back and read the last book (kidding!). No secret that is the Horcrux. And this is the third appearance, but now it's more obvious at least. :) Anyways, I hope that you're enjoying the story and don't forget to leave some thoughts in the little review box. Thanks! --Jenna
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