Regulus startled awake at the sound of his name being yelled. The boy sat upright and groaned at the stiffness in his back. “Where...?” He pulled his hands over his face and blinked away the grogginess. It took a moment for him to realize where he was; he'd fallen asleep on his brother's bed the night before, his robes and shoes still on.
“Regulus? Don't make me come up there!”
Walburga's scream shot up the stairs, making Regulus jump to his feet and hurry out of the bedroom. He waved his wand at the door as he bolted down the stairs, forcing it to shut and lock once more. “Yes? What? I'm up, I'm right here.” He cleared his throat and came to a stop in front of his mother at the foot of the staircase.
“I didn't realize you were already dressed,” his mother said in a tone so casual you wouldn't have known she'd been screaming moments before that. She clearly mistook Regulus' clothes for new rather than slept in, a sign that she wasn't paying much attention to him considering how wrinkled they were.
Regulus merely nodded and awaited the reason he'd been called.
“Your uncle will be here to collect you in about fifteen minutes,” the woman continued as she pulled on her long gloves. “He's going to take you to...well there is much to be done where your father is concerned. I am going to the shop, I do not know what time I'll be home but I expect dinner ready promptly at six. So if you see that blasted elf around, pass along the message, won't you?”
“Yes, ma'am,” Regulus answered before turning and dashing back up the stairs to properly change before his uncle arrived. He was torn: on the one hand he was grateful that Kreacher had done as he was told and stayed hidden, but on the other hand, he worried that his mother might see fit to punish the elf upon finally finding him. He could only hope that there would be more pressing matters to take her attention when that time came.
“What sort of matters do you think you'll be attending to?” Anthony was on Regulus the moment the boy walked into his bedroom.
“If I knew, you wouldn't be asking,” Regulus sighed. He was far too used to Anthony's presence and it was beginning to irk him. “Honestly, I thought you'd be gone by now.”
“Yes, gone. I've decided what I'm going to do about the Dark Lord. I thought that was why you were...hovering.” Regulus fought with the buttons on his shirt so hard he popped one off. “Damn it,” he muttered, dragging the shirt back off his shoulders. “I just...things would be easier if you weren't around anymore.”
“Clearly you still need me or I wouldn't still be here, Regulus.”
“I don't need you. I can take care of myself.”
“You're not ready for what's going to come.”
ready. I made my choice and I'm not going to go back on it.” Regulus pulled on a new shirt and watched his reflection as he carefully buttoned it up and tucked it into his trousers.
“So you're ready to die?”
The boy's blood ran cold at Anthony's words and his arms dropped to his sides. “Can anyone ever really be ready
“I certainly wasn't.”
“Maybe you...maybe Anthony
should have considered that before getting mixed up with me to begin with.” Regulus pursed his lips and shoved his feet into his shoes. “I'm done. I'm not talking to you like you're...real. You aren't real. You aren't him. This is madness.” The sound of the doorbell caught the boy's attention and pulled his gaze away. “I don't need you.” He tore out of his room and down the stairs to answer the door before Kreacher became too tempted to leave his hiding place.
“Regulus...you look horrible.” Cygnus Black stood at the door, looking down his nose at his nephew with a haughty expression on his face.
“It's nice to see you too, Uncle.” Regulus didn't spare on the sarcasm.
“I mean that in the most respectful way possible, Regulus. You simply look tired.”
tired,” the boy answered. “Why are you here? What are we doing?”
“We have a funeral service to arrange.” Cygnus eyed his nephew and quirked a brow. “Are you feeling alright? You're not going to get sick are you? You know, Regulus, you're the man of this house now, it's about time you start acting like it. You cannot keep on with your juvenile behaviours.”
Regulus bit his tongue and summoned his coat from his room. He silently followed the man out of the house and the two made their way down the pavement. Despite having to spend the better part of the day with Cygnus, and despite the nature of their outing, Regulus felt good to get out of the house for a while. The fresh air was relaxing and since Cygnus wasn't one for idle conversation, he had plenty of time with his own thoughts throughout the day.
His brother was on the forefront of Regulus' mind. He went back and forth with himself over whether he should send word to him about their father's death. Would Sirius come to the funeral? Would Sirius even care? Would Sirius even read a letter if it were addressed from Regulus?
And then he wondered...did he want Sirius to come to their father's funeral? The last time he'd properly seen his brother, he was trying to murder him. Certainly Sirius would not be in the best of spirits if they were to speak again. With both their tempers, things were likely to get out of hand.
No, he couldn't count on their father's death to mend the rift that lay between the brothers. He couldn't expect anything to change how Sirius felt about him. Deep down, he didn't feel like it mattered anymore. What difference did it make if his brother hated him? Soon enough, Regulus would be gone.
“If your mother is feeling up to it, you can discuss the service plans with her tonight,” Cygnus boomed, pulling Regulus from his private musings as the two approached the Black home once more. “Do not bother her if she does not seem like she can handle it.” The man passed over a large parcel to Regulus and looked to the sky. “She should be home by now, I would imagine.”
Regulus glanced at his watch, one more painful reminder of the man who no longer walked the halls at night. It was only a quarter after two, but Walburga wasn't one to stay at the shops all day. “I'm sure she's home already,” he told the man. “My mother is a lot stronger than you think. You keep talking about her like she's going to have a break over this.”
“I think I would know my sister better than you,” the man argued.
“You might know her, but that doesn't mean you aren't capable of underestimating her.” Regulus straightened up and stared into his uncle's eyes defiantly. “I think you're just one person in a long line of fools who underestimate the members of this family.” Cygnus' gaze flashed with anger, but the boy did not give him a chance to speak. “You thought my father was a coward because he chose to protect his home, our family. But you're wrong; my father was a far braver man than you. And my mother...she might not be herself right now, but when this passes, she'll be twice as strong.”
“And your treacherous brother?” Cygnus spat. “What have you to say about him?”
“Sirius has that rare strain of common sense that you don't often find in us Blacks. You know...it's the same sense that Andromeda had.”
At the sound of his daughter's name, Cygnus puffed up and curled his hands into fists. “You have a traitor's tongue, just like your father, just like your brother. And you will find it cut out by the Dark Lord himself for your pathetic insolence,” the man growled.
“There is only one thing I fear, Uncle, and it is not death.” Regulus shifted the parcel in his arms and made sure his left hand was free in case the man decided to attack. “I've been death's dealer far too many times to fear it any longer.” With one last glance at his dumbstruck uncle, the boy turned into his home and slammed the door behind him.
“You're stacking your enemies awfully high,” Anthony warned the moment the door was closed.
Regulus sighed at the voice and refused to look at him directly. “I can handle it. It won't matter soon,” he whispered as he placed the package on the table by the door. “Is my mother home?” He instantly frowned at his own stupid question and walked away before Anthony could call him on it.
Walburga was on her knees in the kitchen floor, her head shoved into a cabinet as far as possible. Regulus near laughed at the sight, but had enough sense to hold it in. The woman cursed under her breath and withdrew her person from the cabinet, shaking out her hair as she did so. She cried out in shock when she spotted her son and held out her hand with expectation of being helped up.
“I cannot find Kreacher,” she answered to her son's questioning look once she was on her feet. “I thought he might have curled up inside a cabinet and died, but I do not see a body.” She smoothed her hands down her robes and lifted her head.
“Kreacher's busy,” Regulus told her. “I have him doing something for me. I should have told you earlier, but I...forgot.” He put on some tea for the both of them while his mother took a seat at the table. “There's a package by the door for you. I wasn't sure where you would want it.”
“Put it on the end of my bed,” the woman told him with a dismissive tone. She pulled over the cup of tea that her son placed before her, but made no effort to drink it. “You will be finished with Kreacher by six, I presume? I really do not want to serve dinner any later than that.”
“Yes, he'll be finished by then.” Regulus wanted to say more as he stood there, watching his mother stare down into her tea. But he simply nodded to the woman and went to do as she asked of him.
Regulus was only four the last time he had been inside his mother's bedroom, but it was exactly as he remembered it. The fact that his parents had separate rooms never struck him as odd, even as he got older and learned how most couples lived. It was always just the way his family worked. A smile threatened his lips as he placed his mother's package on the end of her bed. The memories of he and Sirius bouncing around in the room seeped into his thoughts.
That was before Sirius started developing ideas of his own, before Sirius started interacting with Muggles, before Sirius started to become a disgrace to their name
. It frustrated Walburga to no end when her sons would run around her bedroom, laughing and shoving each other, but the woman had never removed them. Regulus didn't know why they stopped being allowed inside, but he remembered it was when his mother fell ill for several months and his father began to drink more at night.
A small flash caught the boy's eyes as he turned to leave the room; Walburga's jewelry box was propped open on her dresser. Regulus ran his fingertips down the chains of several elaborate necklaces and pulled one closer to see. It was a heavy locket with tarnished edges and a cloudy amber gem.
“Adding theft to your list of crimes?” Anthony chided.
“I don't think they'll be pitching me in Azkaban for pilfering my mother's jewelry,” Regulus replied while removing the locket from its hook. He slipped it into his pocket and pulled the door closed behind him. Instead of going back to the kitchen where his mother still sat, he headed up to his room.
He felt under-dressed. The boy tugged at the hem of his shirt and frowned. “What does one wear to die?” he questioned aloud.
“It doesn't have to be death,” Anthony pointed out. “Kreacher could easily get you both out of that cave. There's no reason you have to stay and die.”
“He could. But then what? Go on the run with a bit of the Dark Lord's soul in my pocket?” Regulus shook his head and laid his mother's locket on his desk. “It's like you said before, my enemies aren't sparse and any one of them would be more than pleased to hand me over like a stuffed goose. And if the Dark Lord found his Horcrux on me, he'd just take it back and everything I've done will be for naught.” The boy licked his dry, cracked lips and added, “Then
he'd kill me himself.”
“When are you going?”
“Now.” Regulus pulled out a sheet of parchment and prepared a quill. “Mum wants Kreacher home by six to prepare dinner. And if I wait any longer...I might not have the courage to do it.” He let out a heavy sigh and bent over his parchment.
“Telling your brother goodbye? Sending a letter to your son?” Anthony peered over Regulus' shoulder, which was quite obnoxious considering he did not need to.
“No,” Regulus answered. “I'm leaving a letter for the only person who needs to know what I've done. The rest of the world can think of me as a lousy Death Eater or a traitor, I don't really care what anyone believes after I'm gone, but He
will know that he went too far. He will know that even in death, I remained that thorn in his side.” The boy huffed a laugh under his breath and put quill to parchment.
To the Dark Lord
I know I will be long dead before you read this
but I want you to know it was I who discovered your secret.
I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.
I face death in the hope that when you meet your match,
you will be mortal once more.
A Note From the Author: And the rest is history. Thank you all so much for reading; you have no idea how much I appreciate the continued support of every single one you. I will certainly miss Regulus and everything about Haunted. –Jenna
Regulus' note to the Dark Lord is taken directly from Half-Blood Prince on page 609 (u.s. version).