Chapter 14 : The Right Sort of Wrong
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Alastor Moody’s magical eye swiveled wildly in its false socket, glaring dramatically at a different member of James and his band of brothers with every swing. He stood firmly rooted to the ground, the heels of his worn leather boots digging mercilessly into the soil. His lips were set in a near-permanent scowl, moving only to allow speech.
“I will admit that I was hoping for something a little less rag-tag when I started spreading the word around Hogwarts, but you’ll have to do. We’ll see how brave Gryffindors really are these days.” He turned, still muttering something about having to complete an obstacle course filled with land mines before he was allowed to graduate, and used his battered wand to gesture at the scene before them.
“To your left, there is an old mannequin Mundungus Fletcher snatched from a women’s department store. I’ve charmed her to send a random barrage of spells your way, so I suggest you approach with your wand at the ready.”
Peter glanced over at the faceless doll, stuffing coming out of her shoulder, and winced. Next to him, Sirius quirked a brow, but his fingers gripped his wand inside his coat pocket.
“Emmeline Vance was kind enough to brew a few poisons for me. Don’t bother sniffing them, because I’ve already made sure that won’t work. Easiest way for them to take you down would be to slip something into your drink.” Moody gestured to an assortment of flasks containing liquids of different hues lined up on the table before him. “I asked her to make some of them deadly. I don’t know if she listened or not.”
“What’s that, then?” Sirius asked impatiently, motioning at the darkest corner of the room, where a dark mass hovered silently inside a glass box.
“That quick tongue of yours will get you in trouble, boy, mark my words,” Moody cautioned. “Didn’t you lot go over Boggarts in Defense class? You’ll need to be brave enough to break the box, overcome whatever it turns into, and then transfigure it back into a house elf. Then, of course, put it back in the box for the next person.”
“It’s a house elf?” Remus asked, incredulous.
“Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt to be transfigured. They’re the ones who are unethical.” Moody smirked coldly, a sign of just how much the war had already gotten to him; he turned to a wooden door on the opposite side of the room. “When you finish with all this, come through this door. On the other side is an open area that’s teeming with Bludgers. These are nasty, though—they’ll tail you as long as they live. We’ll see if you can still fly straight when you’re flanked by assassins.” He looked right at James for a long moment, and then turned to go. “I’ll be watching you.”
The moment the entry door closed, Remus turned to James. “What the hell, mate?”
“What have we gotten ourselves into?” Peter demanded.
“I tried to warn you, Wormtail,” Sirius scoffed.
James shook his head. “Come on, just give it your best try. It’ll be fine.”
The boys split up, moving to different areas in the dimly lit cavernous space. Sirius went for the mannequin, an Incendio charm grazing the edge of his ear as he approached. He immediately got into proper dueling position, fighting off a small barrage of jinxes. Then, he aimed his wand straight at the mannequin’s neck. With a swift motion, he pronounced the spell clearly—Diffindo—and decapitated it.
Not too far from him, James was trying to investigate the potions, suddenly wishing he’d spent less time watching Lily and a little more watching Snape in class. He tried pouring out little drops of each, but all charred the wood and caused the table to sizzle without any distinction between them. Tapping the flasks with his wand caused them all to turn into disgustingly thick green sludge. He picked one up, shaking it to clear the mud, and watched in amazement as it turned bright red. Mesmerized, he went down the line, shaking each one gently so as to avoid spilling any of the liquid onto his hands. Red, red, red—there, third from the end, green like a traffic light he’d seen once on a Muggle street. All the rest scarlet like cold blood.
“Interesting!” Remus called from behind him. “Green must be good!”
“Yeah, almost like a test of house loyalty,” Peter observed, diverting his attention quickly back to the glass box in front of him. He stuck his foot out, neatly knocking the box onto the floor and shattering it. The sound caused Remus to jump slightly. A black form billowed out from it, and it was difficult for Remus to tell whether it was merely the normal Boggart or something more. But Peter knew. He knew down to his core what the amorphous shape represented, a faceless man he had never met. He gripped his wand tightly, pointing it straight out in front of him. “Riddikulus.”
The black shape folded itself up like a sheet and returned itself to the box.
“Well, that wasn’t very funny,” Sirius remarked with a frown.
Peter shot him a look. There’s no way to make that funny. “I defeated it, didn’t I?”
“Not quite,” Remus pointed out. “It’s still a Boggart, not a house elf.” He stepped forward, waving his wand in a neat circle. “Finite Incantatem.” The black sheet popped into nothingness, leaving behind a very confused-looking elf. After a few kind words from Remus, it climbed back into the box and curled up for a nap.
“Okay, that’s all of it,” James observed, glancing around. “Should we go outside?”
“Yeah,” Sirius said. “Let’s see what else Mad-Eye Moody can throw at us.”
When the four of them exited through the second door, they found four broomsticks waiting for them. They all climbed aboard, some more gracefully than others, and lifted off into the open air. At first, the task seemed easy, almost bordering on relaxing. The boys drifted in lazy circles, enjoying the cool, snow-flecked weather.
The first Bludger took out the front end of Remus’s broomstick.
They were suddenly everywhere. It was like a plague, hard little iron spheres plunging at them kamikaze-style from all sides, impervious to cries and bruises. Fortunately, James kept his head, and he swooped down and picked up the piece of broomstick that had fallen. Returning to the air, he used it to swat at the Bludgers, knocking one after another into the stone walls that surrounded them. The others caught on after a few moments—Peter and Sirius reared back on their brooms, using the still-attached front ends to knock several Bludgers into a deadly pile-up. Eventually, the quiet returned, save for the moans related to the boys’ injuries.
“Look,” Sirius said, breathing heavily. He pointed to a dark, stocky figure standing fifty feet below them. The four guided their mangled broomsticks down to the man.
“Well, it wasn’t half bad, but it certainly wasn’t all pretty,” Moody quipped. “Minerva has told me that the four of you are on track for N.E.W.T.s and you don’t deserve any special treatment just because you’re a few months underage. Therefore, your next time will be the last. It’s the real test. I hope you took some notes as you went along.”
“This wasn’t the test?” Peter gasped, leaning on his knees for support.
“Of course not!” Moody barked, smirking. “Your partner there helped you finish it!” He gestured at Remus, who still looked somewhat white from the Bludger attack.
“Don’t members of the Order work in teams?” James asked, puzzled.
“At times,” Moody admitted. Then, his voice dropped. “But what will you do if you’re out in a battle with some Death Eaters and your partner dies? What happens then?”
None of the four looked at each other or Moody.
“I’d give that some thought while you’re practicing. It’s likely to happen sometime.” Moody cleared his throat. “Let Minerva know when you think you’re ready for the test. I’ll see each of you at that time. And remember this—you can still back out.”
After the door closed, the friends looked around, some still trying to catch their breath. Finally, Sirius looked at James, his face emotionless. “Herbology, mate.”
“Right,” James said. “Come on. We’re going to be late as it is.”
“Celestine, watch out!” Lily moved quickly, taking half the pile of fertilizer her friend had just dumped unceremoniously atop her Umbrella Flower seed and moving it away from the tiny bud. “Remember, you have to add fertilizer slowly, so as not to shock it.”
“I thought the point was to get them to grow as wide and tall as possible.”
“It is, but you have to do it carefully. Don’t get too over-eager.”
“The faster I finish, the quicker I can get back to the dormitory with Sirius and hear all about his Order training.”
“He told you?” Lily asked, lowering her voice. Professor Sprout was pacing the floor and looking over at them warily. The sixth-year Gryffindors had been crammed into Greenhouse One for approximately fifty-six minutes, and the last thing Lily wanted was to see Celestine’s assignment go literally to pot with only four minutes to go. If it did, Lily would have a long night of complaining and little sleep ahead of her.
“He let it slip over breakfast. I think he was too proud to hide it.”
With impeccable timing, the door opened and James slipped in, with Sirius trailing behind him. Lily looked at them questioningly, wondering where Remus and Peter were, but neither of them said anything to her as they slipped into their seats.
“Lucky for you, Mr. Potter and Mr. Black, this assignment can easily be completed outside of class. I’ll expect you to present them in front of everyone next time.” Professor Sprout wrote out the instructions on a scroll and passed it over to James, glancing at Lily’s slowly rising flower as she did. “Very nice as usual, Ms. Evans.”
“Thank you,” Lily said, beaming. She could sort of understand Sirius’s sentiment.
“Class dismissed, ladies and gentlemen. Please label your stems—don’t tickle them.”
As the students filed out of the greenhouse, Celestine lightly grasped Lily’s arm. “Look at them. They’re bruised!” She pointed to Sirius and James, who were putting their coats back on as if they had not just taken them off.
“Well, they can’t exactly make it easy to join,” Lily mused, frowning slightly.
“You’re not thinking about it, are you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t think I’d be good in a duel.”
“With your Charms talent? I doubt it. But I think it’s too dangerous.” Celestine wandered over to Sirius, noticing that he and James were now emerging. He immediately launched into a story about the source of his wounds, surely flouting some decree of secrecy regarding the Order’s methods, and left Lily and James to walk back up to the castle by themselves.
“You okay?” she said, offering a gentle smile.
“Oh, yeah,” he replied dismissively, smirking at her. “I’ll be fine.”
“Where are Remus and Peter?”
“They got hit a bit harder than we did, so they just went back to the common room.”
“Must be serious, for Remus to miss class.” It wasn’t exactly encouraged for Prefects.
“He said you could fill him in during your study group,” James added.
“Hmph.” Lily laughed softly. “Did everything at least go okay?”
“Well, today was just for practice. I have to keep working on everything for the next few weeks, and then I can go talk to McGonagall when I’m ready for the real test.”
“Why, are you thinking about trying it for yourself?”
“Does everyone think that?” She laughed again. “I really don’t know. I definitely want to help out however I can, but Celestine thinks it’s too risky to join the Order.”
“What do you think?” He crossed his arms over his chest to block out the wind.
“I think pretty much everything is getting a little too risky lately,” she said flatly.
“Agreed.” James nodded. “I think you should do it if you want to, Lily. I mean—I think you’d be brilliant.” He glanced down. “I can help you train if you want.”
“No, that’s okay. I haven’t made up my mind yet.” She smiled at him, thankful that at least one person seemed to believe her capable of such an honor. “I guess it would be helpful to talk about it more, just to make sure I’m prepared if I do try out for it. Are you free for Butterbeer this weekend?”
“You bet,” James said, a rush of blood filling his cheeks suddenly.
“Great.” Lily turned, pulling her jumper around her and facing him. “If you want, we could talk about other things, too. I just mean—if you want. I’d be okay with that.”
James nodded at her, smiling despite himself at the nervous shuffling of her feet.
“Well, I need to go to the Owlery. Mum is supposed to send study snacks for group tonight.” She offered him a tight smile and turned to enter the castle. “Bye, James.”
He watched her go, unwilling to leave the spot he stood upon. He couldn’t understand what he could have said or done to get her to ask such a thing, but the sense of relief filling his heart was more powerful than any comprehension. Finally.
When Lily got up to the Owlery, she was pleased to see one of the school’s owls waiting for her with a small package. Last summer, her mother had experienced a small breakdown concerning how grown up her daughters were getting, and Lily’s response had been to attempt to teach her mother how to send owl post. The closest they got was her mother leaving a handful of owl treats on the windowsill on top of a letter; Lily made sure to always send the same owl so that there would be no confusion about where it needed to take the return letter. This one apparently still had bits of treat stuck between its talons, with a few bits clinging to the string.
“Thank you,” she whispered, gently taking the package and giving a couple more treats for the bird’s trouble. Using the tip of her fingernail, she gently tore the tape from the box and peeked inside to see what her mother had sent. There was a batch of peanut butter cookies, Lily’s favorite, some Muggle chocolate treats, a bag of dried fruit, and packets of hot apple cider and cocoa mix. Satisfied with her pull, Lily tucked the lid of the box shut, resisting sampling the treats until the study session.
A distraction was provided in the form of the folded piece of parchment in her bag. Lily withdrew it, proofreading her note one more time to ensure that she felt comfortable sending it.
Hope you had a good holiday and that things have been working out better with Sirius. I know you have been trying so hard, and I hope you two can really patch everything up. Things haven’t been easy for me with Severus either, but I think I’m finally starting to see that our arrangement was a good idea. Thank you for your help.
With the hint of a smile on her face, Lily folded up the letter, tying it closed with a piece of red ribbon she had left over from Christmas. She offered her remaining treats to a bored-looking Scopes owl sitting on the end of the middle perch along with the note. As Lily watched, the owl flew down toward the ground, going to drop the letter in a chute that led into the Slytherin Common Room. If their system was like the one for Lily’s house, there would be a house elf waiting to collect the letters and deliver them to each student’s dormitory, a member of the same team that collected dirty laundry and returned the clean clothes back to each room. Lily was glad for the secondary system, lest Regulus receive the letter over breakfast in the presence of all the other Slytherins.
She tucked her hands into her pockets to shield them from the evening chill and began walking down the stairs back toward the interior of the castle. The smell of roast flooded her nostrils, and she looked forward to giving her friends a sneak peek of the snacks for tonight’s N.E.W.T. review. When she got to the bottom of the stairs, though, Severus was waiting for her.
“I thought I saw you go up to the Owlery,” he remarked.
“Yeah,” Lily replied. “I got something from Mum.” For some reason, the fact that he had paid enough attention to her to track her whereabouts seemingly out of nowhere made her feel uncomfortable. She discreetly slipped the box of sweets into her bag and out of his line of sight.
“Are you on your way to the library?”
“No, the study group isn’t until after dinner,” she said, offering a smile.
“Oh.” Severus’s face fell slightly.
He sighed. “Well, I was sort of hoping maybe just you and I could study together, like we used to. I don’t know how I feel about joining the whole group.”
“Oh.” Lily nodded. “Sev, really, I don’t think anyone will mind.”
“Isn’t Lupin part of your group? I sincerely doubt he’ll want to see me again,” Severus added. As a matter of fact, I’d prefer not to spend time with him, either.
“I’m sure it will be fine,” Lily answered, but inside, she felt that he might have a point. Remus and Severus had been consciously avoiding one another’s eyes ever since the Whomping Willow incident. “Well, maybe some other time, then.”
I suppose I could just wait until the next full moon, Severus thought. “Do you think you could spend some time catching me up on what you’ve gone over already?”
“Yeah, sure,” Lily said. “But I don’t want to take too long, or else I won’t get to eat.”
They walked over to the library and had no trouble finding a table, given that most of the school was busy with the dinner spread in the Great Hall. Lily took out a piece of fresh parchment and a quill and began making a list for Severus.
“We’ve been working on a different subject every month, just to keep things interesting. Right now, the group is just me, Remus, Celestine, Ellery, and occasionally Peter. We started with Potions, then we moved to Charms, then Transfiguration, and we’re still working on Defense Against the Dark Arts, so next month will be Herbology. Eventually, the rotation starts over.”
“I see,” Severus replied. “What kinds of things have you been doing to review?”
“Just repetition of questions from the textbooks, and review of old assignments.”
“Maybe you should try talking to the professors. They can probably give you the addresses of former students who could help you anticipate what the exam will be like.”
“Isn’t there a rule against that?”
“There are rules against cheating, with the quills and spells. But there’s nothing that says you can’t get an idea about what to expect on your tests from what questions were given on previous versions. They must change them a bit every year.”
“That’s actually a really good idea.” Lily smiled at him.
He returned it. “I’m sure you’d have no problem. All the teachers love you.”
Lily blushed slightly, though she could not deny that she got along well with most of the faculty and staff at Hogwarts, especially for not being from a magical family. As she glanced across the table, watching as Severus added his N.E.W.T. classes to the group’s subject rotation schedule, she was struck by how normal this moment was. It was so nice to just sit with her old friend and talk about things like exam stress, and yet it was so confusing to be with Severus again after the events of the past year. In fact, between this moment and her conversation with James, it was shaping up to be a wonderfully confusing day.
She sort of hated to break the spell, but her stomach was beginning to growl. “Listen, I’m going to go get a bite to eat before I meet up with the others. But if you ever want to get together and study—you know, until you feel comfortable joining the regular group—just let me know, okay?” She glanced at his list. “Looks like we’re taking most of the same subjects.”
“Yeah, great,” he said quietly. “I, um—I have to go, too. But I’ll see you around.”
The two of them exchanged one last friendly smile on their way out. Then, Lily took the left turn toward the Great Hall, and Severus retreated right to the dungeons.
After dinner, Regulus and Cassian wandered down from the Great Hall, still licking the remaining chocolate from dessert off their fingers. They came to a stop in front of the false wall, and Cassian spoke the password. As the wall rolled back to let them in, however, they saw Severus Snape pacing and standing in front of them.
“You’re late,” he hissed quietly. “He won’t appreciate that, from any of us.”
“Sorry,” Regulus said, crossing his arms. “I assume you’re ready to go.”
“Of course. But you aren’t.” Severus took out his wand, pointing it at Cassian first. Without a sound, his school cloak and tie came flying off, leaving plain black robes underneath. Then, the wand came to rest in front of Regulus, and he too lost all signs of his Slytherin membership. Snape put his wand away neatly. “There. Let’s go.”
“Why wouldn’t he want to see that we’re fellow Slytherins?” Wilkes blurted out.
“Best not to give him any reminders that you’re not yet of age,” Snape replied tersely. “You don’t have a full set of magical skills yet. You’re a liability.”
The three of them escaped out into the night, sneaking past a few faculty members and the Grey Lady out in the corridors, and headed toward the Forbidden Forest. Just beyond the gate into Hogwarts, which could be seen near the train station in the distance, Severus stopped. He extended a hand to each of the others.
“Why are we holding hands?”
“I don’t know which of our associates put in a good word for you, Wilkes, but you’re clearly going to need it, thick as you apparently are,” Snape said, narrowing his eyes. “We’re going to do Side-Along Apparition, since you two are both still underage.”
“You can Apparate?” Regulus asked, his eyes widening slightly.
“Yes. I turned seventeen last month and got licensed as a gift to myself.”
“Does it hurt?” Regulus added.
“Enough questions. What did I say about lateness? Now, each of you take one of my hands, and hold on tightly. You don’t want to be Splinched for your first impression.”
The two moved forward, each of them grasping one of Snape’s hands. Regulus held on for dear life, desperately afraid of what might happen if he lost his grip mid-flight. Severus uttered the spell in a whisper, and it suddenly felt like the three of them were in the midst of a whirlwind. Just as the commotion in Regulus’s stomach felt enough to make him sick, the three of them hit hard ground again on a dark street.
“Come on,” Severus instructed, letting go of them and leading the way up a winding cobblestone path toward the large house in front of them. Regulus could barely take in the side of the old mansion; though it was decrepit in places, with hanging shingles and splintered windowpanes, it still held an old majesty that he was certain must have been there when it was first built. As he wandered up the path, Wilkes coming up behind him, he noticed that the front door of the home was slightly ajar.
No sooner than Severus had pushed it open, they found themselves with wands to their throats. Regulus looked up into the faces of his cousin Bellatrix, her husband Rodolphus, and the newest addition to intact members of his family, Lucius Malfoy.
“Glad to see security is tight,” Snape grumbled, shoving the wands out of his way with his own wand and exchanging a malevolent glance with Bellatrix.
“I didn’t know tonight was your night, Regulus,” Rodolphus commented.
Lucius nodded in agreement. “Good to see you again.” He looked over at Wilkes. “Who’s this one?”
“Cassian Wilkes. Rosier put in a good word for him, I hear,” Snape replied.
“Interesting,” Lucius replied, sizing the boy up. “Looks like the wind might blow him away. We’ll see what the Dark Lord thinks.”
“Yes, let’s not make any assumptions just yet,” Bellatrix snapped, but the expression quickly melted into a sickly smile. “Come on, darling, I want to introduce you personally.” She grasped Regulus about the shoulders and steered him into the house, his companions forced to fall in line behind them.
They went through another set of double doors, up several velvet-carpeted stairs, and down a long, dark hallway. The rich red color of the walls returned the sick feeling to Regulus’s stomach. It reminded him of a slaughter; he did not know why.
“Go on, sweetheart,” Bellatrix cooed, coming to a halt before the last door on the right.
“Aren’t you coming with me?”
“No, he will want to meet you himself before he introduces you to anyone else. The Dark Lord is very possessive, you see. But I know he’ll welcome you to the family.” She glanced up, seeing Snape and Wilkes approaching. “Though I suppose your escorts should go in as well—wouldn’t want him to think Snapey failed him.”
“Shove it,” Severus said roughly, moving past her and entering the room. Regulus and Wilkes exchanged one last hesitant glance, and then they followed him.
“Yes, I see, here they are.”
Regulus looked up into the eyes of a tall, thin man at the other side of the room. He was dressed in long, thick black robes, and Regulus could not help thinking of a person out shivering in the cold on a snowy night, using the ample fabric to keep himself warm. The man was balding with only a few stringy black hairs still clinging to his bare scalp, giving it a thin covering. His eyes burned black in his face, except when they were highlighted by the multiple candles scattered about the room. In these moments, they appeared to flash red, as threatening as the ancient walls. Regulus found it hard to believe that his voice could be so smooth—almost gentle.
“Hello, Regulus,” the man said, stepping forward. “Welcome to my family’s home.”
Regulus couldn’t speak, even if he knew what to say.
Voldemort looked at Severus. “Why are they late?”
Severus let his eyes trace over Regulus, meeting the latter boy’s just briefly, and onto Wilkes. “He asks too many questions.”
“I see. Mr. Wilkes, I presume, should have guessed not to make me wait.”
“I’m sorry, sir—” Cassian tried.
“Silence. Words are lost on me, as you’ll soon learn.” Voldemort turned around, producing his wand seemingly out of nowhere, and pointed the wand at a closet near the door. The door clicked open, and an unconscious man tumbled out onto the carpet. Voldemort moved the body to the center of the room and flicked his wand. “Ennervate.”
The man stirred to life. As soon as he opened his eyes, he began to look wildly about the room, his eyes snapping horrifically from one person to another. As soon as they found Voldemort, he turned onto his back, scuttling backwards until he hit the wall. Regulus noticed that there was dirt on his clothes and under his aging fingernails. “Who are you people?” the man cried. “What’s going on?”
Voldemort looked over at Wilkes. “Kill him,” he said shortly.
Wilkes froze. Clearly he had not prepared for a formal initiation.
“No, please! Let me go! I won’t tell anyone that you broke into the house!”
Regulus glanced back at Voldemort, who was staring intently at Wilkes. No matter how loudly and earnestly the man pleaded, the expression on his face remained stony. Only a tiny smile playing at one corner of his lips betrayed that he had perceived the cries. Regulus recalled what he’d said: words are lost on me.
Wilkes was still standing perfectly still, gripping his wand tightly at his side.
“Perhaps we should begin with an elf, to ease you into it,” Voldemort remarked.
A cold shiver ran up and down Regulus’s spine.
“Regulus,” Voldemort said, and as Regulus looked back at him, the man writhing on the floor looked at Regulus.
“Please… have mercy… I’m only a gardener…” the man whispered hoarsely.
“There has been too much chatter for one evening,” Voldemort cut in, pointing his wand at the man. The gardener’s face froze in an expression of terror and then relaxed gradually. Regulus thought he might be dead at first, but he appeared to only be unconscious. Voldemort gestured to the body, looking over at Severus. “Take him outside and wipe his memory. We’ll save him for another potential new recruit.”
Regulus looked straight ahead as Snape levitated the body out of the room.
“Now, as I was saying, perhaps you would like to give this a try,” Voldemort continued. “I admit that I have high expectations for you, Regulus, given the many contributions made by other members of your illustrious family. Murdering a Muggle would not be enough of a challenge for you.” He gestured to Wilkes, now standing with a slightly hunched posture and appearing to inch slightly away from them. “I would like you to teach your friend a lesson for his failure tonight.”
Regulus glanced over at Wilkes. The boy stared back, unmoving. Finally, Regulus was able to find the words he wanted. “How should I deal with him, my lord?”
Voldemort smiled. “Use your imagination. You won’t have the chance at Hogwarts.”
Regulus knew that this was his way of suggesting a Dark curse, but which one? He had certainly heard of them; their names were uttered in quick whispers when discussing Death Eater news over dinner at Grimmauld Place or in the corridors and common room at school. He could have sworn he had heard Avery and Mulciber practicing them under their breath when he stayed up late at night to study by the fire. But he had certainly never used any. He didn’t even know how to begin.
He pointed his wand straight at Wilkes, watching the boy’s eyes focus on its tip. Since he could not still his pounding heart, he tried to clear his mind. He would only need a moment, just long enough to form the word in his head and send it to his lips. Then, with the weight of Voldemort’s gaze on his shoulders, he found it. “Crucio.”
Regulus’s senses went numb. He stumbled backward slightly, steadying himself against one of the blood-soaked walls. When he regained his footing, he saw Wilkes tear through the door out of the corner of his eye, slamming it behind him.
Voldemort chuckled, the sound of it echoing around the small room and making Regulus feel suffocated. However, he reached out automatically to take the hand offered to him, shocked at how cold and nimble it felt beneath his fingers.
“Good work, Regulus. Very nice for your first time,” Voldemort commented. “The hour is late, and so I must bid you goodbye. I will send word of your next steps.”
Regulus nodded, fumbling to put his wand safely back under his cloak. He turned, leaving quickly so as to avoid keeping his back turned to Voldemort for too long, and stole back down the long corridor toward the foyer. Bellatrix approached him immediately, clearly wanting to know how things went, but he looked for Severus instead. The boy was leaning against the door, his facial expression bored but the incessant tapping of his boot against the floor suggesting impatience.
“Reg, you ready?” a voice croaked. Still somewhat hazy, Regulus looked for the source, finding Wilkes supporting himself against the wall. His friend looked as thought he had been sick at least once while getting away from Voldemort, and his hands leaned shakily on his knees. Regulus was glad to find no visible wounds.
“Come on, back to the common room before Slughorn finds us missing,” Snape drawled. He stood up, walking over to Regulus and offering a hand to him.
Regulus looked down at it, and then back at Wilkes, who had gotten up to join them. “No,” he said in a serious tone, feigning calmness. “You find your own way back.”
Then, he grasped Severus’s hand firmly, and the two of them disappeared.
If you’ve made it this far, I owe you my firstborn child. Thanks for reading!
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