Chapter 1 : He Hopes
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He doesn’t quite know it yet. He has not quite given up hope. His battered body has still not betrayed him, has not fallen to its grazed knees and refused to carry him further; his fluttering heart is still struggling against the cage of his rib bones, like a butterfly searching for summer in darkened room.
Hope is Regulus’ shadow.
He was a hopeful child. He hoped for all the right things- the things that his parents told him to hope for. He poured all that radiant, childish hope into the wrong things, so you’d think that by now he’d have learned his lesson.
But he was a careless child too- a careless child who grew into a careless man. He was a man who casually signed his life over to force too vast for him to escape, and now he casually declares war against it, forsaking the tiny piece of safety he had left to make a small dent in the armour of his old idol. Sirius would be proud. But Sirius is not here anymore.
To Regulus, time is precious. He does not have much to spare. Whatever happens tonight, he will be dead before the sun rises, but whether at the wand of some Death Eater, or in his own, private fashion he does not know. What he does know, is that he is being watched- his departure from Grimmauld Place will not have gone unobserved. From here on in, it becomes a race- between Regulus and Voldemort. Can he catch him before he does the unthinkable? Who knows?
Magic is traceable. On his final journey, Regulus reverts to the transport methods of his once detested Muggles. Kreacher is only companion; doused in Dillusionment Charms they make an odd duo, the man and elf, slipping silently from the house on one silent weekday night. Regulus has not thought about the fact that he will never come back to this house, and it does not occur to him as he leaves it forever. He is a man who lives in the present- past and future are meaningless to him. He believes in the here and now, and the nothing else. What is the point in anything else?
Kreacher asks no questions as they steal through the early evening- he never does ask questions. He trusts Regulus with a deep-down, guttural trust that both inspires and disgusts the master. But he loves Kreacher, he really does. He would hate for anyone to believe he didn’t. He has chosen the elf as his companion tonight not simply because of his inhuman magics, but because he trusts Kreacher too. In this moment, above anyone else.
They board a train to take them south, the elf and the wizard. They don’t speak. They can’t, because Kreacher is invisible to the naked eye, and anyway, what would they say? What is there to say, when everything you knew has disintegrated and you are going to your death with a creature to whom you cannot explain what has happened? The man who sells Regulus his ticket eyes him suspiciously. He thinks he is a down-and-out, maybe foreign, maybe dangerous, from the way he stares uncomprehendingly at the chip and pin machine, paying cash and getting stuck in the ticket barrier, so that he has to help him out. Regulus doesn’t thank him, or even smile- just stares at him with his dark, brooding eyes, set too close together, with too thick eyebrows to be considered attractive. And he isn’t drunk, but he is intoxicated in a way- intoxicated with the idea of conquering his fears, his foes. Intoxicated with hope.
The station is dark and oppressive in the gloom. There are few people about and it makes Regulus feel bare and exposed- it’s lucky that he has so much practice of blending in. He and Kreacher snake casually across the station, trying to stick to the shadows, constantly dreading who might be watching them through the night. It’s a relief for them to get onto the train (although Kreacher’s Disillusionment Charm still cannot be removed) where they find an empty carriage and crouch silently in the plush seats, hoping not to be noticed. Hope again.
The train rattle and clacks its way out of the station, gathering speed. Regulus knows that every click of the rails is another inch closer to his death, to his final chapter, but he does not think about that. He occupies his mind with present- the elf curled up on the seat next to him, the fake silver locket burning away in his back pocket, the piece of parchment inscribed with his inky letters. His last words. His epitaph. His final stand against Lord Voldemort.
Regulus is young, not even nineteen. Eight years ago his climbed aboard a train for the very first time- a train that whizzed him off to all the spells, secrets and conflict of Hogwarts. Back then he was full of excitement, of trepidation and, of course, of hope. Back then, he never guessed that he would not see the end of his education, that less than a decade later he would be taking a train to his death. He was a boy then, and now he is a man- how did that happen? When did he slip from one to other, shedding his childhood like a snake sheds its old skins? Regulus is a snake, has always been a snake. He lived as a snake, and he will die one too- playing for both sides.
For a fleeting moment, Regulus wonders how he will be remembered. As a brave man, sacrificing himself for the greater good? Somehow, he doesn’t think so. That description doesn’t ring true, doesn’t seem to do justice to the dark-haired boy-man hunched on a seat on a night train. He is not a hero, he is a fugitive. He is running from a power greater than himself, running not for his life but for the lives of others- countless other who will die if he lives. He has never been a hero. And he does not want to die as something he is not.
But his death will have a purpose. Because even if nobody remembers him, even if nobody ever finds out why he died, He will know. He will always know. He will remember a boy who beat him.
Through the darkness, the endless, overwhelming darkness, the train presses on. The boy on the train crouches. He hopes.
The darkness is saying nothing.
A/N: Hello there! So I had my entry for the 2013 House Cup all written when... the charging lead for my laptop died, leaving my laptop dead, with my story on it. In something of a panic, I scribbled (on a keyboard. Just go with it.) this out on a family member's laptop at literally the eleventh hour, so I apologise for the lack of coherence, and the typos which I'm sure are in there somewhere, because they're in anything I write between the hours of eleven and midnight. Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed this despite all that! Reviews are much appreciated, especially if you notice any of the aforementioned typos! :P