Chapter 3 : Let Darkness
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Chapter Three: Let Darkness
Everyone knew that New Years Eve was supposed to be a time for celebrating. A time for getting together with friends and family and reflecting on the year that had been, contemplating on the year that was about to be. Last year, Regulus had met up with his two friends – if you could even call them that – Bruce Jugson and Sertorius Selwyn on the corner of Grimmauld Place. Selwyn had nicked a large bottle of Firewhiskey from his father and they’d sat around drinking until Jugson had passed out. And even though Selwyn was a slimy snake and Jugson probably had some troll blood in him, it had been fun.
This year was different.
Exactly one hour ago Regulus had received a letter from his cousin Bellatrix, written in her spiky black handwriting on a piece of torn parchment. It had read:
Meet me underneath Blackfriars Bridge at ten to twelve tonight.
Regulus had no idea what his cousin’s intentions were, but he knew he couldn’t disobey her. So he’d burned the letter, just in case, and set out for Blackfriars Bridge which was a fair distance from Grimmauld Place.
Now, at exactly ten to twelve, he was standing on the bank of the Thames, looking around for his cousin. Blackfriars Bridge was a rather ugly structure with multiple arches. The parapets were painted dark red and were gilded with gold and scarlet paint, shining in the moonlight. Regulus hoped that, in his dark cloak, he wouldn’t attract too much unwanted attention.
Knowing somehow that, when the time was right, Bellatrix would find him and not the other way around, Regulus stared down at the river, lapping against the side of the bridge. The smells of salt and dirt and rot came off the water, mixing with the fog that hung in the air tonight, making a perfect cover.
Regulus jumped with fright, his heart pounding, and quickly tried to regain his composure as he turned around. Bellatrix stood behind him, holding her twisted wand loosely in one hand, as though she didn’t have a care in the world. Though Regulus was tall himself, his cousin towered over him, her face half in shadow, her wild hair framing her face.
And she wasn’t alone.
Behind her, skulking in the shadows of the bridge, were five figures. They were all wearing dark robes. Regulus could only make out one of their faces – it was Severus Snape.
Regulus’ heart pounded. Though Snape had been in Slytherin, like himself, they had never gotten along, never really spoken. There had always been something about Snape that Regulus hadn’t liked. Maybe it was the way his lank, greasy hair fell to his shoulders, or because before Regulus had started Hogwarts Sirius had come home with stories about ‘Snivellus’. Or maybe it was simply because Regulus was sure Snape had a dark secret, one he had told no-one.
He had heard rumours that Snape had become a Death Eater, of course, but Regulus wasn’t sure whether he had truly believed them. Either way, he had not expected to come face to face with the other boy, at least not so soon.
“What’s he doing here?” he burst out, and then instantly regretted it as Bellatrix’s eyes narrowed.
“What do you think, little cousin?” she said, her voice like slippery silk. “You’re all here to be tested.”
Regulus frowned. Tested? What on earth did Bellatrix mean? Surely he’d already proved himself to the Dark Lord. Suddenly, unwillingly, Regulus’ skin began to crawl as he remembered all the ‘tests’ he had already gone through. He could still feel that Bellatrix’s curses had felt like a hot whip, lashing his skin over and over again. He could still taste the blood filling his mouth as he prevented himself from screaming as Thorfinn Rowle probed his mind. But it had all been worth it.
“I thought we were here on a mission,” Snape said, stepping forward out of the shadows. Regulus hadn’t seen him for several months, but he looked exactly the same as he remembered: tall and thin with a long, pallid face, a hooked nose and eyes that were like dark tunnels. “That’s what we were told…”
Bellatrix’s mouth tightened. She didn’t appreciate being spoken back to. And when she turned to Snape, her eyes were full of malice. “You are on a mission,” she said, her face breaking into a sudden smile. “To make sure that you – that all of you – are worthy.”
“If the Dark Lord doubts us,” Snape said softly. “Then surely he could tell us this…”
“Silence!” Bellatrix shrieked, and Snape closed his mouth at once. “It is not your place to question the Dark Lord. Only his most trusted servants…”
“And that’s you, is it?” Snape said, and there was a definite sneer on his face. “You count yourself among his most loyal?” One of the shadowed figures behind Snape chuckled. Regulus’ body was like ice. He knew his cousin, and so he knew that she would not appreciate being mocked.
That was why he was very surprised when Bellatrix smiled.
“The Dark Lord trusts me above all others,” she said, with pride. “He trusted only me with this mission. And if you fail…the Dark Lord will be very disappointed.”
Regulus gulped. He’d seen what the Dark Lord could do to his enemies and he knew that, if displeased, he’d do the same to his allies. Regulus never wanted to suffer the consequences of disobeying his Master. For years he’d dreamed of joining the Death Eaters. And now that he had, he needed to prove himself. He needed to become as loyal, as trusted, as Bellatrix was.
So he stepped forward. “Tell us what we need to do, cousin,” he said, in a voice as confident as he could muster.
Bellatrix smiled, and withdrew a small item from the pocket of her coat – it was an old mirror, the handle brown with rust, the glass dusty and cracked. Regulus knew what it was immediately – a portkey.
“This portkey will take you to the home of a blood traitor,” Bellatrix spat. “A pureblood from an old Wizarding family who married a disgusting Mudblood. They are a disgrace to the name of Wizard. The Dark Lord cannot allow them to live. They must be finished.”
“F-Finished?” Regulus had suddenly gone oddly cold, goosebumps appearing on his arms and the bared skin on his neck. “You mean…you want us to kill them?”
“Of course we’re going to kill them,” a sneering voice said. Another figure had stepped out of the shadows, and Regulus’ stomach turned. He recognised the young man immediately, because he had been notorious for cursing Mudbloods and blood traitors in the corridors at Hogwarts: Mulciber.
Bellatrix handed Snape the mirror, who could barely conceal his look of delight at being given such an important object to hold.
“You must not fail,” she said, her dark eyes shining in the moonlight. “When you have finished the job, return to Headquarters.” She paused, looking around at them. Her gaze fell on Regulus last of all. “I shall be waiting,” she said. Then she spun on her heel and Disapparated with a loud crack, leaving Regulus alone with Snape, Mulciber and the other three young Death Eaters, who were all eager to prove that they were worthy.
Suddenly, inexplicably, Regulus wished that he was celebrating this New Year with a bottle of Firewhiskey, rather than murder.
The cottage was painted pale blue.
It was two stories high, with a large wraparound porch and two pillars out the front. A white picket fence, complete with a low gate overgrown with brambles bordered the property and there was a large cherry tree in the front yard. A swing with a plank of wood for a seat was hanging from it, swinging slightly in the cold breeze. All of the lights inside the house were out. The family which lived in this cottage were out.
Regulus, Snape, Mulciber and the other three newest Death Eaters – Avery, Rosier and Wilkes – were lurking behind a large, overgrown bush on the other side of the road, waiting. Snape and Mulciber had taken charge of the situation, and kept hissing hushed orders at the rest of them, as though they thought they were better than Regulus and the others. Regulus wouldn’t have minded as Avery, Rosier and Wilkes all seemed pretty thick – however it irked him that Snape and Mulciber apparently regarded themselves important enough to issue him with orders. He was, after all, the Bellatrix’s cousin.
“What I don’t understand,” Regulus muttered, his breath coming out in puffs of white air. “Is why we’re waiting here for them. Surely it would be better for a couple of us to go inside…”
“This isn’t your plan, Black,” Mulciber hissed into Regulus’ ear. Regulus couldn’t help but notice that his breath smelled absolutely foul – like rotten meat. “Snape and I are in charge. You’re just a stupid kid.”
Regulus ground his teeth together. After Bellatrix had left, Mulciber had dropped his feigned respect and attempted to make Regulus feel completely worthless.
“Nobody put you two in charge,” Regulus said. “You decided that for yourself.”
“The blood traitor is still a wizard,” Snape suddenly said, sounding surprisingly calm. “He’ll have protection spells all over the house. Our timing needs to be perfect. The spells will be weakened as the family steps through them. That’s when we need to make our attack.”
“Luckily for us, the blood traitor is a weak wizard,” Mulciber said, with a sneer. “Easy pickings.”
Regulus didn’t say anything. Whatever this was, he knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Bellatrix wanted them to succeed, because she didn’t want the Dark Lord to be angry at her, Regulus knew that much. But she also wanted to challenge them. Make sure they were actually worthy of the prestigious title of ‘Death Eater’.
A faint pop broke Regulus from his thoughts. He looked up, and his heart rate quickened. There they were. The family.
The father – the blood traitor – was wearing muggle clothes. Dark trousers and a trench coat. He was holding his wife’s hand and looking around cautiously, his eyes flitting about in a nervous sort of way. And, in his arms, was a small child. A girl, Regulus thought, based on the fact that she was wearing a light pink dress and had a headband in her curly blonde hair.
Suddenly, Regulus felt like he was about to throw up. He hadn’t realized that the blood traitor had a child – a little girl, no older than four or five. He knew what Bellatrix would say. Something along the lines of; “She’s the spawn of a Mudblood, she needs to be put down.” But she was a child, an innocent child. And suddenly, Regulus realized he wasn’t prepared for this at all.
But it was too late.
“Avery,” Snape hissed. “Rosier, Wilkes. Go! Now!”
Next to Regulus, Avery grinned. It wasn’t a pleasant sort of grin, but one that sent shivers up Regulus’ spine.
“This ought to be fun,” Avery said, before gesturing to Rosier and Wilkes, and clambering out of the bushes. The plan was about to begin. Regulus peered out through the tangled leaves and branches in front of him, hoping that Snape and Mulciber couldn’t hear how loud his heart was beating, couldn’t sense how fearful he had suddenly become. Everything inside him was screaming that this wasn’t right. But it was! This was the Dark Lord’s mission, and therefore it was Regulus’ mission, too. He’d longed for this moment, longed for the moment when he could help wizard kind return to its former glory.
So why did this feel so wrong?
“They’d better not screw this up,” Snape muttered.
“They won’t,” Mulciber said. “Or they’ll have me to deal with.”
The plan began just as Snape had said it would. The blood traitor spotted Avery, Rosier and Wilkes stumbling from the bushes immediately – how could he not? They were all clumsy and loud, shooting curses everywhere. Regulus doubted that they’d been allowed to become Death Eaters because of their cunning. The only quality they had which made them of any use to the Dark Lord was their thirst for blood.
The blood traitor’s face paled. His small, mousy wife looked like she was about to faint as her husband handed her their daughter.
“Take Lizzie inside, now,” the blood traitor said urgently, fending of several badly-aimed curses at once.
His stupid mudblood wife shook her head. “I don’t want to leave you…”
“GO!” the blood traitor shouted. “I’ll be alright!”
Mulciber sniggered as the mudblood wife reached up and kissed her husband on the cheek before rushing into the house, clutching her daughter firmly in her hands.
“They have no idea,” he sneered. “Maybe the blood traitor filth would be alright if it was just those three idiots. But they still have us to contend with.”
Blood pounding through his veins, heart pulsing in his ears, Regulus watched with bated breath as Avery, Rosier and Wilkes continued firing curses at the blood traitor, shouting taunts, shouting horrible insults.
“Come on,” muttered Mulciber impatiently. Regulus could tell that his companion was eager to get out on the field, to do some dirty work of his own.
“Just give them a little more time,” Snape said smoothly. Regulus glanced over at him, and saw that he looked perfectly calm. His face was a smooth mask, his eyes unreadable. There was no tension in his shoulders, no emotion at all. He could almost have passed for a wax statue.
“We don’t have time, Snape,” Mulciber snapped. “If Avery and the others are too stupid to lead him away from the house…”
Just as those words were out of his mouth, the blood traitor suddenly broke. A bright scarlet light shot out of the end of his wand, hitting Wilkes squarely in the chest. “LEAVE MY FAMILY AND I ALONE YOU DISGUSTING PIECES OF SCUM!” the blood traitor yelled, as Wilkes fell to the ground. Regulus saw Avery and Rosier exchanging looks, before racing away, as fast as their fat legs could carry them. And, just as Snape had predicted, the blood traitor left his family and raced after them.
“He must really love his Mudblood wife,” Mulciber snorted. “Leaving her alone like that. For us.”
“He doesn’t know that we’re here,” Regulus found himself saying.
Mulciber gave him a disgusted look, but before he had time to make a rude comment, Snape said; “We need to go.” Snape and Mulciber began to rise from their position behind the bushes, but Regulus’ hand shot out and grabbed Snape’s arm. Snape eyed Regulus appraisingly. “What is it now, Black?”
Regulus saw the little girl with the curly blonde hair. For some reason an image of his cousin, Narcissa, flashed through his mind. He could still remember her as a little girl. She’d had pale, curly blonde hair too and big blue eyes. Her looks could only be described as angelic. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” Regulus said. He spoke fast, because he knew that if he hesitated, he’d lose the courage to get the words out. “The blood traitor has a child…”
“Well, would you like at that?” Mulciber smirked. “Ickle Reggie has gone soft.”
Regulus gritted his teeth. He hated it when people looked down on him. He was a member of the noble and most ancient house of Black, one of the oldest pureblood families. Nobody looked down on a Black. “I am not going soft.”
“We’re wasting time,” Snape said. “If you decide you’d rather not come, Black, then by all means cower behind these bushes until we get back. But…I’ll personally make sure that everyone knows you were too cowardly to help us.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Regulus saw Mulciber looking triumphant. He made up his mind. “Let’s get on with it,” he said.
The three of them crept silently out of the bushes and crossed the road, so that they were standing in front of the little white gate that led to the pale blue cottage. Wordlessly, Snape waved his wand in a wide sweep. Regulus wasn’t sure what he was doing, but a strange sensation washed over him – like he’d been staring into the distance with blurry vision, and had suddenly put on a pair of glasses – and when Snape waved his wand again, to open the little gate, they were able to walk through it and up to the front door of the house. And Regulus knew that somehow Snape had managed to get rid of any protection spells there might have been. In that moment, Regulus realized that Snape was a much more powerful wizard than anyone knew. And it scared him, a little.
Another silent spell unlocked the front door and then Regulus, Snape and Mulciber were standing on the threshold, each of them holding their wands in hand. The house was still completely dark, and as silent as a crypt. The floor of the room which they stood in was made of wood and an old-fashioned grandfather clock attached to the far wall was ticking softly. Regulus felt deeply uneasy. Every part of his body was screaming at him to get out of here, to go back home and forget about this whole night. But he was a Death Eater now. This was expected of him. He would not be marked as a coward.
Snape stepped forward slowly, his feet almost completely silent on the wooden floor. Regulus heard him murmuring under his breath – probably an incantation of some sort, although he couldn’t work out what the words were.
When Snape turned around and nodded his head towards the staircase, his meaning was clear: they’re upstairs. Both Regulus and Mulciber nodded, but Snape shook his head, staring straight at Regulus. Again, his intent was perfectly clear: you stay here.
Regulus nodded grudgingly, sinking into a shadowy corner of the room so that he was completely hidden from view, as Snape and Mulciber crept up the stairs. Snape was silent, but the stairs creaked with every step that Mulciber took.
Why did Snape not want Regulus to go with him? Why was he being forced to stay down here, as some sort of guard? Regulus scowled. He felt like a scolded child, being forced to stay behind. Was that all Snape and Mulciber saw him as? A child?
It’s because they’re jealous of you, a little voice at the back of Regulus’ mind said. You’re the youngest Death Eater there has ever been.
Yes, that’s it, Regulus told himself. They were definitely jealous. No-one, not even Snape, had been made a Death Eater while they were still at Hogwarts. Regulus showed more promise than any of them.
A sudden creaking noise almost made Regulus jump out of his skin. Surely Snape and Mulciber hadn’t finished looking around the upstairs floor yet? It had only been a couple of minutes.
Cautiously, Regulus stepped out from his shadowy corner, and muttered “Lumos”. A small silvery light appeared at the end of his wand, comforting him. He wasn’t scared of the dark, but there was something deeply unsettling about being in an unfamiliar house alone at night time. Especially when you were surrounded by plotting and scheming. One false step could mean the end.
Regulus took a couple more steps forward, raising his wand…his eyes widened. The creaking noise hadn’t been made by Snape and Mulciber. No. The mudblood woman and her daughter stood a few paces away from Regulus, their faces both silvery in the wandlight. They must have been hiding in a cupboard or some sort of hidden nook downstairs and come out, thinking that the danger had passed. Why didn’t you stay hidden? Regulus found himself thinking, and then mentally cursed himself. Why were his thoughts getting so confused? This woman and her child…they couldn’t be allowed to live.
Regulus pointed his wand at the mudblood’s chest, setting his mouth into a firm line. He knew he should say something – a threatening line, perhaps, something Mulciber or Bellatrix would say. Or maybe he should call out to Snape. But for some reason he kept his mouth shut.
The mudblood’s grip tightened on her daughter’s hand. The little girl – Lizzie – was wide eyed, like she didn’t understand what was going on. Regulus felt his hand begin to shake slightly. What was he doing?
“Please,” the mudblood said, her voice a thin whisper. “Please…don’t hurt us.”
Regulus began to shake uncontrollably. All the tests in the world could not have prepare him for this. He held someone’s life in his hands. And he had a choice. There was no Bellatrix around, no Dolohov. He had to make this decision on his own.
“Please,” the mudblood said. “I haven’t done anything wrong…”
“I know that,” Regulus burst out, before he could stop himself. He tried to control his shaking body but couldn’t. Instead, he wiped his clammy hands on the material of his cloak.
The woman stared at him and suddenly Regulus knew that he had waited too long. He should have killed her already or at least knocked her out. But instead he had talked to her. Like she was actually worthy.
“H-How old are you?” the woman asked and there was a strange tone to her voice, one that Regulus didn’t recognise. He lowered his wand arm, just slightly.
“Sixteen,” he whispered.
“You don’t have to do this,” the woman said softly. “Please, son. We can…”
“What the hell is this?”
Regulus whirled around, clutching his wand tightly in his hand. Snape and Mulciber had appeared. Snape looked furious. Mulciber, who had spoken…looked livid.
“We leave you alone for five minutes,” Mulciber said, and there disgust in his voice, disgust and venom that he wasn’t even trying to veil. The little girl sniffled, and Regulus’ stomach clenched. “And you start chatting to this piece of scum.”
“Calm down, Mulciber,” Snape said.
“Calm down!” Mulciber shouted, whirling on Snape with his wand outstretched. The little girl began to cry and her mother began making hushing sounds. “He’s a traitor Snape!”
“We can talk about this later…”
“WE’RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT IT NOW!” The little girl had tears running down her face.
“Please,” her mother said. “Please, just don’t hurt my little girl…”
“AVADA KEDAVRA!” Mulciber shouted.
Time seemed to slow down. A sharp ringing started in Regulus’ ears and he suddenly dizzy, like he was about to faint. Dark spots appeared in front of his eyes, blurring his vision. He stumbled against the nearest wall and leaned against it, trying to calm his breathing. The wood he was leaning against was cold on his skin, which felt like it was burning.
Mulciber’s curse, a flash of blinding green light, hit the woman squarely in the chest. She died without another word, her body going limp as she fell to the ground. To Regulus it seemed as though she fell very slowly, but that was probably just the shock of what had just happened.
As Regulus breathed heavily, trying to clear his mind and control his jumbled emotions, the ringing in his ears began to clear. As he straightened up and stepped forward slowly, he heard it all. Mulciber and Snape yelling at each other – Regulus didn’t think he had ever heard Snape so angry. But the worst thing Regulus heard was the silence. The little girl wasn’t crying anymore. She was just staring down at her mother – at her mother’s body.
Regulus gasped. He needed to get out of here. He needed fresh air, he needed some clarity. His whole body was shaking again. His legs didn’t feel like they could support him, as he stumbled towards the door.
This time, it was Snape who had spoken. Regulus took a deep breath and turned to face him, hoping desperately that his emotions were not visible. He wished he could turn his face into an impassive mask like Snape’s, but unfortunately Regulus had the tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve.
Snape gestured towards the little girl. “I think you should finish it,” Snape said. “Finish the job. Prove that you are worthy of being a Death Eater, of being one of the Dark Lord’s servants.” He paused, studying Regulus’ face with a strange intensity. “Do it now, and we can forget that this night ever happened.”
But how can I forget about tonight if I kill an innocent child? And Regulus realized that he’d already made up his mind. He’d made up his mind when he’d first seen the little blonde girl in her father’s arms.
He shook his head. “No,” he said. “No, I won’t do it. I won’t kill an innocent child.”
Mulciber laughed loudly. “Don’t you see Snape?” he said. “He’s a traitor! He’s not worthy of the Dark Lord’s trust!”
“Quiet, Mulciber,” Snape said, in a voice of deadly calm.
But Mulciber had not finished. He turned to Regulus and his face looked completely demented. “You won’t be forgiven for this, Black,” he said, with relish. “The Dark Lord will know. The Dark Lord always knows! The Cruciatus Curse…”
“I’m not afraid of the Cruciatus Curse,” Regulus lied, turning away. Mulciber continued to shout at him, but he wasn’t listening. As he walked out of the house and closed the door behind him, he breathed in the fresh air and let his eyes flutter closed.
How stupid he had been. Even if he wasn’t the one to do the deed, the little girl was still going to end up dead. What would it matter if he had killed her? He’d killed before. And now, he was sure to be punished.
Regulus slid down against the side of the house. Maybe he’d just ruined his chance. Maybe the punishment for disobedience was death. The Dark Lord didn’t want followers he couldn’t rely on. Regulus just hoped he wouldn’t be given over to Bellatrix, first. His cousin liked to play with her food before she ate it.
Regulus exhaled softly and put his head in his hands.
Hey! I'm so sorry for the delay, but I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Chapter image by Ande @ TDA
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