Rating: NC-17 (This part R)
Warnings: Sex, violence
Genres: Romance, Angst, Drama
Word count: ? (This part: 3500)
Disclaimer: Characters and world belong to J. K. Rowling. I make no profit.
Summary: What is Remus to do when he suddenly finds himself caught in the middle of two brothers' furious feud? The last thing Remus wants is to hurt anybody's feelings, but how can he possibly avoid that? And what about his own feelings? SLASH, of course!
Chapter 34 – Alone
Regulus sat on the lakeshore, gazing out over the water. It was his favourite place these days, away from people and suffocating walls closing in around him. He couldn’t stand being around other people anymore and he only did it when he absolutely had to. During lessons he would sit at the very back, trying to blend in with the walls. He ate in the kitchens but even the house-elves got on his nerves. They were constantly fussing over him, shoving food at him, pestering him to eat more, and asking him a million questions about why he was so sad. But mostly it bothered him because they reminded him of Kreacher.
He didn’t want to think about all the things that hurt. He wanted his mind to stay blank and numb, but it was difficult. Sitting there by the quiet lake in the cool evening air, he couldn’t stop his mind from drifting back to the horrible day six weeks ago.
Bellatrix had come to Grimmauld Place to accompany him to Malfoy Manor where the initiation was to take place. He had felt like a convict being escorted to prison.
They stopped outside the gates where she told him to wait. She would go in and announce their arrival and he was instructed to come to the main entrance ten minutes later. She stepped close, violating his personal space, and grabbed his chin, forcing him to look at her.
“Little cousin Reggie,” she cooed, flashing him her cruel smile. “About to become a man.”
Regulus had never felt less like a man. He felt like a terrified little boy.
As the minutes passed, his heart drummed faster and harder against his ribcage. The pounding pulse in his ears made him dizzy and he was trembling like a leaf. He didn’t think he had ever been this scared in his whole life.
Thoughts and images were rushing through his mind. Horrible images of innocent people suffering at the hands of Death Eaters. At his hands. He remembered how Remus had begged and how crushed he had been when Regulus had turned him down. What kind of monster was he? He was going to do this - support someone who spread more evil the more powerful they got - just because he was scared. Scared of what would happen to him if he refused. Scared of disappointing his family. Scared they would turn their backs on him.
He felt his legs buckle and he dropped to his knees, letting out a gasp. And just like that he knew he couldn’t go through with it. It was true what Remus said, that everyone was responsible for their own actions. It was time to finally take on that responsibility.
At first, once the decision had been made, a curious inner peace, a sense of relief, settled over Regulus. But then the gravity of the situation struck and he panicked. He had to get out of there. He couldn’t stand around waiting for his cousin to come looking for him.
So he fled. He didn’t know where else to go than home. Maybe his parents would understand; maybe they would protect him. He would need it. One did not just accept an invitation from the Dark Lord and then stand him up on the night of the party.
Regulus hadn’t heard his mother scream that loudly since the night Sirius left, and he had never seen such a shocked expression on his father’s face. They had ordered him to go back immediately and make up an excuse for being late, but Regulus refused. Mrs. Black’s rage had reached new levels and she had cast the Cruciatus Curse on him until he passed out.
Regulus slowly came to, feeling a damp cloth being dabbed gently against his forehead.
“Kreacher?” he croaked, his throat hoarse and sore from screaming.
Regulus blinked and looked up into the house-elf’s huge wet eyes. A tear fell and landed on Regulus’ cheek. Kreacher quickly wiped it away with the cloth.
“Master Regulus,” the elf repeated, his lower lip quivering. “Don’t worry – Kreacher will make it better.”
Regulus, turning his head slightly, realised he was lying in his bed. Every fibre in his body was aching and cramped up.
“Master Regulus must drink this,” said Kreacher, holding out a small goblet containing a bright orange fluid. He put his other hand at the back of Regulus’ neck and helped him raise his head so he could drink the potion.
Regulus let his head sink back into the pillow and sighed with relief as he felt his muscles starting to loosen and the pain diminish.
Kreacher sat on the edge of the bed, fondly stroking Regulus’ forehead and hair. “Why must he disobey Mistress? He knows how angry she becomes.”
“I couldn’t do what she wanted me to,” Regulus whispered, trying to spare his voice.
“Kreacher doesn’t understand,” said the elf, sounding utterly miserable.
“She wants me to do something very bad. Evil. And I won’t.”
“But Mistress is very wise. She always knows best,” sniffed Kreacher, “and Master Regulus must do what she says so that he does not get hurt.”
Regulus was about to say something when he heard agitated voices downstairs. One belonged to his mother and another – his heart nearly jumped into his throat – to Bellatrix.
A deep voice came booming up the stairs, “REGULUS!”
Regulus felt his blood turn to ice. What was he going to do? He couldn’t go down there! Save for the Dark Lord himself, there was no one in the world that terrified him more than Bellatrix Lestrange. And he could only imagine just how enraged she was right now.
Kreacher, no doubt sensing his fear, was clutching Regulus’ sleeve, whimpering in sympathy.
Mr. Black called several times more but Regulus stayed where he was. He didn’t know what to do, but he was not about to offer himself up freely. Then there was the sound of heavy footsteps on the stairs. Kreacher and Regulus glanced anxiously at each other. The door was torn open and in stepped a fuming Mr. Black.
“What has gotten into you – insolent child! When you are called upon you turn up immediately! You’ve got a visitor.”
Shaking nervously, Kreacher stepped in front of Regulus.
“M-Master Regulus is not well enough yet. He needs to stay in bed.”
A wave of gratefulness and affection for the little elf swept through Regulus.
“Stay out of this, Kreacher.”
“B-but he is hurt…“
“Go to the kitchen. NOW!”
Kreacher turned and sent Regulus a distressed look before disappearing with a pop.
Mr. Black strode over to his son, grabbed him by the collar and dragged him out of bed.
“No!” Regulus pled desperately, “No! Father, please! Please don’t let her -”
“You will face the consequences of your actions. You owe her an explanation. Now, come here!”
Regulus was hauled down the stairs so violently that if not for his father’s solid grip on his collar he would have fallen several times. He was let go and shoved forcefully into the drawing room where his cousin was waiting for him.
“YOU!” Bellatrix’s shrill voice sounded.
In a split second she was standing right in front of him, her face twisted in fury and her eyes ablaze. Regulus forced himself not to back away from her. It would only serve to anger her further.
“YOU!” she shrieked again. “What did you think you were doing?”
Regulus tried to swallow. His throat felt constricted, and, even if he had known what to say, he didn’t think he would have been able to form the words.
“SPEAK, boy!” she yelled and backhanded him across the face, sending him stumbling backwards.
She waited a few seconds and when he still couldn’t find words she hit him again.
“I-I -“ Regulus managed, pressing a hand to his already swelling cheek.
Bellatrix raised her hand again, holding it there for a moment as a promise of what she would do if he didn’t start talking.
What was he going to say? If he told her the true reason - what he really thought of Voldemort - she would probably kill him. “I - I don’t like violence,” he squeaked.
“I don’t like violence,” Bellatrix repeated mockingly. “What kind of explanation is that?”
“I c-can’t hurt anybody. I don’t have the s-stomach for it.”
“So you’re a coward - running away with your tail between your legs?” She stepped forwards, her face inches from Regulus’. “Do you know what we do to deserters?”
Regulus felt panic grip him. “I’m not a deserter! I‘m not! I didn’t join! That’s why I didn’t join! I knew I couldn’t -”
“SHUT UP!” Bellatrix shrieked and delivered another blow so forceful that Regulus toppled over into the chiffonier.
“Mind the furniture, Bella,” sounded Mrs. Black’s cold voice.
Bellatrix yanked Regulus up by the hair and dragged him back to the middle of the room.
“Have you learned NOTHING? All the hours we have wasted on you, educating you, teaching you the right ways!” She let go of his hair and backhanded him again.
Regulus felt his lip burst open and blood leak into his mouth. He watched in horror as his cousin pulled out her wand.
“No!” he gasped, feeling fear tighten around his chest like a vice. “Please! Please don’t –“
“You made me lose face in front of everybody! In front of the Dark Lord!” she screamed. “CRUCIO!”
Regulus collapsed as white hot pain ripped through his already abused body. It was even worse, more intense, more agonising than when his mother had done it to him earlier. Regulus later wondered whether it was because Bellatrix had more practise or simply took more pleasure in hurting him. After what seemed like hours, but was probably less than a minute, the pain stopped and left Regulus lying panting and trembling on the floor.
“You ungrateful brat! You had everything served on a silver platter, and you cast it aside like that traitorous brother of yours.” Bellatrix was glaring at him, her wand clutched tightly in her hand. “Is he the one who has been putting ideas into your head? Have you –“
“No,” wheezed Regulus. “We don’t speak… he has nothing to –“
“Don’t lie to me!”
She raised her wand again and Regulus squeezed his eyes shut. He wasn’t going to be able to take more. Something inside him would break, he was sure of it. He would die and that would be the end of it. He waited with dread for the curse to be cast.
“That will do, Bella.”
Regulus opened his eyes and saw that his father had stepped in between him and Bellatrix.
“I said, that will do. You’ve had your pound of flesh. Now put away your wand.”
“But he… after what he did to me!” Bellatrix said, gesturing wildly towards Regulus on the floor. “He deserves –“
“Regulus has already been punished. It was taken care of before you came.”
Bellatrix was positively fuming. “Surely it is not your opinion that he be let off this easily! I have the right to –“
“You don’t have the right to anything. He is our son – not yours.”
“He made a fool of me! What am I going to tell the Dark Lord?”
“You can tell him that the family still supports his noble cause, but that our son is too weak and cowardly to join his inner circle. And tell him that he can expect a very large donation and our sincerest apologies for wasting his time.”
“So you’re just going to buy him out? ”
“He’s my son.”
“He’s a spoiled brat! And a traitor!”
“I will not discuss this any further! Now, please leave the premises.”
“Orion!” Mrs. Black scolded.
“I have a say in this house too, Walburga,” Mr. Black said sternly as he ushered his protesting niece out of the room.
The door fell shut behind them, and Regulus could hear the argument continue into the hall. The angry voices were getting gradually louder, but Regulus’ head was swimming and he could only make out fragments of what was said. He wished that Kreacher was here to soothe him, but he dared not summon him. He had been ordered to the kitchen and would likely be in trouble if he left without permission.
It hurt resting his head on his raw cheek but he didn’t have the energy to reposition himself. He thought about how his mother would throw a fit when she noticed the blood that had seeped from his mouth into her expensive Persian rug. Maybe Kreacher could get it off. Regulus closed his eyes and slipped into a half-doze.
He couldn’t tell how much time had passed when he was jerked out of his drowse by the sound of someone entering the room. He opened his heavy lids and saw his parents standing over him.
His eyes settled on his father. “Is she… gone?”
“Thank you,” Regulus breathed, feeling some of his fear evaporate.
“Don’t think I saved your skin because you deserve it.”
“Get up,” Mrs. Black ordered.
Regulus pushed himself up into a sitting position. Nausea immediately hit. His legs were limp and he doubted he would be able to stand right now. Fortunately his mother didn’t seem to mind that he didn’t get all the way up.
“Your father and I have discussed the current situation. I hope you realise you have disappointed us greatly,” she said. Having vented her rage earlier, she was now able to keep her cool. “You have let us down. Dishonoured the family.”
Regulus hung his head. “I’m sorry. It’s wasn’t my intent.”
“I don’t want to hear your excuses. Disownment would be a just consequence, but we have decided to give you a chance to salvage some of what you’ve destroyed. But there will be no more leniency. You will marry as soon as we can make arrangements.”
“What?” exclaimed both parents.
“I can’t. I already love someone.”
“You’re in no position to make demands, young man!” scolded Mrs. Black. “You will do as you’re told!”
“You know how imperative it is that your wife is of superior breeding. I’m sure this girl of yours –“
“It’s not a girl.” The words were out of Regulus’ mouth before he could even think.
His father looked at him in surprise. ”Not a girl? Where did you meet a grown woman?”
“It’s not a woman. He’s… a boy.”
The room went dead silent. Regulus stared at the floor; he dared not look up and meet his parent’s eyes.
Then a strange voice Regulus barely recognised said, “My son is… a queer? Is that what you’re saying?”
Regulus looked up to see his mother’s ashen face. He gulped. “Y-yes.” It scared him to see and hear her like this, more than when she was furious and screaming.
She slumped down on a chair, staring at him, pain and shock painted on her face.
“I’m… Mother, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. But I can’t help it. It’s just who I am.”
When she didn’t say anything else, Regulus turned his head and looked at his father.
“Get out of my house,” said Mr. Black in a voice so cold and full of revulsion that a chill ran down Regulus’ back.
“Out? I – No! You can’t kick me out! Please, Father, please don’t!” Regulus begged, clutching his father’s trouser legs. “I’ll be good! I’ve always been good, haven’t I?”
“Go and pack your things. If you’re not out in fifteen minutes I’ll let Bella have you.”
Later, Regulus only had a vague recollection of how he had managed to make his way through Muggle London to the Leaky Cauldron. He had always made the trip either by Floo or Side-Along and he had never been allowed to walk around in the city on his own, so it was all rather overwhelming. He remembered dragging himself into the pub, dizzy and exhausted, and then all had gone black.
He woke up finding himself in bed in a room with decorative wood carvings on the ceiling. Morning light was shining in through the window. He let his eyes wander around the room and started when they reached a man sitting at the foot of his bed. It took a few seconds for him to realise that it was Professor Dumbledore.
The old wizard sent him a kind smile. “Good morning, Regulus.”
“P-professor? Where… am I at Hogwarts?”
“No, we are at the Leaky Cauldron. The innkeeper was thoughtful enough to send word to Hogwarts and I thought it best that I attended to this matter myself.”
Dumbledore got up from his chair and walked to a small table where he picked up a phial, uncorked it, and handed it to Regulus.
“The healer left this for me to give you when you woke up.”
Regulus stared at the phial and gulped, recognising the contents of it. It was the elixir specifically made for patients who had been subjected to the Cruciatus Curse; the same elixir Kreacher had given him yesterday. How did they know he had been Cruciated? Could they tell just by looking at him – or had Dumbledore simply guessed it? Regulus became scared. If they knew someone had used an Unforgivable on him they would want to know who, and if they managed to get the truth out of him, his family might be in trouble. So he pretended not to know the potion and drank it without commenting, and to his relief Dumbledore didn’t ask about it.
After a minute of Dumbledore just sitting and smiling amicably at him, Regulus couldn’t stand the silence any longer. “What happens now?” he asked cautiously.
“I thought I’d take you back to the school. I assume you can’t go home. Do I assume correctly?”
Regulus gave a small nod.
“It was a very brave thing you did.”
Regulus stared at Dumbledore, terrified. Did the old man know about the whole Death Eater business as well? Did he know everything?
“N-no. I didn’t do anything.”
“No? Then why were you thrown out of your home?”
“I told them I’m… gay.”
The headmaster contemplated him for a moment, and Regulus suddenly felt ashamed. Would he also be repulsed by him?
“Well. As I said, it was a brave thing to do. You must have suspected that your parents would not approve.”
So here he was, back at Hogwarts. He had been moved to a room in the teachers’ wing because Dumbledore feared that he would not be safe in Slytherin any longer. Regulus wondered how the old wizard could be so insightful. He had to know or at least have guessed what had happened. Curiously enough, he never asked Regulus about it. He just said that if there was anything he wanted to talk about he would be there to listen and offer all the help he could. Regulus always shook his head and said there was nothing and that he was fine.
He wasn’t, of course. After the final blow of realising that Remus was gone there was nothing that would ever be fine again. He had lost absolutely everything. First his brother, then the rest of his family, and finally the person he loved more than anything. He shouldn’t feel so sorry for himself. He knew it was his own fault. His parents had been ready to forgive him and then he had blown it by being selfish and refusing to do his duty and get married.
And Remus. Regulus was such an idiot for messing that up. If he had only made the right decision before it was too late they would still be together. Even losing Sirius was partly his own doing; he realised that now. He had pushed him away, been too stubborn to forgive.
He didn’t regret refusing to become a Death Eater, but he wished he had kept his sexual preferences to himself. If he couldn’t have Remus, he might as well marry whoever his parents wished. Maybe the girl would even turn out to be a nice person. And he wouldn’t be alone.
Regulus sighed heavily and watched the occasional ripple in the water when a fish snapped an insect from the surface.
He often wondered what drowning would feel like. He’d heard that it was supposed to be a very peaceful way to go. But other sources said that it was a horrible experience, causing indescribable anxiety and panic until you could no longer hold off filling your lungs and suffocate. Either way there was something intriguing and strangely comforting about the thought of just letting go and sink into the deep.
He couldn’t swim, so it would be easy. He knew he wasn’t going to do it, though. At least not here. His body would be found and cause a commotion. And Remus would know. He would be upset. Maybe he'd feel guilty. Of course Sirius would be there to comfort him. It's wasn't as if he needed Regulus anymore.
Art created by the amazing Zayhad