Chapter image by wayward @ TDA
Disclaimer: Everything you recognize belongs to JK Rowling.
Pain hit him like a sledgehammer. It was scorching hot, twisted black and the scream that rushed out of his throat seemed never-ending. He crumpled to the ground and writhed against soggy sleet and sharp-edged stones until his fingers bled.
Shadows by his side stood in silence, dark cloaks only whipping in the wind. The night was dying, but the sun was not yet up. Magic filled his veins as he was bound to his destiny with stronger ties than any unbreakable vow would. And bound to his master. The Dark Lord.
He shut his eyes and tried to keep himself sane. Being cruciated was a picnic compared to this. All for his family. To protect them. To make them proud. To meet peers expectations. It was worth it, wasn’t it? No time to hesitate, nor the place either. He would survive, it was in his blood after all. The world was already changing and he felt like a snake shedding his old skin. He had to leave the old world and part of himself behind, to start fresh.
The last pulse of pain subsided. His arm shook involuntarily as he watched it in wonder. The skull and snake seared to his skin to show his brotherhood. It was deeper than any ink could go. It would call him when was time. He gasped a lungful of bitter cold winter air before Voldemort’s voice forced him up to his knees.
“Are you ready to serve, young one?” The voice dripped with cold calculated amusement.
He nodded. His master could see his thoughts and as exhausted as he was, shielding them was out of question. The nod would be enough. It protected his identity as well. The death eaters weren’t one happy family, more like an angry pack of rabid predators that would rip the feeble ones to shreds. He wasn’t weak.
He stood up and tugged his cloak with bleeding fingers to make sure he was well covered. His silvery mask felt foreign but he would grow into it.
He took his place in a circle and faced his master with trepidation. The tasks were given to some in silence. They nodded and some shuddered before they disapparated. Some figures were easily recognizable. His cousin Bellatrix had a peculiar habit of fidgeting and her ebony tresses weren’t covered with a hood. So careless. By her side was her fiancée, it was easy to see by the manner a man shared looks with his cousin. By her other side was a tall man with a confident air. He wore a ring that had a familiar emblem on it. Lucius Malfoy then. The same people he met in mindless social functions that pure-blood families held so dear.
A single word entered his mind.
He nodded again, this time with relief. He turned on his heel and disapparated to a small village that still was asleep. He had to cover his tracks well. So not apparating straight to home. He walked to a dilapidated house that had miraculously survived a harsh winter. The windows were frosted and the front door’s lock was rusted to odd shade of green. A whispered spell and the old door opened with a creak. He hurried through the dust to the ancient fireplace. A handful of floo powder and he stepped into green flames.
The whirling feeling made him almost retch. It had been an exhausting night. His body felt battered. Finally he was at Grimmauld Place’s drawing room. It was dark and gloomy, but he felt safe. Home. He took off the mask and the cloak with a sigh and hid them in the secret nook behind the bookcase.
“Master Regulus?” An old house-elf appeared holding an oil lamp that cast shadows to its wrinkly face.
“Yes, Kreacher?” He said and watched the elf wearily. Kreacher followed him through the door and to the stairs.
“Your brother sent the owl, master Regulus.”
Sirius had sent a letter. His mind was swimming with thoughts. Sirius was his older brother who had left the family after a massive fight only weeks ago. It had been bleak Christmas after that. Three people and the house-elf pretending the oak-paneled dining room, which was meant for twenty people, didn’t echo from the emptiness. Mum had been as kind as ever, he thought sarcastically, she had blasted the big brother off the family tree. Sirius wouldn’t care. He never did.
He opened the letter and read it quickly.
I’m at the Potters'. Sorry that I had to leave you behind, but the life fitting for the ancient house of Black just isn’t my cup of tea. Mum’s talk about a pure-blood virgin teen bride was the last straw. She found some willing second cousin. Shudder. I hope you reconsider things we talked about. There are other ways to live, that’s not the only option. Don’t let our parents make choices for you. You will regret it. I’ll see you at school next week. If you change your mind, just send me an owl. I’ll be there for you.
Regulus folded the letter and shook his head. He had made his choice. Now he just had to live with it.
Kreacher padded in front of him with the oil lamp. The elf’s large ears twitched with every creak the old house made. The chipped paintings of centuries worth the Black ancestors covered the walls. They walked together down the narrow corridor in harmonious silence.
Regulus couldn't remember a time before Kreacher had lived in Grimmauld Place. The elf and the house simply belonged together in his mind. Kreacher had been his and Sirius’s nanny in their early years. When they had grown up and gone to Hogwarts, it had become more of the butler in the house. Kreacher’s mother had belonged to the Blacks as well. It had been an excellent maid who baked delicious scones for pure-blood ladies’ afternoon teas and made linens feel soft as silk. It had been beheaded at the ripe old age of 112, after stumbling on the Persian carpet and sending teapot flying across the drawing room. The family tree tapestry still had a distinct earl grey smell on it.
The elf turned down his bed and fluffed the green pillows like it did every single night when he was staying at home. He climbed in the bed and Kreacher tucked him in gently. After that the elf gave him a hot cup of cocoa and started singing old lullaby like it always did. It was a bit embarrassing really, but after the night he had, a seventeen-year-old boy needed some extra comforting and appreciated the elf’s efforts to soothe him.
“Good night, master Regulus,” it said and blew the candles by his bedside.
“Good night Kreacher, don’t let the bed bugs bite you.” He dozed off into restless sleep filled with slithering snakes and shrilling laughter.
A/N: This story is betaed by lovely and talented Megan aka ClawsPuffsSnakesGryffs.
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