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Regulus lifted a hand in farewell towards his brother, watching the violet Knight Bus that contained Sirius until it vanished from his sight. Then, resigned to what was coming, he turned and walked back into Grimmauld Place.

As soon as Regulus had closed the door behind him, he was assaulted with his mother’s shrieking. “How dare you help that filthy bloodtraitor! After what he’s done?”

Walburga’s features were pale and her eyes flashed maniacally as she held her wand with white-knuckled fingers, but Regulus’ father scared him more. The tall, broad-shouldered Black patriarch’s face was a cold, disapproving mask.

In a chilling tone, Orion said, “Regulus, listen carefully. If you ever even glance at that stain on the tapestry, if you ever give any indication of following in Sirius’ footsteps, you can share his fate.

“Next week, you have a chance to redeem yourself. The initiation ceremony is coming up. Have no fear, my son, you may yet bring honor to our family,” he finished, laying a heavy hand on Regulus’ shoulder.

Regulus inhaled sharply. In a fraction of a second, a million thoughts bombarded his mind. So this was it. His fate was sealed. Regulus knew that this was coming; sooner or later, the Dark Mark would be branded on his skin, but he hadn’t expected it to happen so soon.

That one tattoo carried so much weight. It meant that he would never see his brother again, except perhaps on the opposite side of the battlefield. It meant that his life would no longer be his own and he would exist only to do the Dark Lord’s bidding. It meant that he would die a lonely, inevitable death. No one would mourn him. His family might mourn what the death of Black meant for them, but they wouldn’t feel grief for the quiet, inquisitive seeker who wanted nothing more than knowledge and a happy ending. And Sirius - he didn’t want to think about what Sirius would feel about his death.

Becoming a Death Eater was always going to happen, Regulus knew that, but it had never quite felt real. Not until this moment…

“Yes, Father,” Regulus responded, carefully keeping the dismay out of his voice.

Orion nodded and patted Regulus’ shoulder in satisfaction. And that was that. While Sirius was on his way to salvation, Regulus had started down the road to damnation. He wouldn't say a word to anyone, though. No one could help him now, not even Sirius. It was best to let Sirius remember him as the brother that helped him escape Grimmauld Place, not a soon-to-be Death Eater.

Four years after the day that changed both of the brothers’ lives, Sirius received a letter in his living room, embossed with the seal of the Ministry. With trembling fingers, he sank down onto the couch and opened the letter, knowing that nothing good could be inside. Sirius read the cold, detached words written on the page, and upon coming to the last line, he dropped it, his hands shaking and mind numb.

Regulus, his baby brother. The little boy who crawled into his bed during a particularly ferocious thunderstorm and loved to play in the trees, the kid who once beat everyone in his year on their Charms final and always gave him secret smiles in the halls, the brother he was supposed to protect. Gone.

Hours later, that couch was where James found him staring at nothing with dead eyes, a crumpled sheet of parchment at his feet.


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