The keys of the ancestral Black grand piano in the drawing room of number 12 Grimmauld place had long provided Regulus with a form of escape. As his fingers danced across their surfaces he was able to create new worlds with the music and escape to places were he could experience some sense of freedom. It glistened in the light of the room as it bounced off the lacquered surface, shimmering beautifully in the otherwise dark room filled with black and green velvet fabrics, the soft textures of which contrasted the hard nature of the family. It was here that Regulus found himself; lost in the chords he was playing, enjoying a rare moment of peace to himself. He was alone today, his parents away on some kind of social visit that he didn’t care for, so he had been trying to enjoy the empty halls of his family home. However, he had, as ever, been drawn back to the heart of the house; to the grand piano in the cavernous drawing room.
As he moved his hands delicately along the ivory keys, every now and then, a sharp pain would radiate from his left arm. Something so sharp in fact, that he would miss a note and visibly retract his arm from the instrument, occasionally causing him to begin again. After around the 5th time of such a feeling, Regulus irritably rolled the fabric of his sleeve up in a sharp motion, relieving it’s touch from the tender skin beneath. For a second Regulus looked upon the fresh brand, the snake moving fluidly through the skull, and he felt a deep sense of shame build in the pit of his stomach that started to boil over. It made him sick, the simple sight of it. It was something he would now live with forever; a disgusting show of commitment to a cause he loathed. Not wanting to focus on the feelings of regret that he knew he would never shake, Regulus rolled his sleeve back down in a hurried motion. There was nothing he could do; the pain was a reminder and the sight of it even more so of the fact that he was lying to himself and now his whole life would be a lie. He stood from the piano stool, knowing that now even the music would not be powerful enough to spirit him away from his reality. Instead, he made his way over to the pristine sofa to the side of the room and lowered himself once more into a seated position. He reached inside the pocket of his jacket and fished around for a second before removing a crumpled packet of cigarettes and a box of matches. He perched one between his lip and lit it quite easily, breathing the fumes deeply into his lungs, allowing himself to close his eyes in an attempt to relax. However as if Salazar himself had it out for him, he was soon bought back rather instantly to the reality of the room by a large crack, which seemed to echo around the house.
Startled for a second, he quickly composed himself and got up from the comforts of the cushioned seat and set about to find the source of the noise, the cigarette still hanging loosely from his lips. He heard a retching sound coming from the ground floor hallway and picked up his pace to trot quickly down the stairs, still as composed as ever.
‘Hello?’ he called out into the hollow hallway. ‘Who’s there? Show yourself!’ The retching continued, louder now then it had been before as it became clear that the noise was concentrated in the kitchen, behind the heavy door that was now separating Regulus from the source. A small knot tightened in Regulus’ stomach as he gulped slightly, deep down he knew who it was.
‘Kreacher old chum? Is that you?’ He asked crisply, turning the doorknob in front of him with a click and making his way into the kitchen of his family home, somewhere now only ever visited by himself and Kreacher. The room was dark, half hidden in shadow, causing Regulus to squint as he tried to make out the various shapes in the room. He flicked his wand in a quick motion lighting the room from the candles and ceiling lights, bringing life to the still room. The retching sounds continued, interspersed with coughs and splutters. And there, in a heap on the floor in the corner of the room was the fragile tiny figure of Kreacher, shaking with heavy breaths and lying in a pool of jet black vomit.
‘Merlin!’ Regulus gasped, his eyes wide in shock and at the distressing sight before him. He stood paralysed for a few moments before shaking himself out of the daze and rushing forward to help his oldest friend. Kreacher’s skin was cold and clammy under Regulus’ touch as he tried his best to manoeuvre the small creature to get a better look at him. Gently, he rolled him onto his back, only to find it much worse then he had thought, the vomit dripping from his friends mouth as he was now gasping for breath. His eyes were hazy and starting to glaze over, loosing their spark with each second and his heart rate was decreasing rapidly.
Regulus had to think quickly. He picked Kreacher up in his arms and placed him gently on the clean kitchen table before scrabbling around to the other side of the table to rummage as quickly as he could through the cupboards on that side of the kitchen. It was clear to Regulus that Kreacher had been poisoned, which meant he needed one thing: a bezoar. Various items were thrown from the cupboards and onto the work surfaces as Regulus continued his rushed search, until finally he found what he was looking for. Hiding at the back of his father’s potion making cabinet was a singular bezoar. Without a second though about stealing it and using it for a purpose his family would never approve of, he rushed over to Kreacher as fast as he could, now completely dishevelled himself. He opened the weak creature’s mouth for him and placed the bezoar firmly in place at the back of Kreature’s throat. Now all he could do was wait. Kreature’s breath was rasping and irregular, his eye’s now closed and his skin was icy cold. A lump forming in his throat, Regulus delicately picked up his friend’s hand and held it in his own, he had never felt helpless before that moment. As the thought of loosing his only true friend finally started to properly form in his mind he felt water start to gather in his eyes and sniffed his emotions as they tried to escape from his well presented and held together manor. His lip quivered and his breaths got heavier, until finally a singular tear escaped his eyes and rolled freely down his cheek. The time between each of Kreacher’s breaths was getting longer and Regulus could feel him slipping away, still desperately clutching at his tiny hand.
‘Don’t leave me Kreacher, please,’ Regulus found himself begging in a horse whisper, but then his old friend lay completely still.
Regulus looked in disbelief at Kreacher’s unmoving body, the tears now freely flowing. He was empty, hollow. Gradually his mind started to race: what had happened to Kreacher, who had poisoned him? Then he remembered that the Dark Lord had been asking questions about him, asking to borrow him, he had needed him for a task. At the time it had seemed like nothing to Regulus but it soon became very clear that this task had been the end of his loyal house elf and friend. The feeling of emptiness soon dissolved into a passionate anger as he not only blamed Voldemort, but himself for allowing him to borrow his friend and treat him so dreadfully. It was the last straw, the final thing to break Regulus Black. He roared with the burning hatred in his heart, grabbing a nearby glass and hurling it at the furthest wall, smashing it instantly, before sinking to the floor in an utterly helpless heap, grasping at his hair, almost pulling it out by the root. He had to get out. He had to do something. This life would kill him and he hated what he had already become. For a while he sat sobbing hard into his folded arms, his knees pulled tightly to his chest as the façade of the little king was finally shattered, revealing the vulnerable child beneath.
But then, in a voice so small it was barely audible above his sobs, he heard two words that ignited the fight in him once more, filling him with something he had not felt in a long time; hope.
‘Kreacher? Kreacher!’ Regulus, stumbled to get to his feet once more, completely dishevelled and sniffing from the snot and tears that covered his face; his mother would have been disgusted, it would have almost certainly been worth an unforgivable to ever allow one’s self to look this way.
‘Master Regulus,’ Kreacher croaked once more, moving his aching head stiffly to the side in the direction that he had heard Regulus speak. Soon Regulus was by his side once more, clasping his small hand in his own, a smile of pure joy plastered on his features.
‘Kreacher, you’re- you’re okay, you’re going to be okay!’ Regulus came to terms with this as he spoke the words. He laughed in disbelief and wiped at his face to remove the gross remnants from his earlier breakdown. Kreacher made an effort to sit up to address his master properly but his face contorted in pain and he fell back against the table in exhaustion. ‘Stay still, I’ll take you to my room,’ Regulus urged Kreacher, not wanting him to do himself more damage. Protectively, he scooped the small creature in his arms, after having waved his wand to clear any mess and evidence from the room of what had happened there, and quickly made his way through the house once more to his bedroom.
Having reached his pristine bedroom, Regulus carefully placed Kreacher on his bed, resting him against the plump pillows to make sure he was as comfortable as possible. Once he had done this, he flicked his wand a few more times, lighting the room and pouring a glass of water, which he placed on his bedside table for Kreacher to reach when he felt strong enough. Adrenaline still pumping quickly through his veins, Regulus glanced hastily around his room eyeing the daily prophet clippings that lined his walls; something that had started as admiration for the Dark Lord, but was now intended as research; Regulus had taken it upon himself to try to understand the inner workings of his mind. He wanted to know more about Voldemort than Voldemort knew about himself. It was obvious now that subconsciously Regulus had always known it would one day fall to him to be the one to unhinge the Dark Lord’s power, he been unknowingly preparing himself.
‘Kreacher, I need you to tell me exactly what happened. What did he need you for; what did he make you do?’ Regulus said, focusing once more, determined to know every detail. He walked back over to the side of his bed and sat gently next to Kreacher, ready to listen.
‘Kreacher is not meant to say Master Regulus. Kreacher is not meant to be alive.’ Kreacher murmured quietly. There was a sense of shame in his voice, as though he had disobeyed a wizard who had some command over him. Regulus suspected he felt this way because he knew that his family held the Dark Lord in such high respect. A fresh wave of anger coursed through his veins and his body visibly tensed in annoyance; he hated him. Hated the way he had treated his elf, and above all hated himself for being so blinded for so long.
‘Kreacher, he is not your master, I am! You can tell me, you can trust me,’ Regulus said earnestly, willing his friend to trust that he would not put him in any further harm.
‘Yes Master Regulus, Kreacher does trust you,’ Kreacher replied. Thinking carefully about what to say next, trying to convince himself that by telling Regulus, he would not be disobeying his family in any way.
‘Take your time,’ Regulus said calmly, offering the glass of water to the small creature, who gladly excepted and took several large refreshing gulps before handing the glass back.
‘Yes Master Regulus. Kreacher is still very weak,’ Kreacher said apologetically, again making an attempt to sit up, though this time Regulus was able to help and placed a few velvet cushions behind his back and head to keep him supported and comfortable.
‘I understand Kreacher, I understand, but I need you to tell me, this… this could change the world as we know it,’ Regulus began to plead. He knew Kreacher would tell him, he was obligated too, he just wanted the information as soon as possible. He needed to keep one step ahead of the Dark Lord.
‘Yes Master Regulus,’ Kreacher began. ‘The dark Lord made Kreacher take him to a cave, it was by the sea.’ Kreacher scrunched up his facial features trying to remember as much detail as possible. ‘There was a lake and- and a boat. The dark Lord took Kreacher across the lake in the boat. Then he made Kreacher drink the liquid, it made Kreacher sick, but the Dark Lord made Kreacher finish.’ Kreacher shuddered at the thought; still able to remember the vile taste and the way it had made him feel as though his stomach was on fire and turning itself inside out. His small hands clutched at his stomach. Regulus knew this was upsetting Kreacher but he had to know what happened; he had to know the Dark Lord’s secret.
‘Why on earth would he do that?’ Regulus asked, his face contorted in a confused frown.
‘He put something in the bowl, after Kreacher drunk from it, then the water was there again and the necklace wasn’t.’ Kreacher started to mumble, trying desperately to remember all of the details, but everything was turning into a blur that he couldn’t quite decipher.
‘Necklace? He was hiding a necklace? Is that what he was doing do you think Kreacher?’ Regulus questioned. Kreacher nodded his head slightly to confirm. Regulus knew now that the necklace had to have been important enough to hide for some reason; his mind raced as to reasons why the Dark Lord would have done such a thing. ‘Okay, then what happened?’
‘He left. The Dark Lord left Kreacher to die. But Kreacher came home.’ Regulus felt something catch in his throat; he hated himself for what had happened to his old friend.
‘Did you see what the necklace looked like?’ He asked, trying to continued the conversation on to it’s furthest possible point, before completely exhausting poor Kreacher. Kreacher nodded before replying; it was clear in his mind, even if his other memories were blurred.
‘It was green with a snake, a snake like master Regulus’ old school robes.’ Kreacher continued to mumble, his eyes slowly starting to close as he spoke. The word hit Regulus hard as further ideas started to flow through his mind: had he cracked it? He had to make sure.
‘Okay Kreacher, thank you. Now get some rest,’ Regulus said horridly, placing a knitted blanket over Kreacher who had dozed off into a relaxing snooze. ‘Don’t worry about me for now,’ with that he briskly walked over to the bookshelf in the corner of his room and started to pull out various books he was sure might hold the answer and maybe even the solution.
Once his arms were full of various books and scrolls he sat himself down on a clear space of floor, fanning out the reading material around himself. To begin with, he searched for any reference of a necklace like the one Kreacher described in his old school books. If it was to do with Salazar Slytherin, there was bound to be some information about it there. Sure enough, buried deep in his dusty copy of ‘Hogwarts: a History,’ in the sections devoted to the founders of the school, was a small paragraph accompanied by an image. The sketch was of a delicate silver locket on a thin chain. The locket itself had a golden face with a pattern of emerald jewels in the clear form of a serpent that laid in the shape of an ‘S.’ The small paragraph contained little information about the locket itself, other than it was made by Salazar himself and could only be opened by speaking parseltongue, a talent that Regulus regrettably did not have. It was also made clear that the locket itself had been lost to the generations after Salazar, until now that was. Now for Regulus’ theory… he reached across to the smallest dingiest book in his arc on the floor; his families very own copy of ‘Secrets of the Darkest Art.’ Fumbling through the damp mouldy pages of the book, he finally got to the chapter he was looking for: Horcruxes. Regulus outwardly shudder for a moment at the thought of such objects. Who would want to create such things? Who would be so twisted that they would want to split their soul? Someone power hungry and paranoid, that’s who, and someone who wanted to live forever, to terrorise forever. The necklace Kreacher had seen could have been anything, anything in the world, but in his gut Regulus knew exactly what it was. It was a horcrux, a part of the Dark Lord’s soul that he was trying to protect and keep safe for as long as possible. The thought of the Dark Lord living forever, of the world being so dark and dangerous for generations to come made Regulus’ stomach twist in disgust as he took a long steady breath. He couldn’t let that happen, he couldn’t let people suffer like that, people like Mary, and Sirius. His eyes had been opened to the world and there was finally a small glimmer of light that he might be able to actually do something; to make a difference about what the outcome of this war might be. He was going to do it, he was going to expose the Dark Lord’s secret and stop his attempts at eternal life. He was going to finally step up and help Mary and Sirius. He was finally going to accept himself. He was going to make them proud.
Taking his copy of Hogwarts: A History with him, his stood from the floor and dusted himself off, before striding back over to the bed that Kreacher was stirring in once more. ‘How are you feeling old chap?’ He asked with genuine concern.
‘Kreacher is feeling much better master Regulus,’ Kreacher said with a croak in his voice and a small smile on his features. Regulus sat gently down next to him once more, the page still open with the image displayed clearly.
‘Good, I’m glad to hear it. Now I don’t want you to push yourself too hard, but I want to show you a picture and you need to tell me if it looks like the necklace you saw okay?’ Regulus asked clearly a look of intense need on his face. He placed the book gently on Kreature’s lap, supporting it from the back on his small frame. Kreacher glanced at the picture, but it only took him a moment to recognise the piece of jewellery.
‘Yes Master Regulus, that is the necklace.’ Kreacher nodded his conformation, before reaching for the glass that remained on the bedside table and taking another generous sip to remove the croak from his voice.
‘Thank you Kreacher. Thank you.’ Regulus smiled genuinely. ‘Who would have thought a house elf would change the world? You brave, brave thing.’ Regulus said honestly, filled with a huge sense of pride for his friend. For a while longer, Regulus stayed with Kreacher, making sure that he was comfortable and resting, happy to see glimpses of a thankful smile on the small face of his friend. Once finally sure that Kreacher would be okay, Regulus moved over to his writing desk with it’s comfortable leather chair, where he situated himself for his next tasks. The pages of the book still open, Regulus raised his wand to hover over it, muttering an incantation as he traced the outline of the picture, before closing his eyes in concentration for several minutes. With both hands, he lifted through the air and out of the pages of the book a perfect replica of Salazar’s locket, it’s emeralds twinkling in the candlelight of his room. He caught it with a triumphant smile as it fell back through the air, before admiring his work, a Black family smirk dancing on his lips for the first time in years, bringing back memories of the fun he used to have with his brother when they were younger and the world had seemed so much easier.
After a while of admiration, he placed the locket carefully down on is desk beside him and grabbed some parchment and his quill from his pot of ink, scribbling something down in his exquisite penmanship:
To the Dark Lord,
I know I will be dead long before you read this, but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can. I face death in the hope that when you meet your match you will be mortal once more.
As these words glistened in the fresh ink in front of him, the magnitude of the task before him fully set in. He would almost certainly be sacrificing his life for those he loved and the rest of the wizarding world. It was never going to be easy but he wasn’t sure he had the courage needed for such a task; he had never been considered brave before. And then his thoughts turned to Sirius; he thought of how brave he had been when he left the hell of the Black family home, how brave he was openly defying the darkness of this world with his friends and co workers, how brave he was to leave the comforts of a wealthy background and stand up for what was right instead of what was easy. He knew then that he could be like Sirius, he could be brave, courageous and strong. Hopefully one day Sirius would understand why Regulus had stayed behind, and maybe, just maybe he could be proud of him once more, for he would follow in his older brother’s footsteps, and that would give him the strength he needed. Finally he thought of Mary; her beautiful face, her idealistic nature, the hope she inspired within him, and his heart burned with a passion long forgotten. Her face would guide him and add to the strength that the memory of his brother gave him. With that in mind, something that had seemed so monstrously hard moments before became clearer than anything else had ever been. It was Regulus’ time and he would finally do something good for this world, he would finally make a difference.
He pulled forward two more pieces of parchment and wrote out a further two letters, pouring his heart out for the last time to the two people that mattered most. The first to Mary MacDonald, his beautiful clumsy angel:
I won't see you again, my beautiful clumsy angel. But know that the sacrifice I am making is for you. You changed me and guided me. Your happiness bought me light and your understanding and forgiveness showed me what was right. You saved me.
You are the beauty in this world.
I hope that my actions will help lead to the downfall of the current evil hovering over this world. And I hope above all that it saves you. My life debt to you will be repaid, and in death I hope to finally be the hero I never was, but Sirius always fought to be.
And the second was to Sirius, his brother and his hero:
It has been so long since we last spoke and even then it was on terms that I must let you know now, I am ashamed of. Over the past few months it has become clear to me that you were right brother, I just couldn’t see it.
I am writing now to tell you that I not only admire your courage and loyalty to your friends as well as your bravery for leaving this place when you did, but that I too intend to stand in defiance against the Dark Lord. I will however, do this in a way that shall mean I will not be returning from my task, and that I will most likely not see you again. The Dark Lord has created something that I intend to destroy myself, you should know this too as it may prove helpful in your own endeavours; know that his soul is no longer whole in both the metaphorical and literal sense.
I must go now as the hour is late and I still have much to do, but before I go, please know that you are and always have been my Hero Sirius. You are the bravest man I have ever known and I hope one day you will be as proud of me as I know realise I am of you.
I wish you all the luck and success in these times. Keep fighting.
P.S. Hogwarts: a history was always my favourite book; I find page 972 to be of particular interest.
Regulus, finally happy with what he had written, folded up each letter and wrote the name of each owner on the front neatly. The smallest of these he folded a few more times and placed securely inside the locket that had remained on the desk. With a snap the locket was secured shut and ready to deceive the darkest wizard to have ever lived. For a while, he relaxed in his chair, playing with the object as it hung loosely in his hand. He lit and smoked several cigarettes during this time of silent contemplation before finally turning his head around to face Kreacher.
‘Kreacher, you would do anything for me. Would you not?’ He asked carefully, making sure he could trust him completely.
‘Of course master Regulus. Kreacher lives to serve the noble house of Black.’ Kreacher said properly, sitting himself up in the bed, ready to get out and help Regulus once again in whatever way he could. Regulus stood up once more, the locket still in his hand as he strode over to him.
‘Good, because I’m about to do something very dangerous and utterly stupid and I need your help,’ Regulus said honestly, his long lost confident smile once again resting happily on his features.
‘Are you sure master Regulus?’ Kreacher asked in a confused frown, baffled by such a statement.
‘Quite sure.’ Regulus nodded.
‘Very well master Regulus, what would you like Kreacher to do?’ Kreacher asked, bowing his head formally in a way Regulus utterly hated.
‘I need you to come with me to two places, the second of which I probably wont return from; the cave that the Dark Lord took you to. You see, I’m going to retrieve that necklace and replace it with this one.’ Regulus knelt down so he was level with Kreacher, whose face distorted in confusion throughout. ‘Then I need to ask something else of you Kreacher, If I don’t make it out of that cave, I need you to bring the original necklace here and destroy it. Do you understand? It must be destroyed. And you can’t tell anyone what we’ve done and where we went, or what happened to me should I not return. Not even mother or father, understand? It’s very important Kreacher.’
Kreacher gave a solemn nod full of confusion and sadness. ‘Kreacher understands. Though Kreacher must ask, surely there is another way to do this master Regulus?’
‘I wish there was. I do, but if this is the only way I can make a difference old boy, I simply have to.’ Regulus said, a determination in his voice he had not felt in years; something that resonated in Kreacher- he knew Regulus could not be persuaded otherwise.
‘Very well Master Regulus.’ Kreacher nodded, looking at the floor.
‘Oh, and then that letter on my desk, I need you to take it to Sirius,’ Regulus continued, placing his hand on Kreacher tiny arm to comfort him.
‘To the traitor? But Master Regulus, why?’ Kreacher looked up in shock, almost as if the words offended him.
‘He’s not a traitor,’ Regulus said sternly. ‘he’s the bravest man I know, and he’s my brother.’ He finished softer, begging Kreacher to try and understand.
‘Very well master Regulus.’ Kreacher nodded reluctantly, a bad taste quite obviously still in his mouth with regards to Sirius. Regulus nodded sympathetically before standing once more and grabbing a jacket from a coat stand in the corner of his room. Striding confidently over to his table he picked up his letter to Mary, treating it as delicately as he felt she deserved to be treated. He pocketed it, swapping it for a fresh cigarette, which he lit before making sure he had his wand in his pocket and grabbing a smart trilby hat, perching it on his head, making him the picture of the perfect gentleman. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror that stood by his coat stand; a handsome, confident young man.
‘Is Master Regulus ready?’ Kreacher had moved from his bedside to stand next to Regulus, his hands clasped together nervously in front of him.
‘Indeed old chap!’ Regulus smiled, kneeling down to Kreacher’s level once more holding the tops of his arms in a friendly gesture of reassurance.
‘And Kreacher can’t change Master Regulus’ mind,’ Kreacher asked, hope draining from his body as he did so.
‘Afraid not old boy, it’s time for me to play my part.’ Regulus replied, standing once more and straightening out his clothes, he was truly ready.
‘Yes master Regulus.’ Kreacher resigned himself to the orders of his master. ‘Where is it Kreacher is taking master Regulus first?’ He asked, looking up at Regulus.
‘Juliette’s Café in Diagon Alley,’ Regulus smiled, as he looked down to his small friend.
And with a loud CRACK Regulus Black left for his first and last adventure.
Number twelve Grimmauld Place was dark and still when Regulus’ room was next entered. A soft breezed drifted through the window he had left slightly ajar, fluttering the lonely letter that had been left on the desk ready for Kreacher to deliver it. However it was not Kreacher’s hand that reached forward to grab the crisp parchment, instead it was a bony hand, littered with the beginnings of age spots, with perfectly manicured blood red nails.
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