PG-13, 1000 words
Warning: Character death.
Summary: These are the last hours of Regulus' life.
Notes: For nest_of_spiders' Day 18 prompt. Horrifically angsty, considering today's prompt is really quite hilarious (a bit NSFW, though).
Regulus is running flat out across the city, locket red-hot in his scrunched-up hand. He doesn't dare Apparate any further, not with the Mark burning into his skin, summoning him insistently. Head throbbing, heart pounding, mind reeling, his legs give way and he clutches onto a street sign. Not far now, he tries to call up an extra strength from somewhere and presses onwards.
He's almost sobbing for air when he reaches Grimmauld Place, and forces himself to pause, to walk down the street slowly as though nothing is happening. It's the dead of night, after all, and if he wakes anyone up it's all over. He's outside number 12, and he softly unlocks the door and creeps inside.
There's silence, and now he needs a plan, a way to destroy this accursed thing that feels much heavier than silver ought to. He freezes for a moment, uncertainty stopping him. Will the Dark Lord know what he's done? Be able to sense this movement of his soul? Maybe there's an army coming for him right now; he's been missing too long not to have attracted attention.
He's forgotten what an old, creaking house this was, and he jumps at every sound. He steps silently into his father's study, but stares at the long shelves of books in despair. He doesn't even know where to start. With a longing he hasn't felt in a long time, he wishes that Sirius was here. He tries to shake the feeling, and reminds himself there's no one here to save him now.
He pulls out the first book and starts reading.
Regulus crouches down, trying to let some blood flow to his brain again, fighting off nausea. Cold sweat trickles down his neck, and he shivers uncontrollably. All he wants to do is sleep, but he knows he's not safe, not even here – not too far from now, and Kreacher will be coming downstairs, and he must not be seen.
He tries to think. If he could find the Order, turn himself in-- they'd keep him safe, wouldn't they? And if he told them what he knew, earned their trust, they could bring Him down--
He sinks to the floor, leaning against a table leg in a parody of a childhood memory. He used to sit here, sometimes, while his father worked above him. He was allowed to stay as long as he didn't make a sound. Regulus has always been good at keeping quiet.
The minutes trickle by, and he stays motionless.
Regulus is drifting in and out of consciousness, nameless fears running through his head. Bits of memory and imagining appear and disappear, as reality blurs.
'Afraid, cousin?' Bellatrix asked, and there was almost a note of concern in her voice.
Regulus just stared impassively at her, and gripped his wand a little tighter. 'No.' But as she passed him his mask for the first time, his quaking heart betrayed him.
He reaches out fitfully, wanting a human hand to grasp, to get him through this nightmare. He can hear Sirius' laughter from somewhere, and then he cannot fight sleep any longer.
Regulus sits upright with a start, fumbling desperately for his wand. He's heard something. He tries to steady his breathing, desperate to stay silent. Moving achingly slowly, he weaves his way through the house, until he reaches a living room with a window overlooking the street. He parts the curtain slightly, peering downwards.
A Death Eater stands there, with its horrific, leering mask staring straight him. Regulus jumps away from the window, adrenaline pouring through him once again. He closes his eyes, runs through all of his options, and then understands.
With trembling hands, Regulus closes the cabinet doors, locket securely inside. He doesn't know what else to do. If they know he's taken it, it'll get found within seconds. If not-- well, he's dead in either case. Maybe one day there will be someone braver and better than him, and it will be found again.
He stands up, wishing for a steely resolve that the protagonist should have to face his final moments. But he can't stop shaking.
Amazed the door has yet to blasted in, Regulus quietly opens it again, hoping his parents will sleep through this. His executioner stands a little distance away, and Regulus walks down the steps. He still can't work out who it is that has been sent.
As he reaches the bottom, the street lights flicker and expire. 'Lumos,' he mutters hurriedly, because he does not want to die in the dark.
'Who are you?' he asks.
The figure says nothing, but there's something about the stoop of the shoulders that Regulus thinks he knows.
'Severus?' There's an almost undetectable jolt at the name, and he knows he's right. For a wild moment, hope enters.
'Severus- I know you share my doubts, you said so yourself. I've found a way, a way to overcome Him. If you were to- we could do it. Together.'
There's no response, the figure just raises his wand arm.
'You don't have to do this, there's got to be a way,' Regulus says desperately, clutching onto the railings behind him.
'Severus … please …'
Regulus' body collapses onto the steps to his home, hand still holding a railing. Silence, and all of Grimmauld Place slumbers.
The Dark Mark flares in the sky. Any moment now, and someone will see it, someone will scream. For now, there is nothing – not even a cat meows this night. The street lights are still out, the stars too far distant, so there is only that grisly green light, reflecting in grotesque patterns on Regulus' pale, devastated face.
The figure walks towards him, examines glassy eyes and then, after a moment's pause, brusquely closes them. Severus takes his mask off, and looks at the body.
A milk truck trundles down the street. The milkman hops out, carries number 10's delivery, but is sidetracked by a strange shape next door.
A stifled gasp, crashing metal. A milk bottle rolls out, clanking against the stone. Its contents spill over, pooling around Regulus' feet. The sun creeps out over the horizon.
The night is over.