Regulus & the Black family
PG-13, 1500 words.
Summary: "The only future prospect of a dying family. And look at you." Bellatrix shakes her head, lips pressed and cold.
Notes: Originally entered for Hogsmeade at hogwarts_elite. Written pre-DH, so is slightly AU towards the end.
"You're the last of the Blacks, Regulus. Do you know that?"
Bellatrix's gaze is harsh, and her words are taunting in Regulus' ears. He meets her eye. "What of it?"
"The only future prospect of a dying family. And look at you." She shakes her head, lips pressed and cold.
"Bella?" Narcissa stands demurely at the door, though her glance flickers over to Regulus. "They're waiting for you."
Bellatrix doesn't look at them, just sweeps up her bouquet and strides out of the room. The music starts up, and Regulus checks his robes in the mirror one time. Narcissa looks on the verge of saying something, and then her name is called from the hallway.
He sits next to his father at the wedding, with Narcissa just in front of them – Lucius leaning over her, lifting a lock of hair to whisper something in her ear that makes her blush.
Bellatrix cannot help but jut her chin out as she walks down the aisle, as though daring anyone to accuse her of making the wrong choice. Rodolphus looks at her with an expression of such tender love that Regulus wonders if he has any idea what he's getting himself into.
His mother insists on pointing out esteemed members of pureblood families, and Regulus does his best to pay attention, but the dark robes and closed faces blur until he's not sure who he's speaking to any more, just trails after his mother as she introduces him as her only son. No one questions her.
He sees other families doing the same, and fathers whisper in their daughters' ears whilst looking in his direction with interest. Regulus smiles blankly at their appraising glances, and takes another glass of wine from a passing waiter.
Later, he rests his forehead against the bathroom wall, an uncomfortable halfway state between sober and drunk, and he allows himself to indulge in wishing, just for a moment. He wishes Sirius were here, to mock and gripe and kick up a fuss and drive him half mad with frustration. He wants to hear his father laugh again, the way that only Sirius could ever make him do, with his ridiculous jokes that always bordered on the astonishingly rude and his disregard for everything any of them stood for – always hidden behind such a careless demeanour, no one ever realised just how much he meant it until it was far, far too late.
Regulus splashes water into his face with an unexpected ferocity, and exits out into society again.
He's called in by Professor Slughorn to discuss career options in his last year. He sits mutely on one of the puffed, squashed chair he insists on filling his office with, and Slughorn shuffles through some notes.
"There's not much point, you know," he says after a while.
"What makes you say that?" Slughorn looks at him with only mild interest – despite his undeniably enviable connections, Regulus knows he doesn't really engage his Head of House's attention. He prefers it that way, having seen the way he fawns over other students who seem to outwardly possess the 'spark' he's looking for.
"My father's sick," he says quietly. "He wants me at home, making sure I know what to do to look after our family." Regulus looks up, and laughs slightly. "Is this the part where you tell me I don't have to conform to my family's expectations, that I can do whatever I like, pursue my dreams of being a cursebreaker or something?"
"You tell me. Do you want to do something else?"
Regulus stares out of the window for a moment. A bird gives him a quizzical look, and he glares at it.
"No," he answers eventually, returning his attention to the room. "I have a duty, and I intend to fulfil it."
Slughorn nods. "You know my door's always open, don't you?" He says it with something approaching sincerity, and Regulus smiles a little.
"Thank you, sir."
The news arrives in the middle of his exams. Regulus packs his belongings with shaking hands, and leaves just before his Ancient Runes NEWT was meant to begin. Professor Dumbledore himself walks him down to the gates so he can Apparate home, and he's probably full of condolences, but Regulus doesn't hear them.
He doesn't lose his composure, not when his mother opens the front door and he sees her crying for the first time in his life, not when he's approached time after time by so many people who are so very sorry, not even when he grips his father's coffin and hauls it onto his shoulders. His mind goes blank during the eulogy; the words won't stick. He knows later he'll find a measure or two of firewhiskey, find a deserted corner, and then and only then will he find some way to let loose the grief clawing at his throat.
In the end, it doesn't quite work like that. They come back to Grimmauld Place, and Regulus makes an escape for his room as soon as it's clear his mother can get all she needs by way of the sympathy befitting a grieving widow without him being in the way. He goes out into the hall, relieved to get away from the noise and bustle of so many people trying to be considerate.
He begins to let his guard slip, but it's too soon. Bellatrix is there to drag him into another room, where a group of people who are menacing yet strangely anonymous talk to him in harsh hisses about politics and a new power rising and what his father would have wanted. Regulus doesn't agree to a thing, doesn't even say anything, but he's reasonably sure as soon as Bellatrix shut the door behind them the decision's been made for him.
His father wouldn't have been proud of that at all.
When Narcissa arrives at the house to tell him she's engaged, he tries to keep the disbelief from his face. She catches it anyway, she always has.
"You don't approve?" she asks lightly, face still glowing with happiness.
"We're in the middle of a war!" Regulus snaps. "Don't tell me you're thinking about having a family, about bringing a child into the world now."
"But it will all be over soon – that's what Lucius always says. Don't you believe that?"
Regulus turns his head sharply, biting his lip. "It's not safe, you know it's not."
"Regulus," Narcissa says appeasingly, moving to sit next to him. "I'll be fine – I'm a civilian, and I'm hardly at risk from your brother and his ragtag bunch of vigilantes. Can't you pretend you're happy for me?"
Regulus takes a breath, then smiles. "Yes, sorry, of course I can." He kisses her on the cheek, and she takes his arm.
"Now then, one of these days we're going to have to find a nice girl for you!" She gazes around the room, eyes alighting on the antiques ornaments and portraits. "Got to keep all of this in the family."
Regulus laughs. "Yes, I suppose we will."
Narcissa drinks the rest of her tea and leaves, full of wedding talk and plans of dresses. She brushes against the copy of the morning's paper that Kreacher brought in, and Regulus stares at the headline. BONES FAMILY MURDERED, DARK MARK SHINES AGAIN.
Just for a moment, he thinks he can still hear the screams. He stands motionless for moment, then shakes his head brusquely and goes upstairs to Evanesco his blood stained robes.
He collapses against the cave wall, gasping. His hand slumps to the ground, and his mind begins to drift, unable to think about what it is he's done. He remembers Narcissa, only a few days ago, announcing her pregnancy, probably the first thing his mother had smiled about in a month. Afterwards, there had been an awkward silence, and Regulus had been unable to escape the though that always run through the back of his mind. The only son left, a dying family – duty, honour, pride. His mother cries, Narcissa beams, and Bellatrix snarls – and it is them Regulus remembers, not his comrades in arms, not his school friends, and not the man whose soul he clutches in his bleeding hands.
He gazes down at the locket, idly turning it in the cold light flickering from the pools of water. He thinks of Sirius, just for a second, but that's no good at all. He grips the locket a little tighter, hisses as his wounds prick a little sharper, then hauls himself to his feet and starts to run.
The heir of the Blacks, the loyal son, the one who was supposed to bring forth a new generation once peace had come again. Regulus laughs a little raggedly, sets his jaw, and picks up the pace. He can almost feel the pursuit beginning, and he'll be damned if he doesn't give his executioners a chase they'll remember him for.