PG, 600 words
Summary: There are no heroes any more.
Notes: Written for a hogwarts_elite challenge, where the prompt was an AU in which Voldemort had gone after Neville, not Harry. There's a bigger story here, one I suspect I'll never get round to writing, but this snippet was still fun.
Regulus stares at himself in the mirror, taking in the new grey hairs, the faint lines appearing across his expression. He never imagined he would become old, but here he is, still alive, despite everything. He hasn't got long in here, he knows, and so he goes into the stall, flushing the toilet to cover the sound of paper moving as he slips a piece of parchment into a corner, so that it's only just visible. He walks out, and inclines his head slightly to Severus, who nods curtly in response.
He remembers when he was a teenager, and his father took him to see the Ministry building, and it all seemed so grand, so vast. It doesn't feel like that any more. It's cold and gloomy, and not magnificent the way he once thought it would be when the Dark Lord had taken over.
He walks back to his office, for nowadays his work mostly consists of pushing paper around. Somehow, it's easier that way, easier not to think about how the lives of others hang in the balance, weighted on whether he deems files worthy of investigation or not. Not a day goes by he doesn't hate himself for it.
And yet, the days are at least an improvement on the nights. Regulus can't remember the last time he had a restful sleep - how can he, with the things he dreams? His brother's lifeless body, killed right in front of him, and Bellatrix's harsh laughter forever ringing in his ears. Chaos and destruction and madness, and all of it by his doing.
Recently, his dreams have turned to the Longbottoms. He's not sure why - that was a long time ago, after all, back when he was young and still had a faint belief that what he was doing was for the greater good. There'd been a prophecy, once, and so they'd gone, just the Dark Lord and a few chosen others, to murder an unborn child, one who was believed to have the power to vanquish him. Regulus cannot help but remember the mother-to-be's face - grief-stricken in death, her hands still protectively clasping her rounded stomach.
There are no heroes any more. Just a few disenchanted, world-weary men and women who have decided that enough is enough, and that the Dark Lord must be stopped. Every attempt on his life has failed, until recently.
Six months ago, he made the simplest of requests of Regulus - a house elf. But his use of Kreacher may well have proved to be his undoing. They now know what he was hiding in that lake, and why, and so now they are working to uncover the location of his shards of soul, and to destroy every one of them. Regulus laughs thinking of those who stood with him, who were once so fervent, so loyal! The Dark Lord does not yet suspect, but still Regulus lives in constant fear for his life. Nonetheless, there is nothing he would not risk to bring down what he has finally come to see as utterly evil.
Throughout the country, there are those with eyes and ears opened, looking for whispers of enchanted, terrible objects, objects that can destroyed and so take a step towards salvaging whatever remains of this once-great country.
Regulus looks up and sees Severus walking past. Their eyes meet only for a moment, but Regulus thinks he sees a gleam of something there. He looks down again, smiling a little grimly.
Maybe, just maybe, the war is not over yet.