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22 March 2010 @ 10:41 pm
Nineteen Seventy-nine, part III  
Part One
Part Two


October was quiet. Whether that was because the Dark Lord was regathering his energies after his battle with Dumbledore, or because I spent as much time as possible taking long walks through Muggle London and sitting in parks on warm days, I was not sure.

I saw Sirius.

It was wholly unexpected, for both of us. We were both alone. I had popped into Obscurus Books in a hunt I alleged to be for an advanced tome on ingredients for use in blood-staunching potions, he dived in through the door in a bid to avoid Mother – who I had left on Diagon Alley a few moments before on her way to Twilfit & Tattings, in a foul mood that they had no one spare to come and see her.

For a moment, we just stared at each other. I rather expected him to turn around and leave. But he came over.

'Sirius,' I said.

'Regulus,' he replied. 'Remus told me he'd seen you about.'

'How is he?'

'Well.'

'Pass on my regards.'

'I will.'

We stood there for a moment, apparently transfixed by the possibilities offered inside the olive-green cover of Using Ashwinder Eggs Safely. Sirius took it from the pile in front of me, then we paid equal respects in turn to The Basilisk and Where to Find It and Fiendfyre: Friendly Fuel or Deadly for Dabblers?

'You've lost weight,' Sirius said abruptly.

'You've gained a little.'

He smiled at that. 'Remus does the cooking most nights, so it's actually edible.'

'I hope you do the washing up.'

'Of course!' After a moment of shaking his head at my presumption of his uselessness, he added, 'Once Remus taught me how.'

We both smiled at that. The Black family was not good training for … anything, really, save sitting around eulogising the old days.

'You're still at home?'

I nodded.

'How are they?'

'They're well.'

'How are you?'

'Well,' I lied. 'And you?'

'Well.'

'That's good. Keep your head down, yeah? Stay safe.'

'You too.'

'Remus keeps an eye out for me, and I for him. We'll be fine.'

I smiled then, because I believed that. Sirius smiled back at me, and I could see so many words behind that smile. But he, like I, had no idea how to begin.

'I should go,' he said. 'Don't want to get you into trouble if people see us talking.'

'Don't worry, I'll just tell them you were threatening me.'

'I ought to.'

'Sirius …' I waited until he looked up at me. 'I know. I really do. It's just not as simple as you think.'

He sucked in his lower lip, and years of experience had taught me that meant a lecture was in the offing, so I put up a hand to forestall it. 'Not now. Later. There are things I still need to work out and then you can yell at me as much as you like.'

'I don't yell at you,' he said, sniffily. Then truth won out and he laughed. 'All right, I haven't yelled at you in ages.'

'I haven't seen you in ages.'

And there was nothing either of us could say to that, unless we wanted it to degenerate into an argument, so I hugged him, and patted him on the back and told him it was good to see him.

'Stay safe,' he said, gripping my shoulder. 'Keep your head down, hide if you have to. If you need money, Floo-call me. If you need to get out of England quickly, do the same.'

And then he turned and all but ran from the shop before I could say a word. I think he thought I might be about to argue with him, but the words that were coming to my lips were thanks, and I love you.


+++++++++++++++++++++++++


I expected to see Lily at the Ministry's Halloween Ball. The Potters had always been significant donors, and my family was on nodding terms with theirs, for all that my mother would mutter 'Child-stealing bitch' every time she saw James Potter's mother at these functions. Father would make a point of out-bidding Mr Potter Senior on any auctions the latter favoured, and St Mungo's did very well out of their polite enmity every year.

This year's do was masked, the irony of which was not lost on me, and from the moment we received the invitation I waited to hear that the Dark Lord would be taking advantage of the evening to prosecute an attack on the Ministry.

When Lucius made an unexpected visit the day before, I steeled myself to hear bad news. He kept me waiting through a lengthy afternoon tea with my parents first, then excused us for a chat about Ministry Affairs.

We walked to the library and sat amid the territorial furnishings. I was glad that I had put my books away that afternoon, as they would have only furnished him with damning evidence for any suspicions he might have. 'About tomorrow night,' he began.

'Yes?'

'I was wondering if you would like to sit at my table? Narcissa has been feeling indisposed all week and has begged off attending. I know it will mean leaving your parents, but I can tempt you with some of the lasses from Magical Sports, and Ruskin is seated with us, he always brings his own supply of cognac, so it should be quite the party.'

I hoped that I concealed something of my relief, lest he think me an idiot. 'Yes,' I said. 'That would be entertaining. I'd like it. Do give Narcissa my best and tell her I hope she's well soon.'

A smile crept up his face at that. 'She will be,' he said, conspiratorially. 'It won't be long until her first trimester is over.'

'Her first … Oh! Congratulations!' And I was genuinely happy for them.

'It's still private, but you're family. We'll wait another few weeks just in case, then we'll let your parents know before we announce it publicly.'

'It's very good news. You're clearly happy, is she happy too?'

'Beyond what you can imagine. She has always wanted a child, and that it should come so soon after our wedding fills her with joy. At this rate, the manor will be overflowing with babies and toddlers and children by the time we have won this war.' And he began to chuckle at the mental image.

I laughed, too. I could see Lucius with children. He would indulge them horribly and they would run roughshod over him. It would be nice to visit the manor and see it cluttered with toys and filled with shouts of laughter.

And visits from a madman.

I pushed the thought to one side. 'Should I meet you at the ball?'

'That would be splendid. I'm wearing a dragon mask, you?'

'Phoenix.'

'Sounds good. Right, I'll leave you to the rest of your Sunday. And thanks, I was afraid we might end up with someone hideous from MLE in the vacant spot. You'll keep up our numbers very nicely indeed.'

'You're more than welcome. See you tomorrow.'

'Till then.'

I managed to hold in my sighs of relief until he left the house.

Mother and Father were very good about my table defection – I suspect because it meant they would not need to make small talk with me. But the following evening, as guests were all coming into the dining room, and I went in beside Lucius Malfoy and took the chair beside his, one mask followed my movements intently. It was a black cat mask, surrounded by a halo of dark-red hair, and even though I could see only a jaw and lower lip, I knew the face behind the mask was full of disapproval.

A tall tiger-faced wizard took the cat's arm and guided her away to their table. I wanted to go after them and explain to Lily that I was sitting with Lucius my cousin-in-law, not Malfoy the Death Eater, but I doubted she would have cared about the distinction.

The evening passed as these things will, and I may have drunk a little more than I intended to, because when I saw the woman in the cat mask head onto the balcony alone, I followed.

'Sometimes,' I said, by way of greeting, 'A table is just a table and a cousin is just a cousin.'

'And a mask is just a mask?'

'What?'

'Never mind. I hate seeing you with him,' she replied.

I sighed, but I couldn't let it drop. 'Comparatively, he is one of the good guys. He's not keen on violence, he's active in political resolutions, I've seen him actively avoid hexing Sirius, because we all used to play together with Cissie and Bella. It's more complex than you think it is.'

'Cissie and Bella?'

'Every family has nicknames. Even the crazy bloodline obsessed ones.'

Lily pushed her mask up, so I could see that she was smiling. I did the same.

'Sirius told me he saw you. Said that it went surprisingly well.'

I nodded. 'Though he left too quickly. I wanted to … talk more.'

'He says it was the first time in years that you didn't bang on about the Dark Lord.'

'You know why not as well as I do.'

'Because you've stopped believing.'

I nodded.

'When?'

'Before that day you caught me under the bush. But I kept trying, for as long as I could. I didn't want to let people down.'

She took my hand and held it comfortably. 'Leave.'

'It's not that easy.'

'Yes it is. You can stay with us. Or Sirius and Remus.'

'You might trust me, but the rest of the Order won't. Nor should they. Their strength is in that we know they exist, but not who they are for the most part. They'd be sensible to think me a spy.'

'We'll send you abroad, until everything is over. New Zealand or Argentina. Somewhere no one would ever think to look.'

'The Falklands, where no one would ever be bothered to look.'

Lily laughed. 'Yes. You and several thousand sheep. Perfect.'

'What if it's never over?'

'It will be, some day. The Dark Lord has failed several times now, Regulus. Every time there's a big battle, there are more of us, and fewer Death Eaters. People have seen our victories, and taken courage from them. Sooner or later, he will be defeated once and for all.'

I didn't tell her my fears. Only nodded, and pretended she was telling the truth.

'Come and stay with us until you work out what to do. The house is enormous, and the wards are strong. You'll have to put up with James's early morning Quidditch drills on weekends, but he'd be happy to fly with you, you were nearly as good as he was at school.'

'I can't, Lily.'

'Of course you can. You don't even need to tell us anything. Just get out of there. Come and stay with us, and be safe.'

I shook my head.

Lily stamped her foot in exasperation. 'Why on earth not?'

I leaned forward and hastily and ineptly pressed a kiss to her lips.

'Oh,' she said.

'Sorry.' I went to let go of her hand, but she would not let me.

'How long has this been going on?' she asked, as though she had just discovered my interest in purple pygmy puffs.

'Since third year. Half the boys in Slytherin had a bit of a crush on you after you bawled Potter out in the Great Hall over him picking on Severus.'

'Ah.'

'I don't expect anything,' I hastened to add. 'It's just, I couldn't live in your house. I still like being your friend – you're the best one I have – just, every day would be …'

'Too hard,' she finished for me.

'Too hard,' I agreed.

'You need a girlfriend, Regulus.'

'Yes, now would be an ideal time to acquire one, and I move in such useful circles for that.'

She indulged my sarcasm. 'Alecto Carrow is still single. Take away the mania for violence and conquest, and she's quite pretty.'

'Pass.'

'Come over to our side and I can guarantee you there'll be any number of young witches willing to overlook the whole Death Eater thing if it comes with your face.'

'Are you saying I have a nice face?'

'You have a Black face, devilishly handsome, as well you know. Admittedly, half the girls who'd throw themselves at you would be doing so because they can't have Sirius, and a fair percentage of the rest would be wanting to walk on the wild side with an ex Mask-wearer, but there's bound to be one or two sane ones out there.'

'Thank you, I feel enormously encouraged.'

'I'm happy to help.'

We stood there, laughing quietly for a moment. Back inside, the clatter of cutlery and change in the tenor of conversation heralded the arrival of pudding.

'We should go back in before we're looked for,' Lily said. 'You head off first, won't do to be seen in my company, after all.'

I turned to leave, but she called me back. 'I meant it, you know. Remus and Sirius would take you in, and James and I can pay for a Portkey if you want to get out of the country. Or an aeroplane ticket, if you'd prefer.'

'Aeroplane?'

'Flying Muggle thing.'

'The big winged tin things?'

'That's right.'

'Aren't they full of Muggles?'

'You'll cope.'

I shook my head. 'Lily, he'd kill them all if he wanted to get to me.'

The smile slipped from her lips. 'No, that would be absurd. You're just … Regulus. He doesn't need you.'

'It's not about need.'

She bit her lip, then lifted her chin. 'Fine. Portkey. We'll organise a fake one for you to the Falklands and a real one under someone else's name to somewhere you can deal with for a year or two. There's a way out.'

And I let her believe that I agreed with her. 'I'll write to you. Send an owl. And Lily?'

'Yes?'

'Thanks for not thinking I'm an idiot about the kissing thing.'

She grinned. 'Why would I think you're an idiot for finding me fanciable? Simple sign of good taste.'

I grinned back at her. 'Exactly.'

'Go in. And write soon.'

I waved, rather than answered, as I slipped back in through the curtains, because I could not think of anything to say that might not turn out to be a lie.


+++++++++++++++++++++++++


Lucius came for me three nights later. Kreacher woke me, upset and hand-wringing.

'The Young Malfoy is here. He has ordered Kreacher to wake Master Regulus. Kreacher said Master Regulus was sleeping, but the Malfoy did not listen.'

I rolled quickly out of bed, reaching for my robes and pulling them on as I spoke. 'I will deal with him, Kreacher. You are to stay here. Inside my wardrobe. I need you to … guard my dress robes.' It was my feeblest lie to date, but I carried on. 'If I'm not back by morning, go to Master Sirius and tell him what has happened, and who I went with.'

'The Blood Traitor?' Kreacher wailed. 'Master Regulus will not make Kreacher do such a thing! Mistress would not allow it!'

I paused in my dressing and dropped to my knees so that I could look him in the eyes. 'Kreacher will do this for me, because it will mean danger for whoever you go to. You wouldn't want to put Mother or Father in danger would you?'

'Kreacher would never do such a thing!'

'But you wouldn't mind if it was Sirius.'

A crafty look came into his eyes at that, I knew how to phrase my appeal.

'Sirius would be able to help me, while keeping Mother and Father safe. And if anything bad happened to him, well, it would make Mother very happy.'

'Kreacher understands. Master Regulus is very subtle. Kreacher will wait in the wardrobe, and the dress robes will be well guarded.'

I caught the back of his tea towel as he opened the door. 'I want you to take something to eat, and to sleep while you are in there. Your presence will be enough to keep them safe. It is important to me you are well rested.'

He shook his head at me, but did as I ordered, popping away only to return a moment later with sandwiches and an old blanket. 'Master Regulus is to be taking care of himself, not of elves who know what they are doing.'

'You're quire right,' I agreed, buttoning up my boots. I grabbed my mask and hood, and my satchel of Potions, too, then rushed downstairs to where Lucius waited.

He saw the satchel in my hands as I ran down the stairs as quietly as I could. 'You have anticipated me!' he whispered.

'Is someone hurt?'

He paused oddly before stating that someone was. That should have warned me.

When we Apparated to Malfoy Manor, I felt a moment of panic. Severus could have been hurt again, or there could be a problem with Narcissa and the baby. I had been researching methods of dealing with the most common battle injuries, but I knew next to nothing about obstetrics. Rational thought intruded and assured me Lucius would have taken Narcissa to St Mungo's.

He walked ahead of me, pace brisk, and did not look back until we reached the door to the third-best drawing room. There he paused, and turned to me before opening the door.

'Your patient is inside. I did not wish to be involved in this, but I came home and found that my wife's sister had made it my problem. I am hoping that you can redeem things a little.'

He stepped out of the doorway then, pushing the door itself inwards, and revealing the backs of my cousin Bellatrix and young Barty Crouch. They were leaning over something, but moved out of the way as they heard us enter.

I saw what it was, then, and I stepped back out of the room. Lucius had anticipated me, and left the door open. He muttered something to Bella and Barty, then shut it, with us outside.

'That … that thing …' I stuttered.

He put a steady hand on my shoulder. 'I know.'

'He –' I was guessing at the gender – 'was wearing Ministry Robes.'

Lucius took a breath. 'The Dark Lord believes he has information that is essential. Unfortunately, I was not at hand when the mission was proposed. Bellatrix and Bartemius took the matter in hand, and you have seen the result. The man is dying, Regulus. I need you to keep him alive, at least until we have our answer.'

The face that I had seen had been a swollen mass of gore, with skin purple and black with bruising and parts of the jaw and nose down to raw, oozing, flesh. Blood had been bubbling through his lips, which could have spoken of broken teeth or nose, or of something far less survivable.

'I'll do what I can,' I said, 'but I can't promise you anything.'

Lucius nodded and opened the door again. Barty had his wand out and pointed at the victim.

'Put it away!' Lucius snapped. 'Do you think the Dark Lord will reward you if you deliver him a corpse with no information?'

Barty growled at him, but did as he was told.

Bellatrix looked at me and a slow leer crept across her face. 'You've brought my handsome little cousin, Lucius. He often follows you. Is there something we should know?'

I frowned, but Lucius ignored her. 'Regulus is here to return the prisoner to a fit state.'

I stepped past them, elbowing Barty out of the way rather viciously if truth be told. The man did not react to me as I knelt beside him, though whether that was because it was beyond him physically or mentally, I could not tell. Barty leaned over me as I felt for a pulse, my hand slipping on the blood that covered the man's neck.

'Can you get them out of here?' I asked Lucius.

With a curt nod, he gathered up the other two and took them from the room.

'Can you hear me?' I asked.

There was no response.

I turned to my satchel and began to mix a restorative. I added an ample splash of blood replenishers, but without a close investigation, it would be hard to know what else would help rather than harm.

I summoned one of the Malfoy house-elves and sent him for water, cloths and alcohol. Together we cleaned up the man as much as was possible, adding Murtlap Essence to the water, then I had the elf support his head while I tipped some of the Potion between his swollen lips. There were teeth freshly missing and he hissed with pain as I poured the mixture in.

'Can you hear me?' I asked again.

This time he grunted.

'Look, I'm sorry. I don't know why they've brought you here. They've asked me to fix you up so they can go on with the questioning …'

At that, he opened his eyes. Only, the lids were so swollen that he could not open them properly, he had to lean his head back and peer out from slits. I could barely see enough to tell that his eyes were grey, like mine. The man whispered something, but the words did not make it clearly past his immobile mouth, which had been stretched taut with bruising and blood blisters.

He tried again, and I understood. 'Let me die,' he said.

'I can't.' Whether I was speaking as someone who was providing care, or as a Death Eater, I cannot tell you. Either way, it was not an acceptable outcome.

'Here,' I said. 'This potion will help with the bruising. It will hurt less, and you'll be able to talk more clearly. Drink it down.'

He did, then sat quietly for a minute while I checked for broken bones and internal injuries. There were many. None fatal, on its own, but enough to kill him within a day or so if I left them. It would be a very bad day, though.

'Right, you're not in good shape, but you know that. Why they didn't use Veritaserum I'll never know. Bella definitely has some, and so does Lucius, I gave it to both of them. Stupid waste …'

I was muttering so quickly that I missed his words and he had to repeat himself. 'They did, they did.'

'They what?'

'Used Veritaserum.'

I stopped my ministrations and stared at him. Before I spoke to him, I had the momentary sense to send Malfoy's house-elf from the room. And then, as I knew I should not, I asked questions. 'But why didn't you tell them what they want to know?'

'Because I don't know the answer!' he wailed softly, moving his jaw as little as possible. I realised that some of the sticky mess on his cheeks was tears, amid the blood and crust.

'But why did they keep going?'

'I don't know,' he moaned.

But I did.

I reached for my bag. 'I can't get you out of here,' I said quickly. 'They'll kill me first. But I can make it so you don't feel what's happening. If I say I have fixed your heart and lungs, they'll get back to work. But if I don't really fix them, then I think it will be two, maybe three curses before your heart gives out altogether. It's the best I can do for you.'

'Thank you,' he whispered, and one of his bloody hands reached out to clasp mine, curling his two working fingers around my palm.

'I'm so sorry …'

'Thank you,' he repeated, squeezing my hand with what strength he had. 'Can you tell my parents I'm dead? My name was Benedict Flutterbee.'

'I will. My name is Regulus Black.' It was all I could give him, aside from his death.

This time I mixed hastily. It did not matter if I made a mistake in this brew, in fact, I was rather counting on my actions being put down to overconfidence. Enough bone-mending syrup to keep Benedict in one piece, more Murtlap Essence, a single drop of Asphodel so that it would provide detachment but not obvious stupor, more Blood-Replenishing Potion – too much in fact – and then aconite, a very liberal dose.

I stoppered the vial, and shook it three times, murmuring a magnifying Charm on its qualities.

'Benedict?' I wasn't sure if he was still conscious.

He lifted his head as much as he could.

'There's an awful lot of aconite in here. I don't know if you did Potions at Hogwarts, but aconite – wolfsbane you might have called it – will numb you – your hands and feet first, then onwards, until it reaches your heart. I've set it to work quickly, so it should be ten, perhaps fifteen minutes, not hours. Your mind will stay with you. I've added in something to keep you calm, but you'll be able to think, you'll … you'll be you to the end. It might make you throw up, or void your bowels, I think it should work too quickly for that, but if it does, bugger the dignity, see if you can get some of the mess onto Bella or Barty.'

He made a strange choking sound at that, and I realised it was laughter.

I smiled, and he reached out and took my hand again. 'Are you truthful? Can I really die now? Or is this just another torture?'

'I was a truthful man,' I told him, 'before this war made me need to tell lies. I have not lied to you.' I thought for a moment, then added, 'But I will lie to your parents. I will tell them it was quick, and that you felt no pain.'

'Thank you.'

I held the vial to his lips, and helped him to drink from it, not even asking if he was sure, because that would have been cruel.

'Goodbye,' I said. 'Good luck.'

I went to the door and opened it; the corridor was empty. I could hear voices, and when followed them, they led me to a nearby study. Lucius was sitting at his desk, with Severus on the other side of it and Bella and Barty pacing the floor. All turned to me as I walked through the door.

'Is it done?' Bella asked eagerly.

'He's repaired enough for you to resume questioning him,' I said. 'But nothing harsh, use restraint. He's still terribly weak: any serious hexes will kill him.'

'Of course. Thank you, Regulus.'

I did not miss the smile she exchanged with Barty. Neither did Lucius.

'I will accompany you,' he said, to the dismay of both. 'Regulus, wait for me here. I'll see you home. Severus, if you would be so good …'

'I have nothing calling me away, I can wait, too.'

'My thanks.'

Severus and I were left alone, and I was grateful for it. I had not seen him since the attack on the McCoy house, but he looked well.

'Would you like to wash?' he asked me.

I looked down, and realised that I was covered in Benedict's blood.

'Come on,' he said. 'I'll take you. And I'll also take this bottle of Firewhisky and these glasses, and if we've very efficient we can have all of us back before Lucius notices.'

I smiled my assent, and he led us towards the nearest bathroom. There he let me pour a basin full of water and wash myself while he poured glasses of whisky and insisted I drink one.

'It is a very fine thing for us that you've taken on this role,' he observed. 'But I suspect it is not so enjoyable from your perspective.'

'Some of it is,' I replied. 'Saving you was good.'

'A very worthwhile use of your skills,' he agreed.

'I'm not sure that tonight has been,' I confessed.

'No.'

'What did they want out of him?'

Severus lowered his voice, so I could only just hear him. 'He's from the Department of Mysteries. There is a prophecy, the record of which should have arrived there by now, it tells of the coming of one who can defeat the Dark Lord.'

'Defeat him? But that's not possible!' I stopped myself, horrified at what I had let on.

Luckily, Severus had no idea. 'Even the greatest wizard can be tripped up by fate, Regulus. Happily, fate seems more in our favour than not, for I happened to be there when the prophecy was made.'

'There?'

I had never seen Severus so full of pride. 'In Hogsmeade. I heard it, and have alerted the Dark Lord to the danger. We will identify the one the prophecy speaks of, and destroy him.'

'But then … why did you need the man from Mysteries?'

Doubt flitted through Severus's eyes. 'I did not hear the entirety of what was said … but it will be enough!'

I nodded. 'Thank you for letting me know.'

He smiled conspiratorially. 'I shouldn't have, of course.'

'I will never say a word,' I promised.

'Come on, finish up your drink. Let's get you back.'

I was neat and apparently relaxed by the time Lucius came back from the blood-smirched drawing room. His face was grim and his mood dark.

'Bella and Barty?' Severus asked.

'I've left them to deal with their mess,' he snapped.

'Ah,' said Severus.

'Apparently restraint is not a term they are familiar with. And I do not believe the man knew anything after all. A pointless waste.'

I held my tongue.

'You did what you could,' Severus reassured him. 'We have a great deal of information to go on, the rest will come.'

Lucius looked meaningly at me, and Severus nodded in acknowledgement that the topic should be avoided.

'Come, Regulus, I'll take you home.'

He was entirely calm until we arrived at Grimmauld Place. There, rather than accompanying me up the stairs to the door, he dragged me into the park across the road.

'What in Merlin's name are you playing at?' he hissed.

I looked at him blankly, which was no great trick on my part; terror had driven all thought from my head.

'Give me that!' He snatched my Potions satchel from me and opened it, rummaging until he found the bottle he wanted. 'This was full when I gave it to you!'

He was holding up the aconite.

I took refuge in the truth – most of it at least. 'I used it to dull that man's pain, so those two could go on "interrogating" him. You know as well as I do they were just killing him in stages!"

'Not in my house Regulus!' Lucius dropped the satchel and grabbed at his hair. Holding it in great chunks to the sides of his head, he walked back and forth, hissing between his teeth. After a few moments of this, he came back to himself, took my arms, and dragged me down to sit on the ground with him.

'I have a wife,' he explained. 'I love her very much, and she is carrying my child. Now I understand, I truly do understand, that you did what you thought was best. And I sympathise. In fact, if it were up to me, I would be applauding you. But it is not, and you did it in my house, and you put my wife and my unborn child and my parents and me in danger because you felt sorry for someone who is nothing. Do you see? Do you understand why I can't just look past this?'

I wanted to tell him that yes, I did. But instead, I lied again. 'Did I add too much? It was all such a rush. Are you telling me that I killed him with an overdose? I should have weighed him to be sure …'

Lucius thought for a moment, then tried a different tack. 'Of course, it is good to know that you can kill for our Lord. Did you threaten the man? Tell him that you could make him well or end his life, and that he could choose by whether or not he revealed his secrets to you?'

'I'm confused, Lucius,' I said, and that was true, for I was uncertain as to why he hadn't hexed me yet. 'Did I get it wrong? I wasn't trying to do anything but act as you asked me to. Obviously I've fucked up, but you're talking madness. I've just made a mistake …'

He frowned. 'You're not a mediwizard, are you?'

'No!'

'Just a smart boy with a gift for Potions.'

'Yes! And reasonable basic skills from keeping my Quidditch team in a fit state. That's all I am. I've been studying, all the time, and I've tried as hard as I can, but there are some things I just don't know. Maybe the murtlap and the aconite shouldn't be mixed for someone with his level of internal bleeding, but it seemed as though it would work …'

'I want to believe you …'

I stayed silent, because an innocent man would surely not need to plead his case.

'But I no longer know whether or not I can trust you.'

'Lucius!'

He would not meet my eyes. 'I am sure that I probably can, but it's probably, Regulus. That doubt is there now, and that's fatal.' He reached into his pocket.

I sat, unmoving. I would not fight him. He had a wife, and a child on the way. I could not do that to Cissie.

He pulled a pouch from his robe and gave it to me. 'This is my emergency fund. There are ten thousand Galleons in there. It will be enough to get you anywhere in the world. Just go. Today. I will keep quiet. I will not tell anyone about my suspicions, not even if you stay, because casting doubt on you would cast doubt on Narcissa, and me, and even Severus. But I will make certain you are called on, and I will be behind you on every mission, and my hexes will go astray. Do you understand me?'

I realised that my mouth was open, but no words were coming out.

'I am sorry, Regulus. It is the way it must be. You will find a good life elsewhere. And it's not forever. When the war is over, you may return. Until then, I cannot take the risk that you may turn out to be a liability.'

I closed my mouth and swallowed. 'Right. All right. I see.'

I looked directly at him. 'I will do as I have always done and follow your instructions. I will go away, and it will be as though I have vanished from this Earth. I will not endanger you, nor my cousin, and you will not hear of me again until this war is done. And then you will know that all along I have acted in ways that were for the best, and which should have made you proud of me.'

He reached out and clutched me to his chest, hugging me tightly. 'I know. I know you will. I am proud of you already, Regulus. Until we meet again.'

'Wait …' I handed him back the pouch. 'I have enough funds.'

He took it without pause, gripped my shoulder once more, then stood and Disapparated in one fluid motion.

I felt better that he had taken the pouch: I had feared it may have contained a device to track me, or a Charm to destroy me. A sudden dark thought followed, and I slipped quickly out of my robe and set fire to it. I popped the Potions bag on top of the flame, and encouraged it to burn to ash, too.

Then I ran inside before anyone could see me in the west of London in the early hours of the morning wearing only a vest and breeches.

I did not go back to bed. Instead, I liberated Kreacher from the wardrobe, then dressed myself again, ignoring his questions as to my state of nudity. I snatched up my quill, and one sheet of Black watermark and another of anonymous parchment. On the first I wrote my letter of resignation, thanking Madam Jones and informing her I was committed to travelling abroad for family obligations. On the other, I disguised my writing to send the news of Benedict Flutterbee's death. I was short, but I hoped kind. My last words were that he had been incredibly brave.

The Ministry opened at six, though only a handful of staff were ever there before sunrise. That morning, I was one of them. I shoved the missive concerning Benedict into an Internal Mail chute, then made my way to the library.

I had brought two things from home. The first was an Elizabethan pillow, goldwork over red silk, which I placed on Madam Jones's desk, my letter atop it. If she could no longer rest as long without her assistant, she could at least rest more comfortably. The second was a mokesin pouch, which I filled with books, shrunk to fit. I felt badly for stealing, but in all honesty, the library was safer if these books were not available.

Then, as dawn began to threaten, I went home. I took off my boots and tip-toed carefully into my parents' bedroom. I went to the right side of the bed, and shook my father's shoulder gently.

'Father?' I whispered.

'Regulus? What is it? Don't wake your mother.'

'I won't. Father, I need your help.


Part Four
 
 
 
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on March 22nd, 2010 07:15 pm (UTC)
Quick-thinking with the potions!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on March 23rd, 2010 03:22 pm (UTC)
If only he was a bit smarter, he'd have thought to make up something to knock everyone else out. Just like he forgets to ask Kreacher to be sure to Apparate him out of the cave after he drinks the poison. (Is it only me who thinks that should have happened?)
Azure Jane Lunaticazurelunatic on March 29th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
It totally should have.

Woman needed more betas.
lyraslyras on March 29th, 2010 09:54 am (UTC)
And then he turned and all but ran from the shop before I could say a word. I think he thought I might be about to argue with him, but the words that were coming to my lips were thanks, and I love you.

Oh! *sniffle*

I am really enjoying your Lucius. He's so much more nuanced than the character I usually read (or bother to write about).