A/N: There were a lot of people complaining about Snape and Draco's attitudes in regards to the last chapter. Why is Snape so rude? Because Snape is rude. Why is Draco being such a prat? Because Draco is a prat. Just because Snape is Hermione's godfather and Draco is the love interest of the story does not make them any less themselves. Snape has spent years spying, Occluding, and emphasizing the worst parts of himself. That's not a switch easily turned off. As for Draco, that story will flush itself out a bit more in the next few chapters but basically he was raised to HATE Muggle-borns, spent years tormenting Hermione because it earned him a pat on the head from Lucius despite his initial desire to be friends with her on the train before learning her blood status. Draco does not like change and Slytherins, by nature, don't like information being kept from them. He's bitter. And he has a good reason for it, I promise. He's just being a little shit about it because that's one of Draco's defense mechanisms. It all goes back to the "there are no heroes, all people are just human, good and bad" theme of the story. Bad people are still loved — whether Guest reviewers like it or not ;) — and good people can still do bad things.
His seventh year of Hogwarts had been everything the years before hadn't. Instead of worrying about or fighting with Sirius, Regulus spent time with his friends. Severus had graduated and was studying under a Potions Master, sponsored by the Dark Lord himself, which Regulus tried not to think about. Without his best friend there, Regulus was forced to interact with other members of his House. Thankfully, he was the only Death Eater and, despite there being constant reports of muggings, murders, and other attacks throughout Wizarding Britain, he was able to put the war to the side for the time being and talk about normal things like Quidditch.
Quidditch. Gods, it was a dream. He'd been put on the team the year before as Seeker, which should have been a moment of bliss but with everything he was anxious about, Regulus had been terrible during every game. They hadn't won once during the entire year. He had been incredibly shocked to find out that he was allowed to try out for the same spot in September and, despite two fifth years trying for the same position, Regulus was the best by far and made the team.
"Just don't fuck up again, Black," their captain said.
When they played Gryffindor in November, Regulus spent the majority of the game diverting the attention of the other Seeker, constantly doing fake plays and low dives and once even flying past the Gryffindor stands to jeer at his rivals. Marlene was dressed in gold and red, waving a large Gryffindor flag and shouting, "Slytherin Seeker sucks!" at the top of her lungs.
Regulus responded by smirking and flipping her a rude hand gesture. McGonagall shouted about his deplorable behaviour and, when no one was looking, Marlene winked at him.
Flying was the most wonderful feeling in the world; when in the air, Regulus would smile at the feel of the wind against him as he closed his eyes. He felt free.
Without Sirius there as a Beater on the Gryffindor team constantly gunning for him and Potter leading the charge, Slytherin dominated Gryffindor in their first game. Regulus caught the Snitch without breaking a sweat.
His team cheered, he was lifted on their shoulders, and there was a party in the common room where he was labelled a hero. A hero, Regulus thought to himself, liking the sound of it very much as he tugged down the sleeve of his shirt, making sure his Dark Mark was hidden from everyone, himself included.
When he went to bed that night, tipsy on firewhisky that had been smuggled in, he found his witch in his bed, waiting for him. How the girl was able to look submissive and smug at the same time, he'd never know, but she lay there in nothing but red knickers and a Gryffindor scarf looking like the kneazle that caught the snidget.
"I broke into Filch's office," she said with a devious little grin that made him want to kiss her immediately. He hesitated though, seeing that he had questions as to how she got in the common room, past all the prefects and professors. Before he could ask her though, she held up a familiar looking piece of parchment. "Look what your brother apparently left behind when he graduated."
"You little thief," Regulus said and laughed, jumping onto the bed and charming the curtains shut. "Are you going to keep it?"
Marlene shook her head. "We graduate this year, there's really no point, is there?"
No. No there wasn't. Because if Regulus had his way, they would leave Hogwarts, run away and get married and never look back. Leave for the continent and figure out some way of magically disconnecting the brand on his arm from the Dark Lord. He'd wondered recently if the Dark Mark could be used to track him should they actually succeed in getting out, but at a meeting over the summer the Dark Lord had stormed around in a huff, screaming about Abraxas Malfoy not responding to the summons. He'd had no idea where the man was and it was days before Malfoy had been reported dead somewhere outside of France where he'd been away on business. Dragon Pox. At least that's what the official report said; what Lucius said. Regulus hadn't paid much attention other than to note that the Dark Lord couldn't use the brand to track down his missing Death Eater and hadn't even noticed when he'd died. The Dark Mark called Death Eaters to him; a one-way means of communication.
"Where'd you go?" Marlene's voice called him back to the room, the present, and the supple body beneath him. "Stay here with me."
"I'm always with you," he whispered and kissed her neck while he simultaneously tugged and pulled at his clothes, using the stupid looking Gryffindor scarf she'd brought into his bed to tie her hands above her head, growling when she giggled at his attempted act of dominance; as though a lioness could be leashed, could be contained in the slightest.
She was magic. A willing sacrifice on the altar that was his bed, smiling up at him as though he were something worthy to be sacrificed for. The sight was pleasing at first but then almost disturbing and he leaned forward, kissing her deep and hard, searching for the fight in her. When she growled a little and nipped at his lip, he let out a breath of air he'd been anxiously holding and then tugged the scarf away from her hands, releasing her.
Marlene frowned and looked up at his face in curiosity. "Reggie?"
"I . . . you should be able to escape if you want to," he said.
She bit her lower lip and sighed. "Don't be there," she whispered. "It's just us. Always the two of us."
With Severus off studying to become a Potions Master, Regulus was forced to deal with his family during the Christmas holidays. He was desperate to sneak away to be with Marlene, but they were risking enough simply by being together at Hogwarts. Showing up on her doorstep during the holidays was going to draw attention, and considering he no longer had any close friends outside of other Death Eaters to spend time with, there were no excuses to get away from Grimmauld Place.
Or the gods awful Yule party his mother threw.
"Regulus, darling," Walburga said, looping her arm through her son's and pretending that he was escorting her around the large room, when in reality, she was practically dragging him. "Come and meet some friends of your father's," she said and walked him over to a family of four. The father, a tall man with dark hair looked incredibly imposing, but after being in the presence of the Dark Lord, Regulus found fearing normal men rather pointless. The man stood beside a beautiful but cross-looking wife, and two young girls that looked near Regulus's age. One looked incredibly familiar.
"Antonin," Walburga smiled and allowed the wizard to kiss her knuckles in greeting, "Maria," she said to the older witch and the two kissed each other's cheeks. "This is my darling boy, Regulus. Dear, this is Antonin and Maria Dolohov," she said, introducing them.
Regulus nodded his head politely and shook the extended hand that Antonin held out to him. "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir," he said to the wizard and then lowered himself to kiss the knuckles of the witch, "ma'am."
Antonin nodded in approval of the boy's manners and then gestured to the girls beside him. "These are our daughters, Isabella," he said, pointing to a girl no older than fourteen who had dark auburn hair, nearly black in colour except when the light reflected off of it, pulled up into a loose chignon with soft ringlets resting against her sharp cheekbones. Antonin then turned to the older daughter, a sour-looking girl who had her eyes narrowed at Regulus. "And . . ." Antonin hesitated as he introduced the elder daughter, "Arielle."
The smile the younger witch was giving him in addition to the scowl coming from the elder had Regulus formally put his hands behind his back and nodding his head in their direction, a polite way to avoid kissing their hands. Isabella looked like the type who would take a simple gesture as something far too intimate, and Arielle appeared like she'd curse him for the pleasure of it. "Ladies," he said with a kind voice.
"Girls," Antonin addressed his daughters, "why don't you go and get yourselves something to drink." Arielle grabbed her sister by the hand and dragged her away from the small crowd, leaving their parents behind looking positively mortified. "Apologies, Walburga," Antonin said with an irritable tone, "we meant to leave the . . . other one at home but she just can't be trusted. You know how it is. I trust you won't hold it against us."
Regulus turned his gaze briefly after the girls who lingered near a fountain that had been charmed to pour bubbling champagne that never lost its fizz. Isabella was glowering at her older sister who was scanning the room, looking like a prey animal desperate for an escape.
"Antonin," Walburga said, reaching out and resting a comforting hand on the man's arm, "what I have learned about raising one horrible child is that all your hopes and dreams for the lost one are only amplified by the good child."
Regulus turned his attention back to his mother and offered a grateful smile. "You flatter me, Mother," he said while mentally counting down the days until he could return to Hogwarts. He wondered if it were possible to Disillusion himself so he could slip into Marlene's compartment on the Hogwarts Express and drag her out to find a dark corner where they could exchange belated Christmas gifts since there was no chance he'd be able to send anything to her by owl.
"Little Arielle . . ." Walburga was explaining to Regulus despite not having asked her for more information regarding the Dolohovs, "due to no fault of her devoted parents, was sorted into Gryffindor like that wretch of a brother of yours."
Regulus, through years of practice, hid away the sting of pain in his chest at the mention of Sirius with a well-placed sneer. "Brother?" he asked. "I was unaware I had such a thing. Am I not an only child, Mother? I dare say, I'd always hoped for a sibling."
Maria Dolohov giggled. "He is delightful."
"Such a handsome boy, too," Walburga said, reaching up and threading her fingers through Regulus's hair. The action was unnerving as she'd only started doing it the past few years. Until Sirius had become the family disappointment, he'd always been the son who received the affection. And then he didn't and all forms of physical attention had been brutal and violent. Sometimes Regulus wondered when, exactly, his mother would turn on him as well. "Could you imagine?" she asked Maria with a gleam in her eye.
Maria nodded. "Such lovely children."
He raised a curious brow. "Are all witches so very vague?" he teasingly asked. "You feel you can trick us men with your beauty and your words? It hardly seems fair play."
Antonin chuckled and both Walburga and Maria smiled pleasantly. "Darling," his mother said, gripping his arm and turning him toward the fountain where both Arielle and Isabella were still standing, likely waiting for one of their parents to direct them somewhere."What do you think of Isabella?"
Regulus swallowed. "Lovely girl," he said quickly. "I don't recognise her though."
"When Arielle was . . . misplaced," Antonin said, "we didn't want to take the chance of another problem, and Isabella was sent to Durmstrang instead."
"Smart decision," Regulus said with an approving tone of voice. "I assume you have a point, Mother?"
Walburga beamed at him. "We were thinking of an arrangement between you and the young Isabella."
His mind screamed a list of obscenities that he was sure had never before passed his lips, three of which he was absolutely certain Sirius had invented himself. "An arrangement? Marriage?" he asked, the image of Marlene with a string of pearls around her neck at the forefront of his mind. He pushed it back, hiding it like a treasure behind his Occlumency shields. "With all due respect Mr and Mrs Dolohov, your daughter is much more deserving of a husband who will have time for her. My mother should be aware that my time is greatly occupied," he said and, with his right hand, reached across his chest and lightly scratched at his left forearm, making sure his mother took notice of the movement.
Walburga brushed off his excuses. "That's the beauty of this arrangement," she said brightly. "Antonin has been out of the country for several years, which is why you've not yet made his acquaintance."
Regulus looked up to make eye contact with the man who grinned at him and repeated Regulus's gesture of scratching at his left forearm. Fuck, Regulus thought and strengthened his Occlumency shields to the point of discomfort.
"I've heard many good things about you, Regulus," the man said.
The younger Death Eater smiled politely and tilted his head in a gesture of respect before quietly saying, "I am honoured to be a name our Lord speaks well of." He paused to look back at the Dolohov girls, appearing as though he were looking Isabella over with interest when in reality he was mentally wondering how he could get out of this situation. "And . . . He approves this?" he asked. "I would never be so bold to make any decision regarding my life without His say so."
Walburga grinned and Dolohov seemed to approve of Regulus's obvious unwavering loyalty. "The subject will be brought up before you graduate Hogwarts," the man assured him.
Regulus nodded his head and forced a grateful smile on his lips. "Well then, I look forward to your correspondence."
His plans for seducing his girlfriend on the Hogwarts Express were left unfulfilled. The morning he was to go back to Hogwarts, his eyes snapped open to darkness still surrounded his bedroom as his forearm burned like a hot iron. He hissed at the pain and jumped from his bed, shouting down the stairs for his mother to come up with an alibi for his late return to Hogwarts.
He returned from the revel outside of Surrey sometime after noon only to choke up the previous night's dinner as the memories of screams haunted his thoughts. A family of four had been tortured and killed. The father, a Ministry worker with a proclivity for putting his nose where it didn't belong, had stumbled upon information that the Dark Lord desperately wanted. Regulus never asked what it was. It wasn't his place to ask things like that. It was his place to follow orders, and his orders had been to hurt the man's wife and children in front of him until he gave up the information.
It hadn't taken more than a threat to get the wizard to speak every detail of every paper he'd ever seen at the Ministry; of every word of gossip he'd heard in the lifts and down long stretches of corridors. Avery had been in charge of the interrogation, leaving the torture of the family to Lucius, Regulus, and Macnair. When the information had been gathered, Avery killed the wizard and told the others to do what they wanted with the rest, so long as they were killed in the end, before Disapparating away.
Macnair grabbed the wife by the hair and dragged her down the hallway screaming. Regulus turned wide-eyed to see Lucius warring with himself as the children sobbed and cried so loud that eventually, the blond had to put a Silencing Charm on them in order to focus.
"Lucius . . ." Regulus whispered.
"You do it," the man ordered. "I . . . I have things to attend do and murdering children is beneath me," he insisted, poorly concealing his own fear as he threw the job on Regulus's shoulders.
The younger Death Eater felt himself begin to panic. "Malfoy!"
Lucius turned and looked at the young wizard. "Do it before Macnair finishes with the wife," he instructed. "He's not one to be easily sated, and . . ." he glanced down at the children, "the lines which many of us refuse to cross, he will do so gladly."
The point made, Lucius Disapparated leaving Regulus to clean up the mess. He could hear the witch screaming down the hallway and a part of him wondered if it was possible to kill Macnair and somehow get away with it. While he struggled to find a way out of the situation the screaming stopped, which meant that his decisions didn't matter. He'd lost his chance to do the right thing.
"Any more left to play with?" Macnair's voice called from down the hall.
Panicked, Regulus turned and sent two quick and painless Killing Curses at the children and watched as they dropped to the ground with sickening thuds.
"My poor boy fell ill and we've taken him to St. Mungo's," Walburga wrote a quick lettered and owled it to Hogwarts. "His father will Apparate him to Hogsmeade when he's well again."
Her words hadn't been lies. Regulus nearly begged them to take him to St. Mungo's where he knew the Dark Lord would never step foot inside. He let the Healers fill him with Pain Potions and Dreamless Sleep. When he thought of the dead children and Macnair's eager laughter amidst the screams, he fell sick, heaving until he cried. When he was done vomiting up everything in his stomach including all the potions he'd been given, he cried because he needed to. Because he couldn't stop.
The Dreamless Sleep Pomfrey keeps is garbage compared to yours and I don't trust to ask Slughorn with the shite ingredients he has on hand here at the school. I would be very much appreciative if you would think of your friend who has N.E.W.T.s to prepare for and festering pubescent dreams, while amusing during sixth year, are distracting when I'm needing to focus.
The letter was filled with lies and secret code that anyone really looking could likely decipher, but desperate times . . .
At least he had one light in his world.
However, that sweet light had strangely turned into a sour bite of raging darkness every time Regulus looked her way. Being in different Houses really did have its problems. Communication with Marlene was damn near impossible unless she was able to sneak into the Slytherin common room, which she hadn't done since returning to school.
He'd picked a verbal fight with her in the hallway; called her a blood-traitor and a slag, which might as well have been translated into poetic words of love and passion. It was how they worked and had talked to one another the past three years. So why was she ignoring him now? "Be careful next weekend, McKinnon," he told her. "Wouldn't want whatever's haunting the Shrieking Shack to come and snatch you up," he threatened in front of several of his Housemates and a few of hers.
Code: Meet me by the Shrieking Shack next Hogsmeade weekend.
"Hey!" he called out as he caught up with her walking back to the castle from Hogsmeade. He'd stood in front of the damn Shack for three hours without sight of his witch. When her massive head of blond curls came into view, he dropped all pretension and followed after her like a lost puppy looking for a scrap of food. "Why didn't you wait for me at our spot? Marly?" he rushed after her, narrowing his eyes as she refused to look his way. "Marlene!" he said and reached out to grab her arm.
She pulled out of his grip, tears in her eyes as she turned and glared at him. "Get away from me!"
She wasn't wearing the pearls. A pain like no other before seeped into his chest and began poisoning him from within. "What the hell did I do?" he asked with pleading eyes.
She snarled, "Don't act all innocent!" and then reached into her pocket, withdrawing the pearl necklace, launching it at his face. "And take these back!" she yelled, her voice choking on a sob.
"Marly!" he shouted, catching the pearls and rushing up to grab her before she ran off again. She struggled against him but he was much stronger and held her in place, nearly knocking them both over into the nearest snowbank in the process as he did his best to make sure she didn't reach for her wand. "You're not going anywhere until I get a bloody explanation!"
"Isabella Dolohov!" she screamed in his face.
Regulus let go of her and grimaced. "What?"
Marly scowled and then hit him in the chest. "Her sister Arielle is one of my friends! She told me in great detail how thrilled she is that she was passed up by the wretched Regulus Black, for her sister! You're getting married!"
That's what this was about? Regulus thought incredulously. "The hell I am! My mother tried setting something up, and Isabella's father is another Death Eater," he tried to explain to her. "I couldn't very well say, 'Thank you, sir, for offering me your daughter's hand in marriage and, by the way, in the rare case that I don't get murdered by the Dark Lord for not following orders and having blood-traitor sympathies, do you think I could please keep shagging my Gryffindor girlfriend?'," he said in a great mocking tone.
The two stood in silence, breathing deep as he tried to will away his anger and guilt and she tried to speak without crying. "What're we going to do?" Marlene asked as fresh tears built up in her blue eyes, making them look like a spring sky reflecting off of the water in the Black Lake.
Regulus sighed, glad that she had calmed down enough to use plural pronouns. "I'm going to convince the Dark Lord that I don't want a wife and that any romantic interest right now would be counter-intuitive and distracting from following orders," he promised her. "I'm only seventeen so it's likely he'll believe me," he said with a chuckle and looked up to see her lip quivering and tears spilling over onto her cheeks. "Why're you crying, love?" He reached up and brushed the tears from her cheeks, ignoring the way that his hands were freezing. Her skin was as hot as her temper had been minutes earlier, and they both seemed to enjoy the change of temperature that the other provided.
"We're only seventeen," Marlene whispered. "Regulus, what're we going to do?"
He cocked an eyebrow and stared at her. "I just told you. I'll deal with the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord, and you just keep safe and off of their radar. When we graduate, we'll figure out how to just run away until the war ends."
She shook her head. "I can't run away with you."
His grey eyes narrowed and flashed with anger. "What do you mean you can't run away with me?" he demanded and then, before she had a chance to do any further damage by being so utterly recklessly Gryffindor, he looped the pearls back around her throat, clasping it. "And put your fucking necklace back on. Don't let me ever see you take it off again."
"Reggie . . ." she whispered.
Regulus frowned. "What the hell is wrong with you? You're starting to worry me."
She looked up at him, devastation in her stare. "I'm pregnant."