A/N after asking for some prompts for The Mixtape this amazing song by Dougie MacLean was brought to my attention by Kreeblim Sabs, and I came to adore it. So, another fic that was supposed to be a one-shot that just became something bigger as I began outlining. Here we go again, hope you enjoy.
The lightning strikes and the wind cuts cold
Through the sailor's bones, to the sailor's soul
Till there's nothing left that he can hold
Except the rolling ocean
And I am ready for the storm
Yes, sir, ready
I am ready for the storm
I'm ready for the storm
Dougie MacLean - Ready for the Storm 
Regulus Arcturus Black sat upright, his back ramrod straight, his shoulders squared, as he perched on the end of his carefully made bed. His steely grey gaze was fixed dead ahead, at the blank wall in front of him, his fingers pressed into the hard edge of the mattress, furiously gripping the side.
He closed his eyes.
He closed out the deliberately bland room around him.
He closed his mind to all of the lingering doubt.
Instead, Regulus focussed solely on his breathing. Not the fear he felt, not the creeping tingle that was crawling up his spine. He needed to centre himself before he took the final step. He flippantly thought that arriving in an agitated state would be suicide, but that wasn't really his concern. Death wasn't what he was running from; he just had to ensure he lived long enough to finish what he had to first.
Death was the only certainty he had left. Regulus had told himself that he at least had some control over the when, but he wasn't sure he fully believed it. He had known too many people, from both sides of the war that had fallen to the ground over the last year, some of them no older than him.
In truth, he had been hoping for a different path to present itself for some time. Regulus had found himself, standing within the circle of those marked out as his equals, expecting to feel some sense of achievement, maybe even relief, it was all supposed to be over now, everything he had endured had been to get to this point and yet it was a hollow victory. He could almost hear his brother laughing at him. His conscious told him that Sirius wouldn't have done that, wouldn't have wanted to lord his triumph over him. Regulus thought that the tiny voice hadn't been paying attention.
He waved his hand over the pocket-sized frame that was next to him on the bed, ready to be placed inside his pack. The minute image of his austere parents melted away, leaving two young boys looking up at him, well, one looking at him, the other craning his neck to get a better look at the taller boy next to him in the frame. Both the boy's hair was so dark it gleamed from the light of the camera flash, but apart from that one similarity, they were worlds apart. The taller boy stood with a relaxed grace, looking as if he had just got out of bed, the other was regimentally put together though he appeared to be trying to replicate the smirk of the older boy, with limited success.
Regulus waved his hand, and the boys disappeared again. He returned his gaze to the plain wall, flexing his hands against his thighs.
He had lived his entire life weighing and assessing each new situation he found himself in. He had experienced a tremendous amount of change despite his relatively young age, and he had learnt early on the absolute importance of staying quiet. It was the easiest way to determine what was going on around him, to enable him to make the best decision, to make the best choice, often of a bad lot.
Somehow everything had become so muddled.
In many ways Regulus supposed he should have been happy, he had been looking for something, some chink in his Lord's armour to present itself. Something that would answer the lingering questions he had, something that would silence the screaming at the back of his mind, the nagging voices that kept telling him to look harder, to uncover.
So he had got what he wanted. It would be just his luck that the first time that ever happened was when what was delivered was a path to certain death.
He was no coward, despite what Sirius might have thought, but brave or not Regulus couldn't help wishing that the road ahead was less desolate. Not that he was tempted to be swayed from it, no, his resolution was firm. From the very moment Kreacher had landed back in his bedroom, near death and terrified, he felt he no longer had a choice.
Regulus tilted his head to the side, listening to the sounds of the house. Kreacher had been marching back and forth in front of his room all day, caught between thrusting his servitude onto him, trying to make himself useful, and attempting to act as if he wasn't hovering. A small smile played at the edges of Regulus' lips. At least he wasn't going alone. The little elf may not have been much to anyone else, but he had shown Regulus true loyalty, more so than any other man or beast had in his entire life.
Regulus had waited up the night his Lord had asked to borrow the elf, helping himself to his father's stash of whisky as the hours spun around the clock. With every ticking minute, he had become more agitated, he had known something was wrong from the off, but the sick feeling in his stomach only ratcheted as he continued to find an empty sort of temporary solace in the bottom of his glass.
When the pop he had been waiting for had finally sounded, uncommonly loud to his focused ears, Regulus ran, practised grace keeping his hurried movements silent.
Kreacher had ingested a truly unbelievable amount of water; it had taken nearly an hour for Regulus to clear his throat and quell his constant apologies long enough for him to get the basics of what had happened from the tired elf. His hands had tightened on Kreacher's shoulders for a moment before he had walked into the garden, wordlessly directing his wand at one of his mother's prized water features, and blowing it to smithereens.
Regulus had stood amongst the rubble for a long while, trying to decide what he could do next. There had to be something, to allow what had happened to pass might have just fractured the remains of his already cloudy morality, and then he would be just like the rest of them. Mindlessly following, braying at the other side like wild dogs tethered to their master's feet, straining to be let off the leash.
Not for him.
Blacks had standards, warped standards, but standards all the same.
But then there was the other thing. It wasn't just what had happened. But what it all meant.
Regulus flexed his feet, feeling the bite of his newish shoes shaking his head. It was a bit of maudlin folly to be dressed as he was, in his best robes, his hair arranged just so. He doubted he would remain in such pristine condition by the end of the evening, more so he doubted anyone would understand the significance even if he was found. Severus would, he realised, and the thought gave him some small amount of comfort.
Regulus had thought about telling his friend, but in the end, he had chased that thought away as well. Severus was enjoying the belonging, it was new for him, and while they may have known each other for an incredibly long time, none of them could be sure of each other's loyalties anymore. His final act of kindness was to tell the older boy nothing, that way there was no chance of repercussions for him later.
Somewhere in the distance, he heard a clock begin its hourly chime, and he gathered the last of the items he had strewn on the bed, placing them carefully within the pack.
Three weeks it had taken. Three weeks for Regulus to convince himself of what it was he was facing. He had tended to Kreacher carefully, seeing to the ample wounds that littered the small creature's body before he had let him rest. When he had eventually come back around Regulus had delicately propped the elf up against his bed and asked him to tell him again, all that he remembered. He listened attentively, by the second time Kreacher retold the tale he had begun taking notes. The next day he went into his father's library and locked himself inside.
Despite the obscurity of the magic Regulus hit upon the answer quickly, in the Black library it was an easier task to start with the worst possible solution and work backwards, and that's when he found out about making a Horcrux. It had all fit, Kreacher's account and bits and pieces of information he had gathered over the last year or so, all of them pointing to their Lord having split his soul.
Almost as soon as he had hit open the possible answer, he discounted it immediately. Not through any false belief of his master's humanity, he had seen beyond the handsome visage enough, had knelt at the feet of his ire enough to know he had none, but still, this was… bleak.
Two weeks, endless research and a growing sense of dread later Regulus reluctantly went back to the first answer. Forcing himself to write the words in his journal, to acknowledge his grim acceptance.
Then it was time to figure out what to do next.
Regulus was certain he was the only one who knew, he had looked into the minds of his associates often enough to do so without pause to find out for sure. By that point he had seen enough of their innermost selves not feel guilty about the action, only hesitation, some minds were not pleasant to flip through.
Regulus looked over to the prepared pack sitting next to him. As hideous as Kreacher's experience had been it had told him more than everything he needed to know, he had waterproofed everything he would need. He felt a weight settle against his shoulder, one that had been there for what felt like a lifetime. It was up to him now. For all that Sirius and his band of friends might have been 'fighting the good fight', they had no idea what they were up against, no idea of the futility of their efforts.
They couldn't win. Not yet. Not until he had done what he needed to.
His means were more subtle than his brothers, being older now, the halls of Hogwarts being a slightly more distant memory, thinking of a comparison between the two of them didn't hurt quite so much. Since Graduation and his indoctrination into the inner walls of power Regulus no longer held any surprise in his chest that Sirius had been sent to live under the banners of red and gold. That house was everything that his brother was, heart on his sleeve, laugh in his throat, charge in and think about the consequences later. It was his true home. Regulus closed his eyes for a moment, a precaution against the tears that threatened. He would not cry over this. His fingers tightened against his kneecaps, and he looked back at the plain wall again.
He hated his room, all white and crisp lines. He wondered what it would have looked like if Sirius had stayed at home if he hadn't had to be so perfect. He had held all traces of his personality inside himself for so long he had no idea what it would even look like if he let it out anymore.
In a way, this choice, this decision to act, this was his display of Black defiance.
This was his smoking, his motorcycle jacket and his tattoos.
This was to be his claim to freedom.
This way they could win, and hopefully, if he employed some of the intellect that he seemed to wish to hide most of the time, Sirius would survive.
Regulus loved his brother; it would have been so much easier if he hadn't.
The raids he was instructed to carry out always left him wracked with guilt and anxiety. He always expected the next house to be where he was, to find him, the troubled boy that had taught him how to ride a broom, bound and broken at the bottom of the stairs, or tattered and bloody on the lawn.
He loved him, but he hated him at the same time.
Without Sirius' influence he would never have been contemplating something so foolhardy, and yet his brother might never even know. Regulus had toyed with the idea of telling him, letting his side know what they were up against, but he didn't trust them enough to be able to handle it, didn't trust them to do the right thing. Whatever that was, he was sure he no longer knew.
Regulus shook his head and once again pressed his hands down onto his thighs. He had been checking and rechecking the mental list he had drawn up to ensure he had everything in order for days. It wouldn't do to write anything down, not unless it was heavily protected. Regulus thought of his journal. It had hurt when he realised he would need to leave that behind, his first idea had been to destroy it, but his vanity prevented him, pride and a sense that it might be necessary one day. After placing every spell he could think of, and a few he invented, into it, he had handed it over to Kreacher who had sworn to hide it. The little elf had looked back at him, tears in his large eyes when he had given him that instruction. He knew what it meant. Regulus refused to dwell; there would need to be a way to pass on the knowledge if he didn't make it back.
Regulus gasped as his mark began to burn, and he cursed his luck for a moment, but the searing pain dispersed quickly. His Lord didn't need him today. Dispassionately he undid his polished silver cufflink and pushed up his sleeve back, looking at the twisting tattoo on his pale arm.
There was no going back now.
The door opened just a slither, and a reluctant Kreacher poked his head around the door. "Master Regulus," he murmured, almost as if he did not want to be heard, "It's time."
Regulus nodded once, bringing his pack up over his shoulder and walking out of the door, pulling it shut behind him. His eyes glanced over the nameplate for a moment before he moved away.
The house was quiet, not that it was ever loud, not since Sirius had gone. His parents were attending some evening party or other; Regulus couldn't remember the details, the pomp and circumstance that seemed to go on around them had started to bleed together in Regulus' mind. He had begged off, 'too busy', he had said. His mother had prattled on about him attending the next one, time to start looking at marriage contracts and the like.
He suppressed a shudder.
Regulus' steps came to a halt in the cramped hallway, and his shoulders sagged. He should have known this would happen. He sighed before he pivoted on his heel, taking a couple of steps back to face the portrait that had summoned his attention.
The nameplate of highly polished old gold was barely legible in the darkened hall, but Regulus had no need to check the engraving, the name Phineas Nigellus Black was well known to him. He arched a brow as he stood in front of the image of his great grandfather, he had called him, he could start the conversation.
Phineas was staring at him imperiously from his heavily gilded frame, his clothing immaculate and his stance aristocratically slouched into a fine chair. Though he was bearded, as was the style for an older wizard of distinction in his era, it did nothing to take away from the sharp lines of his face. Lines that when matched with his dark features told any onlooker worth their salt what his lineage was before they learnt of names. That was the way of it in pureblood circles, your face was your calling card. It opened doors or had them closed on you.
Phineas cast his gaze over the pack thrown over Regulus' back and turned back to him, his eyes full of barely contained fury. "This is a dereliction of duty," he seethed, his painted fingers, consciously or unconsciously, moving to caresses the black faceted stone of his family ring.
Regulus eyed the real, substantial version on his finger. "What is?" He asked casually. Too casually.
Phineas' eyes retracted to slits. "No games, I know enough, now is not the time to develop a taste for the same amateur dramatics your feckless brother was so fond of."
Regulus gritted his teeth. "I act in the best interest of this house."
Phineas snorted, "You go on a fool's errand! Your life is not your own to give away on some fanciful heroic notion," he raged, sputtering when he saw the blankness of Regulus' face. "You leave this house without an heir."
"I leave this world without any if I do not take steps to correct the mistakes that have been made, it is a matter of honour, Sir."
Phineas rose from his painted chair, "What do you know of honour? You are a mere boy that should seek to be directed by your elders. Nothing is more important than this house, not to its son's and daughters."
Regulus knew why Phineas' reaction was so strong, his own first born, his namesake had been an outcast after he refused to follow the scriptures his father had for the house. But Regulus would not be swayed. In a way he almost felt comforted by his ancestor's ire, it was close to caring.
He sucked in a large breath before he took one step forward, meeting the older wizard's eyes. "I do not leave my ancient and noble house without options."
Phineas sighed, his puffed out chest deflating before he resumed his seat. "Sirius is not fit to lead," he argued with a wave of his hand, but his bite had gone.
"If he is given the mantle he will not disappoint," Regulus stated firmly, his brother could do it, he had been born to it after all.
"You have too much faith," Phineas replied stretching to the side of his portrait to pour himself a rather large glass of wine. Regulus bit down his smirk.
"And you, Great Grandfather, have none, take care of them when I am gone."
Regulus waited for an incredibly reluctant nod before he walked away.
Regulus' shoes squeaked against the polished floor of his father's study, but he ignored it, instead, he dropped his bag down heavily as he turned to face the far wall.
From a distance the tapestry weave was so fine it almost looked like wallpaper, it was only up close that you could see the old threads, kept almost alive by layers of blood magic. The pictures did not move, not like the portraits that lined the rest of the house, but they looked real enough if their representations were a little… overly flattering.
He could remember being made to sit on a small stool as a child, learning the family tree and reciting the names aloud while his mother sat in the corner, ready with the ruler for when there were too many mistakes.
He could remember Sirius teasing Andromeda about how perfect they tapestry made her look, how he told her she would never look so elegant if it were a full body portrait, the neck up shot covered her perpetually grazed knees and ripped skirts.
Regulus ran his fingers over the connection lines of his immediately family tree. Over the golden link that twinkled showing his parents marriage and the stealing bronze that fell from that line to himself and his brother. Somehow, even after all of this time, the patch where Sirius had been was still warm. Regulus had spent an enormous amount of time staring at that spot in the last few years. You could still see tiny bits of the face lurking beneath the mark; it was apt in a way, Sirius was like a stain that never went away, he was as linked to him now as he ever was.
As ever present and ever painful as the brand scorched into his arm.
Regulus took one last look before he turned his back on them.
Regulus apparated with Kreacher from the front hall of his childhood home, his personal elf holding his fingers in a near death grip. As soon as his feet landed on jagged rocks the spray hit him, the salt water nearly making him lose his balance as Kreacher dragged him further away from the edge of the cliff. Regulus took a few deep breaths, dropping his pack to the ground before he carefully moved back to the precipice to look down below. He couldn't see well, the force of the wind was monumental, as it whipped across his face in slashes that felt hard enough to draw blood he wondered if there was some enchantment on the whole place designed to make it seem even less appealing.
His view of his clothing went from ridiculous romantic to romantically ridiculous in seconds.
Regulus stayed there for a few moments, adjusting his footing so he wouldn't be blown clean off into the water, watching the rolling, thick waters of the ocean. The weather made the sea beneath them look almost black, even the tips of the waves were the colour of Spanish cobbles, there was no foam to speak of, which was odd given how fast the water was moving.
Kreacher remained at his side, ever silent, ever watchful, waiting for his next command. Possibly his last.
He had been given an inkling of what he would be facing. Regulus had meticulously painted a picture in his mind to help to prepare himself, and yet seeing it with his own eyes was something different.
He had imagined something more peaceful for his final resting place.
Regulus shut out the chiming thought before it could grow, before it would corrode his mental fortifications and allow his will to be given over to fear. He could always get away from here after all, but he would be caught, eventually. There was nowhere to run. His only hope was to destroy this before he could be found out. His Lord's fury would make the building tempest beneath their feet seem like gently lapping summer waves.
He moved away from the edge of the cliff kneeling down next to his pack to ensure it was firmly sealed before he pulled it onto his back. He looked to Kreacher who was still staring at the water, his eyes as wide as saucers.
"I am sorry to ask you to come down there again old friend," he said calmly, resting his weight on one knee and pressing his hand on one of the elf's shoulders.
"It is an honour to serve, Master Regulus, Sir," Kreacher choked out, and Regulus nodded once, stepping back to straighten himself out and reaching for his hand once more.
He couldn't allow himself to think much more in case he talked himself out of it, or worse they were discovered. Whispering a quick promise he took a couple of steps back before accelerating forward as fast as he could, diving into the waters below.
Regulus gasped as his body plunged into the murky depths, at first the cold was so severe, so sharp, the sensation was like hundreds of stabbing needles all over his body. With the way that the pain lacerated his body he initially assumed that he had not made his original goal of clearing the rocks. When he realised he was in the middle of the water his mind screamed at him to move, and he ploughed on, gripping Kreacher by the back of his favoured pillow case and pulling him onto his back as he began to propel forward.
He did whatever he could to not think about the pain that was eating into his skin; he felt he had never swum so slowly in his life.
It would all be worth it, all of it.
Regulus thought of the carefully placed locket that was safely tucked into the bottom of his pack. It had taken him an age to get something that looked close enough to what he needed. He had seen his Lord wearing it before, 'a family heirloom' he had said, it was certainly much more than that.
Now he had the answers he finally understood the strange feel he had got from the item, he had written it off at the time as an unexpected flash of envy, but the more he assessed his reaction after the fact, armed with new information, he realised how ridiculous that was.
When he had created a decent enough facsimile, he resigned himself to the fact that he would never be able to make it feel the same way. He realised the Dark Lord would know instantly, as soon as he held the gold in the palm of his hand, and so he had allowed himself to include the note.
To the Dark Lord
I know I will be dead long before you read this but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can. I face death in the hope that when you meet your match you will be mortal once more.
It was his final fuck you, not just to the Lord he could not respect but to a world that had not understood him, a world that had never tried. Even by his own admission, the short letter was arrogant, petulant, and foolhardy, and yet when his quill had pressed the final dot into the parchment, it gave him the first real smile he had in months.
As they approached the shoreline, Kreacher summed up what little energy must have been remaining in his bones and jumped from his place on Regulus' back reaching his slim hand forward to help him climb to the shore. The drying spell he waved over them did nothing to eliminate the quaking of their bodies, but they pressed on.
It was too late to go back now.
Regulus knew for certain how it would all end when the first of the Inferi dragged its decaying frame onto the tiny island. He was aware that apparition was impossible and yet faced with increasingly desperate thoughts he tried it anyway. He just had enough time to secure the locket around Kreacher's neck before the first withered hand secured around his ankle.
He had gripped the locket so tightly, felt victory so clearly that he had pressed the glimmering emerald stones into the palm of his hand, he registered the hiss of a sting as he gripped Kreacher tightly, even as he could feel himself being dragged backwards.
"Kreacher," he spoke clearly, endeavouring to keep any panic out of his voice.
"Master Regulus..." the elf screamed realising with a start that the locket had been placed on his person as he rushed forward to grip Regulus' wrist. Kreacher babbled in an unending stream of sobs and pleas, using what was left of his magic to zap some of the invading forces off the rocks.
Regulus stopped fighting as the water reached his middle, the clawing fingers ripping into his flesh. "Kreacher," he forced out, "I command you to go."
There was a pained scream, and a flash of blinding light before the water came up to his chin, and a deep, uncomfortable tug began in his navel.
Then, all was black.
He regarded vaulted ceilings, dark wood beams, and red and gold banners.
Even the afterlife was mocking him.
A sudden burn in his chest made him throw himself onto his side, deep heaves bringing up thick streams of murky water.
There was a gasp and a scrambling of feet and despite the pain, all over his body Regulus leapt to his feet instantly gripping his wand. He lunged forward instinctively pressing the tip into the neck of the person in front of him. It took him a moment to realise, distracted as he was by large, cinnamon eyes blown wide, that there was a wand tip pressed against the flesh of his throat, and three more pointing at him in the distance.
Witches, four of them.
Regulus took a step back, nearly slipping over as he felt sickly confusion settle over him, he lowered his wand, and they dropped theirs, at which point he was assaulted with a barrage of voices.
"Are you alright?"
"You're very wet."
"Who are you?"
"Have you come far?"
The general confusion in the room calmed his senses; he didn't seem to be in an order stronghold. He looked back at the first girl, her eyes still locked on him, she was short with freckles over her nose and insanely curly hair.
"I'm Regulus, Regulus Black."
A/N Thank you for reading, prepare for the tone to change a little in the next chapter as we find out all about the witches that have had young Regulus Black land practically in their laps.