The Evil That Men Do
(Tuesday, December 25, 1979)
Once upon a time in a city called London lived a woman named Walburga Octavia Black. Walburga was the latest in a long line of Blacks, but unlike many of her relatives, who – to put it nicely – were rather unfortunate-looking, she had the cold beauty that some of her not-so-incestuous Slytherin kin possessed. This fact attracted a man named Orion Augustus Black, who just happened to be her third cousin. While their relationship wasn't as incestuous as some of her relatives', Walburga wasn't exactly enthused about the prospect of marrying Augustus, as he was known by the rest of the family.
With a lot of wooing on his part, she finally conceded when she realized just how few pureblood men there were to choose from. Unluckily for Augustus, what Walburga had in outer beauty, she more than made up for in inner crazy. Their union brought forth two sons: Sirius Orion (who had the unfortunate initials of "S.O.B.") and Regulus Arcturus. At first, as the oldest, Sirius was the golden child until his rebellious nature was brought out by his best friend and distant cousin, James Potter.
James and his parents, Dorea and Charlus, were very nearly blasted from the family tapestry because of James's impact on Sirius. Truthfully, if James hadn't turned out so handsome, or if he or his father had been redheads, they would have been removed as soon as Sirius moved in with the Potters. Walburga, who considered herself the keeper of the tapestry, had a deep-seated and highly-irrational fear of gingers. This had been why Cedrella Black-Weasley had truly been removed from the family tapestry: she had dared marry a soulless red-haired man – pureblood or not. Poor Andromeda had been born with a shock of carrot-colored hair before it had fallen out and grown back the cinnamon-brown it was today; she had been removed long before Ted Tonks had ever entered her life.
Growing up, Regulus Arcturus Black knew his mother was incredibly unstable, but it didn't stop him from desperately coveting her affection or, at least, her attention. He had set out to be everything Sirius wasn't, or he had the first time around. The second time around, though, he finally realized that maybe his older brother had had the right idea. Truthfully, it hadn't even taken the entirety of his first time around to realize that he wasn't a monster like some of his fellow Death Eaters. Even Voldemort himself wasn't as monstrous as some of his Death Eaters.
Sadly enough, Regulus hadn't realized this fact until it was too late. No matter what, there were some things that he would never forget. The deciding moment had been when Rodolphus and Rastaban had gotten bored one night and decided to entertain themselves by torturing a Muggle girl. There were no words for what they had done to her; as long as Regulus lived, the girl's screams would haunt his nightmares.
After they were done, Regulus – as the youngest and newest Death Eater – had been sent into the dungeon to clean up. To his horror and surprise, the girl had survived although she was barely recognizable as human; blood was everywhere and the stench of burnt flesh and hair filled the air. Regulus had joined the Death Eaters to make his parents proud, not to be a murderer.
Apparently, the men had been testing out new curses and had thought they had killed the girl. Regulus could see how they would think that. He had only been able to tell she was still alive because between the dry heaves after he'd completely evacuated the contents of his stomach, he'd seen the slight rise and fall of her chest. He'd tested for a pulse and, though extremely faint, it was there. He couldn't just let her die.
Using his assignment to clean up the evidence, he took the girl's unconscious form and transported her to the nearest Muggle hospital. He didn't learn her name until weeks later when he'd seen a Muggle newspaper with a front-page story detailing the vicious murder of a couple and the torture and subsequent suicide of their only daughter, a sixteen-year-old named Moira Tindall who wanted nothing more than to be a doctor who worked in third-world countries and war zones to help the less fortunate.
The girl had been younger than him, made wonderful grades and no one could say a bad word about her because she was such a caring and good person. A person, a human being with hopes and dreams and goals. He had learned that if they had crossed paths in different circumstances, he would have liked her, maybe even loved her. She had been a better person than he'd ever been or probably would become, and she had been destroyed because she didn't have magic. He'd heard her screaming as she was tormented, and he'd done nothing to help. Honestly, he didn't really know if she would have killed herself without the torture, or if she would have made it. He'd never even spoken a word to her, but she haunted him. The image of a pretty, vibrant blond cheerleader with her entire life ahead of her grinning that the paper had run beside the story at odds with the one and only picture he had of her: a mental image of a broken doll, barely alive who could only stand the horrors she'd survived for a scant few weeks.
Regulus Black had learned a lot in that month: about himself, about strangers, about the Death Eaters, and about life in general. It had changed him. He had decided that he had to find a way to destroy Voldemort and his minions. The opportunity had come to him in the tail end of 1979 when the Dark Lord had commanded the younger Black to loan him Kreacher. At first he was hesitant, but his mother told him that he had to do anything the charismatic older man demanded. So the eighteen-year-old had given his friend, the family house-elf, to the man.
It had been a double-edged sword: Kreacher had nearly died, but Regulus had learned Voldemort's weakness. He learned everything he could, studying every arcane book he could find for a way to stop the Dark Lord. The desperate hunt for knowledge had led him to his present circumstances. The best solution he could come up with was an extremely-difficult charm that involved expensive and/or rare ingredients; not the least among them being sand from a Time-Turner.
The potion was to be able to undo physical damage by literally rolling back time. Adding a secondary charm to retain any objects he had had on his person at the time of the potion being used became the best solution he could find to retrieving Voldemort's locket without dying. The substance Kreacher had been forced to down had nearly killed him, which was saying something since house-elves' constitutions were much stronger than humans' – except, strangely enough, when it came down to alcohol.
Fittingly enough, Regulus's opening to steal the locket came on Christmas Day. His mother would spend the day in a potion-induced coma as she had every Christmas since Sirius had become a Gryffindor, and his father would spend the holiday with his mistress, leaving their younger son to his own devices. On some level, it almost amused him. The paper had said Moira's parents had been devoted to one another. They were dead, and Regulus and Sirius's parents' indifference and apathy toward one another had turned into outright hatred and pretending the other didn't exist.
It had taken him nearly the entire year to come up with the spell's ingredients, collecting them from Hogwarts, Knockturn Alley, and, finally, from the Ministry of Magic. It had taken another potion, Polyjuice potion, to get Time-Turner sand. He had created the Polyjuice potion to replicate his father's appearance since his father worked at the Ministry as the head of the Department of Mysteries. Part of his job involved disposal of artifacts, which included black-market Time Turners.
Time Turners were incredibly rare and extremely illegal. He possibly could have gotten one from the black market, but it probably would have landed him in Azkaban...or cost him a good chunk of the Black family fortune. Instead, he waited until Augustus started talking about a five-year undercover sting that had ended up with the Ministry confiscating seventeen Time Turners from an international crime syndicate. The sheer magical skill involved in making so many of the world's rarest magical artifacts was mind-boggling.
He supposed he could have stolen one of the Ministry's Time Turners—it had been his original plan—but a group of Time Turners that were going to be destroyed was just an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
A sleeping draught put his father out so a Polyjuiced Regulus could take his place. He used his father's authority to go with the lackeys that were going to destroy the Time Turners, used a simple sleight of hand to grab one of the Time Turners, and that was that. Ministry security, to put it simply, was laughable at best. If an eighteen-year-old could break in with a little bit of Polyjuice potion, they deserved to be robbed.
With the final ingredient, Regulus was able to create the charms and potion, tying a medallion bearing an hourglass to the potion that would rewind time so he could escape any injury he would suffer in Voldemort's cavern. He needed to get the locket. With Kreacher's help, he found the cavern in which the Dark Lord had hidden his precious locket. He thought he could handle what the cave had in store, but he had been wrong. That was just the first step, though. "Kreacher, if I don't make it, make sure that the locket is kept away from the Dark Lord and destroyed," he told the house-elf. Kreacher made a motion to protest, and Regulus's eyes narrowed. "That's an order. Stay here."
Cautiously, he picked his way through the tunnel that led to the cavern beneath. Thick darkness enveloped him; cold permeating his flesh and sinking to his very bones. His breath was visible, rising like miniature clouds, and he pulled his robes tighter around his pale, slender form. A soft murmur of Lumos, and wavering light surrounded him. Harsh light and deep shadows battled, wavering with the light cast from his wand.
He ran his hand along the wall as the light grew dimmer and dimmer, choked by unnatural darkness. He gasped as he felt something slimy beneath his hand, pulling it away. The sudden movement caused him to overcompensate, slipping on the slick stone beneath his feet. He fell hard, rolling down the incline and landing hard on his left hand, a loud snap filling the air. Starbursts exploded before his eyes as a sharp pain shot up his arm. His wand fell as he grabbed his injured arm which hung at an awkward angle, and he almost vomited when he saw that not only was his arm bent wrong, but the bone had poked its way through his skin.
Regulus tore the bottom of his robes off and wrapped his arm, silently cursing that he hadn't had the forethought to take a Healing course before his little adventure. His eyes widened in realization, and he shoved his uninjured hand into his pocket to feel the bottle of the potions he had combined in a vial. A sigh of relief escaped as he realized that the spell he had cast on the bottle to ensure its safety had held, and the potion was still intact.
He continued deeper down the cavern, bracing his injured arm on the wall, ignoring the wall's texture for the cooling effect of the stone. Blood dripped down his arm, splattering on the wall, and a door appeared in what had previously been a dead end. Regulus felt so stupid; he hadn't done enough research. If he hadn't accidentally injured himself he would have never been able to complete his quest. With a grimace, he tightened the scrap of cloth around his arm, popping the bone back into place with a sickening crunch. He doubled over and promptly vomited. He dry-heaved for a good, long while after he had evacuated the contents of his stomach. When his stomach had finally calmed enough to continue, he wiped his sweaty brow with the back of his hand, sighing with relief.
He continued past the door to find himself in an enormous cavern, stalactites hung from the ceiling, and water dripped from them, falling into a still lake surrounding a tiny island. The cadence of water hitting water was the only sound in the claustrophobic silence. The cold grew more intense, causing his already-aching arm to hurt even more, and he clutched it to his chest; his free hand raising his wand, letting the light spill over the still waters only disturbed by the occasional droplet from the stalactites above him. Regulus tested the water with a hand, gasping at the cold. It was like he had held his hand under the snow for an hour. Quickly, he pulled his hand out, shaking off the water; his fingers had already turned blue. There was no way he could swim to the island. Eyes closed as he tried to remember what Kreacher had told him; there was an invisible boat tied to the wall.
Blue eyes opened once more as he scanned the walls for any sign of an invisible boat. Yes, he looked for an invisible boat. He shook his head at his stupidity and tried to come up with a way to find something invisible. "Okay, think, Regulus, think," he told himself. Eventually, it came to him. Taking a deep breath, he shoved his hand into the freezing water, pulling out a handful of water, sprinkling it along the edges of the lake, repeating the process until some of the droplets clung in midair. A smile crossed his lips as he slid his hand over the boat, feeling it until he found where it was tied to the wall, untying the boat, pushing it to the lake. He climbed in, shuddering as he saw through the bottom of the boat, seeing floating corpses with skin literally as white as death, tinged blue by the cold and lack of oxygen, sloughing from the emaciated dead, revealing hints of bone beneath. If he hadn't already expelled the contents of his stomach thoroughly, he had a feeling that he would be throwing up once more. There was only one reason why the water would be full of corpses.
They were Inferi. He shuddered in horror at the creatures, empty vessels that were reanimated by black magic. He had anticipated a lot of things but not Inferi. They were the stuff of nightmares. He had spent most of his life believing that they were just stories; the very idea that someone could be so evil as to use the darkest of arts, Necromancy, was too horrifying for the teenager to contemplate.
The eighteen-year-old took a deep breath to soothe himself as he guided the boat to the island in the middle of the lake. In the middle of the island, there was a chalice. Swallowing hard, he stared down into the chalice, grimacing at the sight of the locket. In Slytherin House, he had seen enough portraits of Salazar Slytherin wearing the locket to realize what it was. He reached into the chalice with the hope that maybe Kreacher had been forced to drink it out of Voldemort's spite. He had been wrong. The liquid burned like acid, and he removed his hand from the liquid, hissing with pain. There was no way around it; he would have to ingest it. He really didn't want to think what it would do to his insides. For the first time since he'd decided to start this quest and avenge Kreacher and the girl, he realized just how out of his league he really was. His hand slipped into his pocket, clenching the potion vial tightly.
He could do this. Yet another deep breath and he pulled the chalice to his lips and drained the vile liquid. His stomach instantly rebelled, but he fought the ever-present urge to vomit. He couldn't remember how many times it had been forced by virtue of simply being around the vile and disgusting Voldemort. The realization bucked his stomach up and despite wave after wave of nausea, Regulus continued. The nausea ebbed, but then the real horror began.
A girl appeared on the island; she was tall and adorable with blond hair that was feathered around her pretty face; large, blue eyes rimmed with golden lashes, and lips that always looked like she was about to smile. He'd never seen the girl before, and it took him a while to realize who she was. She was Moira, the girl he'd failed to save, looking like she had before the Death Eaters had gotten a hold of her; in full color, unlike the black-and-white photograph that had been in the paper. "Hello, Regulus," she said, her voice soft.
"How did you know my name?"
"You killed me, that's why," she replied. Guilt slammed through Regulus's body at the girl's comment. As she spoke, her form began to change. Slowly, he saw the wounds that the Death Eaters had inflicted on her slowly destroying her features.
"I'm so sorry, so sorry, I didn't…I didn't mean…" he stammered, looking down at the chalice. Even though he had drained it, it had refilled.
The girl walked toward him, her skin burned and raw, blood dripping from various wounds. He closed his eyes and did his best to just try to not see, but her voice had changed once more. Now, she screamed like she had when she had been tortured. As he closed his eyes, he started feeling her pain, his body shuddered and ached. Regulus knew that he couldn't let it stop him. He gulped down the chalice again. The pain grew stronger causing him to double over. He tried spilling the chalice, but the chalice stayed full, but the locket didn't fall out.
Regulus wasn't sure how much more that he could take. The stench of burning flesh filled his nostrils; his skin felt like it was melting over. He cracked an eye open to find that his skin was flickering. Sometimes, his skin appeared its normal pale tone, and then looked blistered and bloodied, exposing muscle and tendon. He focused hard on when his skin seemed normal, but the pain. Even when the Dark Lord had forced the Death Eaters to practice the Unforgivables on each other to get used to the pain, it hadn't hurt this much. He felt like he was melting from the inside out. Another chalice drained.
Breathing was painful; everything was painful. He fell to his knees as his vision grew blurry, and her screams grew louder and louder. Finally, the locket fell out. He grabbed it and forced it into his pocket, crawling to the lake that surrounded the island. He grabbed a handful of water, trying to remove the sickness that the concoction had wrought through his body. The water was freezing and helped give him clarity. His hand descended into the lake once more only for a bony hand to grip his wrist. Regulus jerked back and as he did, the creature came with him, it appeared vaguely human if incredibly emaciated with white skin, clouded-over eyes. The teenager was paralyzed with fear.
More of the abominable creatures clawed their way onto the island, the sickly-sweet stench of death and decay clogged the boy's nostrils as the creatures lumbered toward him. They descended on him, clawing at him, irritating the wounds that may or may not have been real. His arm screamed as one of the creatures gripped it. "Master!" he heard Kreacher call. His first instinct was to be mad at him for disobeying his orders, but that reaction was short-lived.
"Take it!" he cried. "Take it and destroy it."
"Go!" Regulus ordered as he tossed the locket at Kreacher who caught it and disappeared. He heard the clink of glass against the island, watching as his potion rolled from his pocket. The Inferi tore at him, rotten flesh coating his skin as bits fell off their corpses. He coughed and gagged on the stench that assaulted his olfactory center, crawling beneath the creatures that descended on him. He grabbed the potion, ripped the cork out, and swallowed the potion. Instantaneously, the pain was gone as well as the Inferi who had descended upon him. He sat up slowly, eyes wide as he realized that even the pedestal that had held the chalice full of the Dark Lord's potion had disappeared.
Timidly, he sat up. His body still held aches and pains, but it was nothing like the torment he had received from the potion he had been forced to imbibe. Cautiously, he unwrapped the blood-soaked, impromptu bandage from his arm, sighing in relief when he realized that his arm was no longer broken although it still ached. Sucking in a breath, he dipped his hand into the lake that surrounded the island. It was chilly but not freezing like it had been. He peered deeply into the lake, desperately trying to find any sign of the Inferi, but the lake was empty.
The potion had worked, possibly too well. The potion was only supposed to roll back thirteen hours, but it looked like the cavern hadn't been touched in years. It was completely empty and there was no sign of the hexes that Voldemort had placed on the cavern. The water was deep so Regulus swam across it to come to where the door had been. That, too, was gone. The cave was still dark, but it wasn't nearly as dark as it had been. Easily, his wand lit everything up with a simple Lumos.
Carefully, he picked his way out of the cavern. Things looked similar enough, but the very disappearance of everything in the cave made him wary. He walked to the nearest village; as a pale young man with shoulder-length black hair and a torn robe, he caught a few looks from the people. Things looked familiar, but he couldn't really figure out where he'd ended up. It wasn't until he passed an empty news vendor, catching sight of the date on the paper. It was Christmas Day 1966. Regulus was only supposed to be six years old.
His potion had transported him thirteen years in the past. He was bewildered. It was a cold, December evening, and he was soaked through and through. Luckily enough, a nice but lonely elderly lady let him come in and warm up by her fire. The kindly woman prattled on about her family who were running late, and Regulus felt horrible for her. He stayed with the woman until his clothes dried, and then he made his way to Hogwarts to tell Dumbledore about his accident and about the locket.
This piqued the Headmaster's curiosity, and Regulus told him as much as he knew. Professor Flitwick created a charm for him that would help him disguise his appearance until they found out how he could get back to his time, and Professor Madigan Flaherty was born. To keep an eye on his younger self, Regulus took on the role of the Black family's private tutor before Sirius and his younger brother would go to Hogwarts, trying to guide himself to not make the same mistakes he had.
Some things had changed. Regulus Black the younger had been sorted into Gryffindor instead of Slytherin which, to his older self, was highly amusing, and it made his mother double her sleeping potions for the "stress" of giving birth to two Gryffindors. He managed to save Moira and his family by stealing some of the Black family fortune and turning it into Muggle money to send them away on a trip they "won." He did his best to fix as much damage the Death Eaters had inflicted on the populace, but he wasn't perfect. He wasn't even an Auror.
(Wednesday, December 21, 1977)
The years passed with Regulus not knowing what would happen once the time loop closed on December 25, 1979. He didn't know if there would forever be two of them or if one of them would fade into oblivion. Time passed normally for the elder Regulus. He was no longer an eighteen-year-old, but he was now almost thirty and had aged accordingly despite the charm that he often wore. Today was the Winter Solstice and the last day of school for winter break.
The twenty-nine-year-old Regulus sat in his office, staring deeply into the fire that danced in the fireplace lost in his thoughts. He absent-mindedly fondled the charm that held the hourglass medallion. Every day, a single grain of sand had fallen to the bottom. After eleven years out of time, there were many more grains at the bottom and as the Christmas he had gone back in time approached, he grew more and more worried and fearful. He didn't want to die, but he didn't know what would happen when the final grain of sand descended. They descended every day at the same exact time: 8:22 pm. With a sigh, he watched yet another grain fall. He tried so hard to make things better, but he didn't know what else he could really do. As far as his younger self had told him, Kreacher hadn't come any closer in destroying the Dark Lord's locket.
Neither Regulus nor Kreacher actually knew what the locket really was, but they both knew just how important it was that it was destroyed, and Voldemort never got another chance to get his hands on it. Regulus, Kreacher, and Regulus's younger self studied every possibility, trying to find out just what they were up against with no such luck.