Soon after breakfast, Regulus went to bed. No one argued— Remus couldn't help but wonder if the man had slept at all in the last couple of days. Otherwise, few people were familiar with the youngest Black, and no one really wanted to test him. Remus kept his mouth shut when Regulus miscounted doors on the upper floor and went into Sirius's bedroom instead of his own, not wanting to invite more pain for the younger man. The subject of the remaining Black was avoided with a purpose for the remainder of the day, though Hermione asked a few tentative questions that, for the most part, none of the adults there could or were comfortable asking.
Eventually, though, Remus commented that if Regulus was actually going to talk to Dumbledore, someone was going to have to wake him up. Moody and Molly, the only two in the room at the time, stared mildly back at him.
"Alright, I'll get him," Remus muttered. He hadn't wanted to— Regulus and Sirius did have some family resemblance, and Sirius was an absolute bear in the morning, though until late in his life he'd been alright once woken up. Remus wasn't entirely sure Regulus wouldn't still be a bear after he'd gotten up.
Regulus was still asleep. "Sorry, man," Remus muttered, turning the alarm on the clock until it went off. The werewolf winced under the noise, which was particularly hard on his sensitive ears, but it had no effect on Regulus. Remus sighed again—Sirius had been this hard to wake up, too. He wasn't, however, familiar enough with the younger brother to wake him up with a jet of water like he used to with Sirius; instead he reached out a hand to shake Regulus by the shoulder.
Just as soon as a grabbed it, however, Regulus stirred. He groaned and sat up. "What is it?" he muttered, looking hazily around. "Lupin?"
Remus shook his head. "I believe we established that idea last night."
"What time is it?" Regulus asked, combing his hair out of his face with his fingers.
"Sometime around five-thirty, I believe," Remus answered with a shrug. "We thought it best to let you sleep, after all. But if you want to talk to Dumbledore, you're going to have to get up."
Regulus nodded, and Remus left him to get up and get dressed. Regulus took his time about it, but still came downstairs only half awake. Molly Weasley was ushering Ginny, Ron, and Hermione up the stairs. "Remus was beginning to wonder if you decided against talking to Dumbledore and went back to sleep," she commented.
"No, I'll talk. I want to know what the hell is going on, after all," Regulus answered, yawning. "What this is doing in my parents' house, and all that."
Molly shook her head. "I suppose technically it's your house, now," she commented.
Regulus jumped at the idea, staring oddly at her. "Well . . . perhaps," he said slowly. Before he detained her in making sure the three teenagers were really holed up in Hermione and Ginny's bedroom, halfheartedly complaining about not knowing what was going on, Regulus continued downstairs.
Remus, who had been talking to a scruffy-looking younger man, looked up when he came in, but didn't say a word. Moody likewise ignored him. Regulus was not particularly bothered by it, and sat down, still rubbing his aching head. He'd have thought he'd drunk firewhiskey instead of coffee.
It wasn't long before the kitchen door opened and another person appeared. Regulus looked up, under the assumption that it would only be Molly, but it was in fact someone entirely different. Instead of a plump redheaded mother, he saw a man a few years older than he was with sallow skin and greasy black hair, a good deal taller than Regulus would have been standing. His eyes swept the room. "Hullo, Severus," Regulus said mildly.
Severus Snape's eyes landed on the other man, and they widened just slightly at the sight of him. "Regulus Black?" he asked softly.
"Nott swore you were dead. . . ." Snape commented softly. "I'd thought I'd told you to run for it, but apparently you hadn't listened."
"Oh, I listened— but I altered things slightly. Besides, you're taking the word of an idiot— and a street full of people swore they saw Peter Pettigrew die, after all," Regulus answered coolly. "I guess I never got the chance to really thank you for the warning."
"Yes, you're welcome, but how in hell did you—"
"Survive? Ask Lupin. I explained it last night, and I really don't care to explain it again," Regulus answered, his voice still mild. He got along with Snape better than most people did, but neither had ever actually considered the other a friend.
Snape shook his head. "I'd rather die than ask Lupin for anything," he reminded Regulus dryly. "So I suppose I am left waiting for you to be in a more humoring mood."
Regulus shrugged, rubbing his temples. "If Molly Weasley actually gave me enough information to guess that this is the Order of the Phoenix, you're one of the last people I'd eve expect here," he couldn't help but comment.
"If you're right, someone else can try to explain my presence later," Snape retorted.
"Well, I can think of a few people I would be even more surprised to see— Malfoy for instance, or Bella. If Pettigrew were here I think I'd find his body with Lupin just over there," Regulus announced, yawning.
"We may have to agree to disagree on that," Snape commented. "Lupin's considerable bloodlust comes out only once a month, after all."
Regulus shrugged. "Well, he can't help it after he was bit, Severus, and he was bit before he came to Hogwarts. I can hardly see how to hold what a man is against him." He shrugged again. "Well, in agreeing to disagree I suppose you're probably right."
Snape cocked his head and muttered something about Slytherins, retreating to another corner of the room where he could join in the conversation of Moody and Tonks. Professor McGonagall showed up as Molly came back down, and after a little while the room was more or less full— it wasn't until then that Dumbledore appeared. The headmaster of Hogwarts glanced around the room, until his eyes locked on Regulus. "I see we have someone new in our midst— do you care to introduce yourself?"
"Regulus Black, sir."
Dumbledore blinked and adjusted his half-moon spectacles. "Well, Mr. Black, I'm glad to announce that I cannot be wholly taken aback, as I have met people who did not really die before, however I must express something of an interest in your presence."
Since Tonks and Remus already knew anyway, his answer wasn't quite so awkward. "I'm an unregistered animagus, and I spent the past sixteen years hiding out in France as a fox," he confessed. "When I finally decided I would come back home, I found this." Regulus gestured around him, at the meeting beginning around them. "Um . . . is it the Order of the Phoenix, by any chance? Molly Weasley said something along those lines. . . ."
Dumbledore shrugged as Snape and Moody had. "What would your reaction be if it were?"
"I'd ask you what the hell it was doing in my parents' house, to be honest with you, Professor," Regulus admitted. "Then I'd ask to join. I've had my taste of where Voldemort lies, and I've decided that things'd be a lot better if they continued without him."
"A wise choice to make," Dumbledore murmured. "To answer your question, Mr. Black, the Order of the Phoenix is housed in your parents' old home because Sirius offered the place to us as headquarters when it was first reformed. After his death, we questioned whether or not we should continue to hold it here, as who inherited it was something of a question, but with you here, I suppose you wouldn't mind if we continued to make use of it?"
"What?" Regulus had to pause before he answered, piecing the parts of Dumbledore's sentences together. "Oh, yes . . . I wouldn't suppose I'd have a problem," he answered. "And about joining?"
Dumbledore smile thinly. "Unlike I've been told Voldemort has, there is nothing elaborate about the way we accept members. You're an overage wizard and we need all the support we can get— besides, an animagus often complained of for being a good spy is beyond all doubt an asset, don't you think?" he answered mildly.
Regulus nodded, startled.
"I believe, Headmaster, though I suppose you may have forgotten, that some of that is my job," Snape announced coldly.
"I am aware of that, Severus. However, I think that we could use anyone with the ability to keep track of Voldemort. Besides, some of the escaped Death Eaters, especially as we knew we couldn't keep them in Azkaban long, continue to be more or less unaccounted for. You might appreciate the lift in some of your workload."
"At least its by another Slytherin," Snape acknowledged grudgingly. In an undertone, he added, "Moody hardly trusts me, and I've shown him I can be trusted. Do you really think allowing another former Death Eater into our midst wise?"
"Fewer people know Regulus is a Death Eater than know you are one," Dumbledore reminded him. "I doubt very many will recognize the name."
Albeit grudgingly, Snape nodded. "I suppose," he murmured. Obviously, he didn't like having even a ghost of a hint that he couldn't do it himself. Regulus smiled humorlessly. Sixteen years and Severus Snape, at least, hadn't changed.
Author's Note: Another chapter, and hopefully a better chapter than my last one. Thanks to The parrot has ceased to be and horn-head for the reviews! Padfoot: Since I forgot to mention it last time, I'm glad you approve that Regulus is considerably more cautious than dear Sirius, as for the rest you'll have to see. As always, if you're reading, tell me what you think! Cheers! — Loki