Disclaimer: If I really owned Harry Potter, d'you think I'd waste my time writing for a non-profit internet site?

Here's a new story, something I wrote for a challenge on Mugglenet.

Almost time.
Don't think I can do it.
How could I?
Sirius was always the brave one.

It is the night of my eighteenth birthday. I ought to be celebrating and eating cake. Ten years before, when I was eight, mother threw me a massive party. We ate chocolate cake with the words "Happy Birthday, Reggie" in red icing, and mother let me open my presents for everyone to see. New clothes, some books, sellotape from cousin Bella.

Tonight I stand with the future murderers and criminals of Britain. Tonight I stand, shivering, waiting to join them.

'Nervous, ickle cousin?' asks Bellatrix. I want to sneer at her, to say something so astoundingly witty and biting she will never call me 'ickle cousin' again. I think of the great things I could say, wiping the smirk off her pale face.

They never leave my mouth. Bella gives me a half-nervous smile; some things are better left unsaid.

It must be nearly time by now. The Dark Lord is eager to meet me, cousin Bellatrix hisses. I want to be eager in return, but an icy band has clenched around my heart. I don't want to do this anymore. Sirius used to say only the stupid and the weak would even dream of joining forces with the Dark Lord. I know he sees me as stupid and weak. My parents, my friends, my old school enemies - they all see me as stupid and weak.

The problem is that I can't find it in me to disagree.

Some people are born to lead, like Sirius. Sirius commanded the troops when we played 'war', Sirius planned mischief, and Sirius is ring-leader of a group of loyal followers. Some have got only enough courage to follow.

Don't go there, Regulus, stay in your seat, no - do this, no - don't do that, don't talk back but stand up for yourself, forget your brother and don't follow his path, make something of yourself, you useless sod!

They tell me do this, not that. They tell me to keep me in check, to make sure I toe the line. They tell me be brave, but do not stand up to me. Courage is not your standing point, Regulus. Leave the courage to the Leaders.

Mother made me sing as a boy. I didn't want to sing. I wanted to be George Stachenbach on the English National Team and play Quidditch. I wanted to fly and forget stupid melodies. 'You're off key, Reggie. Hit that note, Reggie. Higher, boy, higher!'

What will you do if you can't sing, Regulus?
Play Quidditch, of course.
And what will Quidditch get you in life?
Fat lot of good more than singing.

I never wanted to sing, but I sang for her because she asked me to. I read the papers for father and promised Sirius that I would not to get carried away in Purist nonsense and promised mother and father to be a good soldier and fight. Fight for the purity of wizarding blood and all you hold dear in this world.

I never wanted to be a Death Eater, or fight for the good of wizard-kind. I never wanted to risk my neck or make a promise. I never wanted to be here, to listen to Bella, to betray my brother, to hurt, torture, punish, kill. Never in my life did I want to kill.

Bella says it's midnight now and the Dark Lord wants to see me, wouldn't you know? She takes my hand, andI know my face must be pink from fighting the urge to run. Bella says I am a twat for being so afraid, and the Dark Lord is a wonderful person. It really is my privilege to meet him.

But Bella cannot hear my heart hammering in my chest. It plays a tune I learnt in singing lessons. March of the Dead. Bella does not see my wide eyes, pleading.

No, Bella. Take me home, please. Take me home and let me forget I ever made this horrible mistake. She holds my hand.

"Isn't this exciting Reggie?"

Oh, yes. Exciting. I am going to die, or kill, or both. I am going to become a bad person. I don't want to be a murderer, criminal, slave. I don't want to be a Death Eater.

But I will, because they tell me to.