Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing associated with Harry Potter, as you should well know. All credit should be directed towards J.K. Rowling.
A/N: So in English class a couple months ago, we did this Surrealist poetry exercise called the "Exquisite Corpse". It was really awesome, and I remembered it today and decided to Google it and came across this sentence:
"Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau."
Which in turn provided the inspiration for this story. This is a oneshot about one of Regulus' first real raids as a Death Eater.
Le Cadavre Exquis
Regulus Black walked in the midst of a crowd of people wearing masks and billowing black robes, whose whispering filled his ears, and could not remember ever feeling so isolated.
He felt the wise face of the moon staring down accusingly upon him and attempted to immerse himself more fully into the center of the group, trying to remember that tonight, he was one of these shadows.
Loose bits of gravel and stone threatened to betray his steps as timid and unsure. Indeed, a chunk of stone had managed to find its way into his shoe and was now digging painfully into his heel. He tried to ignore it—to push it out of his mind, but the stone was much akin to the sense of disquiet gnawing on the very precipice of his thoughts, reminding him, in a voice that sounded annoyingly like Sirius, of the consequences of what he was about to do.
In a vain attempt to distract himself from the task at hand, he gazed at the Death Eater walking directly in front of him, knowing instinctively that it was Bella. Her distinctive strut, one that Regulus had tried and failed to make his own, was apparent, even now, swathed in layers of mysterious swishing fabric. She walked, head held high, shoulders back, with hard, even steps. Regulus was sure that, although her face was obscured by a mask, her eyes were smoldering with pride.
He was equally sure that the Death Eater directly to his left was Lucius Malfoy, for he carried himself with a sort of casual elegance and refinement that Regulus envied. Though he was encirled by at least three or four more Death Eaters, he found that he neither knew nor truly cared about the identities of the others who surrounded him.
Suddenly self-conscious, he half hoped that no one member of the group was studying his steps, for he had always felt his gait to be too short and his stride to be truncated, resulting in his quick and uneasy footsteps.
In no time, it seemed, their group came upon a brick house whose pane-glass windows gleamed eerily in the moonlight. Ivy crept up the brick walls, as though it were trying to suffocate the house.
Regulus could see a small, flickering orange light in one of the windows and wondered if the woman inside had any inclination as to what was about to occur within her home. It had been confirmed that she was a lower-level member of Dumbledore's resistance movement and that she had saved some worthless Muggles from being tortured to death. It was ironic. In saving others, she had damned herself. Of course, Bella had felt that this could not stand—that this woman had to be instilled with proper wizard feeling, and deserved to be punished for her transgressions against wizards.
But did she deserve it? Did anyone, really, deserve this?
This was the thought (the one in Sirius' voice no less) that had been antagonizing him since he discovered that he was to be included on this mission.
"This is your chance, cousin." A voice broke the surface of his musings. Bellatrix had whirled around and gripped his arm in what, undoubtedly, was intended to be a bracing way, but felt more like a steely vise that chained him, bound him to this moment.
Several of the group members patted his back or laid hands on his shoulder, and he tried to swallow the hard lump in his throat, tried to shake his head proudly, tried to appear jaded and unafraid while Bella prepared to open the front door.
"Three…two…one," Bella hissed, and with a soft click, the door swung open silently on its hinges.
Regulus crept in stealthily, flanking Bella, his wand slippery in his sweaty hands. The house was undoubtedly old, and smelled strongly of old books. To him, the house appeared deserted. Where was the woman? His eyes roved from armchair to bookcase to mantelpiece, searching for a form that even vaguely resembled a woman. He found none.
'Perhaps,' he thought, his spirits lifting ever so slightly, 'she isn't home? But no.' He bitterly remembered the soft glow of the candle in the window and felt his hopes plummet once more.
"They're in the kitchen." Lucius whispered softly, rejoining the group. Regulus hadn't even taken notice of his absence. "Listen." And sure enough, dull clinking sounds were emanating from the rear of the house.
'They'? Regulus wondered wildly, feeling his wand shoot from his fingers like a bar of soap to land with a clatter on the floor. Bella glared at him, and he stooped quickly to retrieve it, sweat pouring down his back and his face.
They gathered in a clump near a wooden door towards the back of the house. Regulus, nearly sick with dread, nudged the door open on Bella's command.
He caught a glimpse of the scene beyond: A woman in a dressing gown and fluffy slippers carefully lowered a large platter of meat directly in the center of the table. A man drank from a wineglass and was gazing lovingly at a young girl, no more than five or six years of age, whose toes barely scuffed the wooden floor. She clutched a ragged teddy bear in one hand and wore ribbons in her hair.
He saw their expressions of naked surprise, could smell the lovely warm scent of a home-cooked meal mixing with the fear that was fast permeating the room, heard Bella's shout in his ear and the pitiful shrieks of the little girl, shut his eyes, and ran headlong into the room, wand out. He heard the others stomping in behind him, firing off curses as they ran. He sent curses and hexes whizzing about in the general direction of the family, blind, not caring whom he hit, really. He just wanted to appear as though he was doing something. Anything at all.
Multicolored flashes of light beat a violent tattoo against his eyelids and he felt something ice cold graze his temple. Shrieks and curses and screams mingled together to form one shrill, high pitched, agonizing noise that Regulus wanted, with all his strength, to blot out. Even now, deprived of sight, the scene became suddenly overwhelming to him. He wished he had kept his eyes open, for if he had, he wouldn't be tortured by this imagined scene taking place behind his eyes. For what if he opened his eyes and discovered that he had felled his fellow Death Eaters in lieu of the family? The agony within him rose to a fever pitch. He wanted to leave—to escape.
When he thought that he could surely bear no more, all fell blissfully silent. Regulus cracked his eyes open and felt numb relief washing over him. The family lay dead, none of the Death Eaters seemed hurt, and no one seemed to have noticed that his eyes had been shut the entire time.
He gazed around, surveying the damage. A gaping hole had been blown through the roof, letting in a single long ray of moonlight. The furniture was upended, and many panes of glass had been blasted out of the windows, letting the cool night air in to play along their faces.
Bella stood in the corner, kicking idly at the body of the little girl. "Ugly child, looks like a pig," Bella murmured to a Death Eater on her left whom Regulus did not know. The Death Eater let out a derisive laugh and kicked the body over so that the girl lay facedown on the floor. Something that looked suspiciously like blood covered the back of her nightdress. In a gruesome imitation of life, the teddy bear lay gutted on the floor beside her, pouring its stuffing out onto the ground. Regulus looked away swallowing hard.
Lucius stood at the counter, swirling a crystal wine glass under his nose before sipping at it. Shuddering at what Regulus could only assume was its poor quality, he let the wine glass fall onto the floor, sending shards of glass everywhere and grinding the stem under his heel. A splatter of darkest burgundy stained the floor.
Regulus started as Bella made her way over to him. Perhaps she had seen him and was going to chastise him for his behavior? He scraped around wildly, trying to think of an excuse as to why he had shut his eyes.
"I will make your contribution to the Dark Lord's cause tonight known." He could tell that she was smiling and proud underneath her black mask. "I have decided that you are to conjure the Mark tonight." She laid a hand on his shoulder, and then motioned the other Death Eaters to follow her outside.
Regulus drew in a deep, steadying breath. He was alone now. Silently, as though the corpses might spring up at the slightest sound, he tiptoed towards the center of the room. The corpse of the woman lay sprawled on top of the kitchen table, a wand clutched loosely in her left hand, her pink dressing gown crumpled around her bare shoulders, a finely wrought silver chain clasped around her neck. The moonlight fell over her body like an effervescent shawl, making her skin glow pale and shining in the darkness.
He took another deep breath. He twisted closer, steadying himself, ready to look into the face of death for the first time, and finding, almost disappointedly, that death was apparently blind. The woman's pale eyes gaped openly and unseeingly upwards, reflecting the light of the moon. Her lips were parted, too, in some kind of stifled, silent scream. Regulus noted with a shudder the fresh, thick, dark blood, dark as the wine that stained the floor, which had pooled in her throat and trickled out of the corner of her lips, staining her strange skin.
Moving still closer, and resisting the urge to retch, he studied her face with a sort of morbid curiosity, wanting to know why he found her so entrancing. She was by no means pretty, nor had she any particularly striking features. The moon, however, hit her pale skin and made it beautiful and alive, though all the life had already left her body. The moon. He tugged the shining chain from around her neck and pocketed it.
Realizing his sense of disquiet even more forcefully than before, he backed way and raised his wand, aligning it with the hole in the ceiling. A dry, strangled word emerged from his cracked lips, and a green shadow blossomed from his wand's tip to float in the sky. It filtered the light of the moon, corrupting and perverting it, changing the corpse's skin to a sickly green.
He scampered out the back door, moving out of the shadows to be judged by the face of the moon, and Apparated away, the grass springing up slowly where he had stood.