The Beginning of the End

I don't know what I'm doing here. I really don't. I haven't understood myself for a long time, now. I have so many regrets, and it seems impossible. How could I have made so many mistakes with so few years to make them? I stare into the dark distance and I forget what I'm doing. A tug on my shirt brings me back to the moment.

"Master?"

"Just a minute," I mutter. Devoted eyes stare up at me, and I feel the sharp pang in my soul as I reach my final decision. "Damn," I say in disgust, and then I find myself giggling with hysterical amusement. Damn is right. Well, damned anyway. I have been damned ever since the moment I walked into that room and shook hands with pure evil. And I refuse to take anyone else down with me. Not even this little creature tugging at my clothes and asking me to hurry.

"Wait . . ."

"Yes, Master?" he whispers hopefully.

"I've changed my mind. This is what I want you to do."

I tell him the plan. He doesn't want to do it. Feeling even more wretched than I did a moment before, I tell him he has no choice. I hate doing that. I hate forcing him to serve me. I would much rather have him do it because he wants to, because I give him a reason to. But now, at this moment, I have no choice.

Only once of us is leaving this cave alive. And it's not me.

"Kreacher, I command it. You will take the locket after I drink this, and you will leave this place."

Shit, Voldemort already nearly killed this elf once. What will happen if he gets his hands on Kreacher again? He can't know what I'm doing, he must never know. "You will not tell anyone what happened to me," I say, hating how my voice shakes. My family will never know what became of me. "You have to destroy the locket in this basin. Do you understand? Whatever it takes, destroy it."

The house elf, trembling with the desire to disobey, nods his agreement. "I understand, Master Regulus."

I turn to the basin, and I stare into the depths of it, at the gleam of the locket in the bottom. I'm turning my back on Voldemort, and I'm doing what is in my power to stop him. But I threw my soul away for this mark on my arm, and it is my soul, and mine alone, that I will risk for this. I won't force Kreacher to die for me, as he would. I won't ask it of anyone.

I just wish my brother could know that I'm finally doing something to make him proud. He'll never know now.

"What have I done?" I hear myself whisper. But I know the answer to that. So I lower a cup into the basin and fill it. I raise it to my lips, and my very brief life flashes before my eyes. There is no one left to beg for me before whatever god rules the life after this one. No one to plead for mercy in light of what I'm doing now. There's just me. So I offer a short supplication to whatever is listening.

"Please. Please let this be enough."