Author's Note: An earlier (pre-DH) version of this is posted over at FictionAlley, under a different name. I recommend this version, though.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of this, unfortunately. Oh, don't I wish.

Mortal Once More

"I shall tell you a great secret my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day." -- Albert Camus

"Regulus and I had a little chat this morning," Sirius began, pacing his Auror mentor's office.

Moody looked at James, who had taken it upon himself as the official best friend and moral supporter of Sirius to lie around on the couch reading Magick magazine. "Does that mean they had a fistfight?"

James never even took his eyes off the page. "No."

Sirius eyed them impatiently even as he yet again ran through the unpleasant scene in his mind. Regulus had come to tell his brother that he had decided to honour their parents' wishes and join the Death Eaters. Even though Orion and Walburga refused to acknowledge the fact that Sirius had even been born, Regulus still kept in quiet contact with him.

The younger Black hadn't reckoned on Sirius's high standards, however. After Regulus's soft announcement, Sirius had only smiled -- a smile that James, Remus, Peter and Moody would have recognized. Then they would have gleefully began taking bets on how few words it would take for Sirius to send the poor fool packing.

It took nine ("If I see you again, I will kill you.") and a slammed door. A rather mild flair of anger for the temperamental nineteen-year-old, but he refused to lose his temper with an idiot.

Moody turned back to Sirius. "Well?"

"They are going to find his body at the bottom of a river someday and nobody's going to hunt down the killer."

"Oh?"

"Yes. He has just confirmed my belief that they're all completely mad. My relatives, I mean. Except for possibly Andromeda."

Moody waited, and the whole story spilled out. By the time it was over, Moody was both thoughtful and interested. James hadn't moved a muscle, which was odd, since if Moody found it interesting, James would find it downright exciting. Sirius leaned over the back of the couch to peer at the article he was reading.

Magick's Top Ten Sexy And Sultry Summer

Honeymoon Spots

Sirius snickered. James, to be married in three weeks, was completely absorbed and didn't notice he was being laughed at until Sirius stole his glasses off his nose.

As James blindly lunged and Sirius easily dodged, Moody asked, playing along and pretending no to notice James's plight, "And how do you really feel about this?"

"Ready to become an only child," Sirius replied as he sidestepped. James rammed into Moody's desk, knocking down a stack of files in the process.

"Okay, give them back," Moody ordered as he gazed mournfully at the files he would have to reorganize.

Sirius handed the glasses over and James, after putting them on and studying his best friend's face, said, "Gee, Padfoot, you look like you want to bite something. What happened?"

Sirius just rolled his eyes.


One Year Later

Regulus stood on the island, shaking from the potion and staring at his prize, clenched in the scrawny fist of Kreacher.

He had watched, over the years, as the Dark Lord became less ... human, Regulus supposed, was the best word. He listen carefully to his cryptic comments, and finally he had pieced it together: Horcruxes. Most likely more than one. Six, probably, Voldemort being such an idealist, with the seventh part of soul still inside his body. Seven, the most powerful number.

That's the problem with evil villains, though. They are all idealists. And that makes them terribly predictable.

He had been right.

But so had Sirius. Oh, Sirius, you were right. I'm so sorry I didn't listen. I guess I thought I could have both you and Mother and Father. I was so naive; so wrong. I wish I had chosen you.

He reached out to touch the locket. So small and beautiful, yet so evilly dangerous. He pulled out its replacement, and handed over to Kreacher with a shaking hand. "Put it in the basin," he wheezed.

Kreacher was about to drop it when Regulus's sense of irony came to the fore. How, with this blasted potion muddling his brains, he did not know.

I should leave a note.

He had the materials with him, so he didn't see why not. He knelt on the cold stone floor of the island and began to write with a hand that trembled so badly his writing was nearly illegible.

To the Dark Lord

I know I will be dead long before you read this

He did know it; no way was he staying with the Death Eaters.

but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret.

I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.

Obviously. Oh, Voldemort was going to love this.

I face death in hope that when you meet your match

You will be mortal once more.

He considered putting his name, but decided against it. Voldemort would know who he was. Initials would be fine.

R.A.B.

Perfect.

He folded it and Kreacher slipped it inside the false Horcrux, then dropped it all into the basin. There was a clink as it hit bottom, then the potion replenished itself, obscuring the locket from view.

Mission accomplished.

Almost.

You would be proud, Sirius.

"Kreacher . . ."

"Yes, Master?" the elf whimpered. Regulus felt bad about terrifying the poor thing like this, but it needed to be done.

"Take the locket home. Hide it. Protect it. Don't tell anyone it's there. I'll catch up with you as soon as I can, alright?"

Kreacher burst into tears and flung his skinny arms around Regulus, holding as tightly as he could for a few brief moments, then climbed into the boat and used magic to lift it gently into the water and headed for the other, distant shore.

Regulus rested his cheek against the cool stone of the cave floor, then forced himself to clamber to his feet. He could guess what was coming.

The Inferi grabbed him and dragged him under the murky water. He fought on instinct, but the potion had weakened him immensely. Soon, he knew no more.

You would be proud.

End