It all starts innocently enough. They lure him in with sweet words and promises of making his family happy, promises that do not befit their status as the evil of society.
Regulus Black is not weak, and yet it does not take much for him to give in. He is not a Gryffindor, grey-eyed and reckless and able to escape his house on a motorbike he's still legally too young to own. Regulus is a Slytherin, and, he thinks, it is simply a different kind of bravery: not the courage to do what is right, but to live with yourself when your decisions are not quite so noble. There is no absolute house for anyone, more an eclectic mix of traits, ruled by the dominant, the absolute one (like everything else).
But Regulus Black does not always believe in absolutes.
He thinks of them as metaphors for disaster, those over embellished lines of poems that lead to suffocation of the mood. Whispers lurk in the shadows of each meeting; Peter Pettigrew has turned traitor, they say, he's going to lead us to the Potters. He knows nothing of whether or not it's true, but he wonders, and then he laughs.
Regulus just laughs, because the Potters will lead to Sirius, the most absolutely reckless and absolutely stupid of them all.
"We need your help."
Lucius is his cousin-in-law, though how anything other than their shared silvery blonde hair binds he and Narcissa together, Regulus does not understand. He's as Slytherin as they come, the next best thing to Salazar's heir himself, everyone says, and this time, Regulus bites his top lip to trap the laughter in his mouth. Lucius Malfoy is sardonic, arrogant, and bully, and quite possibly a mirror image, personality wise at least, of Regulus' older brother.
There is no eternal damnation, he thinks, no eternal glory, no absolution, but there are choices.
Regulus has made enough of those to know.
"What are you doing, Regulus?" Narcissa asks him one evening. They are trapped in the Malfoys' tearoom; the smell of the green tea encases his senses, and Regulus gags.
"What do you mean?"
"You're not the killing sort," Narcissa says simply. "This -" she pokes him gently in the chest, but her manicured nails, pearly white at the tips, make it feel like a stab "- life, it's not for you."
"That's what you think."
She's right, he's not the killing sort, but he can always dream, right? With that, Regulus turns on his heel and marches out.
He wonders what Bellatrix would say if she knew what he thought – that being Sirius would be fun, that at least the Order of the Phoenix knew how to laugh, that… sometimes he really hated this place.
Regulus can't even remember why he said yes to Lucius' please in the first place. It had something to do with Sirius, because like it or not, everything has something to do with Sirius.
"Regulus," Travers calls one night, trapped behind a musty cloud of smoke that caused him to emit a hacking cough. "We're going to find the Potters tonight. Word has it that they're lying low at the McKinnons'."
"At the McKinnons? But… they're half blood. I can't believe someone could be so stupid as to drag their family into it." The irony of it all kills him, because half the reason he's in the mess is because of his family.
"What do you expect?" Travers drawls, with yet another cough. "The fact that they're half blood is the exact reason they're stupid."
Regulus hides his disgust with a cough of his own, slapping Travers on the back as though it was a particularly good joke. "Yeah… you're right. Let's go get them."
He remembers now: he never wanted to be like Sirius, because Sirius was one who did believe in absolutes. Now, it's too late to change his mind, and one absolute does exist: regret.
"James, run!" Sirius' voice is the first thing Regulus hears when they arrive at the McKinnons' place, and then there's a bang and a crash, and the sound of spells whizzing through the air. Regulus stands in the middle of the battle, firing curses – only some of which actually strike a target, and they're not strong enough to kill – right and left as he tries to keep an eye on his brother. His brother, who sends others, like Potter's pregnant wife, to safety. His brother, who can duel two Death Eaters at once and manage to send both sprawling into a hedge clutching their stomachs with grimaces of pain. His brother, the absolutely invincible.
They're all fighting to the death: this is no normal raid, this is a battle of superiority and asserting absolute authority. Regulus sighs, because there's that word again, and he hates it and honestly, there are no absolutes.
Sometimes, Regulus wishes he was a stranger to this world.
"Dear little Regulus," Sirius mocks. "Always doing what Mummy Dearest and Narcissa and Bellatrix said."
There's chuckles from behind him, some obnoxious, some wary, and Sirius' friends come into play. They spur him on with wide smiles, as Sirius taunts him again and again. Regulus feels oddly disassociated from the whole experience – if he pretends this is not Sirius, he can fight back; if he pretends this is not Sirius, he can kill – and the realisation that he can feel cold cement against his cheek and congealed blood on his scalp comes as a shock.
Regulus watches his brother walk away, and as much as he pretends that it is not Sirius, he cannot pretend that he does not envy him. He wants to be like his brother, no matter what he tells anyone else.
"… come on Regulus, just this once. I promise Mum will never know."
"… your ability at Potions is astounding Regulus, almost as good as your brother's at Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"C'mon James, let's get him!"
Regulus swallows more of the potion, his pain and his ache pouring over into the goblet as he fills it again. This is absolutely insane, and for the first time, Regulus thinks this might make sense: maybe Sirius had the right idea, after all.
He drinks himself into oblivion, and waits for the end to come. Regret does not exist here; this is the absolution.
Stars, hide your fires!
Let not light see my black and deep desires.
This is a response to my Shakespeare Challenge on the Reviews Lounge/Harry Potter Fanfiction Challenges forums. I used the quote (above), very loosely, but it was the inspiration for this story, which never exactly went where I wanted it to, but I like anyway. I've also written an Edward/Tanya story (from Twilight), for this challenge. It's posted on my other account, beautiful-insanityx, if you want to read it. In the meantime, I'd love a review, no matter what you have to say. ;D