Summary: The events leading up to and including Chapter Ten - Kreacher's Tale - of Deathly Hallows, from the point of view of Regulus Black. Originally written for a H.P writing contest, though I only ended up entering the second half of this one-shot in the contest, due to size limitations of the contest. Therefore, I decided to post it in it's entirety here.
Rating: PG-13 for mild swearing, mild violence, torture and character death.
Warning: Deathly Hallows Spoilers and Character Death
Disclaimer: I do not in any way lay claim to any character or location within the Harry Potter Universe, they all belong to the wonderful JK Rowling and I'm merely borrowing them for this story. This is a not-for-profit fiction. The only profit received is pure entertainment. Original characters of Adaline Rosier, Madeline McKinnon and Rosaline Prewett are copyright of wandaXmaximoff, 2008.
Author's Notes: Many thanks to the wonderful Peggy (Medieval Mystic -- User ID: 79638) for doing such a fantastic job beta'ing this one-shot for me.
I must prove myself to them, I must show them that I'm not like him, were the thoughts that consumed me after he'd left home.
Sirius was always the favorite son when we were growing up – that is until his first year at Hogwarts. Before either of us had started school, he'd been the golden child. The Black family heir, the outgoing one, the more intelligent of the two of us. I fell under the radar. Just cute little Reg, too shy to even say boo to a mouse.
Then Sirius went off to Hogwarts and all that changed. He was sorted into Gryffindor and made friends with that blood-traitor, Potter. I stopped being the secondary son and became the family's only hope for pure-blood honor.
When I started Hogwarts a year later, much to my parents' relief, I was sorted into Slytherin. I got a racing broom as a gift just because the sorting hat had followed family tradition where I was concerned.
My years at Hogwarts flew by, and as Sirius became more distant from the family, I was closer embraced by them. When I became the Slytherin Quidditch team's seeker in my third year, mother sent me a huge box of Honeydukes chocolates as a reward.
Everything was going wonderfully for me. I was popular in my school house, my grades were good, and I was making a name for myself on the Quidditch field. For the first time in my life, I truly felt loved and not as though I was just a poor imitation of my older brother.
My mother and father stopped caring about Sirius and his blood-traitor ways now that they had a son they could be really proud of.
However, once again, Sirius changed all that and shattered the peaceful existence I'd been living for the past five years.
During the summer just before my sixth year, and as he was about to start his seventh, Sirius made a selfish choice that rocked the entire family to the core. Obviously, his time in Gryffindor – surrounded by blood-traitors and worst still mudbloods – had changed him forever. Gone was the little amount of family pride he'd had left upon starting Hogwarts. In its place there was now only defiance and hatred for the Dark Arts. After a particularly heated argument with Father, Sirius stormed out of the house and vowed never to return. Days later, we heard gossip that he'd gone to permanently live with the Potters.
My father was irate and instantly burnt Sirius' name from the Black family tapestry, while Mother was utterly heart broken. For days, she locked herself in her room and wept over the son she'd 'lost'. I think, deep down inside, she'd always hoped that once Sirius had graduated from Hogwarts – and had less contact with all the bad influences – that he'd return to the family fold and put right the dishonor he'd caused them. Sadly though, this was not to be the case, and his decision to leave home brought the biggest shame possible down upon us.
I had – wrongly – assumed that in the days after Sirius' desertion, my parents would pull me closer still to them, seeing me for what I was – the true pure-blood heir – and treasuring my devotion to the family. However, Sirius' forsaking of family values had the opposite effect. Now, my very loyalty was being called into question, as my parents whispered about me behind closed doors – debating if I really was going to be the Saviour of the family and return the Black name to it's former honor, or if I too had a secret hidden agenda and was I about to shame them like he had all over again.
For the first time in five years, the love I'd grown accustomed to – the love I needed to survive as a person – was taken away from me. My parents withdrew their affections; like a child been punished by having his favorite toy confiscated, and I went back to being the secondary son. The one no one noticed, the one who it wouldn't really matter if he ran away.
That's when I realized I had to do something – something big – to prove to them once and for all that I wasn't like him, that I wasn't the same as Sirius. I knew the meaning of pure-blood honor and family values. I wouldn't shame them like he had. No, I'd do something so spectacular that they'd forever be proud of me.
I remembered towards the end of my previous year at Hogwarts, there'd been talk about a new Dark power gathering forces. Apparently, there was a wizard who strongly believed that purebloods were supreme to everyone else, and should be treated as such. This new Dark Wizard was going by the name of Lord Voldemort, and from what little I knew of him, he already had a strong army of followers behind him who called themselves his Death Eaters.
That was it, my mind was made up. I knew I had to join Voldemort and become one of his Death Eaters. It was the only way to prove to my family that I was better than Sirius, that I truly did hold Pure-blood values close to my heart. I felt certain that if I joined this Dark Wizard's ranks, that my parents would finally love and accept me like I wanted - no, needed - them to.
The only problem was, how to join? I couldn't exactly walk up to my mother or father – or, riskier still - someone at school and say, 'Erm, yeah, I want to join Lord Voldemort. How do I do it?'. The only way it'd be possible would be to contact one of his Death Eaters and ask them to introduce me to Lord Voldemort. But that in itself posed another problem. Due to the nature of their activities, the Death Eaters weren't exactly forthcoming with their identities. After all, if the Ministry of Magic knew who were really behind those masks, they could just go to the wizard's house, arrest them, and then lock the unfortunate person in Azkaban.
Some of the other boys in my year had bragged about their plans to join Lord Voldemort over the summer, but I didn't know if they were telling the truth or just exaggerating to make themselves look good. And, even if they were being honest about their intention to join the darkest wizard in England, I very much doubted a recommendation from any of them would give me much sway with Lord Voldemort, as I assumed he'd only trust the opinions of his most loyal followers. What I really needed to do was contact someone in his inner circle. Finding such a witch or wizard would be the hard part.
Therefore, I began making a mental list in my head of any older students I'd known – who had possibly already graduated Hogwarts – and had expressed an interest in the Dark Arts. My first thought was Severus Snape - a brilliant Potioneer in the year above me - who I knew from the time he'd spent tutoring me in potions last year, that he had an affinity for the Dark Arts.
However, I dismissed that idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, Snape was a very private person and had shown no real indication of his political standing concerning blood status. Plus, I had absolutely no idea where he lived, and therefore no way whatsoever of contacting Snape. Finally, until the end of his fifth year, Snape had had a rather obvious crush on the Gryffindor mudblood Lily Evans, and I very much doubted that a guy who had once had feelings for someone like her would be rushing to join Lord Voldemort.
My next thought was my cousin Narcissa and her new husband Lucius Malfoy. It had been a well known fact at Hogwarts that Lucius despised mudbloods, and set a lot of store by the status of someone's bloodline. I felt sure he'd be the type of person to join Lord Voldemort's ranks. It would be getting him to agree to introduce me to the Dark Lord which would be the problem. My cousin Cissy still saw me as the shy little boy who has been too scared to play hide and seek with her, my other cousin Bellatrix and Sirius back when we were children. I knew without doubt that Narcissa would never let Lucius take me to meet Lord Voldemort, thinking it her duty to protect me.
The memories of my childhood had sparked another idea in my mind, however, and I thought of my oldest cousin Bellatrix. Bella was ten years older than I was and as dark as Cissy was fair. Even at an early age, Bellatrix had shown an unquenchable hatred for mudbloods, a love of Dark Arts, and a desire to – in her words – 'rid the wizarding world of lower lifeforms'. There was no doubt in my mind that she'd be the type of person to join Lord Voldemort's growing army, and actually suspected she'd done so as soon as she'd graduated Hogwarts. Therefore, I felt sure – with her fiery ambition, obsession with blood status and constant wanting to prove herself better than everyone else – that Bella would have already become part of the Dark Lord's inner circle and was the perfect person to ask about introducing me to him. Additionally, I knew Bellatrix wasn't the type of person to go running to my mother and father telling tales about what I planned to do, and that she'd actually relish the chance to recruit a new member to the cause she had undoubtedly committed herself to.
Now that I had decided to ask Bellatrix to make an introduction between myself and Lord Voldemort, the path I was going to take seemed clear in my mind. I knew the Dark Lord would be hard to impress - especially as I was just sixteen - and that I'd have to convince him of my eagerness to join his ranks.
Additionally, I suspected, he would have a string of horrible initiation tasks for me so that I could prove my value and trustworthiness to him. However, I knew joining him was the only way to get what I really needed – the love and respect of my family. I knew becoming a Death Eater wasn't going to be pleasant - more likely what he would ask of me would be horrific - but it would be all worth it in the end, if my dedication to the Dark Lord and pure-blood supremacy afforded me that which I craved more than anything else – to be better and more loved by my parents than Sirius had been before he betrayed us all.
As the summer was drawing to an end and I prepared to start my sixth year at Hogwarts, Mother and Father held their annual Mid-summer ball at Grimmauld Place. As usual, almost everyone in the family were invited, including Bellatrix and her husband Rodolphus Lestrange. Obviously, I was eager to speak to Bella and ask her about setting up a meeting between myself and the Dark Lord. However, I needed to get her alone so that no one else overheard us and tried to interfere with my plans.
Thankfully, the chance presented itself when Bellatrix and Rodolphus snuck away to my father's study half way through the party.
I hesitated momentarily, wondering if the reason they'd slipped away from the gathering was to do something a little more personal. Then I realized I probably wouldn't have the chance to speak to my cousin again before school started, so I had to risk my own embarrassment and her wrath before it was too late.
With trepidation, I knocked on the door to my father's study, then waited for either Bellatrix or Rodolphus to reply.
"Who is it?" my cousin asked in her usual husky voice. Already, the frustration was apparent in her tone, and I feared she might hex me if I said anything further. However, I knew I had to. I had to ask her or my only chance of happiness would be lost.
"It's Regulus," I said with uncertainty. "I need to ask you about something. Something important."
I heard an audible sigh, followed by a grunting noise from Rodolphus, and what sounded suspiciously like robes being quickly thrown back on.
"Come in," she said finally.
As I entered the office, I found Bellatrix reclining on my father's leather sofa – a glass of red wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other – as Rodolphus sat behind the desk, puffing on a cigar.
"What do you want?" he barked, regarding me with annoyance.
I instantly stared at Bellatrix, but when she looked at me coldly, I averted my gaze to the floor.
"I... erm... wanted a word with my cousin...please, Sir," I mumbled to my feet.
With immaculate hearing, Rodolphus heard what I'd stuttered to say, then looked at me steadily, before replying, "Whatever you've got to say to my wife, you can say in front of me. We have no secrets."
While I didn't doubt what Rodolphus had said – Bellatrix had so little shame and self-consciousness that she didn't really have secrets from anyone – I didn't really want my desire to become a Death Eater becoming public knowledge.
However, the steely glare Rodolphus gave me told me that I either said what I wanted to in front of him or not at all, and I knew this was a chance I couldn't pass up.
"Well... I... erm... kind of wanted to ask her... I mean both of you," I hastened to add after another cold glare from Rodolphus, "about Lord Voldemort."
"Don't ever speak his name," Bellatrix hissed at me, her eyes narrowing dangerously. "He is only ever to be addressed as the Dark Lord or - if you're lucky enough - Master."
"I'm...sorry," I stammered in reply. "What I mean is, I want you to tell me about the Dark Lord... please."
"What about him?" Bellatrix inquired her darkly painted lips curling into a sinister sneer. "I'd think you stupid if you didn't already know that he believes in Pureblood supremacy like we do, is gaining a strong amount of followers and that he has real plans to change the Wizarding world for the better."
"Yes, yes. I know all that," I affirmed quickly. "What I need to know is how I can join him."
Bellatrix let out mirthless laugh that actually sounded more malicious than amused - the sound of which filled me with dread.
"Aww, does ickle baby Reggie want to come and play with the big boys?" she asked in a mocking voice.
"Bella, cut it out," Rodolphus barked at her – much to my surprise. "If Regulus is serious about joining the Dark Lord, then we should hear him out. After all, we'll be greatly rewarded for brining a new follower to the Master."
At the prospect of some sort of accolade from Lord Voldemort, Bellatrix's lips once again curled into a devilish grin, and she instantly turned serious.
"Alright, you want to join him. Well, I'll tell you this, firstly, you'll need one of his inner circle to initiate a meeting between you and him. The Dark Lord will not even consider someone unless they're presented to him by someone he trusts. Then, if he even agrees to meet with you, he will more than likely probe your mind with Legilimency to ascertain the real reason you want to enter into his service. After that, he will set you a task to prove your usefulness to him and your willingness to serve him. If you pass all of these criteria, only then will he brand you with the Dark Mark."
At this point, Bellatrix proudly rolled up the sleeve of her robe, and revealed to me the tattoo of a skull being entwined by a snake. I stared at it for a moment, in utter astonishment, wondering how painful it actually was, and what it'd feel like to have it burnt onto my arm.
Then, I voiced my thoughts to all that she's just told me, "Well, that sounds simple enough. I assume you're in his inner circle – you're too clever not to be – so you can arrange a meeting. Then, if the Dark Lord wants to probe me with Legilimency, I'll willingly let him do so. I've got nothing to hide, and I'm actually proud of my reasons for wanting to enter into his service. After that, all I'll have to do is complete the task he sets me, and that can't be too hard, can it?"
"Oh, Regulus, how naive you really are. Nothing in life is ever that easy, especially not when the Dark Lord is involved," Rodolphus said patronizingly. "When he probes your mind with Legilimency, he won't just be looking on the surface at your superficial reasons for wanting to join him. He'll see your whole soul, your inner-most secrets and he'll discover things about you that you probably don't even realize yourself. Then, whatever test he sets you will push you to the limits – including physically, magically and mentally. Finally, if you do succeed in all of that and the Dark Lord makes you one of his Death Eaters, its isn't all about Pureblood supremacy and avoiding Mudblood filth. No, that stuff is more appropriate for the Slytherin common room. Once you're accepted into his servitude, you'll have to prove yourself to the Dark Lord. If you're lucky, that means actually having to kill people and probably being Crucio'ed for even thinking about backing out. If you're not lucky... well... it's best we don't talk about that now. Are you sure you want that, Regulus? Are you sure you can handle it? Because you have to be deadly certain, and I mean deadly."
I gulped and took in a deep breath. Could I really kill someone just to gain the love of my parents? No. But could I live without the affection I so desperately needed? Again, the answer was no, and I knew in the pit of my stomach, I would do anything to gain my mother and father's love. I just hoped, even by joining the Death Eaters, it never came to that.
Therefore, after taking a few minutes to think over everything that both Bellatrix and Rodolphus had said to me, I made my reply. "Yes, I want it. I want it badly."
And I knew by the sinking feeling in my stomach, the tightness in my chest and how my heart felt like lead, that I meant what I said.
I needed to join the Dark Lord and I was willing to accept a lifetime of servitude to him and all the horrible things that came with it, because if I didn't, my parents would keep on worrying that I was like him and then they'd never love me like they once had. They'd never love me like I needed them to.
Three weeks later, and just days before I was due back at Hogwarts, Bellatrix came to visit me – very late at night.
I'd just been getting ready for bed, and was reading a few class books before settling down for the evening, when she wrapped on my bedroom window.
At first, the sound took me by surprise, as no one had used that method of entry to my chambers since we'd all been children and had snuck out of our rooms after curfew. However, apparently my cousin hadn't outgrown the habit of creeping around at all hours.
When I finally realized that someone was outside on my window sill and requesting entry to my bedroom, I hastened to open the window and let them in. As I pushed up the pane and let the chill night air in, I came face to face with a cloaked figure wearing a stark white mask.
"It's me, Bellatrix," she hissed. "Let me in."
I obliged, and opened the window further, then she crawled from the ledge (Merlin only knows how she got up their in the first place) and into my room.
"Get dressed," she commanded me, once she'd righted herself and stood in the center of my bed chamber.
"The Dark Lord wants to see you... now!"
"Now? But it's almost midnight."
"Yes, I know that. But the Master prefers to deal with matters when there's less chance of being found," she explained.
"He summoned me about an hour ago, and when I arrived at his hideout, he insisted he wanted to speak to you."
"Does that mean you've already asked him if I can join?"
"Of course I have. I told him of your intentions as soon as Rodolphus and I left the party. He's just been using this time to consider the proposition."
"Alright then," I conceded, hastily throwing on some clothes. "Where are we going?"
"I can't tell you that. The Dark Lord insists that his hideout remains secret until he knows you can be trusted. After all, you could be a spy or something."
"That's ridiculous, I'm no spy. And how am I meant to get there? I haven't taken my Apparition test yet."
"You'll just have to side-along Apparate with me," she said simply. "Now come on, we can't keep the Master waiting."
I threw on my traveling cloak, then followed Bellatrix out of my open widow – completely forgetting to close it afterwards.
Almost at a run, I chased my cousin across the grounds of Grimmauld Place, then when we reached the end of the anti-Apparition wards, she held out her arm for me.
"On the count of three," she said breathlessly, as I clutched onto her forearm. "One... two... three."
With a swish of Bellatrix's cloak, I felt an unpleasant squeezing sensation - as though being sent through a tight rubber tube - and then we materialized in a wide, deserted field.
"This way," Bella hissed, seeming to have gotten her bearings instantly.
I looked around into nothing but grasslands, with no idea of where we were or where we were heading. However, I didn't have time to adjust to my new location as my cousin took off at a run.
Hastily, I followed Bellatrix as we crossed a field probably as large as the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch.
"You know, you could have told me to bring my broom, it would have been a lot quicker," I panted, clutching at the stitch in my side.
"I don't like flying," Bella called at me over her shoulder She quickened her pace and headed for a more wooded area.
By the time I'd finally caught up with my cousin, she was standing in the middle of the forest, at a part where the trees dwindled to form a small glade.
With her wand raised in one hand, Bellatrix was staring at gnarled Yew tree, muttering words under her breath.
To my astonishment, the center of the tree parted, revealing a large opening.
"This way," she said, taking the lead and stepping through the gap that had formed in the tree.
Hesitantly, I followed after her, and found myself in a small passageway, that sloped downwards into the ground. Then, on our hands and knees, I crawled behind Bellatrix until we came to a dimly lit chamber.
The chamber was nothing more than a small, earth-walled, room with no furniture and only a jade green pillar at the far end.
Bellatrix crossed the room, and then stood directly in front of the pillar, before pulling back the sleeve of her robes.
Even in the diminished light, I caught sight of the Dark Mark on her forearm as she pressed it flat against the length of the pillar.
A slight hissing noise issued from it as her skin touched the jade. Then the earthen walls transfigured to reveal yet another opening.
This time, we walked through into a regal throne room, which was lit with dim green lights and - instead of having the earthen walls of the room before - was decorated with what appeared to be gold leaf.
Slowly, Bellatrix approached the throne, then got down on her hands and knees. It was only once she'd bowed down, that I realized the Dark Lord was sitting in front of us and that I should kneel to him also.
"Master, as you requested, I have brought my cousin Regulus Black to see you," she said, as I pressed my body against the cold ground.
"You've done well, Bellatrix," Lord Voldemort replied, rising from his throne and walking towards her. He then allowed Bella to kiss the hem of his robes – as he patted her head like a dog – before turning his attention to me.
"So, Regulus Black, you want to join your kin in servitude and become one of my Death Eaters?" he asked in almost a whisper, and I felt his deep red eyes penetrating my mind.
"Yes... my... Lord," I stammered back, unsure of how else I should address him.
For what seemed like an eternity, the Dark Lord stared at me, his eyes boring into mine, and I felt certain he was scanning my thoughts with Legilimency.
While he continued to penetrate my mind, I felt the violation, as though someone was stripping away everything I held close to my heart. Heeding the advice given to me by Rodolphus, I tried to hold nothing back and be as honest as possible. However, it was almost impossible to conceal the fear I felt, and I worried the Dark Lord would sense that in me.
"So, you want to prove to your parents that you're better than your Blood-traitor brother – very good," he said finally. "Ah, but what's this I see. You're also hungry for power, glory...and dare I say love? Well, you won't find that here. Love is a pointless emotion and you'd be wise to remember that. Your energies will be much better used – and more helpful to me – if you disregard that sentimental notion now."
I said nothing, simply nodding my head in response, then waiting for him to continue.
"Well, I deem your intentions to be true, so now I will set you a task. If you fail that task, you're forbidden to seek acceptance into my servitude again on threat of death. However, if you pass and your results are to my standards, I will indeed make you one of my Death Eaters."
"Thank you, my Lord," I mumbled to the ground. "I will not fail you."
"I should hope not," Lord Voldemort replied, before returning to his throne.
Contrary to what both Bellatrix and Rodolphus had told me, the task appointed by Lord Voldemort wasn't nearly as difficult as I'd anticipated it to be.
One week after my initial meeting with him, Bellatrix once again came to my home, saying the Dark Lord had summoned us both to him.
When I arrived, Voldemort informed me that he'd been doing some thinking, and had finally decided on what my initiation would be – to find out where and when the next Order of the Phoenix meeting was to be held – and I had just a week to report back to him with my information.
The Order of the Phoenix was reportedly a group of do-good vigilantes, led by Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore. The group's main intent was to stop Voldemort's rise to power, as well as to prevent his Death Eaters from committing crimes in their quest for Pure-blood supremacy. I'd overheard Sirius talking to his Blood-traitor friend Potter once about joining it when they graduated.
As luck would have it, I was now back at Hogwarts, which afforded me the opportunity to snoop around the castle and listen into the conversations of any potential Order members, so that I could attain the information Voldemort required.
My first lead come in Potions class on Thursday afternoon. In my usual seat behind the Gryffindors, I listened in on the conversation between Madeline McKinnon and her friend, Rosaline Prewett.
Apparently, Madeline's mother - Marlene McKinnon - and Rosaline's father - Fabian Prewett - were both members of the Order of the Phoenix and the girls wanted to follow in their parents' footsteps as soon as they were of age.
Hoping one of the two Gryffindors might have some useful information for me, I plotted what my next course of action would be. The easiest option was probably tailing Madeline and Rosaline in secret, until either one of them said more about the Order of the Phoenix. However, without an invisibility cloak, I knew I'd be discovered sooner or later.
I then contemplated threatening the girls to get information out of them, but knew this was a bad idea also. One wrong move from me would result in them going straight to Dumbledore and I'd be found out.
Finally, a solution was presented to me in the form of the Potions assignment set by Professor Slughorn – to make a batch of Veritaserum.
Even though the truth potion took one full moon-cycle to mature when it's being made, I knew there'd be a cauldron of it in the dungeon for us to study, so all I'd have to do is steal a small amount.
The task of taking a small portion of the Veritaserum proved to be even easier than I thought. Pretending I needed to study the exact color and texture of the potion, I went to Professor Slughorn's desk – where it was being kept - and then distracted the Potions Master, by eagerly asking him when the next 'Slug Club' meeting was going to be. The head of Slytherin house was a sucker for flattery and he became so engrossed in telling me that he'd arranged a date a few days before Halloween for the first part of the term, that he didn't even notice me siphon off a small amount of the truth potion and slip it into the vial in my pocket.
Once the potions class ended, I followed Madeline and Rosaline on their way to the Great Hall for lunch, trying to deduce which of the two it would be easier to ply with the Veritaserum. I quickly noticed that while Madeline was quite bold and out-spoken, Rosaline was the shyer of the two, so it would probably be easier getting information from her.
Then, my second lead came, as the two girls suddenly halted in the middle of the Entrance Hall.
"Oh, Merlin, I've forgotten my book-bag," Rosaline exclaimed. "You go an save me a seat at the table, while I run back to the dungeons and grab it."
Knowing this was the perfect opportunity, I quickly turned on my heels and raced back to the potions classroom before Rosaline arrived there. Then, as she entered to collect her forgotten bag, I poured the Veritaserum into a glass, to make it look as though it was merely water.
As the Gryffindor was about to exit the dungeon again, I cast a sly non-verbal Hiccuping Hex on her, and then watched as she began spluttering.
"Here, do you want a glass of water?" I offered, handing her the Veritaserum.
Rosaline looked at me hesitantly, but then another hiccup caused her to loose any doubt she had and take the drink from me. As she gulped it down in one, I uttered the counter-spell to stop the hiccuping, and then waited for the truth potion to take effect.
"Thanks, Black," she said finally, handing the glass to me. "You know, you're really not as bad as your brother makes out."
"Erm... thanks," I muttered in reply, unsure if she has said this because of the Veritaserum or not. Then to test if my plan had worked, I asked "So, what do you think of Professor Slughorn?"
"Actually, I think he's a little bias towards Slytherins, you know. I mean, he always invites you to his 'Slug Club', but never asks Madeline or me, and our grades are as good as yours."
That was enough for me, as I knew the usually shy Rosaline wouldn't normally speak of a professor in that way.
"Maybe you're right," I commented, playing along with her. "Perhaps you should do something about it. I heard my brother talking of some sort of Gryffindor club Dumbledore runs once before, maybe you should see if you can join that?"
"Oh, you mean the Order of the Phoenix?" she blurted out. "Yeah, mine and Madeline's parents are members of that, but they won't let us join until we're of age."
"That's unfair, you're only a year too young, and I'm sure you're a lot cleverer than half of the people who have already graduated. Maybe you should go along to the next meeting anyway. I mean, once you're already there, they can't turn you away, can they?"
"Thanks for the idea, Black," she replied with a thoughtful smile. "I might suggest it to Madeline. The only problem is, the next meeting is this weekend and we won't be able to get out of school for it."
"That's a shame. Where is it? If it's in Hogsmeade or something, perhaps you can sneak out? I know Sirius is always bragging about all the secret passageways around this place. Maybe if you asked him about them, he could help you out?"
"Oh, now there's an idea. I over-heard my dad telling my uncle that the meeting will be at the Hog's Head, so maybe there's some way I could go after all."
I smiled triumphantly to myself, having gotten the information Voldemort required, then said, "Well, it's worth a try, isn't it? If it's something you believe in, you should go for it."
Again, Rosaline looked thoughtful for a minute, then replied, "You're right, I'm going to go for it. Thanks for the encouragement, you really are a nice guy."
I grimaced a little, her last comment causing me to feel guilty for how I'd used this innocent girl to get what I wanted. However, I knew my next move would take all of that away, and if what I'd done allowed me to become a Death Eater, then it'd all be worth it.
"You're welcome," I returned, then, as she went to leave the dungeon, I muttered the Obliviate charm, so that Rosaline completely forgot about talking to me in the dungeon at all.
As Rosaline walked back to the Great Hall with a dazed look on her face, I raced up to the West Tower - where the Owlery was located – to write a message to Bellatrix, telling her I needed to see the Dark Lord as soon as possible.
The following day, I was called to Professor Dumbledore's office. Fearing the worst, I thought up an elaborate story as to why I'd given a fellow student Veritaserum and had then modified her memory. However, when I entered the headmaster's study, I saw my cousin waiting there for me, and knew that I was off the hook.
"I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Mister Black, but Bellatrix has just arrived to tell me your mother is sick and wants you to return home as soon as possible. I've just connected my fireplace to the Floo network so that you can leave right away," Dumbledore informed me.
I shot Bellatrix a quick glance, to which she smirked at, and then playing along I asked, "What about Sirius, has he been told Mother is sick too?"
"Again, I'm sorry to have to tell you something so terrible, but Bellatrix has also informed me that since Sirius ran away from home, your mother has requested that he not be told of her illness. I'm sure it's difficult to see your family torn apart at a time like this, but I have to comply with your mother's wishes."
"I understand, Professor, and I wouldn't want to do anything to further upset Mother while she is sick," I replied.
"Quite so," said Professor Dumbledore solemnly. "But perhaps, once you return to the castle, I could speak to both you and your brother to see if we can resolve this terrible situation."
"If you think it will help," I answered, knowing full well that even if Sirius agreed to speak to Dumbledore about our family, he'd never agree to see my mother again anyway.
With a curt nod at me and Bellatrix, Dumbledore gestured towards his fireplace.
"I shan't keep you waiting any longer than need be. Simply send me an owl when you're ready to return and I'll reconnect the fireplaces."
"Thank you, Professor," I said, then glanced again at Bellatrix (who was still smirking), before taking a pinch of Floo powder and stepping into the fireplace.
When we arrived at Grimmauld Place, I hurriedly changed out of my school robes, as Bellatrix told me how she'd pulled one over on Dumbledore and came up with an excuse for me to leave.
"That was absolutely brilliant," I told her, as we raced across the grounds to where the anti-Apparition wards
"Yes, I thought so," she replied with a devilish grin.
Once we made it to Lord Voldemort's hideout in the woods, I quickly entered his throne room, then relayed all the information I'd gathered to him.
"You've done a lot better than I expected, Black," he told me. "Perhaps your cousin is right to see something in you after all."
"Thank you, my Lord. Your praise is an honor," I said, as I bent on my hands and knees to kiss the hem of his robe.
"If I find the information you've given me to be true, then I will keep to my word and make you one of my Death Eaters. I will summon you when that times comes."
I nodded in compliance, then was allowed to leave.
The next time I was summon to the Dark Lord was a week after Halloween. As I once again entered Voldemort's throne room, I found him to be in an unusually happy mood.
"You've excelled yourself, Black," he told me. "Thanks to the information you gave me, I was able to send a number of my followers to the Hogshead, where they managed to accost two Order of the Phoenix members on the way to the meeting. After torturing the blood-traitors, I now have a complete list of everyone in Dumbledore's little group. Well done."
"Thank you, my Lord. It's truly an honor to be of service to you and I'm glad to know that the information I acquired proved to be useful," I confessed, once more kissing his feet.
"Yes, very useful indeed," Lord Voldemort repeated, his scarlet eyes glowing manically. "And now, as promised, I will brand you with the Dark Mark."
At this, my stomach sank, my chest became tight and my heart felt like led. It was really going to happen, I was actually going to be made a Death Eater and there was no backing out now.
I got to my feet, and as Lord Voldemort drew his wand, I rolled up my sleeve and braced myself for what was to come. As the lighted tip touched the skin of my forearm, I felt a searing pain, as though an unquenchable fire was spreading through my very veins. I cried out in agony as the heat became unbearable, and finally I sank to my knees.
When the burning sensation eventually lessened, I looked down to where the wand had just been, and there on my arm I saw the same skull and snake tattoo that Bellatrix had shown me when I'd first asked about joining the Dark Lord.
"Master," I panted, crawling forwards to once again show my appreciation and thanks to Lord Voldemort. "I'm now forever in your service."
"As you should be," Voldemort said simply, his red eyes glowing dangerously. Then, he re-drew his wand and pointed it at me. "Now, let this be a lesson of what will happen to you should you ever disobey me. Crucio. "
The pain I'd experienced when branded with the Dark Mark was nothing compared to the torment of the
Cruciatus Curse on my body. Every inch of my being felt aflame with excruciating agony and I writhed on the floor, praying the unbearable anguish would soon stop.
It seemed to last for an eternity before it even began to abate, until my every limb felt like it was combusting from an unrelenting blaze.
Finally, the torture ceased and I crawled along the ground to my new Master.
"I will never disobey you, my Lord," I heaved, my head spinning and the bile rising to the back of my throat.
"Very well," Voldemort replied calmly, as though he hadn't just tortured me. "You may leave now, and I will summon you when I need you again."
Thankfully, the Dark Lord didn't need me again until a year after I'd entered into his service. At first, I worried that I'd done something to displease my Master and constantly asked Bellatrix if Voldemort had given any indication that'd I'd done something wrong. However, as more time passed, and still no word came from the Dark Lord, I began to get used to the freedom I never thought I'd have.
Things at home were better than they'd ever been. When my parents discovered that I'd become a Death Eater, they forgot all about Sirius and drew me close to their hearts. For the first time in my life, I truly felt the love I so desperately needed.
Additionally, my blood-traitor brother had gotten his own place (using the money our – now disowned – Uncle Alphard had given him) and was no longer a blight in my perfect life.
As I neared the end of my final year at Hogwarts, I had high hopes for my future. I was planning on playing professional Quidditch – as a Seeker – for the Falmouth Falcons and was dating a wonderful girl in the year below me, named Adaline Rosier. All in all, everything in my life was going perfectly.
Therefore, it came as an unpleasant shock, when – a month before my eighteenth birthday – I was summoned by the Dark Lord. I'd honestly thought that he'd forgotten about me, that he was oblivious to the fact I'd ever offered my servitude to him at all. However, I'd been wrong, and I was quick to learn he'd just been biding his time – waiting until the opportune moment when he needed me most.
I made my way to Lord Voldemort's new hideout (now situated in an abandoned castle within the highlands of Ireland), and entered the throne room that looked exactly like it had when my Master's lair was in the woodlands of the Lake District.
After getting down on my hands and knees to pay my usual homage to the Dark Lord, I rose to my feet and waited for his instructions.
"I need an elf," he informed me simply.
"An elf, my Lord? Whatever for?" I questioned, then instantly regretted my lack of faith.
"Do you doubt my judgment, Black? Do I need to remind you that my word is law?" he returned, his red eyes glowing sinisterly and his hand reaching for his wand.
"No... of course not, Master. I just assumed a creature as pitiful as an elf would be below you. What can an elf possibly do that you can't?"
"Well, indeed. However, there are certain tasks that can only be carried out by another. A being so simple they will obey my word to the letter and not ask any questions."
"Then choose me, my Lord. I will happily do any mission you need carrying out. Let me prove my loyalty to you with this," I begged, not even thinking through the ramifications of my words.
"While I appreciate your eagerness, the mission I have in mind isn't intended for one of my Death Eaters. I ask only for you to supply me with an elf to carry out my orders."
"Very well, my Lord. Then I will bring you the elf you require."
As soon as I was dismissed from Voldemort's chambers, I returned home to Grimmauld Place and sought out our family house-elf.
"Kreacher, I need you," I told him, fearing what would happen to me if I failed to supply my Master with that which he had requested. "The Dark Lord requires an elf and I have volunteered you. It's an honor for both you and I to service the Master, and you must do whatever the Dark Lord orders you to, then come home to me. Do you understand?"
"As you wish, Master Regulus," Kreacher replied. "My only purpose is to be serving you, Mistress Black and Master Black."
"Thank you, Kreacher," I said, patting his wrinkled head. "I won't forget your loyalty to me."
Then, with a tiny pop, the house-elf disappeared – undoubtedly going to Lord Voldemort to carry out the Dark Lord's wishes.
In silence, I waited in the kitchen for Kreacher to return. However, as the hours ticked by and there was no sign of him, I grew more and more concerned. What had the Dark Lord wanted Kreacher for anyway? Had the one being who had always been loyal to me, always been there for me when no one else was, met a terrible fate because of my involvement with Lord Voldemort? Had I – in my selfishness and eagerness to please my Master – sent Kreacher to his doom?
I couldn't bear the possibility that my actions might have brought Kreacher to harm and for the first time since getting the Dark Mark - just over a year ago now - I was beginning to regret my association with Voldemort altogether.
When I'd first joined him twelve months ago, I had feared what tasks he might set for me as a Death Eater. Even though I believed in pure-blood supremacy, the thought of killing anyone - even a mudblood – revolted me and made me sick to my stomach. Just because we had magical powers, it didn't give us the right to decide who lived or died. All I wanted was for pure-bloods to be given the respect they deserved and for my parents to love me.
By the time night fell, I was beside myself, fearing the worst and convinced that Kreacher had – because of me – died at the Dark Lord's hands.
With only one option left, I took a great risk, and summon the elf to me.
"Kreacher, come home," I called aloud to the empty kitchen.
After a few moments of tense silence, there was a small pop and then Kreacher tumbled to the floor.
His normally gray skin was paler than usual – looking almost sallow in the candle light of the kitchen – and his tiny black eyes were bloodshot.
"Kreacher, what's happened to you?" I asked, as I bent down besides him, my voice trembling with concern.
"The Dark Lord is a bad, bad man," he wailed. "He is wanting Kreacher to do horrible, horrible things."
"What things? Kreacher, you must tell me what he did to you."
The elf croaked, then began rocking backwards and forwards on his knees, his eyes closed and his pointed ears flat against his head. Finally, after a few moments, and a couple of deep breaths, he began to speak again.
"The Dark Lord was wanting Kreacher to go with him to a cave besides the sea. And beyond the cave there was a cavern, and in the cavern was a great, black lake.
Then he made us get into a boat, and I didn't like that because I was scared of the lake, but the Dark Lord didn't care. When we got off the boat, there was a b-basin full of potion on an island. The D-Dark Lord made Kreacher drink it...."
By now, Kreacher was gulping for air; his hallow chest was rising and falling rapidly, then his eyes flew open and he uttered a blood-curdling scream.
All I could do was watch on in horror, as Kreacher continued to quake, and I waited for him to calm down. Finally, he did so, and continued with his story.
"Kreacher drank, and as he drank, he saw terrible things... Kreacher's insides burned... Kreacher cried for Master Regulus to save him, he cried for Mistress Black, but the Dark Lord only laughed... he made Kreacher drink all the potion... he dropped a locket into the empty basin... he filled it with more potion. And then the Dark Lord sailed away, leaving Kreacher on the island..."
My body was now shaking and I was sweating all over as I heard what the Dark Lord had made Kreacher do – what he'd made Kreacher do because of me. I felt horrified and ashamed that my own selfish desire to prove that I was better than Sirius, to gain my parents' love, had caused an innocent creature so much pain. However, my torment wasn't to end here, as Kreacher had more to tell yet.
"Kreacher needed water, he crawled to the island's edge and he drank from the black lake... and hands, dead hands, came out of the water and dragged Kreacher under the surface."
"How did you escape?" I asked in a tense whisper.
Kreacher raised his balding head and looked at me with his great, bloodshot eyes.
"Master Regulus told Kreacher to come back," he said. "The house elf's highest law is his master's bidding. Kreacher was told to come home, so Kreacher came home."
I let out a small sigh of relief. At least my status as Kreacher's mater had been good for one thing. However, that didn't excuse the fact that because of me, Kreacher had nearly died. In fact, if I hadn't have called him when I did, he would have died. He would have been pulled under the surface of the lake - by what I suspected were Inferi - and drowned.
I hung my head in shame. It was all my fault, my own selfishness had lead to this point. I had been a fool to trust Voldemort. If he could do something like this to Kreacher, then what would he do to one of his followers who disobeyed him? Or worse yet, what would he do to the family of his followers? I imagined my parents being subjected to the torture of the Cruciatus Curse and my heart broke in two.
Then I imagined the same terrible fate befalling my beautiful, sweet, Adaline Rosier and the bile rose up in my throat.
I'd been so stupid. Stupid, selfish and naive. How could I have possibly thought that the Dark Lord would only be interested in pure-blood supremacy and giving our kind the respect they deserved? Of course that wasn't his only agenda. Hadn't Rodolphus told me enough to know that on the night I'd asked about becoming a Death Eater? I should have listened to him then and backed out while I still had a chance.
Only, I hadn't. I'd continued down this dark and despicable path because I was so pathetic that I couldn't deal with living in my older brother's shadow. I was so desperate for my parents' love – love they were only giving me because I'd acted like the proper pure-blood heir and not because they actually cared for me as a person – that I was willing to risk not only my life, but the lives of those around me. And what had that cost me? I had almost lost one of the few beings who genuinely cared about me. This time I'd been lucky and summoned Kreacher home before it had been too late. However, I couldn't guarantee I'd be that fortunate next time. And what happened if the next time, my service to the Dark Lord cost me Adaline?
As I pictured her lifeless body in front of me and felt the pain losing her would bring to me, I knew there and then what I had to do. I had to find a way to stop the Dark Lord at all costs – even if it meant my own life.
The first thing I'd need to do to achieve this, was find out about this locket that Voldemort had placed in the basin he'd forced Kreacher to drink from.
Obviously, it was valuable to him, or he wouldn't have gone to such lengths to hide and protect it.
However, I'd never been given any indication – either from the Dark Lord himself or his followers – that he held anything, apart from gaining power, dear to him.
"Kreacher, I'm sorry to have to ask you this, but do you have any idea why that locket was so important to the Dark Lord?" I asked in a tense whisper.
"Kreacher is not knowing, Master Regulus. The Dark Lord isn't telling Kreacher, he is just ordering Kreacher to drink the potion," he sobbed.
"That's okay, Kreacher," I said, feeling genuinely sorry for the elf. "From now on though, just stay hidden. Stay here in the kitchen and do not leave the house. Only come out if I summon you, alright?"
"Kreacher is doing as Master Regulus wishes, because Master Regulus is a good, honest boy. Not like that filthy, blood traitor, Sirius."
"Thank you, Kreacher, but I'm not really as good as you think. Because of me, you nearly died, and the reason I want you to stay hidden from now on is for your own protection," I told him.
At this, Kreacher began to wail again. "But Master Regulus is a good boy. He is protecting Kreacher even if it's a risk to himself. And Kreacher is not wanting Mater Regulus to die, because Mater Regulus treats Kreacher kindly."
For the second time that night, my heart broke in two. How could a being that I'd almost killed, still hold me in such high regard? However, my guilt for what I'd subjected Kreacher to only made me more sure of the fact that I had to stop Voldemort.
For the next few weeks, I gathered all the information I could find on Voldemort, so that I could try and work out why the locket was so important to him.
There had to be some significance to it, for him to have hidden it so completely.
As I trawled through everything I'd ever collected on the Dark Lord and recalled everything I'd ever heard about him or heard from him, one theme kept ringing out in my mind. Immortality.
More than once, Voldemort had arrogantly bragged that he had long ago taken steps to guard himself against mortal death, that he had demonstrated proof of the immensity of his power, showing that he was mightier than any wizard living.
Racing to my father's study, I pulled down every Dark Arts book I suspected may contain any information about immortality and guarding yourself against mortal death.
The most obvious choice was the Philosopher's stone. However, I knew Voldemort well enough to assume he wouldn't want to rely on taking a monthly potion. Plus, if he was using a philosopher's stone, how did the locket figure into it?
Then I contemplated the idea that Voldemort might be a vampire. However, I quickly ruled that out. Even though the Dark Lord preferred to operate at night to avoid detection, I had indeed seen him during daylight, meaning there was no chance he could have found immortality through becoming a vampire.
After that, I considered the possibility that Voldemort may be drinking unicorn's blood to fight death. But as with the Philosopher's stone, I assumed that the Dark Lord wouldn't want to rely on taking something that wasn't within his control to gain immortality. Additionally, it also didn't explain the significance of the locket he'd hidden in the basin.
Finally, I hit on an idea that seemed the most fitting. In the book Secrets of the Darkest Art, it described the use of an object, called a Horcrux that "acts as a receptacle in which a Dark wizard has hidden a part of his soul for the purposes of attaining immortality.
With part of a wizard's soul thus stored, the wizard becomes immortal so long as the Horcrux remains intact. For this reason, Horcruxes are typically hidden in a safe location.
Even if the wizard's body is destroyed, a portion of his soul will remain preserved within the Horcrux. However, the destruction of the creator's body leaves the wizard or witch in a state of half-life, without corporeal form.
A Horcrux can be made from any normal object. Destroying a Horcrux will destroy the fragment of soul contained within it, ending its protection and returning the creator to a state of mortality."
And then I knew – Lord Voldemort had created a Horcrux, and it was the very locket he had hidden in the basin from which he'd forced Kreacher to drink the potion.
It all made perfect sense – the location of the cave, the importance of the object, the protection the locket had been given. Additionally, by using a Horcrux to attain immortality, it meant that Voldemort was only relying on himself to evade death. Something that suited him entirely.
With the realization that the Dark Lord was using a Horcrux, the path that I needed to take became clear to me, and for the first time in my life I realized that I didn't have to prove myself better than Sirius. No, what I actually had to do was imitate him. My older brother had always rebelled against my family's obsession with the Dark Arts and pure-blood supremacy. While I wasn't about to start championing mudbloods, I now saw that the senseless killing of innocents wasn't going to better the wizarding world either.
I had to try and take down Voldemort before he started a war that could tear the whole world apart. Deep down inside, I knew the best way to do so was to return to the cave that he and Kreacher had visited, and then destroy the locket.
If I succeeded in doing so, and still kept my life, then perhaps I could inform Dumbledore of what Voldemort was doing and we could stop him. However, I knew the chances of escaping the cave alive were remote. From all that Kreacher had told me, the potion inside the basin caused a burning, unquenchable thirst to overcome the drinker, and the only source of relief was the Inferi-infested lake.
That didn't matter though, as I would gladly allow myself to be dragged to the depths of that evil water if it meant Voldemort was one step closer to meeting his demise. After all, for all I knew, Dumbledore and his Order of the Phoenix could already be strong enough to defeat the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters, and that they just needed this one thing out of the way so that they were finally able to stop Voldemort.
For a brief moment, I contemplated not going to the cave myself, and instead just informing Dumbledore of the existence of Voldemort's Horcrux so that he could deal with it. But then, I knew that was the coward's way out. I had brought this upon myself with my pathetic and selfish desire to prove myself to my parents and gain their love, so it was my duty to finish it.
Plus, I owed that much to Kreacher. Because if it hadn't been for me, his life would never have been risked by Voldemort. Additionally, the thought of Adaline and the possibility of her coming to any harm because of my involvement as a Death Eater made me certain that I had to be the one to destroy the Horcrux. I knew I'd never be able to live with the guilt of her getting killed if I'd had a way to stop the Dark Lord and not taken it.
My only hope was that somewhere out there, forces were gathering to stop Voldemort. For the first time in my life, I was glad Sirius had turned against our family's prejudices and taken a more noble path in life. Actually, the thought of my older brother joining the Order of the Phoenix and thereby continuing what I intended to start filled me with pride. Perhaps if I'd listened to him all along, I wouldn't be in this position now – facing certain death? But then, if I had, who was to say I would have ever learnt about Voldemort's Horcrux and found a way that he could be stopped?
In the days that followed my discovery about Voldemort's Horcrux and subsequent decision to locate it and destroy it if I could, I began putting my life in order – knowing it wouldn't last much longer.
In an odd way though, I didn't feel as distraught as I thought I would about facing death. Knowing I'd be meeting my end by trying to stop Voldemort gave me a strange sense of purpose.
Additionally, I knew, once it was over, there'd be no more need to pretend anymore -- to try and fit in, to seek approval from people who obviously didn't really care about me, to try and be someone I wasn't just for the sake of others. Through death, I would finally find release and be freed from the pressures of living up the the Black family name, of being the perfect pure-blood heir.
And perhaps, in whatever afterlife there was, I would finally find what I'd always needed and wanted – to truly be loved for who I was and not just for what people saw on the surface or expected of me.
My only regret was that I would be leaving Adaline, and not just leaving her, but going to my death without any indication of what I had planned. Of course, I was doing it for her protection, because if I told her about Voldemort's Horcrux, and he ever found out that she knew, then she'd be killed and everything I planned to do would be in vain. Though the thought of keeping her safe didn't quite ease the guilt of knowing my death would probably leave her heart-broken.
Before the Dark Lord had summoned me those weeks ago and said he required me to bring him an elf, I had seriously been considering asking for Adaline's hand in marriage. She had been the only person in my life who had ever truly loved me for who I was and not what I could offer them. Despite the fact that she was a true Slytherin to the core, she was also loyal, loving, caring, intelligent, witty and smart. All in all, she was everything I'd ever wanted. It broke my heart to know I'd never get to see her again, to smell the sweet fragrance of her hair, to touch the silken softness of her skin, to hear her amused laughter or to see her eyes brighten with joy.
However, I knew it was for the best. I knew that by sacrificing my life to help defeat Voldemort, I was ensuring she would have a safe and happy future without the worries of war and death hanging over her.
Finally, the night of action came. I still wasn't one-hundred percent sure I knew how to destroy a Horcrux or if I'd even get the chance to do so.
Though I hoped and prayed Kreacher would be willing to do one final favor for me, and continue what I'd started if I didn't make it out of the cave alive.
Before donning my traveling cloak and going to the kitchen to ask Kreacher to take me to the cave, I wrote a letter to Sirius. I didn't go into detail about what I'd discovered – for fear that if anyone else found it, they would then target him because of my actions – but simply said how sorry I was for how things had turned out between the two of us and that I loved him dearly.
Then - after placing the note to my brother in the bottom of my Hogwarts trunk with the hope that he'd somehow, one day find it (though I didn't have a clue how) - I once again took out my quill and parchment and prepared to pen the last letter I'd ever write.
A note to the Dark Lord, confessing what I was planning to do, and my hopes that it would bring about his eventual downfall.
To the Dark Lord ,
I know I will be dead long before you read this,
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.
I face death in the hope that when you meet your match,
you will be mortal once more.
With a sinking feeling in my stomach, an endurable tightness in my chest and my heart feeling as heavy as lead, I left my bedroom for what would prove to be the final time.
By the time I reached the kitchen, the tears were already stinging my eyes and the bile was already hitting the back of my throat.
As I looked around my childhood home, and though about how I'd never be here again, the calmness I'd felt since making my decision evaporated and I was filled with anger.
I was angry at my parents for their neglect of my feelings and their inability to love me for more than my position as their heir. Moreover, I was angry at Lord Voldemort and that he'd used me so readily without remorse. Finally, I was angry at myself, that I'd been ruled by my own selfish wants and needs, that I had been forced into this situation at all. If I had just been a little stronger, a little more like Sirius, perhaps I wouldn't be facing my death now.
However, I didn't have time to blame myself for the mistakes I'd made – I had a mission I needed to complete as soon as possible.
Therefore, I bent down by Kreacher's bed and called to my ever faithful companion.
"Kreacher, I'm so sorry to have to ask you this – and if there was any other way to do it, I would – but I need you help again," I whispered to him.
"Kreacher is doing anything Master Regulus requires," he replied simply, and I hated myself that I was using his servitude to me in such a way. In a despicable way, just like the Dark Lord had used my servitude to him.
"I need you to take me to the cave, the one where the Dark Lord took you too."
"No, no, no. Kreacher cannot be doing that. The cave is an evil, evil place and Master Regulus will meet bad, bad things."
"Kreacher, please, you have to. It's the only way I can stop the horrible things that are happening."
"Kreacher won't. Kreacher won't let Master Regulus die, because Kreacher loves his Master."
At his admittance that I was more than just someone he was forced to serve and that he actually cared about me, the tears I'd been struggling to keep at bay leaked from my eyes and flowed down my cheeks.
"I'm... I'm sorry, Kreacher, but you have to," I sniffed.
At last, he gave in, and agreed to my wish. I think he knew I was going to my death, and that he couldn't deny me this one last thing.
And so, the journey began. With Kreacher tightly holding onto my arm, we Apparated to the cave beside the sea. From there, Kreacher led me into the cavern, where he announced that the concealed entranceway to the inner chamber required a blood sacrifice.
I readily offered my own blood, knowing it would be of no use to me soon, and not wanting to cause Kreacher any further suffering. Then, once inside, Kreacher pulled from the depths of the black lake a tiny boat, and together we boarded it before crossing the eerily still waters to the small island in the center.
When we reached the land, I at once saw the basin of glowing green potion and knew what I had to do next.
Taking a deep breath, I braced myself for the pain drinking the liquid would cause me, and then took the replacement locket from my robes.
"Kreacher, I want you to take this locket and, when the basin is empty, switch it with the one the Dark Lord placed there."
"But Master Regulus can't drink the potion. Master Regulus will die if he touches the evil water," he objected.
"Kreacher, I have to. I have to do it or the Dark Lord will continue hurting people," I whispered. "And when you've switched the lockets, I order you to leave without me. Go home, and never tell my mother what I've done. Just destroy the first locket, alright?"
"Kreacher won't!" He wailed.
"Kreacher, I'm not asking you, I'm ordering you," I said, hating myself for using his servitude against him. However, I knew it was the only way. I had to empty the basin at all costs so that Kreacher could swap the lockets and then destroy the Horcrux.
And so, I summoned a goblet with my wand and began to drink the evil liquid I knew would bring about my eventual death.
The first mouthful wasn't actually as bad as I'd expected. Yes, it burnt my throat, but it wasn't unbearable. Quickly, I refilled the glass, and drank a second... then a third... and finally a forth.
However, as the content of the forth goblet passed my lips, I staggered and fell forwards. My eyes fluttered shut, and breathing became heavy.
"Master Regulus, is you alright?" Kreacher whispered, his voice strained with fear.
I was unable to answer him though, as my throat was now inflamed and felt so tight I thought I wouldn't be able to continue with my mission.
Instead, all I could do was plunge the goblet into the basin once more, and then drain it's content again.
This time, the potion seared my insides, and I couldn't stop myself from crying out.
"I don't want it... don't make me..."
As my hand involuntary filled another glassful from the basin, my insides burnt again, and once more I cried out.
"No... I don't want to... I don't want to... let me go."
However, I couldn't let go. I knew I had to keep drinking and reach the locket. Therefore, almost against my will, I plunged the goblet into the potion again, filled it to the rim and brought it to my lips.
Slowly, I swallowed its content, reeling from the fire spreading through my very veins, as it seeped into my soul.
"No more... no more... I can't.... don't make me, I don't want to," I cried out, my mouth issuing the words before my brain had even had time to process them.
Yet, my pleads went unanswered, and for a second time, my hand involuntary filled another glassful from the basin, and I brought it to my lips.
As the next goblet of potion ran down my throat, my head was filled with visions of Kreacher being forced to do the very same thing as I was doing now. Only, that time, it had been against his will, and because of the orders of Voldemort.
"It's all my fault, all my fault," I sobbed. "Please, make it stop. I know I did wrong, oh, please make it stop and I'll never, never again..."
Almost as if to mock my pleas, another refilled goblet appeared in my hands, and I had no recollection of even dipping it into the basin. However, as I knew I needed to, I brought it to my mouth and drank.
This time, as the evil potion slid down my throat, and began to inflame my being, I saw visions of my parents and Sirius being forced by Voldemort to drink from the basin.
"Don't hurt them, don't hurt them, please, please, it's my fault, hurt me instead..."
Answering my cries, my hand dipped into the potion, and I again filled the goblet to the brim and then gulped it down.
My head span, my knees went weak, and I sank to the ground. I though, this is it, I'm going to die. I can't take any more, and I'm going to die without ever reaching the locket.
However, just as I was about to give up, and succumb to the effects of the evil I was subjecting myself to, another vision filled my head.
This time, it was Adaline. My dear, sweet innocent Adaline, standing in the position I was in now, with a goblet in her hands, and Voldemort forcing her to drink from it.
"Please, please, please, no... not that, not that, I'll do anything..."
With only one way to make it stop, to prevent Adaline from getting hurt, I dipped the goblet into the basin, and then I scooped up more of the evil potion.
Against my will, my arm raised the goblet to my lips, and once more, I drank from it.
Suddenly, a burning, unrelenting fire coursed through my body. It felt a million times worse than when Voldemort had used the Cruciatus Curse on me. I felt a searing pain, as though an unquenchable fire was spreading through my very veins. I cried out in agony as the heat became unbearable, and finally, I sank to my knees.
"No more, please, no more," I begged hoarsely.
However, once again, my hand involuntary filled another glassful from the basin and then brought it to my lips.
Slowly, I swallowed it down. Then, before the last drop had even drained from the goblet, the unrelenting fire returned. Every inch of my being felt aflame with excruciating agony and I writhed on the floor, praying the unbearable anguish would soon stop.
However, it seemed to last for an eternity before it even began to abate, until my every limb felt like it was combusting from an unrelenting blaze.
Finally, the torture ceased and I plunged my hand into the potion to refill the goblet, feeling it graze against the bottom as I did so.
My whole body now shaking, I raised the glass to my lips and drank it down. I shuddered all over, as the fiery liquid coursed through my veins, and I was consumed by an unbearable heat.
"I want to die! I want to die! Make it stop, make it stop, I want to die!" I cried out.
Then, out of nowhere, another gobletful of the potion appeared in my hands and I drank it in one, unsteady gulp.
"KILL ME!" I yelled into the nothingness of the cave.
As if answering my prayers, one final goblet of liquid found it's way to my lips and shakily, I gulped it down, draining every last drop and then rolling over onto my face.
The heat now consuming my body was unbearable; every inch of my being felt aflame with excruciating agony and I writhed on the floor.
The pain lasted for an eternity before it even began to abate, until my every limb felt like it was combusting from an unrelenting blaze.
Finally, the torture ceased and I crawled along the ground to where I knew the shore of the black lake was. As my eyes fluttered open, my only thought was to get some water. I knew if I didn't have another drink soon, the agony would return and I was willing to face anything to find release.
Cupping my hands, I plunged them down into the icy cold lake and filled them with the cool, clear liquid that was to be my salvation. Then, I brought my cupped hands to my mouth and drank.
I drank like I'd never tasted water before. I gulped like this was my last drink on earth – which I knew it would be.
Then, as I slowly bent down to get some more water, I felt cold, dead hands touching my arms. The hands of the Inferi that I knew would eventually come.
It was just as I'd suspected it would be, and just as Lord Voldemort had planned all along.
The moment had finally come, I was about to die. My mind flitted through images – Voldemort being defeated, my parents mourning my disappearance, Sirius lamenting the fact that I'd been so foolish to have ever gotten caught up with the Dark Lord, Kreacher witnessing the horror of my demise and being unable to tell anyone. And finally, Adaline – my dear, sweet, beautiful Adaline being heart broken that I'd left her without a reason as to why.
As the Inferi pulled me down and I sunk under the surface of the lake, I saw her crystal blue eyes filled with tears, I saw her brilliant strawberry blonde hair, matted around her face as she cried in grief for me. I saw her usually happy face contorted in pain and her perfect rose red lips tremble, as she finally accepted the truth... that I was gone.