The rain splashes on the grimy windows; clumps of dirt break loose and slide down the murky surface as I sit here with a quill poised in my unmoving hand. Thoughts and memories have overloaded my tired brain and I cannot now find the original thread. I meant to narrate my innermost thoughts onto the three scrolls I found rolling around the empty bookshelf. The other dozen were destroyed by the puddle of rainwater forming on the drawing room floor. Every few seconds, the dull ping of water hitting the bucket I placed under the leak distracts me from my task.
I turn towards the puddle, eyeing it angrily as if it consciously interrupted my thoughts. The water looks shadowy in the dim light from the stub of candle on the scrubbed wooden table. I could conjure a candle, I suppose, but tonight I have an aversion to magic. Ah, yes, that was the original reason for my long and silent pondering. Funny how a distraction can lead one back to the topic at hand.
Tonight, magic disgusts me. Tonight, Muggles are the greatest wonders in the world. Oh, how my father would weep and my mother shriek to know that I am enamoured with the Muggle world tonight. I have not much studied Muggles, so my brief observations of them are no doubt flawed. Yet I cannot help but be amazed that, in their world, evil is never as transparent as in ours. Perhaps they have been at war with a tyrant much like my own master, I cannot know. Their naiveté is a gift, a thankful escape from the harsh realities of a black-and-white world.
Some wizards argue that there is no clear-cut evil. I disagree. I, Regulus Black, have now seen pure evil. Humorous oxymoron, is it not? Pure evil. The Dark Lord would appreciate the irony, I think. He would very much enjoy being a paradox. It is his enjoyment that has brought me to this dilapidated cottage in the Highlands.
Now that my hand is moving across the page, perhaps I should start from the beginning. This is not meant as a memoir or confession or penance. It is only the rambling thoughts of a desperate young man searching for the seed of darkness that started him down this treacherous path.
I begin now in a very sedate and perhaps boring vein that many soul searchers before myself have used. I had always believed that children are what their parents make them. In recent weeks, I have doubted this assumption very much. It is likely that I always thought this because it was easier to blame my mistakes and character flaws on my parents rather than accept that my choices were my own and that I always had an alternative. It was unpalatable to accept that my internal suffering was caused by no one but myself. And yet, that is the conclusion I have reached tonight.
Two boys brought up in the same home took different paths that led them to opposite ends of the world. How is it that one was made by his parents and the other became a self-made man? It is not logical, and logic is all that I have to cling to. Therefore, I must accept that the root of my problems is, quite simply, myself. As my thoughts turn towards my brother's situation, I must explain our childhood and school years.
Sirius was always the better son. I think that's why our mother hated him so much. That may sound strange, most people believing something very different about our family. Yet, I know it's true.
Sirius had all the makings of a fine son of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. He is tall and regal in stature, like our mother; handsome and suave, like our father; and more powerful than any witch or wizard since Phineas Nigellus. He could have risen through the Death Eater ranks and usurped Lucius's place at the Dark Lord's right hand if he'd wanted.
Our mother had always wanted strong, fiercely independent sons who would fight to the death. What she didn't anticipate was that her son would use his strength, independence, and resolve to rebel against her. That is our mother's greatest regret, I think, that she assumed Sirius loved her as much as she loved him, when really he could barely contain his loathing.
It pains me to sit here and commit this to parchment, but it is something I must do. I daresay I won't live out the night, and while I can accept my fate, I cannot reconcile passing without first discovering who I am and what I might have become had I chosen a different path.
The Blacks live behind a veil of secrecy. It is a Slytherin trait, I think. Perhaps my lacking in this area is why the Sorting Hat nearly put me into Ravenclaw. What a catastrophe that would have been. Or perhaps a salvation. It is odd how anti-ethical the 'what if's' and 'if only's' can be.
Sitting here tonight, glancing at the rumbling gray sky and pondering the great unknown that is death, I have come to the conclusion that my being put into any House other than Slytherin would have been an epic tragedy. It has pained me immensely to be separated from my older brother, and I hope that he loves me enough to have felt that same pain throughout the years. And yet, through my anguish, I feel a greater good has ultimately been served.
But I digress. This narrative is not about why I am here tonight, but about how I came to be here. In time someone will discover my role in this ephemeral tale, but it is not for me to dictate at this moment.
I must continue with my recollections of my brother, for in our youth the world began, ended, and revolved around Sirius. My parents will never admit it, but there was a time when Sirius was the jewel of the Black family, and I was begrudgingly brought along for the ride only because Sirius wished me there.
That is the secret my parents will take to their graves. They loved Sirius more deeply than anyone but they can know, and his rejection of their pureblood elitist ideals cut them to the core of their very existence. It was only then, after Sirius ran away from home-or perhaps escaped from home is a better phrase-was I elevated to the status of beloved son.
I remember well my parent's shock when they learned that Sirius had been sorted into Gryffindor. It was I who listened silently while they explained away the anomaly. It was his courage, they said, his unflinching courage and absolute loyalty that the Sorting Hat had recognized. There was nothing wrong with that, they said, for purebloods must be brave and loyal if they are to effectively govern the half-bloods and stamp out the mudbloods. No, there was nothing wrong with Sirius showing more courage and loyalty than cunning and resourcefulness.
I think my father realised long before my mother that Sirius would not follow in the Black family tradition. James Potter was a perfectly acceptable friend, coming from a long line of respectable wizards. Even Peter Pettigrew, pathetic wizard though he was, was still a pureblood. Who did purebloods have if not each other, after all? While my mother struggled to rationalize Sirius's friendship with the half-blood Remus Lupin, my father turned cold towards his first-born.
It was a devastating blow to them when Sirius announced his intention to take Muggle Studies as an elective beginning his third-year. That was the day the first seeds of loathing were planted between my mother and Sirius. My brother had a calculating look in his eye, one that my insensitive mother would have never noticed even if she had been looking for it, but I saw it clearly. Sirius had no interest in Muggles or their strange objects. Taking the class was his only conduit for venting his frustration, and he exploited it to its fullest.
That was the year I started at Hogwarts. I've often wondered how life might have been if I would have agreed with the Sorting Hat and joined Ravenclaw House. In my mind, no House would ever be as great as Gryffindor, because that's where Sirius was, but I have no delusions that I would have fitted in there. Even now, when I have accepted my inevitable death, I have not done so through courageous means, but through guilt and the pervading need for absolution. Without death tonight, I feel that my own self-hatred will consume me.
It is these needs that have led me to this place tonight. I am a free man, and yet I am held prisoner in this ramshackle cottage by intangible bars. In times like these I wonder, what would Sirius do? Having been separated from my brother for so long, I doubt if I can truly guess his actions. He must have changed greatly in the past two years, as I have. I wonder if he still curses when he hurts himself or if Lily Evans's scolding has broken that habit. I wonder if he still chews cold food on the left side of his mouth because his right molars are sensitive or if he's had a Healer fix those teeth yet. It is these unanswerable questions and more that haunt me tonight. While death looms ever closer, I grieve for my brother and the lost moments between us.
Perhaps my sorting was a great tragedy, like the Greeks of old would dictate for players in echoing amphitheatres. I joined Slytherin when the Hat gave me a choice. Every day that I entered the Great Hall, I walked willingly to the right hand of the Devil himself. I always knew I would end up here, wearing these black robes and white mask. I knew from the moment that the Hat cried "Slytherin" there would be innocent blood on my hands. I knew I would die an early death. Yet every morning, I walked to the Slytherin table, and as I sat there between Rabastan Lestrange and Alecto Carrow, I always spared a glance across the Hall at my brother.
Sometimes he looked back, and I saw some flicker of sadness in his eyes, gray and fathomless as my own. Maybe he thought he could save me if only I would listen to him and see the error of my ways. He'll never know now that I did listen, that I did see the truth, but I walked into the heart of darkness while peering over my shoulder. I entered blindly into the Dark Lord's midst, all the while watching Sirius.
Why I did this, I cannot now even begin to guess. Perhaps it's fatalistic, but I believe strongly in supernatural forces that guide us through life. Whether it is Divine Providence or Fate I haven't decided. For my own sake, I hope it is Divine Providence. I have done terrible things in my short life, and soon I will journey into the afterlife with nothing but my belief that something or someone greater than myself led me down the path that I now walk. If it is not Divine Providence, if it was all my imagination, I face eternal damnation. Or perhaps there is no Supreme Being at all and I merely searched for an excuse on which to blame my actions, in which case I deserve the nothingness that is coming to me.
I remember once asking Barnabas, the tutor from my youth, about the historical Muggle called Regulus while he taught me about the star after which I was named. He would not tell me, and my parents punished me severely for even asking about Muggle history. Much later, only a few months ago, did I learn the whole story. Ironically, it was Severus who told me the tale of the Roman soldier.
He had been captured by the enemy during a war. They forced him to return to Rome and advise his countrymen to end the war, else Carthage would destroy the Roman Republic in its infancy. Regulus took an oath to return to Carthage after testifying before his peers. In Rome, he stood before the Senate and implored them to continue fighting, for Carthage was weak despite their contrary claims. He then fulfilled his oath and returned to the enemy's city to die a violent death by torture. It was for this that he was honored by his enemies and scorned by his friends.
Is this my fate too? If it is, then I welcome it. My so-called friends, the wizards I fight beside every day, can scorn me and I will not care. I want only one thing, and that is for my so-called enemies, my brother and the Order of the Phoenix, to know that, in the end, I served their greater good. Perhaps because of my efforts, the Dark Lord will have one less lifetime to live.
My time on this earth is drawing to a close, I fear. I would remain in this sanctuary for all eternity cataloging my thoughts for the next wayward youth who happens upon them, but that cannot be. As the fingers of dawn stretch over the horizon and paint the mountains rosy red, I must conclude this narrative.
I leave these sage words for whoever stumbles upon this secluded cottage. In these closing hours, the preciousness of life and absoluteness of death has enlightened my mind too late for salvation and rebirth. I can only hope that another, perhaps younger than I, will find these pages and unearth some wisdom from my final thoughts. It is chilling and depressing to fathom my life utterly useless, and so I must have faith that someone, someday will find these words and know that Regulus Black was not the spoiled little prince his parents made him out to be nor the hopeless case his brother took him for.
Where there is black and white, there also must be grey. It is the men and women willing to wallow between right and wrong that have changed history. Do not fear purity and do fear evil; fear never seeing where they overlap, for only there can truth be gleaned.
May Merlin grant wisdom to the one who finds these parting thoughts, and may Fortune shelter the one who finds this locket.
Regulus A. Black