The Best Mistakes
Story Notes: In regards to canon, all bets are off. Enjoy.
Only a little more… only a little more now…
Regulus kept up the steady mantra as his hands shook around the goblet. The potion burned its way down his throat, agony clawing at his esophagus, his stomach, and on through his limbs as the liquid slowly killed him.
"Master Regulus," Kreacher was whispering. Whimpering in fear and misery. Regulus' lungs burned as he tried to soothe the faithful elf. But words wouldn't come. Slumping against the rock, he heard the clatter of the goblet as it fell.
He heard a moan as well, a pitiful, desolate sound that he thought was probably his own. He felt a gentle touch on the back of his head as his face was tilted up, the cool metal pressed back to his lips. And even though he knew, somewhere in the madness pulling him apart, that it would kill him, Regulus greedily swallowed the liquid.
Pain in every movement, every rustle of skin. Death would be most welcome.
And without warning, the goblet was drawn away and a desperate moan escaped Regulus' lips.
"The locket," Kreacher whispered. His body twitching, his vision swirling in and out of darkness, Regulus could not reply.
The scrape of metal against stone.
Cold metal brushing his palm.
"Master Regulus… the locket… Master has done it."
Summoning his last threads of strength, he curled his fingers over Kreacher's, pressing the Horcrux between them and poured his magic into it until there was nothing left.
Regulus struggled to keep his eyes open. So tired…
"Take it," he rasped. "… Dark Lord." Struggling to make certain Kreacher remembered all of his orders, he tried to flap a hand. "Sirius… Memories..."
A comforting weight settled on his chest.
"Kreacher will obey."
A spell broke the air and amongst the pain, Regulus felt magic flowing into his body—into his head, tugging gently. He concentrated on giving Sirius what he would need.
The memories that would destroy the Dark Lord.
And then he let his eyes focus one last time. Tears were tracking down Kreacher's face. Trembling as his fingers slipped from the house-elf's grasp, Regulus let death take him.
The distinctive crack of apparition brought everyone's attention from the tea service that Lily was just setting on the low table. Sirius slid his eyes to the window, but could see nothing in the darkness.
"Are we expecting someone?" James asked, glancing up at his wife.
"I don't think so," she answered, handing him a cup, and another to Remus.
James started to push himself up, but Lily put a hand on his arm. "You are supposed to be resting," she chided. "I'll see who it is."
"I've been resting for nearly three weeks," he scoffed. "You're the one who should be resting; you're pregnant."
She smiled but before she could argue the point, Sirius stood. "I'll go," he said with a smirk, "since I'm neither recuperating nor pregnant."
"You sure about that, Padfoot?" James asked with a sly grin. "Who knows what magic might be able to accomplish."
Chuckling, Sirius cuffed his head lightly on the way to the back door. Expecting to find either of the Longbottoms or Peter, Sirius halted abruptly when he saw the Black family house-elf standing in the middle of the Potters' garden.
Wrenching the door open with more force than he had intended, he demanded, "What are you doing here?"
Kreacher was trembling and when he spoke, his voice was hoarse. "Master Regulus…" he said tremulously, "… is dead."
Sirius' stomach twisted. And no matter that he had tried to convince himself for years now that he didn't care about his baby brother, his throat began to burn as he stared at the elf. "How?" he croaked.
Kreacher blinked up at him; eyes that were usually filled with hate only held pain. "Master Regulus was poisoned..." While Sirius struggled with that, Kreacher held out a thick envelope, sealed with a wax impression of the Black crest. "Master Regulus wanted Master Black to have this."
Sirius started at the honorific, but then realized he was head of The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black now and he nearly recoiled from the elf's outstretched hand.
"Master Regulus," Kreacher whispered, "insisted. Master was most brave…" Tears were swimming in the elf's eyes and as tears climbed up his own throat, Sirius snatched up the envelope and pivoted away. When he reached the back door, he could go no further. The crack of Kreacher's Disapparation echoed in his ears.
He had no idea how long he stood there, Regulus' envelope crumpled in his fist, but the click of the door opening barely registered.
He focused with bleary eyes. Lily, her arms wrapped around herself in defense of the bitter cold, was standing in the doorway. Sirius only noticed then that his fingers and toes were numb.
"Who was it?" she asked after a pause.
The parchment crinkled loudly in Sirius' fist. "Kreacher… Family house-elf."
Lily tilted her head, concern touching her green eyes as she chafed her arms. "What did he want?"
Sirius' voice was dull as he answered, "Regulus is dead."
Lily's lips parted on a sharp breath. Her hand reached out as if he meant to touch him but brought it back before she made contact. "Sirius... I'm so sorry…"
Sirius nodded, his throat beginning to ache again. "Doesn't matter," he lied. "Hated me, you know…"
Lily's lips pressed together. She closed the space between them and hugged him tightly. After a rigid moment, Sirius let himself relax marginally in the embrace. A sob broke the silence, and she pulled away, her fingers flying to her lips as tears threatened her green eyes.
"I'm so sorry," she breathed and then she had turned away, her rapid footsteps echoing on the wooden floor. Sirius closed his eyes, wondering idly if her emotions would be so out of control her entire pregnancy. James would go spare.
James himself appeared a moment later as Sirius was peeling himself off the wall. "You're supposed to be resting," he said.
James gripped his shoulder, his features pinched with worry. "Lily told us… about Regulus."
"It's all right," Sirius cut off any condolences. Looking away he mumbled, "He hated me."
"He didn't hate you, Padfoot. He was just on the wrong side—"
"Right, that's all it was," Sirius muttered. He stuffed the envelope into his pocket.
"What was that?"
"Nothing. Kreacher said Reg wanted me to have it."
"But… aren't you going to open it?"
"No," Sirius said as he turned for the garden. I can't.
"Wait." James caught his arm. "Where are you going?"
Sirius pushed his fingers into his eyes. "Home. I just need…" Something that he didn't even know how to put voice to, but James nodded.
"All right, mate. Remus will check on you later, yeah? It's not a choice," he added when Sirius started to shake his head. So all Sirius could do was sigh.
James gripped his shoulder again, this time with his eyes boring into Sirius', but he didn't press. Only said quietly, "If you need us…"
Sirius nodded, his throat too tight to speak. James smiled though, understanding. He stepped back and with a sharp pivot, Sirius whirled away.
Notes: A huge thanks JadeSullivan for her constant support. And to jogger for her help with the summary (not to mention the enthusiasm).