Title: The Secret Carrier

Summary: In the first war, two Death Eaters betrayed the Dark Lord. Regulus, whose betrayal went undiscovered until the end. And Severus, who spied at his master's right hand for years to come. What secrets caused his change of heart? And how much will Severus risk to protect those he loves?

Characters/Pairings: Severus/Regulus, Lily/James, Sirius, Voldemort, Dumbledore, Rabastan, Lucius

Word Count: 63,000 in 29 chapters.

Status: COMPLETE. 1-2 chapters will be posted weekly.

Rating: M, for language, non-explicit m/m sexual content, violence, adult themes. This story is canon-compliant which means character deaths galore.

Beta Readers: militantstemmed & msninacat (on livejournal), Iawen Londea

Author Notes: All story events are canon-compliant and within the range of established timelines. I placed Regulus one school year behind Severus, so some events are flexed further than typically seen in fandom, but are still within the range of canon facts.

And lastly, I'm American. I avoid slang as much as possible, but my diction and sentence construction remain American.


PROLOGUE

A hand came over his mouth and Severus came awake instantly. Dream merged with reality and the looming figure from his nightmare layered over the one bent over him. His heart raced and his throat clamped shut, but he had no air to cry out.

"It's me."

The dream slithered away, receding into the corners of the room. Severus blinked, and the doubled image resolved into a familiar form. A damp palm covered his mouth, the familiar roughness of hands chapped by the wind. Regulus saw his recognition and released him. One hand trailed down his face as he moved back, maintaining the connection.

"Regulus." He spoke the name with reverence, like the first spell he'd learned, as if it too held the power to change the world.

Too loud, and one of the sleepers shifted, disturbed. Severus jumped back, startled, and broke contact. Light touched the jut of Regulus' chin and strong profile, but didn't filter far enough to reveal his expression. When the saw of snoring resumed, Regulus leaned close.

"Come on," Regulus said, tugging his arm. "I want to talk to you."

Regulus looked back from the door, and his smile drew Severus to follow. He crept silently between the beds, careful not to rouse his housemates, and snuck out after Regulus.

"Wait," he called out, loud as he dared, but Regulus was already halfway down the corridor. Flickering torchlight cast the uneven stones into peaks and shadowed valleys, the doorways looming chasms on either side. But seven years had taught him a safe path, and light blazed from the other end, where Regulus waited.

Regulus had stoked the fire high. The common room blazed with light, and Regulus sprawled across the largest chair. He draped across it in a lazy dominance of possession that would have irked him in anyone else, but his easy grin made it not seem to matter. Severus folded himself into a smaller chair, one of harsh angles and harder wood.

"And what is it that can't wait for morning?"

Regulus smiled, beatific, and Severus scowled back.

"You're not happy to see me?"

Severus made an irritated sound in his throat, but his mind was coming to alertness. The familiar game of barb and bait fell away as he saw the details. Regulus was fully dressed, shirt tucked in, without the smooth slide of silk pajamas. Instead of the silence of bare feet on stone, his shoes were laced and polished. It had to be late: no first years scratching away, calculating exactly what they needed on their final scrolls of the term, no older students tucked into corners, trading secrets. But Regulus was dressed for a journey, his cloak draped over the back of the armchair.

"What is it?" he asked, afraid.

Regulus sighed, and Severus stopped breathing.

"I'm going. Tonight."

"What? You can't."

"I want you to come with me."

"No. I-"

"Please, Severus." Regulus watched him, eyes narrowed. His muscles coiled with the quiet focus of the seeker closing in on the snitch. "Come with me."

"There's still two weeks of classes left."

"You've had your NEWTs. Class doesn't matter."

"But you have a whole year left."

"I know what I need to know. You can teach me the rest."

"But we're so close!" His chest tight, Severus took a shaky breath, then let it out slowly. "Can't you wait one more year?"

"Come off it, Sev. The world has changed and you have to change with it."

"You're throwing away your future."

"No. I'm not." Regulus leaned forward, his unshakable confidence equal parts privilege and pig-headedness. "I know what I'm doing, and I'm going tonight. I just want to know if you'll come with me."

His voice cracked on the last plea, and Regulus looked away, swallowing laboriously. For his part, Severus focused on the feel of rough homespun between his fingers, the uneven shoddiness of it all, and tried to think. Madness, all of it, and how could he reason with that?

"You know I can't."

"Of course you can." Regulus seized upon the excuse, eager to convince him. "You're fantastic at potions, one of the best in decades, Slughorn says. I'm sure the Dark Lord needs-"

"No. That's not-"

"And you're good at dueling too."

"That doesn't matter!" He found himself yelling, and forced his hands to unclench. With his voice at a more controlled volume, he tried to be reasonable. "I'm half-blood. That's all they'll see."

The admission choked him, and he stopped. Why couldn't Regulus understand?

"Stop. It's not as if you're a Mudblood."

"Don't say it."

"Pretending you didn't say it won't get her back."

Severus was up, leaning into him, with his wand gripped in his hand. His body shook, and he hated Regulus for pushing him to this.

"You're not like her. Like them. You have wizarding blood, same as me."

"It's not the same, and you know it."

"We have a responsibility, and you're not exempt from that."

"You're a bloody fool."

"And you're a coward."

Severus sank back into his chair, burying his face in his hands. Regulus brushed by close enough to touch, but it was too late.

"I may be a fool for thinking you'd come. But I'm a Black, and I won't hide from what that means."

"Then go." He didn't look up, couldn't look at him. "Leave and don't come back. I don't care." He pinched his eyes shut, willing this moment to end.

"Fine." The word came out harsh and clipped, but Severus could feel him standing there, still and silent.

He didn't open his eyes.

Wood shifted in the hearth, a pop and crackle as something broke and settled. His breathing was harsh in his ears, labored and slow. He strained to hear, tried not to hear. Then the scuffle of leather scraping across stone, the whisper of footsteps muffled by cloth, and Regulus was gone.