M - Slash (Remus Lupin/Regulus Black), brief forced sexual content, language, and character death.
"A gold bracelet?"
"I'm not fond of silver, Reg. You know that."
The gentle, worn smile of someone who faced pain and misery almost daily. It had captivated me ever since childhood and well into adolescence. When the relationship between my brother and I had collapsed into ruin, Remus and I had to spend our time together in secret. Every single minute was precious. Not that we ever had enough time. I regret nothing except…except never returning those words. Those tiny, simple words that meant the world to Lupin and so much more to me.
"I love you."
"Thank you. Thank you for loving me, Remus."
Was that enough? No. It would probably never be enough.
Shortly after my eighteenth birthday, I had made a very important decision. It probably would have been better if I had arrived at this conclusion earlier in my life. Before Sirius's departure off the family tree. Before the Mark. But the fact that I had reached it at all proved something to me. It proved that I wasn't the arrogant half-wit my enemies believed me to be. I had seen evil. I used to believe that there was no good and bad. That everything was as gray and as blind as my upbringing. But He had changed my views. The Dark One was evil. The embodiment of existence without humanity, without love. How foolish I was to believe he was some kind of saint for pureblooded wizards. My parents were the shepherds who had led to me to believe this blinding lie. I could have sat around and blamed them for my fate. But I chose instead to thank them for their weakness and stupidity. It was because of them that I realized this was my destiny.
My poor Kreacher. He had attached himself to me after Sirius was disowned. The most loyal, brilliant little servant anyone could ask for. He had more elf magic than most ordinary house elves. I thought that perhaps this was why the Dark Lord had requested to use my elf for one, important "errand". I had offered Kreacher on a silver platter. He was nervous, but very proud that he had been chosen for something important. Little did I know that He had picked my elf because he needed something weak that would never spill his secret, and would never live long enough to even try. But the bastard had underestimated my little elf. Kreacher had returned to me, as he always did. He told me of the abomination the Dark Lord truly was to become. I knew then what I had to do, what maybe I had always been meant to do. I had to die.
"I have to do this, Remus…I need to become what Sirius wouldn't."
"A Death Eater? A murderer? Regulus…you don't have to do anything in this life but die. You get to make your own bloody choices!"
"I don't know if I believe that. I believe in destinies. In fate. What if it is inevitable for me to fall into this? To fall apart?"
"Your only destiny is to be with me, Regulus…"
"Master Regulus I won't! I won't take you to that…horrible place…I still dream of it! The nightmares!" Kreacher squealed, his large eyes tearing up as he clutched my robes.
"My dear, faithful companion. You are the only one I trust these days." I gently caressed his large, withered ear. "I order you to take me to the Cave. Now."
One last look of defiance. Then he took a handful of my robes and snapped his long fingers. We Apperated and rematerialized on the edge of a rocky isle. The smell of salt assaulted my lungs as waves roared inside my ears. I knelt beside the water and looked around. No boats. No way to travel except by swimming. I looked at my elf companion, who nodded.
"We swim." Kreacher gave me a tiny push.
I wasn't a very apt swimmer. But I had decided on what must be done, and had already agreed with myself that whatever challenged me on the way, I would accept. I yanked off my heavy cloak knowing it would only weigh me down in the sea. I squinted and saw the mouth of the cave jutting out of the water like teeth. The place certainly had an aura around it. I jumped in after Kreacher. We seemed to reach the entrance faster than I had expected. I was certain elf magic was behind that but I didn't want to question the fact. Even that short swim had winded me. I had always been pretty scrawny. Quidditch had made me quick, but being a Seeker hadn't exactly made me into a champion athlete. I caught my breath for a second as Kreacher waited quietly. He still looked angry about me ordering him to bring me here. He knew what it meant.
"Come on, then." I walked into the mouth of the cavern.
We didn't get very far. The whole left side was a solid wall. I looked down at my elf and frowned. He silently took my palm and slashed my flesh open with his sharp fingernails. I hissed and went to swat him away, but he brought my hand against the wet rocks. My blood soaked into the stone. I watched in pure amazement as the wall seemed to melt away into darkness.
"Old, old magic." Kreacher looked disgusted.
"To weaken the challenger." I looked down at my bleeding palm.
I'd felt worse pain.
"I'm all the way in Reg…gods it feels amazing…"
"It hurts, it hurts Remus…don't move!"
White hot glorious pain that mixed so well with pleasure. It didn't matter to me that we were both wizards. That he was a werewolf. That I was a Black. Nothing mattered except what we felt when we were together. That simple connection that blossomed into so many different complicated feelings. I enjoyed and abhorred it equally. Remus just thrived off of it.
"I have to move…it will feel good I promise."
"No, no. I'm not fucking you. I'm making love to you."
Arms around my chest as he kissed the back of my neck. I felt the burn all the way down my spine. No one could have compared to him. They would always, always be just second best.
"Master Regulus…we're here," Kreacher had lit a lantern he had found in the sand. Probably left from when the Dark Lord had been in the cave.
My eyes looked over at a boat. A nasty, tiny little boat in the pitch black water. The very sight sickened me to the core like poison. Water wasn't meant to look black. But when I walked closer, Kreacher grabbed at me hard. He was shaking.
"What is it?"
"Don't. Do not touch the water. Things…things is in there."
Things. My heart felt frozen.
Kreacher was yanking the boat's chain. We barely fit in it together. The boat knew the way, even if I did not. My wand's weak light beamed over a rocky square in the middle of the lake. In the center stood a pedestal holding up a bowl just like Kreacher had said. The boat hit into the rocks and stopped.
"It's…in there." Kreacher pointed one bony finger towards the bowl.
I jumped out of the disgusting vessel. I heard him follow, heard him start to protest. I reached the bowl and saw the strange, glowing water. Inside was the locket. I could hear a faint beating coming from it…as though the amulet had a heartbeat. I felt more disgusted than ever. Murder and evil had turned a hunk of metal into a husk for a human soul…a piece of a soul. I wanted it to burn in flames. Lord Voldemort had taken magic and used it for unforgivable acts. Any wizard knew the wrongness in that. But they were too scared to challenge the Dark One. Even though I was frightened beyond belief, I wasn't scared about what I had to do. I didn't have anything or anyone to live for, except Kreacher. My parents would hate me. Sirius already hated me…Remus…I gulped. I only could hope that one day; he would learn that I had discovered evil. And, in that discovery, I chose to die good rather than live within evil.
"Do you have the fake?" I asked Kreacher.
With shaking hands he handed over the poor imitation of Salazar Slytherin's golden locket. This fake was painted tin. I opened it and read over the small note I had written and wedged inside the necklace.
"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."
I re-folded the paper and locked it inside its metal home. I handed it to my elf, who wouldn't even look at me. I graced his ears again, but he just sighed. I conjured up a goblet and filled it with the peculiar water.
"Master…please…" Kreacher's teary eyes, filled with fear.
"You will destroy that locket. The real locket, the Horcrux. It is your mission. Your responsibility. Do you understand me? You knew I intended to be the one to die. I cannot ask you to die for me, Kreacher."
"Please Master, please!" he wailed, throwing himself into my legs. "I will! I will die for you! I'm sure I could find my way out again, if you just let me-,"
"You were on death's door the last time. I cannot let you drink this substance-, again, because of my stupidity. I was once a sheep that allowed other people to plan my life for me. Not ever again will I allow that."
"Master! Please…oh, please let me…"
"He won't be expecting you to have the locket. Just destroy it for me. Promise me…"
"Master…" Big, fat tears fell all over his withered cheeks.
"That is an order."
I knelt onto the rock as Kreacher grasped my forearm for support.
"Don't let me stop drinking." My lips kissed the edge of the goblet.
I knocked back the first drink. Liquid fire burned my throat and made me fall against the rocks. I heard Kreacher scream, but it was muffled, like he was yelling very far away. It was excruciating but extraordinary. The cave vanished and reappeared. More liquid fire sped down my throat. Kreacher was giving me more of the dreadful potion. The poison guard to the beastly locket. As he fed me more of the liquid, the cave vanished all together. I saw my old haunt. Dungeon number two. The place Remus and I frequented most in our secret rendezvous.
"I cannot go on with this, Regulus."
Oh gods. Not this. Not this memory…
"What do you mean?"
"This lie. I'm just a tool for you. Something to do when you get bored with your pureblooded mates. Future Death Eaters. Future murdering traitors."
Tell him it isn't true. Tell him anything to make it stop.
"Don't tell me it isn't true!"
Those gorgeous amber eyes, they filled with angry tears. I needed to touch him but I knew he would push me away. Part of me, a dark part of me, wanted to make Remus let me touch him. Use the violence I knew so well to make him understand. I needed him around in order to keep the part of me that still felt colorful. The part that felt alive.
"I can't visit you anymore…it's too dangerous. For me, for you, for my friends…I just had to come here one last time to say goodbye."
"You…you're breaking up with me?"
A dark chuckle. It was so wrong coming out of him, it sounded like a hiccup. "A bit too late for that, isn't it?"
"I don't know what you mean."
But I did know. I just had wished I could forget.
More hiccuping. Remus was holding himself together; his arms were wrapped tight around his ratty old cloak.
"I saw it. The last time we…we made love. I saw it Regulus. I saw what you promised me would never exist."
I looked away from him. I had to. It was either that or vomit. Only Remus Lupin could make a young Death Eater feel like a child who had misbehaved.
"Show it to me."
My eyes shot back to the broken werewolf. "No."
"You show it to me!" He screamed, eyes wild.
It was so rare to see Remus completely unhinged. I was ashamed that I had to be one of the reasons it happened. He grasped my forearm and forced my sleeve all the way up to my shoulder. And there it was. The Mark. Bold, black, and almost glowing. I watched as Remus retched into an old cauldron. The sound made my stomach burn and burn and burn…endless fire. Endless punishment.
Was this what Hell was like?
"I hate what you have become…you had a choice Regulus and you blew it. You could have stayed, stayed with me. Been with me. Loved me!"
Oh but I do, I do love you. In fact even then I knew that my feelings for my werewolf were beyond the capacity of mortal love. My very being ached for Remus. But how would I ever express that into mere words? How could I tell him that I had allowed my thirst for power to swallow me? That I knew I was making all the wrong choices, but that I had allowed it to happen anyway? I had no explanations for Remus. Only excuses. And that would never be acceptable.
"It isn't like we could be together forever. You can get married. Have kids. Move on."
The words were wrong and bitter tasting.
"You said…you told me you wanted me forever."
He looked so hurt, like I had stabbed him in the chest.
"Forever? That doesn't exist. You're foolish Lupin. Here, you can have this back."
I dropped the golden necklace into his hand. It was just a small chain with a golden ring hanging off it. The promise of our commitment to one another. The silent bond that had kept us together. Remus closed his fist around it tight. I could hear him choking back sobs. I had to let him go. I had to forget him or he would be in danger. I was a Marked man. Anyone close who wasn't useful for the cause would be seen as weak and eliminated. I wouldn't let Remus die for my blind decisions.
"Keep it…I want you to have it."
That was surprising. He placed it over my head and tucked the chain into my sweater. The metal was warm against my chest, against my heart. Remus's glowing eyes searched my hard face. I knew he was hoping to see doubt. To see the boy he had fallen in love with. But I had hidden him well. Smothered him, almost. Pain blossomed in those same amber eyes, followed by disappointment. Regret. He would regret loving me. That would be okay. As long as he lived a happy life without me.
His lips graced my cheekbone. "I love you."
Remus turned away and left the dungeon. The room we had spent so much time in studying and teaching, making love and falling in love. I had fallen to my knees in sheer agony in his absence. I would never see him again. Every part of me burned in sizzling bursts of pain.
The Cave. I was in the cave. Kreacher tipped the cup to my lips again and again.
"OH GODS, NO! PLEASE JUST LET ME DIE!"
He was sobbing uncontrollably, pushing the poison down my throat. "Drink, sir, drink you will feel better soon…"
I fell into the arms of my cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. The fresh Dark Mark made me toxic and so very ill.
"You get used to it, you silly baby boy. You will love it soon. The connection with Him…you will love it so, so much…"
She was mad. I saw it in her eyes, in her soul. I would never love it. The only thing I ever loved was having Remus love me. And I knew that soon, I would lose him. I would lose the love he had for me.
"Kreacher…kill me…kill me please,"
The elf was cradling me in his lap. He held my head back, and split the potion into my throat.
"You've been with a wolf before…I can smell it on your blood." Fenrir Greyback hissed into my ear.
I was pinned to my bed, while the other Death Eaters waited in my sitting room. I had missed on my first test. I had refused to kill a Muggle child. Now my punishment would be to submit to a beast. Greyback was the only beast they let close enough to them. Half-bloods sickened Him. I turned away from his horrid breath.
"I was with no one."
"You certainly aren't a virgin."
The burn that lasted and never became sweet. Fenrir didn't belong where Remus had been. No amount of time spent in my bathtub ever could take away the wrong feeling that seemed to taint my skin.
I couldn't see Kreacher. When I opened my eyes, all I saw was blackness and a swinging golden locket. The real locket.
"Go now." I muttered. I wasn't sure he could hear me.
I was so, so very thirsty. I wanted water so badly. I knew where I could find enough water to last a lifetime. I rolled off the rocky isle and fell into the midnight lake. The bony, ice cold fingers of the Dark Lord's Inferi clutched onto me as I descended. I dared not open my eyes now. Instead, I just breathed. Water filled my lungs. Another huge gulp. I felt lightheaded. Something was crushing my chest. My body seemed very, very heavy. The Inferi were tugging me down deep into the depths of the lake. I never saw them. My eyes remained shut as death clung to my limbs.
"Oh Reg…what have you done?"
"It's your birthday isn't it? That requires cake and a present. In fact it's basically mandatory."
"I see cake. Where's this present?"
I tied a bow around my neck.
"Happy birthday, Remus."
"Just what I always wanted. Let's take off the wrapping, shall we?"
Those hands, so nice and warm. I sat on his lap while his hands roamed up my shirt and slid it over my head. I could feel him, hard and waiting, pressed tight to my backside. I always needed Remus. I always needed him to love me. I pushed his hands into my trousers. I wanted him to need me too. He always came first, I made sure of that. After being inside me he always brought us close together. He would kiss me over and over. Make sure nothing hurt. Remus could kiss anything and make it better.
"I love you so much Regulus."
"Thank you for loving me, Remus."
He smiled. Smiles with tints of sadness.
The Inferi twisted my neck. Lights out as death's arms pulled me close. Oh Remus, would this be enough?
His face appeared in Death. I knew it wasn't really him. I was just seeing what I wanted to see.
"You were always enough."
And that would have to do.