That's why I couldn't be happier Simply couldn't be happier – well, not simply Cause getting your dreams, it's strange but it seems A little, well, complicated There's a kind of a sort of cost, there's a couple of things get lost There are bridges you cross you didn't know you crossed until you've crossed
- Glinda in "Thank Goodness" from Stephen Schwarz's musical Wicked
Regulus tucked a stray lock of hair behind an ear and felt the perspiration on his brow. The candle was almost completely melted down into waxy goo and there was just enough left to seal another letter, this time with the Black crest on his ring.
The young man stretched his sore back, cramped from hovering in the same position over the desk for so long. The words had to come out absolutely perfectly, there could be no margin left for error. Regulus was proud of his affinity for words, his ability to craft hidden meanings into sentences and say exactly the right thing in the right way. It was what made him so adept at spell work, and what had enabled him to craft spells for the Dark Lord in the first place.
Not that it mattered why he had been drawn into the service at that moment. There would be plenty of time to dwell on that after the deed had been done. Though he knew that he would never see the ramifications of his actions, Regulus was still hopeful that they might bring about some good. And maybe, just maybe, that good would be enough to cover his mistakes…
"Are you ready for this, Regulus?"
Liam Merric looked as if he might explode in a fiery ball of energy at any moment. Regulus laughed and finished folding his last shirt to put into his trunk. The rest of the Slytherin boys had already gone up to the common room to get ready for the feast, and only Liam and Regulus were left in the room. Regulus rose off of the floor and walked over to his fair-haired friend, grasping his shoulder and pulling him close in a mock hug.
"You bet I am. Seven years of hard work finally paying off? I can't wait to get out of here and away from the Mudblood lovers, present company excluded of course."
Liam chuckled and shrugged the comment off as nothing, like he usually did. Liam was the first Muggleborn to be placed in Slytherin in years, though he had more than earned his place as first in their class and as the best friend of the youngest son of the Black family. Regulus had befriended him after realizing just how bright the Irish boy was, hoping to improve his own marks and not expecting much more than a free tutor. But Liam was an astute observer of others, and soon Regulus was forced to choose between friendship and icy hatred. He chose the former.
Regulus checked his pocket watch and sighed in exasperation, "How long do you think this is going to take? I mean, I know we have a farewell feast at the end of every year, but really. I just want to get home and away from here."
Liam laughed and leaned his slim body against a nearby wall, popping one knee forward and leaving the other leg to support his weight, "Patience, friend. It'll go quickly once it's begun. Besides, it's not like we can go anywhere else. The train doesn't leave to go back to London until tomorrow morning, and then we're going to your parents' house. Nothing will start until we're there."
We may be going back to Grimmauld Place, but that doesn't mean I don't have anywhere else I'm supposed to be, thought Regulus with an inward wince. It was not that he did not trust Liam, but there was a bit of a conflict of interest in being the best friend of a Muggleborn wizard when you were about to pledge your loyalty to the greatest wizard who ever lived: Voldemort, the Dark Lord. Even if he was a Slytherin, Regulus knew that his friend would never be completely welcome in the ranks of the Death Eaters.
He also knew that Liam viewed the Dark Lord's cause with contempt and scepticism. Even as many of the other young witches and wizards in the house had discussed joining the Death Eaters in hushed voices over the past months, the Irishman had not relented in his view. A couple boys had tried to convince him otherwise, but Liam just could not sympathize with the "stark raving mad ranting of a pureblood extremist." It didn't make him popular, Regulus thought, but so far it hadn't posed much of a problem. So far.
Regulus' thoughts were broken by Liam's sudden tap on his shoulder, drawing his attention toward the doorframe. Nicolai Baddock, another seventh-year, bustled through the doors clumsily, almost tripping over the trunks piled in front of them.
"Hey, you lot ready? They've called us to go up to the Great Hall three times now. Get a move on!
Liam raised an eyebrow and replied, "Relax, Baddock, we're coming. What's all the rush anyway?"
The other boy shrugged. "I dunno, something about wanting to make sure everything starts on time. They sent me to find you both. Hurry up!" He gave them both a warning look and trotted toward the stairs, tripping again on the third step.
Regulus chuckled and smoothed his robes, "It just means that the Ministry is being overly eager and self-conscious. They probably expect some kind of attack – like the Dark Lord would deem such an event worthy…"
"Dark Lord? Don't tell me you've gone and joined…"
"Regulus! Liam! Get up here!" Baddock's voice drifted down the stairwell.
"We'll finish this later," muttered Liam and started up the stairs, back turned to his friend. Regulus set his body and held his head high. It was fine, he could deal with Liam. Besides, it was not as if the Dark Lord was going to ask him to hurt his best friend, right?
Of course not.
When they reached the top of the stairs, Regulus noted that the room had mostly emptied since he had come up forty-five minutes before to gather the last of his belongings. There were a few first-year boys scrambling to get there on time, and a few older girls who were making last minute rounds about the room to ensure that they had packed everything. Regulus had never had a relationship with many of his classmates that extended beyond being cordial acquaintances. Though he had known most of them all of his life because they came from pureblood families, he always found reason not to get too close to them. He had never had a close friend until he came to Hogwarts and met Liam.
Growing up in the middle of London did not quite lend itself to meeting many children with whom he could share his magical lifestyle. His childhood had mostly consisted of private tutors in Grimmauld Place and visits to other magical households in the country. And Sirius, well, he was a different story. There were traits about Sirius that Regulus admired – his outgoing personality, his wit and charm – but he knew that his brother had pushed things too far a few too many times. Both boys had inherited the characteristic Black hair and good looks, but Regulus was much too shy to really take advantage of them. Sirius had always received more attention from outsiders as the boys were growing up, at least until they entered Hogwarts. But even then, it was still Sirius that they talked about, only the subject had changed.
A Black not in Slytherin – of course, it had happened before, but no one expected the son of Orion and Walburga Black to be sorted into Gryffindor. Most other Blacks were sorted into Ravenclaw if they weren't in Slytherin, and even though Sirius was merely added to the list of blacked out spots on the family tapestry, it still seemed different, special, to Regulus. That's what Sirius was, of course. Special. Even if he wasn't favoured. Regulus was just normal, the good son. The one who did what was expected. And what was expected was unceasing devotion and perfection.
Regulus' thoughts were broken by Liam's sudden tap on his shoulder, drawing his attention up the stairs toward the Great Hall. Professor McGonagall bustled through the doors, opening and closing them so swiftly that Regulus almost believed she had Apparated through the doors, though he thought he may have heard somewhere that that was impossible in Hogwarts Castle. McGonagall turned to face the students, brushing a few fly-aways behind her ears and taking a deep breath before straightening her body and assuming her usual stance of authoritative ease.
"Thank you all for your patience," she began, voice even and now completely collected. "We've had a few complications in our preparations. It seems that the Ministry wanted to make sure that we were all operating under optimal safety standards. If you would all straighten your queues…"
Liam raised an eyebrow and murmured, " 'Complications?' What's that supposed to mean?"
Regulus shrugged, "Told you. Overly eager. Self-conscious. And you wonder why I don't trust our government."
Liam laughed and shook his head, but said nothing. Regulus breathed a sigh of relief – he did not know what he would have done had Liam been angry with him for what he had accidentally let slip. How was he supposed to explain what he was doing to his friend? There was nothing wrong with it, of course, but all the same, how do you explain to someone that you're joining a group of people that they think is pointless?
He shuffled forward as the students in front of him moved into the Great Hall. He had, of course, already been to six feasts at the end of the year, but always with the expectation of returning. Now that he was about to leave, Regulus could not help but feel a pang of nostalgia. Granted, more often than not he had hated being at the school, but it was the place where he had really had a chance to mould himself into the man whom he was becoming. It was where he had met Liam, and where he had succeeded so admirably.
Dumbledore stood silently at the front of the room. Though Regulus generally viewed the man with some contempt, he could not deny that he had a bit of flair about him. He had no idea how old he must be, but he knew that he had been around for quite some time, if for no other reason than the in