The Sugar Quill
Author: Genesse (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Consequences  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: I do not own Regulus Black or Sirius Black or anything in the Potterverse. Really, I don't.

A/N: Many thanks, as always, are due to Chary for trudging through the bleakness to make this story a whole lot better. This story is for Spartina, who wanted to see more of Ronnie Fawcett, and for my friend Kelleypen, who wanted to know what happened after Regulus died.

A/N cont.: This story has many preceding parts The Specimen, Owls In the Night, and Witnessings and Warnings, with which is the only one of the three that you need to be familiar.

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Consequences
A sequel to Witnessings and Warnings


Part I: I Do Not Choose To Sleep

‘Avada Kedavra!’

I do not choose to sleep for my dreams are haunted by those two words—words that terrorized the wizarding world for years because it tore apart families and ended too many lives. But sleep I must and sometimes—sometimes—I allow myself the respite.

When I sleep, I do not hurt. When I sleep, I am only scared. I relive all the times in my life when I was frightened and powerless—crying alone in our bedroom after Sirius went to Hogwarts for the first time, following Bellatrix into Ronnie Fawcett’s home, having the Dark Mark burned on my forearm, being killed by those who I once counted as my friends—the consequences of my decisions.

But when I am awake, I am ashamed and doubtful and alone. And being the pathetic coward I know I am is worse than remembering.

After I died, I knew for certain what it was to be frightened and powerless. I did not know anyone, really, who had been murdered. I had only known relatives who had died of old age before the Dark Lord had raised his army. So the first—and only—person I met after I died had been an old aunt of my father, who merely sneered at me and said, ‘I had expected as much.’

I went out of my way to avoid anymore of my ancestors. I went out of my way to avoid everyone, even when my father and mother died, even when my own school mates started dying by the hands of Aurors and sometimes by the hands of each other. One day, I did nearly meet someone which curiosity compelled me to seek out—Meredith Diamond, the Specimen. But shame turned me away from her before I could gather up the little courage I thought I might have. After that, I wandered and kept to the shadows, at the edge of all things.

Eventually I found a solitary forest where I could be alone with my thoughts and hide when necessary.

The outdoors is so vast that it seems it is all there is. It’s always fine out and most people gather in the meadow during the day, searching for others they used to know and for those few who seem to have answers to their questions. But I prefer the forest these days: I had made my first real decision in the wood behind Ronnie Fawcett’s home.

~*~

I spat at the ground to create a divide between Bellatrix and myself.

Bellatrix blanched. ‘That’s disgusting, Regulus. Don’t you have any manners?’ She pointed her wand at the glob of spit.
‘Evanesco!’ she whispered.

I rolled my eyes at her. ‘Why did you do that?’ I asked.

‘So that no-one can track you, idiot.’

I scowled at the back of her head. The phrases “I am not and idiot. And I am not a soldier. This is not my war.” ran through my mind.

‘I think this is a bad idea, Bella.’

‘That what’s a bad idea?’

‘This.’ I waved my hand around me.

‘You think that following the Dark Lord’s instructions is a bad idea? Helping him gain power over those who do not deserve it? And taking the power that he will give to you because you served him faithfully? Is that a bad idea, Regulus?’

‘N-n-no.’

‘I’m glad that you agree, then. I wouldn’t want to have to kill you, Regulus, you’re my cousin.’

I hadn’t realized that I was holding my breath, but I let it out slowly, relieved.

‘But I will if the Dark Lord tells me to.’

I willed my jaw not to drop and for my eyes not to betray my disbelief. This was Bellatrix, my cousin—
family. I turned my back to her. I was going to walk away. I wanted to walk away, but I only took one step.

‘You can’t leave, Regulus.’

I was shaking, but I turned around to look her in the eye. ‘Why not?’

‘Leaving is the worst thing you can do,’ she said, imitating my mother.

‘It is?’ I asked, as if I hadn’t heard it before. ‘How’s that?’

‘Leaving means you’re dead. And there’s nothing worse than being dead.’

That’s why we kill people, I thought. ‘Except being a dead Mudblood,’ I said aloud.

Bellatrix grinned, while narrowing her eyes at me. ‘That’s the spirit, Regulus.’ She pointed her wand at me. ‘Remember what I said, cousin. Don’t leave. Leaving is the worst thing you can do.’

We stared at each other while the sun set.

‘It’s time.’

Carefully, we trod through the back garden.
‘Alohomora!’ Bellatrix whispered as she pointed her wand at the door handle. It made the barest whisper of a click as the door silently opened. Bella looked at me and held her wand up. I pulled my wand out and held it in imitation of her. She did not say anything, merely nodded, and slipped through the door. She shouted, ‘Impedimenda!’ before I could slip though after her.

The first time I ever saw Ronnie Fawcett I was standing in her kitchen and she was splayed on the floor in front of the fire, struggling against the Curse that was binding her. I could see her eyes; they locked with mine, and it felt like I was looking into my own eyes in a mirror, they were that familiar.

‘You have something that we want,’ Bellatrix told her.

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ Ronnie rasped at her.

‘Oh, yes, you do. You have a very important gift and I want you to give it to me. Now!’

‘No.’

‘Crucio!’

I dropped to my knees and removed my mask before I was sick all over it.

‘Tell me!’ Bella screamed at Ronnie’s convulsing form.

‘Never! I will never tell you!’ Ronnie shouted.

‘Crucio!’

I gagged.

‘Give it to me!’

‘There is nothing for me to give you.’

‘Yes, there is.
Imperio!

Ronnie’s eyes clouded over.

‘Give it to me or I’ll kill you.’

Ronnie was silent for a long moment. Her head snapped back. ‘I always knew your family would be the death of me.’

‘Should we kill her now, cousin?
Avada Kedavra!

Bella stood over Ronnie Fawcett for a long moment, then turned to me and my vomit puddled in front of me. ‘Clean that up, Regulus.’

I found her outside. Her face was shadowed by the weak light of the moon. ‘She wouldn’t give it to me.’

I was startled. Was Bellatrix remorseful?

‘You saw that, did you? You’ll make sure to tell the Dark Lord that she wouldn’t give it to me.’ She walked back to the wood.

‘More scared of what this will do to her reputation with the others,’ I whispered.

I raised my wand.
‘Morsmordre!’ I followed Bellatrix back to the wood. She Disapparated. I climbed into a tree and waited for hours for someone to find the Dark Mark glittering above Ronnie’s house.

~*~

The green stars of the Dark Mark grew smaller and closer together and turned white. They were no longer set in the sky above Ronnie Fawcett’s house, but were the reflections of candles and lamplight in the eyes of Severus Snape. But his eyes were not glinting with mirth nor were they flashing in anger. They were as cold and indifferent as ever.

I was sprawled on the floor of my flat, looking at the end of his wand. I was not surprised.

‘Why are you here?’ I asked. I knew the answer. I had been expecting someone to come and kill me for a week. I didn’t have to wait anymore.

‘You know why,’ someone said from behind me. I knew his voice.

‘No-one can control Bellatrix, Rookwood. I doubt that you could have stopped her and I doubt that you could have gotten the gift from Ronnie Fawcett,’ I said without turning to look at him.

Another figure behind me sniggered briefly, but stopped soon enough. I didn’t know him. He was probably a new recruit, on his first assignment for the Dark Lord, where death would be a viable option. My death.

‘Don’t blame this on Lestrange, Black. The Dark Lord has concerns of his own about you. You’re the one who put yourself in this position,’ Rookwood answered.

I could only look at Snape. If I hadn’t been sentenced to death by my master, he was my only hope. ‘Are you going to kill me, Severus?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I am,’ he said simply.

‘Part of your orders, is it?’

He didn’t say anything. Rookwood answered for him. ‘The Dark Lord knows that you’re planning on leaving him, Black. No-one leaves the Dark Lord and lives.’

‘Blood traitor,’ the stranger said.

Rookwood laughed at that.

‘So that means I die?’

Severus nodded.

‘Do you want to kill me?’ I asked, trying to buy more time. Severus was once a cohort—someone who sympathised with me, equally angry at Sirius but for entirely different reasons.

‘It doesn’t matter what I want.’ He put on his mask so that all I could see were his black eyes. ‘It doesn’t matter what I want,’ he repeats.

‘It doesn’t matter?’ I asked.

No-one said a thing.

‘It doesn’t matter because you’re cowards,’ I finally said.

‘What?’ both the voices demanded from behind me.

‘I’m not a soldier anymore,’ I whispered. Those were the last words I uttered in life.

‘Avada Kedavra!’ one of the three voices roared.

I wake, gasping for air.

The forest floor is not comfortable—it never has been, but I do not dare leave its confining and commiserating atmosphere. It’s a terrible decision, I know, but one I intend to stick with while I wait.



Part II: I Sent My Regrets

There are many things I regret seeing and doing in my life. I saw my mother behead a house-elf when I was four. I once happened upon my mother’s cousin Araminta Meliflua before she applied a Glamour charm one morning. I saw Sirius getting violently ill after a bout of doxy poisoning when he was eight.

Now that I’m dead, I regret letting Bellatrix intimidate the whole of Slytherin House my first night at Hogwarts. I had a very hard time becoming acquainted with my House mates after that. I regret that, after I became acquainted with them, I let them do all the dirty work in upholding the honour of Slytherin House. I gave them ideas and opinions as needed, but I always made sure that I wasn’t the one caught pointing the wand or purchasing the illegal potion ingredients.

But I knew Regret only after I died.

~*~

‘Lily, take Harry and go! It’s Him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off—’ Sirius’ best mate says, panic rising in his voice.

That redheaded Mudblood he used to run after picks up a bundle of blankets and stumbles up the staircase.

The front door bursts open in a shower of silver sparks. It’s the Dark Lord and he’s laughing.

‘You won’t kill my family,’ Potter says. He raises his wand.

But the Dark Lord already has his wand pointed at Potter.
‘Avada Kedavra!’ he says.

And then he laughs. He steps over Potter’s dead form and quietly walks up the stairs. He opens every door in the hall until he finds Potter’s wife standing in front of a baby’s crib.

‘You can’t hide from me anymore.’

She is in hysterics. ‘Not Harry! Not Harry! Please—I’ll do anything—’

‘Stand aside—stand aside, girl—’ She doesn’t move.
‘Avada Kedavra!’

She falls to the floor, lifeless. The Dark Lord takes a few steps forward. He sees a baby sitting in the crib. He leers at the baby, who looks up at him with his wide green eyes.

The Dark Lord raises his wand again.
‘Avada Kedavra!’

~*~

‘There is no light… in my life anymore, Kreacher,’ my mother rasps. She is having trouble breathing.

‘No, there is not, my mistress.’

‘Open the window hangings a bit, Kreacher… I want to see the sunshine.’

‘Yes, my mistress.’

‘Augh! That’s too much! Too… bright. Close them a… little.’

‘Anything to please Kreacher’s mistress.’

‘Nothing pleases me… anymore. Close the hangings a little… more. The light… hurts my eyes.’

Kreacher closes the curtains.

‘There is no light in my life anymore. Tell me, Kreacher… did you notify my nieces that I am dying.’

‘Yes, mistress, Kreacher sent messages to your nieces.’

‘And yet they do not come… And my sons? Where… are my sons? Where is Sirius?’

‘Does mistress remember? Master Sirius left his home.’

‘He… left? He broke my heart. The shame of… of my flesh. But where… where is my sweet… little Regulus?’

‘Mistress’ little Regulus died. Does mistress remember?’

‘He… died?’

‘Many years ago, mistress.’

‘There is no… light in my… life, anymore. It’s Sirius’ fault… that there’s no… no light…’

Tears well in Kreacher’s eyes. He hangs a dirty rag over the clock on the bedroom wall and soiled sheets over a couple of portraits. He shuffles out of the room, sniffling.


~*~

Two boys materialize out of nowhere, clutching a shiny silver cup. Both are wearing Hogwarts robes. Neither could be older than seventeen, and the shorter one couldn’t be older than fourteen. They stand and look around at their surroundings: a dark graveyard.

‘Did anyone tell you the cup was a Portkey?’ the taller boy asks. He looks at the younger boy, whose face is shadowed.

‘Nope,’ the shorter boy says. ‘Is this supposed to be part of the task?’

‘I dunno. Wands out, d’you reckon?’

‘Yeah.’

They light their wands but do not move from where they had landed. The cup lays unmolested between them.

‘Someone’s coming,’ the shorter boy says.

A hooded figure approaches. The two boys look at each other, then at the approaching hooded man.
He finally realises that they are there. They all look at each other for a moment.

The shorter boy falls to his knees, screaming in agony.

‘Kill the spare,’ a voice says. It pierces the night air but before either of the two boys could even shiver, the hooded figure pulls out a wand and points it at the taller boy.

‘Avada Kedavra!’ he screeches.

As the boy fell onto his back, I could see the expression on his face. He had been surprised—his eyes were wide open and his mouth gaped a bit. It made him look young. I could imagine that he might have had another year left at Hogwarts. He might have been a prefect, Hufflepuff House, according to the insignia on his robes.

For some time after seeing this boy die, I wonder about his life—did he have a brother or a sister? A girlfriend? Did he have a mother who tucked him into bed and told him fairy stories when he was little, a father who took him to see Quidditch matches, or had he been under the supervision of a governess because his parents couldn’t take the time to be with him or to listen to him? Had he an Apparition license yet? Had he just sat for his N.E.W.T.s? Did he know who it was that killed him? Who met him after he died?

But mostly I think about his eyes. They were grey and wide and round in wonderment.

They are my eyes.

~*~

Sirius collides with Antonin Dolohov with his shoulder, but does not knock him to the ground. Dolohov lifts his wand in order to put more force behind the next curse he will utter, but is hit with a Full Body Bind curse before he can utter the incantation.

‘Nice one!’ Sirius shouts at the spell caster. He pulls the dark-haired boy down with him as they dodge two rays of red light. ‘Now I want you to get out of—’

They duck again.

‘Harry, take the prophesy, grab Neville, and run!’ Sirius yells over his shoulder. He is looking at a young woman with bright pink hair falling down stone steps and rushing toward the person who caused the young woman to fall: Bellatrix.

Bella smirks and pushes a strand of hair behind her ear. Sirius meets her, head-on, and they duel furiously. They take no heed of the others dueling around them. It is only Sirius and Bellatrix. They both are too thin and haggard—not what they looked like in their youths—and Sirius is laughing at her.

‘Come on, you can do better than that!’ he yells, as if it was the game they used to play with toy wands on the stair leading to the Parthenon while we were on holiday in Greece. “Better than that” echoes throughout the room.

Bella shoots another ray of red light at him. It strikes him in the middle of his chest and he falls backward through an old veil. And as he falls,
I can tell that he sees me. Our eyes lock. I want to look away, but morbid curiosity won’t let me not see my brother die.



Part III: Pathways Are Marked

It’s been several weeks since I first dreamt of Sirius falling through the veil. I’ve had the same dream many times since then, which is disconcerting since it is my brother’s death but is also welcome since I am no longer dreaming of my haunted past.

I feel like there is something that needs to be said, and while I have been content up until now to speaking to myself and the trees, I think—nay, I know—that it’s not enough anymore. ‘A proper conversation with my brother—that’s what I really want,’ I say aloud. I’ve decided. I haven’t had a proper conversation with him in over twenty years.

I need to speak with him. As soon as possible.

And just as I decide that it’s what I need, Sirius is sitting down at my side saying, ‘Hullo, Reg,’ like he is nine years old again and I am almost seven again and have been sick in bed all day and he’s just come home from an outing with Mother to Diagon Alley without me.

‘Well, you’ve been a right pain in the arse to find,’ he says cheerfully.

‘I—I prefer the forest.’

He looks around at the trees. ‘I can see that, mate.’ He smiles. ‘There’s a load of people wanting to talk to you.’

‘Like who?’

‘Me, for one. I’ve been looking for you since I’ve got here. And I ran into Mum and Dad. Neither had much to say to me or each other, but they were polite. They asked about you. And there was this batty old woman looking for you too. She thought I was you at first. Nearly didn’t get away from her. Couldn’t get a word in at all. I left her talking to James and Lily.’ He laughs at himself.

‘So… you’ve already talked to Potter?’ I ask tentatively, scared of the answer and jealous of Potter’s relationship with Sirius.

Sirius looks at the ground between his feet. ‘He met me, Regulus, right as I arrived.’

‘Oh.’ We sit in silence awkwardly for a few minutes. ‘I—I would have met you, too, but… but I wasn’t sure you would—’

‘—want to talk to you? Of course I want to talk to you, Reg. We all of us are on the same side of things now. It’s like the past never happened.’

I stand up abruptly. He’s not haunted by dreams like I am. ‘It’s not like the past never happened, Sirius. Don’t you realise—’

He stays sitting. ‘I was in Azkaban for twelve years. Twelve years with only Dementors and the knowledge that I didn’t do the things I was accused of. I know that the past happened. I know it did. But I was referring to you and me.’

‘You and me?’

‘Yeah.’

I sit back down next to him. ‘You were… in Azkaban for twelve years?’

‘I was accused of killing twelve Muggles and a wizard with a single curse.’

‘One of your finer moments, I suppose.’

‘I didn’t kill them. It was Wormtail.’

‘Your fat friend?’

‘He was the Secret Keeper for Lily and James and he told Voldemort—’

I hiss inwardly involuntarily.

‘—their whereabouts. Voldemort killed them. He tried to kill their son Harry, too, but couldn’t and it nearly killed him. I—I confronted Wormtail, but he cursed a gas pipe that exploded and killed a load of Muggles and then faked his own death. I was blamed for all of that—the Potters, the Muggles, Wormtail.’

‘The Dark Lord couldn’t kill that baby?’ I am incredulous. I had seen him cast the Killing Curse on Potter’s son, after the Dark Lord had killed Potter and the Mudblood.

‘Did you know about Harry?’ he demands.

‘No! I didn’t know anything!’

He doesn’t respond. I decide that I should say something.

‘You didn’t do any of the things you were imprisoned for?’

‘I was supposed to be the Secret Keeper. It was my fault Voldemort could kill them.’

‘Oh. It—it’s something you still think about.’

‘It haunts me.’

‘Do you think it will ever stop haunting you?’

‘I—I don’t know. Sometimes… When I was in Azkaban, it’s what kept me sane—knowing that I was innocent.’

‘Innocent,’ I whisper. The word feels freeing, even for one such as myself who is haunted by the things he didn’t do. ‘I tried to save them. I tried to save the Weasley family,’ I find myself blurting to him.

‘The Weasley family?’ he asks as if he knows them intimately.

You know—the blood traitors. You told me their name. I tried to save Ronnie Weasley. I sent them owls. Only it was Ronnie Fawcett who was going to die, not Ronnie Weasley.’

‘You sent the Weasleys owls?’

‘Yes, I did, because I didn’t think I could kill a member of my family.’

He pulls me into a one-armed hug. ‘Regulus, I could never understand you after we were grown up. What must Mum think of you?’ He laughs softly. ‘I imagine she must have taken it pretty hard after I left and then with you dying,’ he adds as an afterthought.

‘She blamed you, for me dying. I think it was easier for her that way. She said she never taught us to leave, so it must have been you I got the idea from.’

‘She blamed me? That’s rich of her.’

‘She was right.’

‘Was she? I didn’t know I had such an effect on you.’

‘Well, it was mostly the little things. You, being the ostentatious Sirius Black, wouldn’t have noticed the subtleties about you.’

‘I have subtleties?’ He sounds pleased about it.

‘You used to make a fuss when the governess would put us to bed.’

‘I vaguely remember something like that.’

‘And you hated it when the governess would smooth your hair, because it was a mess after making such a fuss.’

‘She always smoothed it in the wrong direction, if I remember correctly.’

‘You never let anyone tell you anything you didn’t want to hear.’

He does not have a response to that.

‘And then you left.’

‘I wasn’t one for anything Mum and Dad had to say, was I?’

‘No, you weren’t.’

‘But you, on the other hand, were—’

‘Obedient.’

‘I was going to say curious. I was belligerent so I didn’t listen at all. You wanted to know why. That’s why they preferred you to me. That’s part of the reason I left. ’

‘You’re still my elder brother. You always had that distinction with me.’

‘Even though I left you?’

‘You left Mum and Dad. I kept to them, so in a sense, I left you.’

‘You don’t blame me for leaving?’

‘Of course not! You left because you’re Sirius. You knew you had to leave. I didn’t know I could leave until it was almost too late, and I still got killed for it.’

‘At least you didn’t get killed by Bellatrix.’ He rolls his eyes. ‘How will I ever live it down?’

‘Do you regret dying?’

‘Yes. No! I died protecting Harry. He’s my godson, you know. I would have done anything for him.’

‘You gave him everything you could have,’ I point out.

‘But I could have given him more, though, if I hadn’t been so rash as to get myself thrown into Azkaban for so long.’

‘We all make rash decisions.’

‘I’ve made more than my fair share. I was always going around in a roundabout direction. You know, this old bloke once said that life was a pathway marked by forks and turnings and that decisions are constantly before us. To make wise decisions, he said that you need courage. It takes courage to say, “No,” just like it takes courage to say, “Yes.”’

‘Who said that?’ I ask. ‘Dumbledore?’

‘Nah, it was some Muggle bloke.’

I laugh. ‘Where did you hear that, then?’

‘From those people around. Apparently, they have the answers to all your questions.’

‘Do they know where the courage to make wise decisions comes from?’

‘Well, I had to ask them that, didn’t I? They said it comes from inside yourself, from your heart, and you know it’s a wise decision because it makes you happy.’

It reminds me of something I heard when I was young. ‘If the star of the great lion is gloomy, the heart of the people will not rejoice,’ I quote.

‘Huh? I’ve never heard that before.’

‘Mr. Ollivander told me that when I was getting my wand.’

We sit in comfortable silence for a long time. When the shadows merge, he stands and extends a hand to me. I grab it. He pulls me up into a hug and keeps me close to him for several moments.

‘For what it’s worth, Regulus, I don’t think you’re a coward. You were never a bully like, well, everyone you surrounded yourself with.’

‘I let them do the bullying. I thought it was beneath me.’

‘And you broke away when you had to, even though you had nowhere to go. I at least was able to go to James and Uncle Alphard. All you did took more courage than what I did. Maybe you should have been a Gryffindor, after all.’

I roll my eyes but think that maybe he’s right.

‘Come and find me when you’re able,’ he says.

I nod and am surprised to find that I mean to.



Part IV: Decisions Determine Destiny

‘It’s time.’

Carefully, we trod through the back garden.
‘Alohomora!’ Bellatrix whispered as she pointed her wand at the door handle. It made the barest whisper of a click as the door silently opened. Bella looked at me and held her wand up. I pulled my wand out and held it in imitation of her. She did not say anything, merely nodded, and slipped through the door. She shouted, ‘Impedimenda!’ before I could slip though after her.

The first time I ever saw Ronnie Fawcett I was standing in her kitchen and she was splayed on the floor in front of her fire, struggling against the curse that was binding her. I could see her eyes; they locked with mine, and it felt like I was looking into my own eyes in a mirror, they were that familiar.

‘You have something that we want,’ Bellatrix told her.

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ Ronnie rasped at her.

‘Oh, yes, you do. You have a very important gift and I want you to give it to me. Now!’

‘No.’

‘Crucio!’ I dropped to my knees and removed my mask before I was sick all over it.

‘Tell me!’ Bella screamed at Ronnie’s convulsing form.

‘Never! I will never tell you!’ Ronnie shouted.

‘Crucio!’ I gagged.

Ronnie sobbed at the hearth where we found her. I briefly wondered if she had been speaking with someone over the Floo before Bellatrix had burst into her home. The specimen’s brother—Ronnie’s nephew—was still alive. He had a wife and probably children. He would be losing an aunt that evening.

I shuddered.

Bella grew weary of Ronnie’s refusals. She removed her hood and mask. Ronnie blanched. ‘You don’t have to tell me, anymore,’ Bella told her.

Ronnie breathed out, relieved.

‘Now you have to give me the gift.’

‘No. I won’t do it,’ Ronnie whispered. She took a ragged breath.

‘Give it to me!’ Bella screamed.

‘There is nothing for me to give you.’

‘Yes, there is.’

‘No. You’re a Black. I didn’t give it to her and I will not give it to you. You won’t get it from me. You won’t!’

‘Yes, I will.
Imperio!

Ronnie’s eyes clouded over.

‘Give it to me or I’ll kill you.’

Ronnie was quiet for a long moment. Then her head jerked back and she said, ‘I always knew your family would be the death of me.’

‘Should we kill her now, Cousin?
Avada Kedavra!

Bella stood over Ronnie Fawcett for a moment, then turned to me and my vomit puddled on the floor before me. ‘Clean that up, Regulus.’


~*~

Not for the first time, I have a great desire to speak to the person dying in my dreams. I feel that if I can make things better by Ronnie Fawcett, the guilt I feel in my bones will disperse and I can be free of these shackles. I’m not a soldier anymore, but I am still a prisoner of the foolish decisions I made when I was alive.

I hear leaves rustling. It reminds me of waiting for the sun to set the night Bella killed Ronnie. I look around a tree at the source of the rustling and am not surprised to see that it is Ronnie. She’s alone and is surprised to see that it’s me.

‘Well, now, I knew that someone wanted to speak with me, but I didn’t know it would be you,’ she says.

‘I’m sorry. You—you don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to.’

‘I don’t mind talking to you. You didn’t kill me. It was the woman. You made a mess of my kitchen floor.’ She laughs.

‘I—I… I cleaned it up.’

‘I know you did, for that I thank you. I wouldn’t have wanted the Fawcetts to come in there to split up my estate and have to deal with old vomit as well.’

I laugh because I’m not sure what else to do. But she laughs with me, and I feel a bit less awkward.

She stops laughing. The light catches her eyes and I can see that they aren’t like mine at all. ‘Your eyes are brown,’ I say.

‘Yes, they are,’ she says, not a bit confused.

‘I’m sorry, I just remember them being grey, like mine.’

She looks at me for a long time. All the awkwardness that had lately dissipated comes back. ‘Sometimes, when we’re most in need of someone to tell us the hard facts but aren’t really ready to hear them, we see things only as how we want to see them—not as they really are. And that’s okay because we’re human beings. I know this because I was lonely for a long time, Mr.—er, I don’t know your name, sorry.’

‘Black. Regulus Black, ma’am.’

‘Black? I guess I knew that. Your family was always going to be the death of me.’

‘I remember you saying that, um, the night you died.’

‘Ah, yes, well, I don’t want you to be upset at yourself over me dying. I had been lonely for a long time. And I was old. My heart broke every day when I would wake up and realise that I was all alone in that old house of Raymond’s. Not even a house-elf or a Jarvey to talk to! I was taking the few people I had for granted—’

‘I tried to warn you,’ I manage to say. It surprises her.

‘You—you tried to warn me?’

‘Yes. I—I knew that the Dark Lord wanted your gift and that Bellatrix—that’s my cousin—was prepared to kill you for it. So I sent three owls the day before. Only I didn’t know for certain your surname so the owls went to another family. The Weasleys.’

‘The Weasleys? I know that there was a young family by the name of Weasley on the other side of the village. They must have received a shock. But whatever possessed you to warn me?’

I find myself telling her my whole history—the fairy story about Jacinda and her daughters that was actually my family history, my estrangement from Sirius, Sirius running away from home, wanting to know why he left and how he inspired me to do what I needed to do, the cryptic letters, my fellow Death Eaters killing me. She listens in relative silence—while she hums tunelessly—until I had nothing left to say. I am quite relieved when I finally finish talking.

‘You did right by me, Mr. Black. Ha! I never thought I would say such a thing!’

‘I’m sorry about your gift. Did—did it die with you?’

‘Oh, no. I knew that someone was coming for it; it was only a matter of time. So I contacted my nephew. He has four girls. I gave it to one of his daughters over the Floo—Meredith, named after her aunt. She was born after Alistair and Nephele realized that Meredith the aunt was never going to recover.’

I raise my eyebrows in surprise.

‘The Ministry had their way with her and then they sent her to St. Mungo’s, but by then it was too late. I should say the Department of Mysteries, not the Ministry. Alistair has no idea about little Meredith having the gift though, of course. He’s wary of the Floo Connection and I didn’t contact him via the Floo much after what happened to my niece. Well, after Meredith was taken by the Unspeakables, Alistair and Nephele were my only family, except for my Raymond’s nieces and nephews, but I couldn’t talk to them like Alistair and Nephele. But even though they—Alistair and Nephele, I mean—were my only family, I couldn’t bring myself to talk. I blamed myself for what happened to Meredith.’

‘But blaming yourself doesn’t help.’

She continued on, as if she hadn’t heard me. ‘If only I had told her straight away about the gift! She had no idea. I couldn’t tell her that the gift is what drove her mother mad, and my Raymond. Alas! I forced it on her, even though the timing was horrid and she was in no mood to receive it. And that poor Muggle! His memories were modified—he doesn’t remember ever meeting Meredith at all.’

I nod. I can see why Sirius had left her talking with the Potters.

‘But I don’t think I did it properly—giving little Meredith the gift. She was quite young and I didn’t have a lot of time. Your cousin burst in just after I broke the connection, so I was lucky in that respect.’

‘What would have happened if you hadn’t been able to pass on the gift?’

‘Well, I don’t know for certain. Maybe your cousin would have persuaded me to give it to here. Maybe not. But, so you know, just because your cousin wanted the gift, doesn’t mean that she would have been able to wield it. It would have driven her crazy.’

‘She already was crazy,’ I whisper.

‘It’s powerful, very powerful. But human life is not something to take lightly. Humans—not just Muggles and not just wizards, but all of us—are very powerful, did you know? We sow seeds and we tend to the animals, and we’re the only beings on Earth that can create human life and those humans also sow seeds and have power over animals. Well, most animals. Who can control a hairy MacBoon? No-one! That’s why they have their own island, so that they only hurt each other. We humans kill other humans for selfish reasons, Mr. Black, but who are we to decide who should live and who should die, eh? We all of us can take a life but we also have the power to create life and that’s more than just magic.’

Ronnie stands. ‘My Raymond will be waiting for me. Come and see us sometime, Mr. Black. I want you to meet him. And my brother Linus and his wife. And Meredith! I insist on you meeting her.’

I nod politely.

‘I’m glad that we met, Regulus. I had been looking for you for some time, but I was afraid that you wouldn’t want to speak with me. Thank you. Thank you for summoning me,’ she says. She turns and leaves the forest.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go to meet Ronnie’s relatives. Not if they talk as much as she. But I feel better. A weight has been lifted from my chest and I am not surrounded by the heavy guilt I once felt because Ronnie had died when I could have prevented it. She knows that I tried to prevent it.

That effort wasn’t for naught. And that thought is something I can live with.

~*~

For the first time in many, many years, I wake to the twittering of birds and the gentle drip of condensation falling from leaf to leaf—not to the vehement incantation and the ray of green light of an Unforgivable Curse that normally haunt my dreams. In fact, I did not dream at all last night.

I sit up and breathe in the morning air deeply.

I think today that I will leave this wood I’ve been hiding in and find the people of my past that I’ve been avoiding. Today I am REGULUS BLACK.



~*~

A/N part 3: The "Old Muggle bloke" is Thomas Monson, a master storyteller himself. The last part of his quote is the title of Part IV. He also inspired the title of Witnessings and Warnings. The Heart of the People quote is an Akkadian association related to the star Regulus.
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