The Sugar Quill
Author: Phoenix's Melody  Story: My Brother  Chapter: Default
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My Brother

Quick Note: I would advise reading ‘Nine Stars in the Sky’ before this piece for background information.  However, this can be read as a stand-alone.

 

 

My Brother

By Phoenix’s Melody

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Dear Brother,

 

He paused, looking at the words, his quill poised in mid-air.  What was he doing?  When he had first decided to start a final farewell letter to his sole family member, it had seemed like a good idea.  Now, faced with the daunting task of finding the right words to mend a chasm with the aid of a single letter, he could not fathom how he could do it.  Tell him the truth…  He lowered his pen and began to write.

 

By the time you read this, if you do read this, I will be dead. 

 

He wrote in between bouts of frantic scrambles to stir the bubbling mixture heating over the fireplace and murmured incantations to charm a nasty surprise for his visitors.  He wrote in between stretches of contemplation and attacks of fear for what was coming, insecurities plaguing and mocking him.  But still he wrote until he was done.

He left his potion and his hiding place then to briefly walk into the nearest owl post office.  Faking an emergency, he managed to convince the witch to let him send the letter on the fastest owl she had before warning her of an impending Death Eater attack.  She had looked at him in pure shock, uncomprehending.  He told her to leave as soon as possible, warning any other witches and wizards in the town, and not to return until daylight.  Then he had swept out of the office, payment left on the counter in front of her, not bothering to see if she would obey his instructions.  He returned to his frantic preparations.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The owl, finding no one at home, dropped the letter on the kitchen table where it sat, untouched and unnoticed, until the chilly darkness began to yield its domination of the sky.  A cold sun began to rise into that gray morning, an icy frost in the spring.  A woman entered the flat then, her cloak wrapped tightly around her, her features hidden in the folds of her hood.  When the door was locked and secured, the disguise fell to the ground.  Her grubby apron and maid’s dress were quickly exchanged for a set of warm, comfortable robes.  Make-up was wiped off and then reapplied to hide the shadows under her eyes.  She would sleep, but not yet, not until he came home.

She entered the kitchen, too tired and disheartened to even hum as she usually did.  Her work was demanding and dangerous.  Sometimes, she felt like she was drowning in what she saw and heard each night.  She glanced at the clock on the wall, ticking serenely away.  Quarter past five.  She looked anxiously out the window, searching for a familiar figure sauntering down the street.  If he went drinking, I’ll kill him. She thought out of pure fear.  She knew he wouldn’t have gone drinking, not while there was a war to be fought, not when he had to work.  He didn’t have a reason to be late.  She knew he knew how easily she worried and made every effort to come home on time.  He should be home by now.  Dread began to fill her and she shook it off as best she could.  He can take care of himself.  You know how he is, always trying to pull James away from work.  James works too much.  I wonder if Lily’s up?  The woman shook her head, trying to calm herself, to stem the flow of anxiety.  She began making a cup of tea with trembling hands.  Last night was hell…

She sank into the kitchen chair, her cramped hands cupped around the soothing warmth of her cup.  It was only then that she noticed the letter and her lips thinned in disgust.  With an angry flick of her wand, she sent the letter flying into a wooden box that sat next to the fireplace.  How dare he write to us when he knows that we’ll never join.  Poisoned words.  If she was the serving wrench, she would have spit in contempt, but that persona came out only when all else was dark.  In the dawning daylight, she was a refined woman from a good family and contempt came only from the smoldering look she gave the box.

She would tell her fiancé that his younger brother wrote to them, but it was only out of traditional courtesy that she didn’t destroy the letter immediately.  Her in-laws were despicable people and her brother-in-law was a murdering coward.  Color rose in her cheeks as she struggled to rein in her ever-mounting anger and frustration.  Suddenly she sat upright, her anger forgotten, when she heard the locks tumble open.  Wand in hand, she rose silently from her seat and moved toward the kitchen door.

“Sweetheart?” a familiar, beloved voice called out.  Her heart lifted with relief.  “Are you home?”

“In here,” she called.  “What’s your question today?”

“Who am I?”

“My fiancé and a thieving Lab,” she teased, her mood brightening considerably.  “You ate all of the biscuits again.”

“Did not!” he protested indigently as he shed his cloak and weapons in the foyer.  “My turn, what’s your younger brother’s oldest brother’s name?”

“Will,” she replied.  “Nice try.”  She laughed when he entered the room.  He was a tall, handsome man with shoulder-length black hair.  His stride was long and confident and his every action suggested power that was barely controlled.  Yet, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her with a gentleness that would have surprised many of his colleagues.  But those colleagues would never see his beauty on his arm at any celebration.  Save the one that would happen when the war ended.  And the official wedding that would follow.  If they were around to see it, that is.  The two professions the couple had involved themselves in had high mortality rates in these troubled times.  There were no guarantees.

“How was your night?” he asked softly.  Her happiness vanished and she started to tremble.  He rocked her and held her tight as she cried, running one hand up and down her back like he did with his cousin’s daughter to soothe her.  She clung to his dirt-stained robes.

“I hate them.”  Each word was punctuated by a sob, full of grief and anger.  “I hate them.  Death is too good for them.  I hate them.”  He shushed her quietly.  He really wished she would stop her work.  Doesn’t she see what it’s doing to her?  Doesn’t Dumbledore see what it’s doing to her?  It’s got to stop.  But he pressed his lips tight and didn’t say a word of his thoughts aloud.  He had married a proper woman, of good family, of refinement, but she was by no means a trophy wife.  From firsthand experience, he knew she was very capable of holding her own in an argument and scolding as loudly as she needed to in order to get her point across.  His ears had rung for hours after their last argument.  He knew there was no way she would stop until she decided that the risks outweighed the benefits of her position.  Until then, he could only pray that he would be able to hold her like this every morning until both of them were old and wrinkled, with this war far behind them.

Eventually, her tears ceased and her iron control subdued her righteous anger.  He let go of her then, to let her wipe away her tears and smile weakly at him, an act that would fool most people, but not him.

“So,” she said in a tone that meant business, “Why were you late today?  I was getting worried.”  His face darkened.  He had managed to forget the news once he had come home, but now a tint of bitter grief rose to the surface.  He sat down in her vacated chair.

She knew by the look on his face that his night had not gone much better than hers.  She glanced at the window, wondering about the women who were standing at their windows, waiting anxiously, praying fervently for their husbands to come home, and about the husbands, fathers and brothers who wouldn’t make it through the doorway into the arms of their loved ones.  She busied herself with making her beloved a cup of coffee, which she pushed into his unresisting hands.

“What happened?” she asked softly.

“He’s dead,” he answered flatly.  “He left the Death Eaters, the stupid fool, and now he’s dead.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, knowing instantly who ‘he’ was.

“I don’t know.  If he hadn’t listened to Mother…” Anger and regret glinted in his eyes.  She watched him sympathetically before she hugged him.  He took a sip of his coffee.  “They torched the place, but he apparently fought like hell before he died.  We found three bodies total.”

“How — how do you know for sure?”

“They found —” his voice caught, “They found his lucky charm in the ashes, the gold nine I got for him in Hogsmeade, the one I had made for him.  I didn’t know he’d kept it with him all these years….”

“Sweetheart,” she said softly, kneeling on the floor, one hand touching his cheek, “it’s over.  We can’t change the past.  He chose his path and you chose yours.  You were enemies.  You didn’t have a choice.”

“He’s my brother…”

“I know. I know.  But he was a Death Eater too, and we both agree that the fewer Death Eaters there are, the more likely we’re going to win.  He was your brother and he apparently took two other Death Eaters with him when he went down.”

“He was always decent with defensive spells,” he smiled slightly.  She returned that weak smile and stood up from the floor, her hands gently pulling him out of his chair.

“Let’s get to bed,” she told him, leading him out of the kitchen, towards their bedroom, “we’re both tired and we’ve probably still got more work tonight.”  He kissed her hand and meekly followed her lead.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The letter would be forgotten for years, unnoticed in the fight for survival, in the blindness of grief, in the passage of time.  Until one day, when that same woman, some fifteen years later, older, wiser, and stronger, opened a forgotten storage box and saw the stack of parchment inside.  A look of surprise crossed her face when she picked up the letter.

“What is it?” a tall, bespectacled, black-haired boy asked.  His friends, a bushy-haired girl and a brother and sister with flaming red hair, stopped their dusting at the concern in his voice.

Regulus…” the woman murmured softly, a faded memory coming to mind.  “I’d forgotten.  I had completely forgotten…”

“What?” asked the bushy-haired girl with a hint of impatience and curiosity, “Forgotten what?”  The woman did not seem to hear as she sat down on a recently polished trunk.  She carefully opened the letter, taking out the water-stained paper, and began to read.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Dear Brother,

By the time you read this, if you do read this, I will be dead.  I have left the Death Eaters and I know the Dark Lord has already handed down my sentence of death.  I accept it, not out of stupidity or pride, but because I know my hand will move faster.

There is something you must know and communicate to Albus Dumbledore.  It is vital that you do so.  I know he has always been your friend.  I think he should know about this.  It might make the fight for him and those who work with him easier to bear.  The Dark Lord has spilt his soul in two, perhaps into more pieces.  I have not had the time to discover more, but to split a soul in two is already unthinkable.  I both can and cannot imagine him committing such a hideous violation of nature, but I have found that very little surprises me anymore these days.  I have found the vessel that holds the other piece of his soul and have it in my possession.  It is necklace, overwrought for my taste, an heirloom of Slytherin’s.  I intend to destroy it as soon as I finish writing this final missive to you.  It will cost me my life to destroy this wrong, but it is right.  It will not atone for all of my crimes, but perhaps it will help you to one day to forgive me.

I have been a coward all my life and you were right to call me so the last time we met.  I know that I have never stood up for myself or for you.  I should have.  Perhaps then we would not be reduced to this, to my saying goodbye and struggling to settle my many last regrets with words.  You were right about many things.  Perhaps it was your older brother wisdom speaking or some ancient prophet’s blood in your veins.  But like a fool, I ignored your warnings and blundered my way to where I am now.  There is too much to say to you and not enough time to say it nor enough words to express them.  But let me try just the same.

I know now that Mother was wrong.  There can be no righteousness in the killing of defenseless children.  Our purity in blood has led to madness in many of us.  You are not a blood traitor.  We are.  We have forgotten our obligations to the world, that we are to protect them, not kill them.  Traditions, the wrong traditions, have been so deeply embedded in me that it has taken me so long to find my way.  But I remember how you always have been a fighter.  I do not know if my death is a victory for the Dark or the Light.  I think it is both.  The Dark for they have claimed another victim of their own making and the Light for they have won a late convert.  My choices have led to the end, but perhaps my death will do some good before I breathe my last.  Keep on fighting and do not give up.  You will succeed where I have failed.  You will survive and escape the death that awaits me tonight.

Do not think of me with grief.  I do not think you will.  Perhaps all of your tears were spent by the time I was born.  I highly doubt that I am worthy of your pride.  You would not brag about my atrocities as a Death Eater and I do not want you to.  I do not want your pity.  If there is a thing we have in common, beyond the blood that you detest so much, it is that we do not want pity of any sort for our troubles.  We both must accept the consequences of our choices.  I do not have the time to beg for your forgiveness in person, so this letter must suffice, if it should even reach you.  I hope you forgive me for my stupidity and cowardice, for my weakness of will.  I know better than to expect forgiveness for my actions as a Death Eater.  I am sorry that I have caused so much pain and confusion.  I know you have every reason to destroy this letter without reading it and I do not blame you.  My actions are hardly worthy or something to be proud of.

I hope that when this war ends, you will still be standing amongst the survivors.  I hope one day you will marry and have a family of your own, with many children and a loving wife—a happy household that is bright and full of laughter.  Not like our childhood.  I know you will raise your children to be like you, to rebel against tradition and to protect those that need protection.  I know you will teach them to dream and embrace Muggle culture while remembering who they are.  I know that the family’s curse will end with you.  You will not allow your children to be taught in the Black ways and I wish you every luck in that endeavor though I know you will not need it.  I suppose what I am also asking you to do is to live my dreams for me.  I will never have a chance for a happy life and I want you to be happy, in what ways you can be.

I know that I am babbling like a fool in this, but I do not have much time left and too much left to do.  I intend to take as many Death Eaters with me when I go as I know you would want me to.  For your sake and for mine, I will do so.  I must go, so I will say what I should have said to you a long time ago.  I love you Sirius.  Stay safe if you can, but if you must, fight until the end.  Goodbye, my brother.  Think better of me one day.

 

Your brother,

Regulus A. Black

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Author’s Notes: This companion piece to ‘Nine Stars in the Sky’ wrote itself on July 17 mainly in answer to a persistent plot bunny’s question: What did Regulus write in his letter to his brother?  That being said, Ms. Rowling created and rules the Harry Potter universe.  I’m simply borrowing it for my own amusement.

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