Brother Knows Best
By: Vixenette

"Avada Kadavra!" A croaky voice, a flash of green, and then...

"SIRIUS!!" Regulus sighed as his hand stilled, looking up even as the shrill voice of his mother seared into his brain, making it pound. 'Prat's probably in trouble, again,' he thought nastily as he looked back down to the letter he had been writing to his cousin Bellatrix. A large spot of ink was now soaked in the middle of the word impertinent, and another was about to drip off the end of his quill. He tucked it away in his bag and stood up, stretching his muscles as he carried his bag back into the house from the back porch.

His parents were standing in the kitchen, his father's face set in a deep frown, and his mother's hand clenched tightly around a parchment. In front of them stood a young boy, eleven years old, his hair hiding his dark eyes as he looked at the floor. Mud was splattered in his clothes and on his face, and his hair, usually slicked back, was messy and dirty. His arms and legs were covered in minor cuts and scrapes. Regulus sneered. It was Sirius, his older git of a brother.

"-have any dignity? Do you have any idea of the shame you bring to this family by rolling around in the dirt, allowing the neighbors to see you all mucked up like a common dog? Every Black should be impeccably spotless at all times. We are better than those who stoop down to the level of house elves. We are not beasts! We are pure-blooded wizards! We are Blacks! Have you no pride??" Regulus smirked, raising his own hand to make sure his own hair was perfectly combed back out of his face. It was. Sirius must have noticed the movement, because he looked up and stared at Regulus, who just stuck his tongue out and sniffed haughtily. His father turned around and noticed him.

"We're going to Diagon Alley to pick up Sirius' books for Hogwarts. He is too embarrassingly filthy to go, though. Do you want to come, Regulus? Get a taste of what you'll need when you start next year?"

"I have a bit of a headache," Regulus started, but at once, his mother took out her wand and touched his head, murmuring a spell. Instantly, the pounding in his head was gone. He smiled. "Thank you, Mum. I'll go." His mother beamed at him before they both turned back to Sirius, to instruct him of what he was to do while they were gone.

"-finished reading it? Great Wizarding Families of the Century defines all of the surnames of potential friends you will want to find when you start school. I must impress on you the importance of staying close to those who will not besmirch our family name. Get to know any Malfoys, and Lestranges, and Averys..."

Regulus hurried upstairs to put on a traveling cloak, his footsteps cutting off the words of his father. Sirius had never shown any interest in making friends outside of the neighborhood mutt, a mangy, smelly thing that fouled the very air in which it trotted from house to house, looking for food from the Wizarding families that lived on the street. 'Sirius is an idiot,' Regulus thought as he glanced into his brother's room as he passed the open door and saw a pile of robes on the floor. 'No wonder our parents like me more. I'm the better son.' He looked forward to Diagon Alley, even though he had been there before. Sirius was to start at Hogwarts this year, and Regulus himself would start the next year. They'd be in Slytherin, hopefully. That's what both of his parents had been in, and it would be disappointing to them, to say the least, if one of their two sons were in any other House.

Maybe they'd be a little closer once they both started school. Regulus didn't really hate his older brother. Sirius was just a bit of a prat, sometimes, and always seemed to take pleasure in shaming their parents, but he mostly treated Regulus with only mild distaste, only a fraction of what he showed the rest of the Black family. Regulus was sure that it was only a matter of time before Sirius learned what it meant to be a Black, and then he'd be the cool older brother that Regulus had always wanted.

Bellatrix, his favorite cousin, had warned him of what would happen during the Sorting. Regulus tried not to let too much awe show on his face as he looked up at the twinkling lights of the castle while being drawn on boats across the lake, fighting down twinges of irritation every time he heard the big oaf in the boat next to his say something in that stupid accent that he had. He wasn't nervous. Bellatrix had seen to that.

So when the group of First Years finally made it through the doors to the Great Hall, Regulus smirked at the frightened twittering from the others in the queue to be Sorted. He instead looked around, letting a small smile grace his lips at the enchanted ceiling. His dark eyes searched the Staff table, finding Dumbledore seated in between a dark-haired, stern-looking witch with a pointed hat and a young, dumpy-looking witch with flyaway light brown hair. The old man looked alert, and he was smiling down at the approaching First Years in a way that made Regulus want to throw something at him. He tore his eyes away and looked to his left, finding his brother almost at once.

Sirius was watching him, with a big-brotherly grin that almost made Regulus want to grin back. Instead, he frowned at the boy that was seated next to his brother. The boy was rather peaky, with odd, pale skin, a stubby nose, and wavy light brown hair cut chin length. Regulus thought the boy looked like a right ponce, and he sneered at his brother before facing the front again.

His parents had been very...displeased that Sirius had ended up in Gryffindor. That was the House for Mudbloods and blood-traitors, and Regulus wouldn't be surprised if Sirius had made friends with the whole lot of them. Their mother had made a Howler to send to Sirius as soon as she had heard about the disappointing House news, and rightly so, but Bellatrix had written to Regulus to tell him that Sirius had only laughed at the Howler at breakfast. Regulus didn't tell his mother what his cousin had written.

It was his turn to get Sorted not much later, and as Regulus set the hat on his head, he wondered what he would do if he, too, was put into Gryffindor.

'Well, well. Another Black, is it? Your brother was very difficult to sort, you know. I was all ready to put him in Slytherin, where all Blacks have been for ages, and he stopped me and begged to be put in Gryffindor. Said he had already made some friends, and that one of them was sure to be put in Gryffindor. A bit odd, that one. But I see you aren't close to him. He has great bravery, and so do you. He also has cunning, which is not any different from you. But where should I put you?'

A part of him, a very small part, wanted to be put into Gryffindor with his brother. After all, it was only natural to want to be with family, right? But...what would his mother say? What would his father say, and all of their friends? He briefly pictured his Aunt Elladora, tut tutting in shame as she shook her head at him. Or worse, at his parents, for having raised two distasteful sons.

'So, I see now what you think you want, boy. You are afraid of disappointing your parents. This, of course, seals your destiny to be a...SLYTHERIN!' The last part was spoken aloud by the hat, and Regulus jumped off of the stool and happily made his way over to the Slytherin table, only feeling a tiny twinge of regret at having not been put with Sirius.

A boy named Rebastan became a fast friend. A Lestrange, just like his father had told him to befriend. Regulus truly liked Rebastan, too, for his new friend was funny, clever, and hated Gryffindors.

The first few days were hard for Regulus, though. Everyone seemed to only know him as "Sirius' brother." His Herbology class let out just as the Second Year Gryffindors were due to come into the greenhouses, and every one of the bloody gits flashed him a smile and a nod as they passed.

"You know that fat kid?" Rebastan asked him scathingly as a pudgy blond boy grinned at him once, trailing behind his brother, who ignored him.

Regulus snorted. "Of course I don't. I have no idea what he thinks he's doing, trying to hit on me. He must be a bloody poof. Finds me attractive, I bet." And they both shivered, hurrying towards the dungeons for Potions.

But it didn't stop there. Once, Regulus had been on his way to breakfast without Rebastan, for his friend had been sick with something, and had gone to the Hospital Wing. As luck would have it, Regulus ran into his brother, who he hadn't spoken to since he had arrived at Hogwarts, and one of his friends. A boy shorter than Regulus, with messy dark hair and glasses, stuck out his hand as soon as they came into view of each other.

"I'm James Potter, Sirius' friend. And you look so much like him, sorry to say, that I'm positive that you're Regulus." He beamed as Regulus looked down at the hand in distaste. A Potter. Pure-blood, but one of the Muggle-lovers that brought shame to the name of Wizardry. He turned to Sirius, who was staring angrily past his head.

"I wish you weren't in Slytherin, Regulus," he said quietly, and Regulus felt a rush of...something. It might have been something like love, but Regulus shoved it down, because it couldn't have been.

Instead, he sneered openly. "Mum and Dad are proud of me, which is much more that I can say for you. Making friends with blood-traitors and ponces...what would Mum say if she knew, hmm?" He expected Sirius to hit him, or push him, or something, but all the git did was glare at him.

"I don't give a damn what that old cow thinks," he said scathingly, and turned to the other boy. "Don't pay attention to my idiot brother, James. He wouldn't know a good person if they bit him on the arse." And with that, Regulus watched them turn and walk into the Great Hall for breakfast. He tried to ignore the hurt that welled inside of him.

It was October of his Second Year, and Regulus was sitting in a dark corner of the library, trying to fill the remaining two inches that he had to write for his History of Magic essay before the bell. He scribbled a good long sentence full of huge and unnecessary words, filling one of those inches with big writing, and almost had the next sentence worked out when he felt rather than saw someone standing nearby. He looked up.

The pale boy that Sirius was friends with, the one that looked sick more often than he did well, was watching him from a few feet away. Regulus frowned at him and turned back to his essay. Only an inch more to go.

"Regulus," the boy said in an amazingly lower voice than Regulus would have thought to come out of someone so young and frail. He sighed and looked up.

"Do I know you?" he asked haughtily. The boy's thin lips just spread into a small smile.

"Probably only as one of Sirius' friends, but I know you. You're his baby brother."

Regulus felt a surge of anger. No one called him a baby. "I don't give a flying fuck who you are. Leave me alone, Gryffindor."

The pale boy shrugged a little and actually pulled out a chair, sitting down. Regulus bared his teeth at the boy, who sniggered.

"You're a right sod, aren't you?" the boy asked mildly. "Sirius was right all along."

Fingering his wand, Regulus glared. "Fuck Sirius. And fuck you, too. Get out of my face before I hex you badly that you'll be in the Hospital Wing for an entire day, at the least." He enjoyed the way the boy's face suddenly paled even further, and the smile was wiped off of his face. Good.

The boy leaned forward. "Listen, I'm Remus Lupin. Yes, I'm a Gryffindor. Yes, I'm friends with your brother. And yes, my parents are from Wizarding families, though none as old as yours." He paused, as though waiting for a reaction of some sort from Regulus, before continuing, raising his eyebrows in an annoying way. "I just wanted to tell you that Sirius doesn't hate you. He's worried about you, though I'm sure he'll never admit it to your face. He shows that he cares in the way that he talks about his home life." He studied Regulus' face, which was kept blank. "Don't you care about him at all?"

Regulus did care, but as he stared at this boy with the chin length hair and the piercing hazel eyes, he grew angry. There was no way that he would tell this boy, Lupin, anything of the sort. "No, I don't," he answered. Lupin had leaned back, staring at him in silence, before nodding once to him rather briskly and setting off to another section of the library. Regulus breathed a sigh of relief. He sat back and glanced around him, his eyes finding a sight worth looking at in one of the aisles parallel to where he was sitting.

It was a girl, with auburn hair that tumbled prettily down her back. She was pouring intently over a book in the Old Wizarding Bloodlines section.

'Ah,' he thought. 'A girl after my own heart.' He watched her for a while, almost jumping in shock and embarrassment when she turned and saw him, her Gryffindor robes swaying around her, and she smiled at him.

It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

"You're Sirius' brother, aren't you?"

Regulus looked up from his book that he had been studying from. It was the girl with the auburn hair. He had noticed later on in his Second Year that she had startling green eyes. She had cut her hair over the holidays, so that it now fell to just above her shoulders, but he thought it was still lovely.

"Unfortunately," he admitted, suddenly getting worried about something. A girl had tried to befriend him last year, and it only took about a week before he figured out why. He decided to make it clear from the start that it wouldn't work this time with this girl, even as he hoped that she really just wanted to talk to HIM. "If you're just talking to me thinking that I can get you a date with Sirius, then sod off." He hadn't meant to sound so harsh, expecting a wince or a hurt look. But she shocked him by laughing.

"I'd be loathe to admit that I was related to that git, too," she said, sitting in the chair next to him and turning to face him. "He's the biggest prat alive, him and Potter. And his other friend Peter is not too much better." Peter, Regulus thought, must be that pudgy blond one.

"Lupin's a prat, too," he said, sitting back, smiling at her. The sunlight shone in through the window, streaming across her hair and her face, making her look like an angel. 'I might even be in love, and I don't even know her name. The fact that she doesn't like Sirius...'

She grinned back, making excitement run through him. "Oh, Remus is pretty nice. Not sure why he hangs out with those other gits, though." She leaned forward, sticking out her hand. "I'm Lily Evans, by the way. Fourth Year."

He took her hand. It was soft and warm and small, and fit perfectly in his. "Regulus Black, Third Year." He gestured down to his robes. "And Slytherin, in case you didn't notice."

"Oh, I noticed," she told him with a smile. "I noticed a lot of things about you."

"Like what?" he asked, interested. This girl, this Lily, she intrigued him.

"Like the fact that you only come to the library alone. That you tend to stay away from the rest of your house except for that Rebastan Lestrange boy." Her eyes twinkled as they looked up. "Like the fact that you, unlike your idiot of a brother, actually comb your hair, and ends up looking better for it." She stood up as he stared at her in shock at her bold statement.

"I'll see you around, Regulus Black." She winked at him, and then left the library.

His eyes didn't leave the doorway for several minutes after she had gone.

Regulus ground his teeth together, ignoring his mum's voice in his head telling him to stop. He was on his way to the most humiliating, the most horrible thing imaginable...

Detention with McGonagall.

He had been walking with Bellatrix, who was in her Seventh Year, and Severus Snape, who was in Fifth Year. They had been talking about the Quidditch match that had recently ended with Slytherin flattening Hufflepuff, and Regulus had mockingly done an imitation of old Joey Jenkins, a Second Year, falling off of his broom after hitting a Bludger so hard that he propelled himself backwards, landing in the grass unharmed, for he had been very close to the pitch at the time. He walked backwards, throwing up his arms comically and rolling his head around, making Bellatrix let out a shriek of laughter and Snape smile, which was a hard thing to do at any time.

Someone had the nerve to run into his back, and Regulus whirled around to find his wand tip in the middle of the chest of Remus Lupin.

Though still peaky most of the time, Lupin had grown up faster than the rest of his friends. While Potter's voice still cracked and Sirius' knees were still a bit knobby, Lupin's shoulders had broadened and his voice had deepened, and he was a full head taller than Sirius, the next tallest of the group. Regulus looked up to find Lupin frowning.

"Before you go hexing me," came the mild voice, "I just want you to realize that it was you who was walking backwards, you know. I was rounding a corner." Lupin's voice came out patiently and softly. "I didn't see you until too late. Surely we can both agree that it would stupid and childish for you to attack me because I dared to brush into your precious personal space."

Regulus sneered up at him. "Filthy wanker," he taunted, trying to get a rise out of the boy had never succeeded in baiting. "Bloody poof, probably just trying to cop a feel." He heard a growl, and looked around Lupin to see Sirius staring at him with a look of anger and...something like sadness.

Sirius walked up and gently moved the wand off of Lupin's chest, pushing his friend aside, and two brothers stood, face to face. Almost identical, with straight noses, chiseled cheekbones, square jaws, and dark eyes and hair, but Sirius stood only slightly taller, and his hair was stylishly messy, while Regulus' was slicked back.

For a few seconds, Regulus was reminded of the times when Sirius used to muss up his hair, back when they were younger, and they would laugh together and fix each other's hair back before their mum had caught them.

Sirius' eyes seemed to reflect some of those feelings of warmth, and Regulus had to remind himself silently that this was Sirius, his older, outcast brother that brought shame to the Black name time and time again by the number of detentions that he had gotten.

Flicking his eyes to Bellatrix and Snape, and then turning them back to him, Sirius' eyes seemed to be speaking a hundred different things. What he actually said out loud, though, was, "Don't talk to Remus like that. He hasn't done anything to you. And you'll just have to deal with me if you decide to attack any of my friends. Consider this my only warning. I'm only telling you in advance because you're my brother."

"Oh," Regulus taunted, "so big brother knows best, does he?"

Sirius stared hard at him. "I always have. More than you have, anyway."

Regulus couldn't help it-he flung out and punched his brother hard, in the face, just as McGonagall came around the next corner. She hurried over, her mouth tightened into a thin line, and she was breathing rather fast. "Honestly!" she cried. She looked at Regulus, who was rubbing his throbbing fist and glaring at his brother, to Sirius, who was lying on the ground, his nose bleeding, with Lupin at his side trying to wipe off some of the blood with the corner of the sleeve of his tatty, second-hand robes. McGonagall glared back at him. "Fighting in the hallways is strictly forbidden. Fighting at all is strictly forbidden. Ten points from Gryffindor and ten points from Slytherin, and I expect to see both of you in my office at six tonight for detention."

"But, Quidditch practice," Sirius began with a bewildered tone, and then backed down miserably as Lupin gave him a stern look and a gentle push on his chest. McGonagall snorted in a most unladylike way.

"They will have to practice without you, Mr. Black. Now, both of you, detention tonight. I'll see you then."

And that's how Regulus ended up with detention. With Sirius. He resigned himself to a night of torture, and he was right.

"Do you really believe all that rubbish that Mum and Dad have been saying about Muggle-borns and half-bloods and blood-traitors and the like? It's all the same, Regulus. We're all wizards and witches. Who we're born to doesn't make a difference. It doesn't make us who we are," Sirius was saying as McGonagall had gone to get some essays to grade from her desk. "Don't you ever wish to be something other than what our parents expect us to be? Good little purebloods, doing our parents' will, raising our own children to be as so bloody close-minded and prejudice as they are? Don't you want to be yourself instead of their idea of a perfect son?" Regulus was writing his lines ('I shall not fight in the hallways.') over and over, trying to ignore his brother, but he was listening. It was hard not to. "Snape is evil, Regulus. He loves the Dark Arts. He knew more of the Dark Arts when he came here than some of the Seventh Years did. And Bellatrix...she's dating Lestrange. You know, that bloke that finished Hogwarts a few years ago, your friend's older brother. He's been rumored to be a Death Eater. Please, be careful. Don't mix yourself up with that crowd. Even if they act like they're accepting you at first, they'll turn on you as soon as one thing goes wrong that they don't like."

The Death Eaters. Regulus didn't really think anything seriously of the rumored group of Voldemort followers, but then, he didn't really know that much about them. All he knew was that his parents supported this Dark Lord and all of his views.

Sirius didn't speak for the rest of the detention until the very end, when McGonagall had dismissed them and they walked a little ways before their paths were to split. Regulus had heard what Sirius had said, but had chosen not to acknowledge it, and instead stored it internally.

"Regulus," Sirius had said to his back, "be very careful. I wouldn't like it if anything happened to you, brother."

"I hate your brother!" Lily exclaimed as they walked down to the lake, hand in hand. Regulus tightened his grip and smiled over at her. He had learned about two months earlier that Lily was a Mudblood, but he was so far enamored with her that he didn't care so much. He just wouldn't tell his parents about it when he invited her home with him for the Christmas holiday.

He knew that Sirius had invited his three best friends over, as well, for his mum had written about it in her letter. "What kind of boys are these?" she had asked him. "What are their surnames? Are they filthy Gryffindors like him?" He had almost written her back to tell her that Potter was a blood-traitor and Lupin was a Mudblood-lover and Pettigrew was a poof, but something had made him change his mind at the last minute.

He told himself that the image of a lonely and miserable Sirius had nothing to do with his decision to write to his mother that he didn't know anything about the boys.

"I hate him, too," he told Lily now. They sat on the grass, facing the water, and he reached up to run a hand through her silky hair. "Are you looking forward to the holiday?"

"Of course I am. I just wish you weren't related to that conceited bully with the horrible sidekick." She swiped at the grass with a hand, and he smiled down at her.

"What did my prat of a brother and his idiot friend Potter do now?"

She shook her head. "Oh, it's just a whole lot of things. Potter fancies me, you know. Like I'd ever give him the time of day." She snorted. "He thinks he's Merlin's gift to women. If I weren't such a nice person, I'd be shoving a handful of dragon dung into his face every chance that I got, just so I wouldn't have to see that arrogant smile of his every time he threw a hex at an unsuspecting Slytherin. Honestly, half of them have never done anything but wear green on their robes. He acts like it offends him personally. And your brother is not much better."

"I know," he told her. He ran his thumb across the back of her hand, bringing it to his mouth to kiss it lightly before smiling at her. "We don't have to be around them so much at my parents' house. I won't let them ruin your holiday."

She smiled back at him broadly, her white teeth flashing and the corners of her enchanting eyes crinkling. "Thank you," she said, and she leaned towards him, and Regulus' thoughts of his brother were driven out of his mind by the feel of her soft lips on his own.

Disapproval met them at the Black household. Regulus' mother's eyes were watching Lily with something like apprehension, and his father was eyeing Lupin's clothes. All of them were sitting at the table in the dining room, eating in silence. Regulus shifted in his chair. He couldn't tell his parents that Lily was a Mudblood, but what else could he say?

"So, Peter," his father broke the silence, and Sirius' friend looked up from his plate, "Sirius tells us that your father works for the Ministry."

Pettigrew swallowed and nodded. "Yes, sir. He works in the Accidental Magic Department."

Regulus' father seemed to nod slightly with approval, as he turned to Lupin. "And what does your father do, Remus?"

"He works for the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley, keeping the cages and the floor clean," Lupin said clearly, making it known that he had no shame in admitting that his father had a menial job. At least, thought Regulus, it was a Wizarding one.

His father lapsed back into silence, his mouth tight, and Regulus looked over at his mother, who was eyeing Lupin with distaste.

The rest of dinner passed in silence, and Regulus hastened to pull Lily out of her chair and upstairs, wanting out of the tense room as quickly as possible. They went to his bedroom and shut the door.

"Your parents are...pleasant," she said conversationally as she looked around, her eyes landing on various Dark objects and the picture in the corner of his distantly-great grandfather, Cartius Black, the first to start the family tradition of making the Blacks pure-blooded.

Regulus tugged at her hand, pulling her to him. "No, they're not. They find fault in anyone who does not meet the Black family standard."

He wanted to kiss her, but she pulled back and looked into his eyes, serious. "They don't know I'm Muggle-born, do they?"

Trying to shrug it off, he sighed. "I don't know. I haven't been shouting it from the rooftops, if that's what you mean."

She pulled away from his arms and stood rigidly, looking up at him with a frown. "Are you ashamed of telling them?"

"No, Lily, I..." He was ashamed, but it didn't matter to him, because he was infatuated with the pretty girl in front of him. He didn't want to tell his parents. He didn't want them to treat him like they treated Sirius. Didn't Lily realize that it was enough for him to accept the fact that she was a Mudblood? It was asking too much for her to expect his parents to be fine with it, too. "Look, I'll tell them, okay?" he lied. "Just let me work up the courage." He smiled a little as she smiled back. "I'm not a Gryffindor, in case you didn't notice. I'll have to scheme a way to let them know. Just give me time."

She nodded and stepped back into his arms. "Okay."

The evening passed quickly, with him reveling in the feel of her arms around his neck as they snogged on his bed.

After awhile, she stopped, breathless, her lips glistening and her cheeks flushed pink. "Regulus?"

"Hmm?" he murmured as he ran his fingers through her silky hair. He loved the way the auburn thickness flowed over his hand.

She smiled a little half-smile. "I'm thirsty. Would you mind getting me a glass of water?"

"Anything, darling," he said. She grinned at him as he swung out of the bed, making his way to the door. "I'll be right back. Don't you move."

He hurried down the flight of stairs, pausing at the bottom when he heard his brother's voice.

"-don't know anything! Remus is the kindest, most wonderful person I know. Who cares what his dad does for a living? Who cares if his robes are second-hand?"

The voice was rising in anger, and Regulus listened as his father's voice answered.

"You, Sirius, should care. He makes you look bad. Those patched and frayed robes, that absolutely revolting haircut...he's even rubbing off on you. When was the last time you cut your own hair, son?"

"I'm growing it out. It's the style, now," came the heated response.

"Well," his mother's voice said, "I know one thing. I don't want to see him in our house again. You are to drop him as a friend and focus on your studies, do you understand? You need to get your marks up if you're to work for the Improper Use of Magic office like your father. Your other two friends, as revolting as they are, will be acceptable. Not liked, mind you. But acceptable."

"Master?" Regulus looked down to see Kreacher, the house-elf, who had been in the household for several years. "Would Master like Kreacher to get him anything from the kitchen?"

Regulus sighed in relief. He didn't want to interrupt the row going on downstairs. "Yes, my friend Lily would like a glass of water. Bring it up to my room." He watched as Kreacher headed down the stairs, and he turned around to go back up, but not before he heard Sirius' voice again.

"-you rotten old hag. You're ashamed of me, are you? Well, I'm ashamed to be a Black. The whole family disgusts me. Prejudiced, the whole lot of you. I'm not going to stop being friends with Remus because you tell me to."

Regulus hurried back upstairs, Sirius' voice fading behind him.

It was close to Easter, and Regulus was sitting at the table in the Great Hall, eating breakfast, when an owl came for him. It was an owl from his father, telling him that their Uncle Alphard had died of old age, and had left him and Sirius a load of gold. The funeral services were to take place during Easter holiday, and Sirius and Regulus were to go home for them.

He looked over to the Gryffindor table, but the only ones he saw were Potter and Pettigrew from their little group. He wondered where Sirius was.

Later, he was in the Slytherin common room, curled up in a chair by the fire, doing his essay for History of Magic. Snape came in through the part in the wall and walked over to him.

He tolerated Snape because Bellatrix did, but now that his cousin had left school, it didn't interest him in the slightest to be friends with the greasy-haired boy. Regulus was a Fifth Year now, and popular in his own right. Girls wanted him, boys wanted to be him, and it was just a matter of picking and choosing whom Regulus could tolerate. Snape, with his permanent scowl and his lank hair, was not Regulus' idea of a good friend. Especially since his father had told him that Snape's father had gotten sacked from his job at St. Mungo's for attempting to smuggle ingredients from the medicinal herbs wing.

"I thought you should know that your idiot brother got detention for the rest of the school year, and has been kicked off of the Quidditch team, and I expect that you'll hear soon enough, but your parents were sent an owl about it this morning." Without any further explanation, Snape headed up the stairs to the Sixth Year dormitory.

Regulus was intrigued. It must have been bad, whatever Sirius had done. What could have warranted being kicked off of the Quidditch team?

Throwing his overcoat on his bed, Regulus sighed and walked to the door. He could hear Sirius and his parents arguing downstairs. He wondered if he could catch a little of what Sirius had gotten in trouble for, because he still didn't know.

They had just gotten home from the funeral. Uncle Alphard had been buried in a large cemetery in Eastern London, next to a Wizarding church, one of the most prestigious in England. All of the more prominent and important Blacks were buried there, and Regulus knew that his parents had already purchased their plots, along with four for their own sons and whomever they married. Regulus thought it was sort of morbid, staring down at the empty plots of earth that would hold his family's bodies sometime in the future.

As soon as they had gotten home, Sirius had sparked a row with their father. He had brought Potter along, who had scurried upstairs to Sirius' room as soon as the shouting started. What the fight had been about, Regulus didn't know, but he was curious, so he got up to listen right outside of his door.

"-don't see how you could have known about a werewolf being on the school grounds. What is that idiot headmaster thinking, letting a beast like that near the school? He ought to let the Ministry call the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures. They would rid the school grounds of filth like that." Regulus was bewildered at his father's words.

"You don't know anything," Sirius' voice was bitter. "Werewolves are only dangerous during the full moon. They're normal for the rest of the time."

"Dark creatures are not normal!" his mother shrilled. "They should all be killed. The only things that a half-breed is good for are killing humans and making other Dark creatures like themselves! They're dangerous!"

"Don't call him a half-breed!" Sirius erupted, and Regulus' eyes widened. Sirius knew a werewolf? That must be why he was being so defensive.

"You sent a student after the creature during the full moon," his father's voice was dangerously venomous. "If it wasn't so harmful, then why did you send your worst enemy after it? Surely not to pet its harmless head?"

"Stop calling him an 'it'!" Sirius screamed. "You know nothing about him! It was a mistake, and he may never forgive me for it, but that gives you no right to pass judgment on what he is!"

"I bet you're friends with this werewolf, aren't you? Does it ask you to teach it magic? Does it ask you to come to the Forbidden Forest with it? Don't you see what it's doing to you, Sirius? Or are you too blind and stupid to realize that it's just trying to trick you into becoming its next victim?"

"Shut up, you miserable cow! He already knows magic! He does better than I do in half of our classes! He doesn't need me to teach him anything!"

There was a shock of silence. Regulus was stunned, but he had heard enough, now. Sirius, it seemed, had just let it slip that a werewolf was attending Hogwarts, and that he was friends with it.

"So. Dumbledore has LET a dangerous monster attend Hogwarts. I'm going to complain to the Ministry at once. And as for you, you ungrateful son...go up to your room. Tell your little friend that we're Flooing him back to school. I'll take care of this beast situation. Clearly, this werewolf has befuddled your mind, making you think that it wants to be your friend."

"-don't you call him an 'it!' He's not a beast-"

"-filthy half-breed needs to be exterminated! I'll have someone from the Disposal Department come out at once-"

"-don't know anything about him! He's not a dangerous-"

"-you're to stop meeting with it! You'll get yourself killed, dealing with a beast like that! Don't you have any sense, boy? Can't you listen to your mother and I, just once? Can't you get it through your thick head? Don't you have any dignity at all for-"

"-doesn't deserve to be killed just because he has a condition that he never wanted! He's the smartest wizard I know! I'm not letting you near him-"

"-why can't you be more like your brother? He's always had more sense than you! He'd never do anything like make friends with scum like your friend Lupin, and filthy Muggle-lovers like that friend that's hiding upstairs now! He'd never let a half-breed trick him into thinking that he-"


Regulus shrank back into his room and shut the door, just as he heard his brother storm past. A door slammed, and some muffled shouting occurred, and then the door opened again and something heavy was being dragged along the floor. Regulus opened the door to find Sirius and Potter dragging a trunk.

"Where are you going?" he asked. Sirius stopped and glared at him, eyes red from where it looked as if he might have been crying. Potter looked down at his feet, biting his lip worriedly.

"I'm leaving. I'm never coming back to this wretched house." Sirius reached into his pocket and pulled out something, tossing it to Regulus, who caught it. Turning it over, he saw that it was Sirius' family ring, an expensive relic identical to his own, given to them by their parents upon the appearance of Regulus' acceptance letter into Hogwarts. It bore the Black family crest on it. Regulus' ring was on his right hand middle finger.

He had never seen Sirius wear his. He looked up at his brother questioningly.

"You were always the better son," Sirius told him in a bitter, but yet sad voice. "I don't think they'll want me any longer after I tell them one more thing about me to make them hate me." A hand clamped down on Regulus' shoulder, and he wanted to keep it there, or pull his big brother into a hug, not wanting him to leave, but he thought of his parents, and pulled back, making his mouth form into a sneer.

"You think they'll disown you?"

Sirius stared at him, unnerving him. "Yes. After what I'm about to say to them."

"Good." Regulus leaned back and slipped Sirius' ring on his left hand. "Good, because now I won't have to admit to anyone that I'm related to you, either."

More staring. Potter was glaring at him behind Sirius' back, but Sirius himself was just staring, a complex web of emotion running through his eyes. "Remember what I've always told you, Regulus. Our parents are prejudiced, and arrogant, and they are fools. They've allied themselves with Voldemort, now. They've always been involved in the Dark, which is something that I think you didn't know. Dad killed someone a few years ago, a Muggle, just because he felt like it. I heard him telling Mum about it. And you know what she did? She just laughed." Regulus didn't want to hear this about his parents. He knew that they valued pure-bloods, but he didn't think that they were involved in Dark things. He felt uneasy as Sirius continued in a low voice. "Regulus, just...I know you hate me. But take care of yourself. Don't go looking to follow Voldemort. He's evil, very much so, and you...I don't want to see you get hurt, no matter how far apart we grow from each other." He paused, his voice choked up. "There are those that say that your entire life flashes before your eyes when you die. I hope that this moment, these particular words, will be important enough to you later that you'll remember this. Don't say that I never warned you."

Regulus thought that they were about as far apart as two brothers could go, anyway, and huffed. He tried to push down the feeling of dread rising in his stomach. Why was Sirius talking to him about death?

"Goodbye, Regulus," Sirius said, sighed, and began helping Potter drag his trunk downstairs. Regulus watched them until they were out of view, his heart pounding against his chest.

"I'm never coming back here," Sirius said then from downstairs. So their parents hadn't left from the living room. "You two are foul, and evil, and I'm ashamed of being part of this family. You know what I plan to do after school? I'm not going to work with you, Father. I'm going to become an Auror. I'll devote my life to ridding the world of scum like you and Voldemort." A pause, and then, "Just look what you've done to Regulus! You've made him just as evil as yourselves!"

"Out. OUT! You're an abomination of my flesh!" Regulus' mother was shrieking.

"You're no son of ours!" his father bellowed.

And Potter's voice shouted now. "My parents are going to take him in until he can get his own place. They, unlike you, have treated Sirius with welcome arms and respect. How can you act like this towards your own son?"

"I TOLD YOU THAT HE'S NO SON OF OURS! WE ONLY HAVE ONE SON NOW!" Regulus winced, as his father's voice seemed to shake the entire house. "GET OUT OF HERE! NEVER COME BACK!"



And that was the last time that Regulus ever heard Sirius' voice inside the Black family house.

"Black." Regulus looked up from the bookshelf that he had been browsing. He was perusing Flourish and Blotts, after having spent the better part of the morning in Knockturn Alley.

Rebastan was in the next aisle, looking through the slots in the bookshelf at him. Feeling unexpected warmth at seeing his friend, Regulus grinned. "Rebastan! What-"

"Not here," Rebastan interrupted him sharply. He nodded to his left, indicating that Regulus should follow him.

They did not speak for a while. Regulus studied his friend. They had finished Hogwarts back in June, and now it was August, the heat beaming down on the top of their heads from the afternoon sun. Rebastan's dark hair was cut almost completely off, and his face looked thinner, his eyes rougher, but he hadn't changed much from when Regulus had seen him last, on the train back to Platform 9 3/4.

They passed the entrance to Ollivander's, and suddenly, Regulus found himself being pulled into a narrow alleyway. Two men were standing in it.

He recognized Lucius Malfoy. The older man's last year at Hogwarts had been during Regulus' Second, but he had been popular, and a Quidditch player, and had ended up marrying his cousin, Narcissa.

The other man looked like an older version of Rebastan, but Regulus would have known who he was anyway, for he was married to Bellatrix.

"Him?" Rodolphus Lestrange said with an eyebrow raised. Confused, Regulus turned to Rebastan, who was nodding.

"He's good. Very good. He'll be a nice addition to our cause."

A chill ran down Regulus' spine as he remembered Sirius' words from a few years before. "Your friend's older brother...he's been rumored to be a Death Eater..." Sirius had whispered to him, that night in detention, so long ago.

"Tell me, Black. What are your views on pure-bloods?" Malfoy was looking down his nose at Regulus, even though he was shorter.

"Pure-bloods? They're better than the rest of the muck of Wizarding society. Why?"

Malfoy leaned close, a smile lurking at the corner of his mouth. "Because the Dark Lord believes that certain Wizarding families, like ours, should be at the epicenter of every major element of the world. Blood-traitors like your brother's friend Potter are marrying Mudbloods, and there's just hardly any decent wizards left, I'm afraid." He straightened, and Regulus took a deep breath, knowing what was expected of him. He recognized this for what it was-a recruitment. He needed to say something that would ensure his place on the winning side of the brewing war.

"I don't have a brother. No brother of mine would stoop so low as to make friends with blood-traitors and half-breeds." Regulus looked around at the three of the men. "What do I have to do to join you?"

Lestrange was eyeing him with a bit of distrust, but Rebastan was grinning, and Malfoy was letting a small smile play on his lips.

"Tonight, we're going on a little...excursion. Why don't you come along?" said the blond man silkily. "When was the last time you had a little fun?"

Regulus thought about the first and last time he had ever shagged Lily, back in his Fifth Year, right after Easter and Sirius' falling out with their parents. It had been frantic, needy, and satisfying, but the next day, Regulus knew that he was to going to break it off with her. He couldn't have a Mudblood for a girlfriend-his parents would have disowned him, as well. Unlike Sirius, Regulus had nowhere that he could have turned. And so he had had to choose between Lily and his family. He had chosen the Blacks. But that wonderful had been the last time he remembered being happy, and even then, it had been heartbreaking as well.

"I don't remember," he whispered fiercely. Malfoy smiled further.

"Good," he sneered. He looked towards Lestrange for a second, and then said, "you'll have some fun tonight. It's a sort of sport. Do you like sports?"

"Not really." Sirius had been a Quidditch player, all the way up to the point where he had been kicked off the team. "But it's time I tried something new in my life."

Malfoy and Lestrange studied him. Regulus felt as if this was it-the moment of truth. If he could be a Death Eater, maybe his parents would not feel as if they lost a son, but gained a pride and joy. He knew that he had always been their favorite, but this was something altogether different. This was bigger than him. This was a way to make something of himself, someone that his parents could be proud of.

With a final nod, Malfoy and Lestrange Apparated, leaving Rebastan to let Regulus in on the details.

He had been in the Dark Lord's service for a couple of years, and now he was twenty years old. Being clever and shrewd, Regulus had quickly found himself getting closer to being in the inner circle of the Death Eaters.

He knew that Malfoy, Lestrange, and Rebastan were Death Eaters, as well as Snape, Bellatrix, and some fellow Slytherins like Avery and Nott. There were many, however, that never revealed who they were during the meetings. The Dark Lord chose not to pressure those into identifying themselves.

It was at one of these later meetings, standing in between Avery and one of the masked ones, which the Dark Lord singled him out.

"Regulus Black," the Dark Lord hissed. He seemed to glide over to where Regulus was standing. "I have a task for you. A very, very important task. We'll talk after the meeting."

When the meeting was over, Regulus found himself in a room alone with the Dark Lord and one of the masked wizards. The meetings took place in an old house that was dark and creepy. Rebastan had once told him that it used to belong to the Dark Lord's father's family, but that could have just been a rumor.

The task that he was to do was revealed to him, and he struggled to show no emotion on his face. When he was free to go, he Apparated to his flat and threw his overcoat on the couch, sinking into a chair, thinking.

His task, it seemed, was to kill Lily Evans. Well, Lily Potter, now. He still couldn't believe that she had married that stupid, sodding blood-traitor. As much as he told himself of the fact that she was a Mudblood, it still hurt to think on the fact that he had loved her, once upon a time.

Why the Dark Lord wanted her dead was a mystery. Sure, she was a Mudblood, but why target her specifically? Even worse was the fact that Rebastan had found out, through ways unknown, that she was pregnant. Only four months along, but she was going to have a little Potter brat. Regulus' heart swelled at the thought of Lily having a baby. He was sure that she was probably as beautiful as ever, with her silky hair and glowing skin. He sighed.

He had a job to do. There was a reason that the Dark Lord wanted her dead, and he had been picked to do it.

It didn't stop him, however, from immediately trying to devise a way to stall the inevitable, at least for a few months, to allow her to have the baby. That way, he wouldn't be responsible for two deaths. Just one. Not that killing had ever bothered him before.

But there were just some things that made him feel. Lily had always been one of those things.

Being a Death Eater meant sacrifice on his part. He had once had to kill someone that he knew, a fellow Slytherin that had sort of been a friend to him during his Hogwarts years. The particular victim had been a Death Eater, but had displeased the Dark Lord somehow, and Regulus had been dispatched to do the deed.

That death, along with the countless others, had been done with a hardened heart. He didn't have to feel anything about these people. He didn't know how to care for someone that he didn't know. He hardly knew how to care about someone that he did know. So, with a heavy heart, he made the realization that he would have to do it.

He'd have to kill the only person that he had ever loved. He'd have to kill with care in his heart.

They had caught him by surprise. He struggled, but he could not free himself, and something was keeping him from Apparating. He knew that he had waited too long. He had cared too much, and now he was going to pay.

"You have disappointed the Dark Lord," Rodolphus Lestrange told him in a croaky voice, his wand up, his green eyes flashing dangerously. Regulus could not feel his arms, for Snape was holding them behind him tightly, in an awkward angle. He could see, out of the corner of his eye, that his wand was on the floor, broken in half by one of the Death Eaters.

"How? I was going to do it! Tonight! I had a plan!" Regulus struggled, but it was no use. The grip on his arms was firm. "Please, don't hurt me. I promise. I give my word as a Black that I have the perfect plan to catch her alone! Sirius was going to take Potter out tonight...I was spying on them, and I heard them talking...she was going to be all by herself in her house. Tonight was going to be the night that I was going to kill her in the Dark Lord's name! Please!" His heart thumping in his chest wildly, Regulus searched for words to stop what he knew was coming. He had been a good Death Eater! How could they do this to him after all that he had done for them? He struggled, trying not to panic as Lestrange stepped closer, his wand raised.

"Crucio!" came the croaky voice, and Regulus screamed. It felt as if his bones were being sawed apart with a thousand burning knives, and he twisted on the floor, no longer being held from behind. The spell was suddenly lifted, and he groaned, only having a second of untortured bliss before the spell was uttered again, this time from where Snape had been standing.

It was almost too much. Regulus wanted to go ahead and die. Sirius' words rang through his head, even as he was deaf and blind from everything except for the pain. "Even if they act like they're accepting you at first, they'll turn on you as soon as one thing goes wrong that they don't like." The spell was lifted again, and the words echoed over and over in his head as he curled into himself on the floor, trying not to let tears overflow in his eyes.

"Since when does a Black have enough dignity to offer just his word to demand respect?" Snape's voice was oily and bitter. He bent down, and the hot breath curled in Regulus' ear, making him shiver. "Personally, I don't trust you. I never have. You have the same blood as your brother, and that, to me, means that you ARE the same."

And Regulus found himself kicked from behind, his back barely registering the shock as it was still tingling from the pain of being tortured through 'crucio'. He made himself roll over, and found Lestrange standing over him.

"So Lily Potter will be alone tonight, will she? I think we might have some fun with that information. How far along is she, now? Six months, right?" Wild green eyes stared down at Regulus, who was shaking, his gaze fixed on the wand that was held above him. Lestrange laughed harshly. "And now, I'll actually carry out my Master's plan instead of floundering about like you have. Say goodbye to your life, Black."

It felt like nothing. Floating, and a loss of awareness. What Sirius had said about life flashing before your eyes moments before your death was true.

And Sirius knew. He knew, and he tried to tell me. He warned me about being involved with the Dark Lord. Why didn't I listen?

And then everything faded into Black.