House-breaking really isn't Cory's sort of thing - he prefers jobs with explosions, or at least gunfire - but his contact swears up and down that 12 Grimmauld Place belongs to an old aristocratic family and is chock-full of valuable antiques, and all the man wants for this information is one old book.
At first glance, the house doesn't look like much, but Cory is - thanks to Matthew - something of an expert on the vagaries of the aristocracy, and knows that the outside doesn't necessarily reflect the inside. It is at the very least worth checking out. A few minutes with a lock-pick - Amanda would laugh, but then, Cory's usual line of work involves more gunplay and less fiddly little bits of metal - and he's in, slipping through the door with a silence born of long practice.
A quick glance at the furniture tells him that he's in the right sort of place - it's all heavy and wooden and antique, the sort of thing that Cory personally thinks would look better if it were on fire. Still, if the furniture looks like this, the rest of the house should have all kinds of interesting little treasures to pick up.
The book his contact wants is in the library upstairs, so Cory heads that way, stepping carefully on the edges of the stairs to keep them from creaking. The first door he opens isn't a library, but a study. Still, there's a very nice letter opener on the desk that's only a couple of centuries younger than Cory himself, and a signet ring in the top drawer that will probably fetch a pretty penny. He smiles to himself and reaches in to pick it up for a better look, only to be thoroughly dismayed and more than a little angry when his hand goes numb and his chest follows. He's planning his revenge on his contact even as the world dims and his knees give out.
It's not often anyone gets into the house who isn't expected, so when Regulus finds the door of his father's study open, his first thought is that his father shouldn't be home yet. His second is that his father wouldn't be sprawled half behind the desk without a good deal more chaos throughout the house. It's curiosity that draws him inside, wondering just who had managed to get this far without setting off one of the booby traps that are scattered about the house, several closer to the easiest entry points.
Crouching down, he picks up his father's signet ring, shaking his head as he drops it back in the top drawer of the desk. "It would be that which some idiot thief goes after," he murmurs to himself, poking at the body with a grimace. It hasn't had a chance to go quite stone cold, though it's certainly started to cool.
Although, why a thief would go after a signet ring, which anyone with sense would realize is one of the most dangerous things in a wizard's home, particularly an old family. Unless the thief was Muggle-born, in which case, Regulus might forgive him not being aware of the significance of an old pure-blood signet ring. It still didn't make explaining to the Aurors - or simply disposing of the body - any more pleasant.
"You couldn't have waited until someone was home to catch you before you did something like this, could you?" he asked the body, though he didn't really expect an answer. At least now he was home, even if his parents weren't, and until they were, neither was Kreacher. Though that was perhaps a blessing, since it gave him some privacy for the niggling doubts he was starting to have about Voldemort and the Death Eaters.
Cory lost track a long time ago of the number of times he's been killed, but he's never come back to life with such a headache before. If this is how mortals feel on the mornings after they drink, Cory owes a whole bunch of them some pretty sincere apologies. He groans and sits up, in the hope that elevation will make his head stop pounding. It notably fails to do so - but it does make Cory very aware that he's no longer alone in the room. He waves, and offers the man a rather sickly version of his usual grin, hoping that the shock of seeing a corpse come back to life will leave the man stunned long enough for Cory to make good his escape. It's worked before, more than once.
Regulus knows there are ways to keep a person from staying dead, though he somehow doubts this is the same as the manner in which he's learned Voldemort intends to stay alive. For one, he's fairly certain it would require some sort of ceremony to bring a person back from a piece of their soul.
"You're not a Black, or you wouldn't have died in the first place. And I'm beginning to think you're a little more than some idiot Muggle-born thief. What are you?" He hadn't even consciously let his wand drop into his hand, though he brings it up to point it at the less-than-dead intruder. Though what to use to stop him, if death doesn't stick, he's uncertain.
"Leaving," Cory says firmly, pushing himself to his feet. "Oh, hell." He sways, putting a hand to his head, and glares at the young man. "Valuables that kill people? Really? That's just unfair. And put that stick away; I'm not a vampire."
"I know you're not a vampire; unlike some people, I did pay attention in class. As for the signet ring, it's meant for family, you idiot. What did you think it would do to a stranger and a thief?" Regulus lifts his chin slightly, tempted to simply tie the man up until he can figure out what to do with him. Though, letting him leave is highly tempting. Before his parents come home and have a chance to find out what happened. He'll have no choice but to take the man to Voldemort then, and he's not certain he really wants to.
"Fill my pockets, what else?" The ring may be off-limits, but the letter-opener he picked up earlier proves that not everything in the house will kill him. Trial and error would take too long, and be too painful, even for him. He eyes the young man speculatively. Stick aside - and Cory doesn't worry about machine guns, let alone sticks - the kid doesn't appear to be much of a threat. "Tell you what. Why don't you point out the things that are safe to steal, and in return, I won't turn you into Swiss cheese." He pats the pistol at his waist. "Dying's not really much of an inconvenience, but this headache is something else entirely. And it's for a good cause."
Regulus regards the Muggle weapon with an expression of pure contempt before flicking his wand in the correct pattern for a simple binding spell, wordlessly casting the spell. Clearly, even if the man was Muggle-born, he hadn't gone to Hogwarts, or if he had, he hadn't paid any attention at all.
"I'm afraid I'm not particularly inclined to permit some Mudblood thief ransack my home." He levitated the letter opener away from the thief and back to its place on his father's desk before levitating the gun as well. Even though he could easily use a shield to defend himself from the bullets, he didn't like the idea of them leaving holes in the walls that he'd have to explain later.
"Excuse me?" Cory might not know what a mudblood is, but he knows an insult when he hears one. He also knows magic when he sees it, and this is a much flashier sort than the kind Cierdwyn uses, or the simple - and useless - protection spells that were a common staple throughout most of his life. Curiosity - as always - outweighs indignation, and he leans forward as much as he can. "How the hell did you do that?"
"A binding spell." Regulus gave the man a frown, wondering at his reaction. Even someone who hadn't paid attention in Hogwarts should have known what the insult meant, and should have recognized magic when they saw it. Unless the man really hadn't gone to Hogwarts at all, in which case, he couldn't have much in the way of magical talent. "How is it you've managed not to learn anything at all about the wizarding world? Even the least talented Muggle-borns are allowed to Hogwarts at least through their OWLs."
"Wizarding world?" Cory lifts both eyebrows, already planning a conversation with Matthew when this is all over. "At a guess, I'd say it's because I'm not a wizard." Wiggling is having precious little effect on the binding spell, which is unfortunate. "Although if all your magic is this effective, I might have paid more attention to some of the things I've run across over the years."
"If you're not a wizard, how did you find my home in the first place? It has Muggle-repelling charms on it, you shouldn't even have been able to see it." Regulus doesn't think he's actually dealing with a Muggle, though what he's dealing with, he's uncertain. Other than someone he's being more convinced by the moment that he can't allow Voldemort to find out exists.
"It was in plain sight." Cory shrugs. He's not about to turn his contact over to anyone else - he'd much rather deal with the man himself. "The front door lock wasn't even that difficult. Which really, considering the sorts of things you've got in here, it should have been." Is that a loosening of whatever it is holding his hands in place? He can't be sure, but redoubles his efforts anyway.
"Quit wiggling, you're mussing the carpet." Regulus shakes his head, tempted to toss a petrifying spell at the man, if only to stop his attempts to wiggle out of the magical bindings. "And it wouldn't have been in plain sight unless someone told you exactly where to look." Which doesn't really narrow the list of those who could have sent the thief. "And the lock is far more complicated than it looks, at least when the locking spells are activated."
Which he'd been certain he did before he left, so how the man had gotten past them, unless some member of the family gave him an appropriate key, Regulus doesn't know. At least he could be certain his own room wouldn't have been unlocked by anything someone else gave the thief.
"I'm special," Cory says, and gives the man the grin that always makes Matthew look like he's contemplating homicide. "Experienced." He ignores the order to stop wiggling, especially since he seems to be making some headway - at least, his right hand has more of a range of motion than it did a few minutes ago.
"Right." The grin reminds Regulus of his brother when Sirius was at his most infuriating, and he snaps out, "Petrificus totalis!" Ceasing the wiggling, and in theory keeping the man quiet for a moment while he sorts out his thoughts. He needs to get the man out of the house quickly, before his parents returned. And make sure there was no evidence of the man in the house, to avoid awkward questions.
Giving the man a sour look, Regulus levitates him out of the study and into the uncarpeted hallway, and straightens the study with the ease of someone accustomed to cleaning up evidence behind him. Closing the door carefully, Regulus looks back at his prisoner, wondering for a moment if he would survive a drop from a broom at height before dismissing the thought. He really doesn't need to have his stomach churning while he's trying to plan his next several moves.
Being silenced is even more frustrating than being immobilized. Fortunately, Cory's mouth starts working again in fairly short order. The rest of him is still paralyzed, but he doubts it'll take too long to wear off.
"Much as I like flying sans airplane, do you think you could put me down now?"
"No." Regulus is beginning to think that perhaps the locks had been active, and whatever gives the man the ability to come back from the dead is effecting them in some fashion. It's certainly effecting the spells he's used on the man. "Though if you keep wiggling, you might just get you wish, if at rather a greater distance from the ground than you are now. And that's even if I don't make the deliberate decision to drop you."
He levitates the man down the stairs, and toward the back door that leads out into a tiny garden that really isn't worth the name. It's better to leave from here than from the front door where neighbors might see. At least, if he's going to get the man out of here before anyone comes home.
The broom shed locks aren't nearly as complex as the ones on the front door, but they don't have a Muggle component, and Regulus is fairly certain it will hold the man long enough for him to reset the locks on the front door. Then he can get him out of here, so long as the broom functions long enough to get them out of London.
"I'll just get back up again," Cory points out, but stops wiggling anyway. He really doesn't feel like healing half a dozen broken bones tonight, not now that his headache is finally fading.
"I still can't imagine it would be pleasant." Regulus sets the man down long enough to undo the locks on the broom shed, stuffing the man inside. "I'll be back shortly, and then I'll escort you off our property. In the meanwhile, stay still, stay quiet, and hope my parents don't come home before I get you out of here. Or anything worse."
"You could just let me go," Cory points out. "I can guarantee I won't be coming back here." He makes a face. "I'm Immortal, not an idiot."
"I'm not risking the neighbors seeing you leave after I've come home. Or someone will ask questions I don't want to answer, with very high chance of myself being dead at the end. I'm sure you can understand, I don't want that to happen." No matter how untenable the situation gets, he doesn't want to die. And letting someone go who has achieved what Voldemort is intent on gaining is as good as suicide if anyone ever found out.
"If you think you can keep me here, best of luck to you." Cory wrinkles his nose at the shed. "I should probably warn you, though, that I've gotten out of more prisons in the past eight hundred years than I can count." He isn't expecting a shed with no lock to give him any problems. "Tell you what. You tell me why you're so intent on getting me out of here unseen, and I might decide to cooperate."
Regulus studies the man a moment before he speaks, weighing his options carefully. "There's a wizard who wants what you have. Immortality. And he'll stop at nothing to get it. My parents believe in him. I joined his followers a year ago. I'm already regretting it. But if you run, and you're seen, I'll tell them you escaped before I could bring you to him, rather than the truth, because I can't have regrets if I'm dead."
Cory looks at him seriously for a long moment, then nods. He's heard about the sorts of things mortals will do to achieve immortality, and has no intention of becoming anyone's guinea pig.
"Fair enough," he says; then after a moment, offers his hand. "Cory Raines."
That the man's already broken free of the petrifying spell doesn't bode well for the locks on the broom shed, or, for that matter, the spells that let the brooms fly. He hopes they last long enough, because he doesn't want to think about Apparating or a port-key with the man. And the Floo is far, far too public.
Regulus regards the offered a hand a moment before taking it. Even on raids, he's never actually touched a Muggle before. "Regulus Black."
Cory ignores the look on Regulus' face. He's not sure if it's because he's a thief, or what Regulus calls a Muggle, but he doesn't much care, either.
"I don't suppose you have anything to read? It's going to be seriously boring here in this...broom shed? And I don't do well with boredom."
"You're going to be here for all of fifteen minutes while I reset the locks on the front door, and make sure you didn't trip anything else." Regulus rolls his eyes in exasperation. The attitude Cory displays is one that's far too much like Sirius for his comfort. "I'm sure you can keep your hands to yourself, and keep still for that long."
Cory doesn't think it's possible for his face to convey the depth of the skepticism he feels, so he goes with looking innocent instead. Sitting still and keeping his hands to himself are decidedly not his strong points.
"I won't touch a thing," he says, with a sincerity that would have had Matthew reaching for his handcuffs.
"Damage the spells on my broom that allow it to fly properly, and I'll let you fall while I save my own skin." It is as much threat as warning, and Regulus just hopes the man will keep his hands to himself. Though it is tempting to pile on a few restraining charms, a couple of stupefy's and a petrifying spell, to keep the man occupied until he comes back.
Instead, he closes the door of the broom shed, moving as quickly as he can in returning the house to order. He hates the feeling of fear that is niggling at the back of his mind. All he wants to do is what's easy, to turn Cory over to Voldemort and just survive. Except that he can't just do that, can't just stand aside and watch everything he thought he was fighting for be destroyed by a half-blood bastard of a Dark Lord.
Cory really does try to behave himself. At first, he keeps himself occupied by imagining the conversation he'll have with Matthew when this is over, but that palls fairly quickly, and the implication that the brooms can fly is entirely too much to resist. He grabs the oldest, dustiest one he can find, but either it's too old to work or it won't work for him - either way, it's a severe disappointment. He's tempted to try the door to the shed, but the idea of attracting the attention of Regulus' dark wizard makes him re-think that decision. By the time Regulus returns, he's thoroughly investigated every corner of the shed, gotten dust all over his hands and had a sneezing fit, and emptied out his pockets - which, sadly, contain nothing more interesting than a few spare bullets and a deck of cards. He's in the middle of his second hand of solitaire when the door to the shed swings open again.
The state of Cory and the shed when he returns makes Regulus wonder if the man has any sense at all, or if it's just something wrong with his head that he can't help but investigate where he should leave well enough alone. He's certain his brother would get along quite well with Cory, which is one very good reason not to ever chance them being in close proximity.
"At least I don't see dusty fingerprints on my current broom, even if you probably have destroyed any chance of the broom I used in school working again." Regulus carefully picks up his current broom, carrying it in a wide circle around Cory as he heads back outside. Testing it close to the ground for a couple laps of the garden to make sure the charms on it are still working properly before he stops, floating near the shed. "I'm afraid I can't risk you riding on the broom itself, but I can levitate you, with a disillusionment charm to keep others from seeing you, at least until it wears off."
Which, if the duration of the rest of the spells holds out, will mean far enough to get him above the clouds, and out of sight of Muggle London while he plays catch with him out into the countryside. If simply because he doesn't trust the levitation spell to hold long enough to get all the way out of London in one go.
"I do have a car," Cory points out. He's never minded dying for a good cause, but the idea of being splattered across the country-side does not appeal. Standing up, he shoves his playing cards back into his pocket. "Did you bring my gun? I need it, and they're hard to get in England."
"Of course I did. I can't have a Muggle weapon in the house where someone could find it. And unless you have your car where it's quite out of sight of the house, you'll have to get it later." Regulus is quite adamant about not letting Cory be seen leaving the house - or the vicinity of the house, for that matter.
"I'm not an amateur," Cory says disdainfully. "I parked five blocks over." Break-ins may not be his preferred method of acquiring funds, but he does know how to carry them out. Putting out his hand, he wiggles his fingers. "My gun?"
Fishing the weapon out of his pocket, Regulus tosses it to Cory. "That should be far enough away." And the disillusionment charm should hold that far, he hopes. Certainly it will on him and his broom, even if it doesn't hold as well on Cory, and the levitation spell should hold as well. It should be an interesting challenge, though, to hold all of the spells while he's flying.
"Hold still for a moment while I cast the spells, and hope they hold out until we get to your car." Because he doesn't want them to wear off, particularly the disillusionment charm, until he's set Cory down. Or dropped him, which is tempting.
Cory rolls his eyes, but does as he's told. He's looking forward to flying, now that it doesn't seem likely that it will end with broken bones and internal injuries. Being invisible isn't as exciting, though he can only imagine what Amanda would do with the ability.
The flight feels longer than it is, and Regulus doesn't bother to remove the disillusionment charm from himself once he does so for Cory, though there aren't any Muggles on the street to see him on his broom. "You owe me, Raines." Favors were always something useful to have others owing him, though he doesn't like the reverse.
"If you can find me, you might even be able to collect." Cory grins and runs a hand over the hood of his car, then relents. "If you can't, look for Matthew of Salisbury. He'll be calling himself something different, but he'll be in law enforcement somewhere. He always is." Matthew will be annoyed, but that's nothing new. Besides, Cory owes him for keeping wizards to himself.
Regulus nods, though he knows Cory can't see the gesture. "I'll keep that in mind." He watches Cory a moment longer before turning his broom toward home, his thoughts troubled. He knows he'll have to call in that favor sooner or later, but how... that's the only real question. And how well two Muggles who likely both have what Voldemort wants can actually help him.
It might be one of the stupidest things he's ever done, at least if he stops and thinks too hard about it. Which Regulus is trying very, very hard not to do. Or he's going to panic, and forget to follow through on his plan. Which will get him killed, rather than making everyone believe he's dead. At least, once Voldemort figures out what he's done. Regulus still can't bring himself to regret stealing the horcrux, or researching how to destroy it before hand. He can't do it on his own, though, and right now, there are more important things to do than worry about how to destroy it.
He draws a deep breath as he slips out of the alley he apparated into, and crosses the street. It will take time for anyone who knows him to even think about searching in Muggle London for him, and by the time they might do so, he intends for them to think he's dead. At least, if the man he's tracked down can help him finish refining the details of his plan. Like how to make sure Cory actually follows the part of the plan Regulus intends for him to follow.
Inside the building, he glances at the slip of parchment in his hand that he's spelled to show him distance and direction to a specific target. In this case, the flat for Matthew Ellworth, once known as Matthew of Salisbury, at least if his research is correct. Tucking the parchment into his pocket as he comes to the door, Regulus lifts a hand, knocking sharply.
It's been a long day, and Matthew is glad to get home, to take off his suit and tie, and stretch out on his couch in jeans and a t-shirt while he waits for pizza to be delivered. The knock at his door pulls him out of a television-induced stupor, and he glances at his watch, pleasantly surprised by the restaurant's speed. Except that it's not the delivery boy, or even one of Matthew's neighbors, but a dark-haired young man he's never seen before and who is practically vibrating with tension.
"Yes?" he asks, hoping that the boy has the wrong address and that he can go back to his quiet evening.
"Matthew of Salisbury?" Regulus knows it's not the name the man goes by now, but he's equally as certain it will get his attention. "A Cory Raines directed me to find you if I couldn't find him."
Not that he couldn't find Cory if he wanted to, just that he didn't want to go looking for the immortal thief first. Regulus wanted someone who didn't think that lethal valuables were nothing more than an irritation while ransacking a house. At least, at the moment. Someone who reminded him less of his brother, really. And who might be able to help him with the fact he didn't think this through as much as he's really wishing he had.
Matthew's first instinct is to tell the man he's mistaken and then to disappear, but the mention of Corwin changes all that. God only knows why the idiot decided to hand Matthew's name over to a mortal - but it does mean that said mortal will at least get a hearing.
"Inside," he says flatly, and jerks the door open.
Regulus takes the invitation gratefully, just refraining from darting inside by sheer will power, glad to be out of the hallway and in the flat instead. Though it certainly sounds like Matthew isn't too glad to be doing so, and he suspects that one name or the other is the only reason he's in here, instead of still out there. Or rather, why he didn't have to risk using a small amount of magic to get inside. He's just as glad not to have to take the risk.
"Mr. Raines owes me a favor, and I need to collect on it. Only I'm not sure he'll appreciate repaying me." Regulus doesn't have the time to dance around the reason he came here, once the door is shut, at least. "I need to disappear without actually ending up as dead as certain ex-compatriots of mine would like to see me. And that's going to take some talents I don't have."
Matthew looks him over for a long moment, then sighs and rubs a hand over his face.
"Mafia?" he asks tiredly. "Or something else?" With Corwin, the possibilities are endless, and most of them are appalling.
"I don't know what the Mafia is." Regulus frowns a moment, puzzled, before he shakes it off. "I was a Death Eater, at least until the Dark Lord figures out what I've done. Then I'm a dead man walking." He pauses, swallowing past the lump of fear in his throat. He really should have thought this through more completely. "I stole one of the Dark Lord's horcruxes. With the intent to destroy it, at some point. Or, at the very least, make sure it's out of his reach."
He gives Matthew a sickly, small grin. "I don't know where the moment of foolish bravery came from, but I swear, I had thought I had a plan. It just hinges perhaps a little more than it should on convincing Cory to pretend to be me long enough to let whoever the Dark Lord sends after me to kill him. Temporarily. Only I'm not sure how to convince him that will be a fair repayment of his debt."
"I've heard of the Death Eaters," Matthew says softly. "And while Corwin will undoubtedly think pretending to be you is an excellent way to entertain himself, I'm the one you have to convince. And I've seen some of your work. I think explaining what exactly you've stolen, and why, would be a good place to start."
"A horcrux, a piece of someone's soul put into a physical object, rent from said person's soul by the act of murder." Regulus does his research when he wants answers, as best he can. At least he hadn't actually had to borrow from anyone else's library, and give away what he was doing before he could come up with a plan, never mind carry it out. "A piece of the Dark Lord's soul, to be precise, though I'm rather surprised he has one to render into pieces in the first place. And why shouldn't I steal the bloody thing? I thought he had ideals, thought there was something to fight for in becoming a Death Eater. Except there wasn't, and he needs stopped. Which is really hard when he has a horcrux. Probably more than one, but I don't know if he actually has more, or if he does, how many."
Regulus is aware he's babbling, and bites his lip hard enough to draw blood. He doesn't have time for this, and he needs to get to Cory, and get the rest of his plan in motion before it all becomes moot, and he's nothing more than a sad side-note to an ugly war.
"A piece of his soul?" The idea is beyond repugnant, though that it's effected through murder isn't terribly surprising. It's repellant enough that Matthew puts aside - for now - his objections to anyone who would think of the Death Eaters and their aims in a positive light. "Why in God's name would anyone do something like that?" It makes the idea of Quickenings seem positively wholesome.
"Because he wants the impossible." Regulus runs an unsteady hand through his hair. "He wants what you and Cory have, and he'll stop at nothing to get it. If anyone but me had come home to find Cory dead on the floor of father's study, the Dark Lord would have him to take apart and study, even if it did him no good. Which is why I still need to figure out the part of the plan where we get Cory's body back before he comes back. Because I still don't want the Dark Lord to have his hands on someone who is immortal."
That's the part of the plan Regulus didn't think through as much as he should have. Perhaps a stasis spell activated when Cory died, to keep him looking like Regulus longer, and to keep him from reviving too soon. Or the timely arrival of Aurors, or simply someone who could retrieve the body. Maybe himself disguised as someone else. And this is all getting to complicated in his head, with far too many places it could fall apart.
"Breathe," Matthew advises. "You're safe here, at least for the night. Besides, it'll take me a bit to get in touch with Corwin, and your plan could use a professional touch." He crosses the room to the sidebar. "Dinner will be here soon. Why don't you tell me your name, then sit down and have a drink?" He himself certainly could use one. Corwin is a positive genius for landing other people in tricky situations, but this might be his worst offense to date. Still, if the man is telling the truth, he kept Corwin safe from something much, much worse, and Matthew owes him, no matter what his motivations were for doing so.
"Regulus Black." There's no point in hiding now.
Regulus takes the offer to sit, dropping into a chair a little more heavily than he normally might. "And yes, thank you, I would. Like a drink, that is, not dinner." He's not certain he could manage to eat anything right now, but perhaps after that drink, a chance to calm down enough that his stomach isn't feeling queasy at the thought of food.
"Whisky, gin, scotch, vodka...?" Matthew himself prefers whisky, but keeps a stocked sidebar, mostly out of habit. "There's beer in the refrigerator, and I think I have a bottle of wine somewhere, though I'm afraid I'll have to apologize in advance for the quality of it."
"Whisky, and if you have Ogden's, I'd be glad for the chance to have some, though I doubt you do." If only because Ogden's is a brand specific to the wizarding world, though Regulus isn't going to assume that automatically means no Muggle has any. Only that those who do are well-connected, very wealthy, or merely very lucky.
"Afraid not." Matthew pours out two generous measures of whisky, and hands one to Regulus. "I finished off my last bottle of the stuff about fifteen years ago." He sits back down on the couch and takes a sip from his own glass. "Now. What exactly did Corwin tell you?"
"Not a whole lot, actually. Most of what I learned from him was more observation and picking up small details from what he did say, rather than him outright informing me." Regulus took a long sip of the whisky, staying silent a moment until the burn settled into something more warming than painful.
"The spells built into the Black signet do kill him, and apparently cause a nasty headache when he revives. I'm assuming that the Killing Curse, and most magical ways of murder, will do the same. Spells wear off when they shouldn't, and Muggle-repelling charms don't work at all. Locking charms are deactivated, and the charms on brooms utterly destroyed."
He paused, before asking, "Is he always a complete idiot when it comes to shiny objects? Because he didn't seem to care that a number of items in a wizarding home would kill him if he picked them up, and most of them are the sort to entice the eye."
Matthew sighs, and takes a long swallow of whisky before answering. "He's not so much an idiot as he is absolutely reckless, and totally unconcerned about anything short of permanent death. Since there's only one way for that to happen..." Matthew shrugs. "But yes. He's an inveterate magpie, and it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that he ended up dead on your floor." It appalls him, but it doesn't surprise him. "He gets himself killed on a regular basis, generally to avoid prison. I do apologize about your brooms. Immortals and your sort of magic tend to be - for the most part - incompatible." He's heard rumors that suggest that it's not always the case, but that's all they are.
"I assumed as much, after the entertaining time I had keeping him contained until I could deal with things so he could leave without causing more trouble than he was worth." Regulus takes another sip of his whisky, startling when there's a knock on the door, half out of his chair before he can remind himself that there's no way anyone could have worked out what he's done, and tracked him down this quickly.
"It's just the pizza," Matthew assures him, putting down his whisky and pushing himself up off of the couch. Still, just in case it isn't, he pulls his gun and his wallet out of the drawer in the hall table, tucking the former down behind his leg to keep it out of sight.
It is just the pizza, and after Matthew has paid the delivery boy, he carries it back into the living room and sets it down on the coffee table.
"Help yourself," he suggests, flipping open the box and grabbing a slice. "I would have cooked, but it's been a long day. Your friends have been busy these last few weeks." He doesn't bother to keep the displeasure out of his voice. Killing non-combatants to make a point is nearly as repugnant as splitting one's soul to pieces.
"They're not my friends." Regulus eyes the pizza for a long moment before taking a slice, and carefully folding it before taking a bite. Chewing and swallowing before he spoke again. "They were my compatriots, once, but even then, they were never my friends. I've never had anyone I could call friend, not since Sirius left for Hogwarts, and had the bad taste to be sorted into Gryffindor."
It's never bothered him before, but now that he's turning to someone who is an utter stranger for help, he wonders if it might not have been a good idea to reach out to his brother, to not let his parents' opinions drive a wedge between them. There's not much point to the regret, though, when there's nothing he can do now, not without risking his brother's life. And even if he's not entirely certain he likes Sirius, he doesn't actually wish him dead.
"And I didn't much like the raids on Muggles. It always felt... wrong. As if we were wasting our time, at first. Now? I don't even know."
"I'm glad to hear that murdering helpless civilians doesn't appeal to you," Matthew says, voice flat. He takes a moment to finish his piece of pizza before continuing, mostly for his temper's sake. "I've taken my fair share of lives, but some things are beyond the pale."
Regulus gave Matthew an irritated look. "They're not all completely helpless, and I'm not a monster simply because I've made mistakes. I don't murder those who can't fight back, I don't revel in their misery when they're helpless at my feet, like some of the Death Eaters do. Like my own cousin. I was the dutiful son, not the insane monster. So don't give me the same look my brother did simply because I wasn't brave enough to turn my back on the plans my parents had for me when I was sixteen."
Matthew bites back the retort hovering on the tip of his tongue. He's well aware that growing up is a slower process today than it was when he was young, and he's made more than enough mistakes in his life to appreciate anyone who is trying to rectify theirs.
"What changed your mind?" he asks finally. Whisky doesn't really go with pizza, but he takes another sip anyway before reaching for a second slice.
"Almost everything." Regulus drops the rest of the piece he hasn't finished onto the empty box top, unable to keep eating it. "The raids, the torture, the ravings of a madman who wouldn't know what blood purity was if it smacked him in the face." That he's talking about the Dark Lord like that is a sign he's had quite enough to drink, he thinks. That he has the courage to voice his opinions aloud, even simply to a stranger. "Finding what the Dark Lord wanted sprawled on the carpet in my father's study, and realizing I didn't want to provide him what he was looking for."
Cory had been the last thing to push Regulus to look into finding a way to help stop the Dark Lord, even if he couldn't do much before they killed him. That he's not dead now is simply that he thought about the immortal and the debt Cory owes him.
"Fair enough," Matthew says after a long moment. "I'll do what I can. Not all of Corwin's debts are mine too, not by a long shot, but I've seen what mortals can do to one of us when they think it will get them what we have, and I'll acknowledge this one." Leaning back, he puts his feet up on the coffee table next to the pizza box. "I'll do what I can to help. I'll want your word, though, that you'll never say anything about Immortals to anyone. We keep out of sight in your world and this one, and if it got around that I was responsible for getting us noticed, I doubt I'd last long enough to do you much good."
"I'd make an Unbreakable Oath, but that requires another wizard, and forgive me if I'd rather not have anyone else from my world present at the moment." Even those who might help him, he wouldn't trust with the least of this. "As it is, I will give you my word, for what it's worth."
He's sure there are those who'd say his word is worthless, but he's trying to be someone better than he was. Perhaps not his brother, with his rash and often foolish headlong rush to do what he believed was right, but at least not some sheep who blindly followed what others had laid out for him.
"I'll take your word up until you prove to me that it's no good," Matthew tells him. "After that, Voldemort - and I - will be the least of your problems. There are Immortals out there who make him look like a little boy pulling off insects' wings." Melvin Koren, for one. Or Methos, or Darius, before he'd reformed. Matthew would back any one of them against Voldemort without thinking twice. "Now - you mentioned faking your own death. Is that absolutely necessary, or would disappearing work just as well?"
"After stealing a horcrux? If the Dark Lord thinks I'm still alive, he'll keep hunting me." Especially after the note he'd left in place of the actual locket. Regulus is certain of that much, at least, and he really doesn't want to spend the rest of his life hiding and running and never being quite sure if his death is hiding right around the corner. And it applies to secrets as well. "I'd rather have at least some measure of safety in the belief I'm dead, even if I do have to leave much of what I know behind, than run scared for the rest of my life."
"It makes things more complicated, but hardly impossible." Matthew frowns. "The main issue seems to be keeping Voldemort from getting his hands on an Immortal; the rest of it isn't too terribly complicated. It's probably going to come down to how long whatever curse Voldemort uses will last. The more physical damage, the longer it will take to heal."
"Cruciatus, certainly, and likely the Killing Curse. Whether him or if he sends one or another of the Death Eaters after me instead, those are the most likely. The latter kills very effectively, very neatly. The former... I never had the stomach for, but it's what my cousin loves best. She likes to see her victims screaming." Regulus is aware he's probably faintly green, thinking of what Bellatrix might do to him if she were sent to dispose of him. And he thinks it's more likely that she'll be sent than the Dark Lord coming himself. Regulus isn't exactly a high-ranking one of his followers.
"Ah." Matthew bites his lip, thinking. There's a difference between Corwin's tendency to plunge headlong into temporary death and enduring prolonged torture of the sort that makes a Death Eater - even a reformed one - look so ill. He doesn't want to risk Corwin's sanity, or even his personality, at the hands of an accomplished torturer. He has the unpleasant feeling that he's going to end up doing this himself, and using Corwin as back up. "I think some experiments are in order, with the Killing Curse if not with the other." Though it will probably come down to that, too, in the end.
Regulus grimaces, looking down at his glass. "Can't do it here, where there aren't any wizards living. Too much of a risk that the Ministry will notice, and then the Dark Lord will notice, and wonder." Though there were places that it could be done, and they would have time to get out of there before the Aurors came calling, if only because they're remote enough no one is entirely worried about someone doing anything out there. And he'll have to use a wand that isn't associated with him or his family to do this - possibly one or another of the ones he's stolen when he's had to go along on raids of the homes of Muggle-born wizards or blood-traitors. The small collection should be enough for them to test timing, and methods of escape.
The last thing Matthew wants is to have Voldemort - or, for that matter, the Ministry - anywhere near his home.
"We'll save that for tomorrow, then." He looks critically at Regulus. "When was the last time you got a decent night's sleep? You won't be able to do anything if you can't think clearly."
"I don't know. Not since September, at least. I've slept every night, but I've not quite felt safe enough to sleep properly, and I don't dare take a sleeping potion to help. Not with the sort of company I've kept." Regulus let out a mirthless bark of laughter. "I've been able to think well enough to keep from getting caught and killed, but I'm not sure if I've been thinking clearly." Or he probably wouldn't have stolen the damned horcrux.
"You're safe here, at least for tonight," Matthew assures him. "I doubt anyone would think to look for you here, and even if they do, they won't get in without making more than enough noise to warn you in time." He knows a few charms that Cierdwyn swears work as protection, and is more than willing to resort to more mundane methods as well, just to be on the safe side.
"Thank you." Regulus still doesn't feel entirely safe, but he feels safer here than he has at home in months. Perhaps safe enough to make use of the sleeping potion in his pocket, though he's not entirely confident of that, either. Perhaps after another glass of whisky, and an attempt to eat at least the rest of the piece of pizza he'd taken earlier.
"Thank me when it's over," Matthew suggests. "And eat something. Even Immortals don't do well without food and sleep." Not in the long term, any way, though they can last longer than mortals. "I've got some paperwork I need to finish before I get more involved in this than I already am, and I need to leave a message for Corwin. You're welcome to watch television, or to help yourself to the books - there are some here, and more upstairs."
Regulus prefers a book, if simply because he knows what a book is. A television, he doesn't, though he assumes it's some form of Muggle entertainment with a visual aspect. He reaches out for the pizza, eyeing the slice a long moment before he takes another bite. At least, if nothing else, he'll have had an interesting evening.
"You're not going," Matthew says, for what feels like the hundredth time since he first explained to Corwin what was going to happen. Corwin opens his mouth to protest, but Matthew cuts him off ruthlessly. "You got me into this, and I'll have no more objections from you as to how it's handled, or you can go back to Argentina and I'll call Cierdwyn instead." It's not enough to keep Corwin from looking mutinous, but it does put an end to his objections, hopefully for good. Matthew turns his attention back to Regulus.
"You know the Death Eaters better than I do. Will they be satisfied with catching you alone? I don't want to risk any civilians." He will if he has to - this is closer to war than to a police operation and casualties happen - but if it can possibly be avoided, it must be.
Regulus taps his fingers against the arm of the chair he's sitting in, resisting the urge to get up and pace. "They're not going to care where they catch up with me, so long as they think they have. And so long as they can have... fun." He grimaces, thinking about what his cousin would think of as fun - and he's more and more certain they'll send Bellatrix after him. "I'm not sure if the Dark Lord will actually send more than one, and if just the one, it'll probably be Bellatrix. And she'll use Cruciatus before killing, it's her signature."
Matthew grimaces. He's not unfamiliar with pain, but the Cruciatus curse is nothing like the pain caused by quickly-healing injuries. Across the room, Corwin is looking at him suspiciously, but fortunately decides against commenting.
"How long is that likely to last? It would be...unfortunate if the potion were to wear off before she's finished."
"It depends on how much the Dark Lord wants me dead. Prolonged Cruciatus is only feasible if she hasn't been told to make sure the Aurors can't get me alive. And I'm hoping I pissed him off enough that he's given her orders to make sure I'm dead before anyone can arrive to rescue me. Which means she'll only hold it long enough to hear me - you - scream before she kills me. At least as far as I'm aware."
Regulus runs a hand through his hair, leaning back in his chair. "I don't like not having all the information to give you." Not when more than his own life rides on his being right, even if that's a very large part of why he doesn't like it.
"It's not the first time I've gone into something blind." Matthew is clearly trying to be reassuring, but at least where Cory is concerned, he's failing. "At least this time, I don't run the risk of dying permanently if something goes wrong. Besides, I'll have Corwin for back up, and if anything does go awry, he'll kill her and we'll try again. It's not ideal, but it's better than having one of us end up in Voldemort's hands." He glances at Cory, eyebrows raised. It's the same expression he wore when trying to pass on some particularly tricky bit of blade-work, patiently expectant. "Can you handle killing a woman? If not, now is the time to say something."
"I'm not the one who grew up steeped in chivalry," Cory points out. "If she's a threat, I can handle her." He won't like it, but that's irrelevant at this point. Guilt isn't usually a facet of his personality, but Matthew is the closest thing he has to family, and the entire mess is largely his responsibility.
"I'm rather hoping it doesn't come to that, as little as I like my cousin." Regulus sighs, giving into the urge to get up and pace. It's better than sitting here, waiting for the right time to drop his hair in the damned potion. He's just glad he'd been able to start it before he stole the Horcrux, and that he'd been able to transport it from where he'd been working on it to here without damage to the potion.
"The polyjuice potion should be ready soon, and then we just have to find the right place for her to find me." Or rather, Matthew as him, since the only thing he'll be doing is Apparating in with his wand, and then using a stolen wand to hide himself while he sneaks out of the area, leaving Matthew to face Bellatrix. That's the part where things are most likely to go wrong, and there's nothing he can do about it except hope they've planned well enough.
"The less public it is, the better. We could use my house in London - you've been there before, so it wouldn't be unusual for you to go back there. I'll have to take down some of the protection on it, though." Matthew still isn't sure if the Death Eaters can get through the charms Cierdwyn taught him, but he'd rather not take any chances.
"And it'll be easier to get you there, since I know the destination well." So long as Regulus doesn't splinch either of them when he Apparates, it would go well enough. And then he wouldn't even really have to go very far, just to the alley across the street, where he could hide until Bellatrix left, and hopefully get in and get Matthew out before any Aurors arrived. "It'll be a close thing with Aurors afterward, though, with being in London."
"I'd consider that to be more of a bonus than anything," Cory says thoughtfully. "Criminals don't like to stick around when the cops are certain to be on their way."
"And if it comes down to it, I have a better chance of talking the Aurors around than I do your cousin," Matthew adds. "I can play on professional courtesy, for one thing."
Regulus nods, though he still prefers not to encounter Aurors at all. Especially when he's trying to make everyone think he's dead. In part to get as far from Voldemort as he can, and in part to simply give him a chance to breathe and think. Something that he's not convinced will happen if Aurors get there before he can get Matthew's body out.
"Then we'll worry about the risk if it materializes." Regulus goes over to check the potion, mentally noting that he still has a few minutes yet before it's quite cool enough to add the hair. "The potion is almost ready, and incidentally, it's absolutely foul, no matter who you're trying to be. Or so I've heard." He's not actually tried polyjuice himself, as he hasn't had a reason to. But he listens, and others who have used it... well, he's never heard anyone say it tasted good.
"I appreciate the warning," Matthew says, smiling faintly. "I'd say it's probably the least of my concerns at the moment, but I appreciate it anyway." He pauses. "If it doesn't work, do we have another option? I really don't want to have to rethink this entire thing."
"The other option I know of involves my staying far closer than I'd like to hold a glamor, or try my hand at transfiguration of your features directly." Regulus looks over at Matthew with a grimace. "I'd really prefer not to have to do either, but if it comes to it, better to hold a glamor, as my NEWT in Transfiguration was... well, Abysmal is a grade in the wizarding world." He'd done decently on his OWL, but he probably shouldn't have taken NEWT level Transfiguration. Particularly not with the direction his life had been heading at the time.
"Then let's hope it works." The whole point of this exercise is to get Regulus out safely, and keeping him close by isn't a risk Matthew wants to take. Neither does Corwin, judging by his frown. "How much longer until it's ready?"
"Five minutes, and a hair from me." Regulus checks the temperature again, impatient for it to cool enough to ladle out a beakerful and add the hair. The sooner they manage this, the sooner he can be declared dead, and get out of Britain. Or at least, out of London.
As soon as it is ready, he prepares the cup for Matthew, making a brief face as he plucks a hair, dropping it in and watching the potion change colors. "At least it looks like it's doing what it's supposed to be doing."
"Bottoms up, then." Matthew drains the cup in one quick movement, then grimaces. "That was terrible."
"Worth it, though. You already sound - Jesus!" Watching Matthew's familiar features shift to mirror those of Regulus is one of the most interesting things Cory has seen in his entire life. "That could be seriously useful someday."
Matthew's glare is much less intimidating when he's using someone else's face, but he does manage to inject the usual steel into Regulus' borrowed voice.
"Don't even think about it, Corwin. You attract enough attention as it is."
Regulus relaxes a little once Matthew's features shift, glad the polyjuice is working the way it should. "Let's get you Apparated in, so I can get out before Bellatrix arrives." He has his wand in hand, and the other tucked into his pocket. He'll have to leave his wand with Matthew, so Bellatrix can do what she will with it. Probably snap it after disarming him, to make sure he can't fight back.
"You'll have to hold on to my arm, and I'll bring us into the living room. Bellatrix won't take too long, though I hope it's enough time for me to get outside."
"Can you handle taking both of us at once?" Matthew asks, trying to ignore the fact that he sounds nothing like himself. Fortunately, his original accent is close enough to Regulus' that no one should notice the difference. "Or will you need to come back for Corwin?"
Corwin, Matthew notes without surprise, is already grinning in anticipation as adrenaline works its usual magic. One of these days, he's going to get himself into something Matthew can't get him out of, but that's a worry for another time.
"I might be able to manage you both, but I really should come back for Cory. I'll use one of the other wands for one or the other, or she'll wonder what I'm up to." It's something Regulus should have thought of earlier, and he's glad he has more than one wand on him, though there's a moment while he switches wands. "I'll use mine to Apparate with Cory next."
He suits action to words, hoping he can manage this quickly enough to be out of sight when Bellatrix arrives. Apparating like this is draining, but not nearly as much as trying to take both Matthew and Cory at once, and there's less danger of splinching. And with two wands, it looks as if two different wizards are Apparating in. One of whom doesn't stay very long, possibly just long enough to drop off - or pick up - a message or an item.
Once he returns with Cory, all he can do is scramble to get out of sight before Bellatrix can arrive, and hope this all goes to plan.
As soon as Regulus leaves, Matthew busies himself with removing the sigils of protection over both doors. He'd prefer to only remove them from one or the other, but it might make whoever Voldemort sends suspect a trap. He's just finishing with the back door when he feels Immortal presence. It doesn't fade, which gives him at least some idea as to how close Corwin is. Regulus, he hopes, is much further away.
Regulus passes his wand to Cory with a hissed admonition to toss it to Matthew before he scrambles for the back door, and the garden behind the house. At least it's a less likely place for Bellatrix to Apparate, though he could be wrong and running toward his death instead of away.
Bellatrix grins to herself as she Apparates just outside the Muggle house her idiot cousin has gone into. She hopes there are Muggles still in there, and he hasn't sent them away - she'd love to have a little fun before she kills Regulus, though she's not sure how much time there will be to do so, before Aurors come hunting her, and she has to leave them the body to find.
Blasting the door off its hinges, she grins as she spots Regulus waiting inside. "Oh, good, you really are as stupid as I thought you were, little cousin." Just waiting there for her to kill him, really, she's surprised he's avoided getting himself killed this long.
Matthew grips the wand Cory tossed him moments earlier, and spares a moment to hope that his student is safely out of sight. He can't risk glancing in that direction. Instead, he lifts the useless wand in his hand. He's halfway through the Killing Curse, knowing it won't work, when it's jerked away.
"Naughty, naughty, Regulus." Bellatrix shakes her head, catching the wand she's just taken away deftly. "I didn't think you even had the will to cast that, certainly you can't cast it fast enough." She laughed, bringing her own wand up with a snapped, "Crucio!"
A smile is on her face as she holds the curse, waiting for the first delicious screams. It's too bad she won't have time to really wring them from him, but even a few will be better than none at all.
Hearing Matthew scream is almost more than Cory's patience will stand. He's seen his teacher take a sword through the gut without reacting like this, and it seems like it's never going to stop.
For his part, Matthew has just enough time to be stunned by the difference between the pain Regulus caused and the agony Bellatrix is causing before it consumes him. He's been burned before, once, but this is ten times worse - there's no respite, no hint that his Immortality is about to step in and save him. All he can do is writhe, and hope it ends quickly.
Laughing loudly in delight at the screams her cousin is providing her, Bellatrix nearly looses herself in it. Barely recalling the explicit instructions given her when she hears something in the distance. Not the pop of Apparating Aurors, but enough for her to lower her wand, ending the curse as she pouts. "I do wish we had more time to play, little cousin, but I'm afraid you really made him angry, our Master. And you know he doesn't tolerate betrayal very well."
She smiles, lifting her wand again, the tossing motion accompanied by the hissed incantation of the Killing Curse, the brilliant green light giving her face a sickly cast for a moment. Toeing Regulus' body over, she shakes her head. "Silly little cousin. No better than your blood-traitor brother, in the end. Pity. You had potential."
Outside, she puts the Dark Mark up before she Apparates away. Knowing she's probably only seconds ahead of the Aurors only makes the thrill that much more.
Regulus is watching the sky, and when he sees the Dark Mark, he sprints for the house, muttering to himself about timing, and hoping he gets there fast enough to get Matthew out before the Aurors arrive.
The only thing that stops Cory from going after Bellatrix and attempting to put a few bullets into her is the thought of Matthew having gone through all of that for nothing. Instead, he bends over Matthew's body. There's really no point in feeling for a pulse - he felt Matthew's quickening wink out moments earlier - and it's a waste of precious seconds that they don't have.
Matthew is lighter now than he usually is, without the heavy muscles that came from wearing armor and lifting a sword as soon as he was able, but he's still heavy, especially since he's dead weight. Cory's just managed to get him up into a fireman's carry when he hears that all-too-familiar pop behind him, and freezes.
Apparating in where the Unforgivables have been used is always dangerous, but the sight that greets Frank is not one he's seen before in these situations. The Death Eaters have never bothered to clean up the bodies, always preferring to leave them where they've fallen. To better disturb their pursuers, he's always supposed.
"Stop there." He gets his voice back after a few vital seconds, raising his wand to aim it at the man with the body. "Put the body down, and keep your hands where I can see them."
He has a niggling suspicion the man isn't a Death Eater, though he's not going to suppose otherwise, not really, until he can get a look at the man's left arm. Him, or Kingsley, it really doesn't matter which of them looks.
Regulus freezes at the sound of Apparating, just shy of the doorway into the living room. Glad he hasn't actually made it there, and into their line of sight, even if he has to be very quiet as he tries to back off. He can't get caught now, not when they're so close to ensuring he can leave without being hunted down.
Cory lowers Matthew gently to the floor, and puts his hands up. It's not going to do either of them any good if he gets killed now. Besides, from what he understands, it's unlikely that will happen anyway.
"This is not what it looks like," he says. For once, that line is nothing but the truth.
"Really." The speaker is larger even than the Kurgan, and he sounds as skeptical as Matthew at his most irritated.
"I'm trying to get him to the hospital." It's the first lie that pops into Cory's head, and he offers up his most ingratiating smile along with it, hoping that neither of the newcomers will notice the lameness of his excuse, and that Regulus is well away.
"He's dead." Frank's sure of that much, at least, and he keeps his wand aimed at the man even after the body is on the floor. "Kingsley, your turn to check." At least, if he recalls correctly, he checked the last capture for extra wands, and for the Dark Mark, like the one no doubt floating above this house.
Regulus recognizes the one voice, though not the other, and he bites his lip hard to keep from groaning as he slowly takes a step backward, placing his feet with extreme care to avoid making any noise. He only has to get outside, get beyond any anti-Apparating barrier they might have put up, and get away. Go back to the house they'd been planning in, and wait there for Cory and Matthew to catch up with him, and then figure out where he's going next.
For his part, Kingsley isn't sure what to think. Their captive is dressed in Muggle clothing and sounds like an American, two things that Death Eaters rarely, if ever, do. Still, he levels his wand at the man's chest.
"Left arm. Now," he orders.
Cory glances down at Matthew, willing him to wake up. He's never been good at talking to the police. Sighing, he rolls up his left sleeve.
"I'm not a Death Eater," he assures them, holding out his unmarked left arm and struggling not to flinch as Kingsley presses the tip of his wand to it. "See? If you wait until Matthew wakes up, he'll be able to explain things a little better."
Frank isn't sure what the man's thinking, but he's seen enough corpses to know the man at his feet is dead. He gives their captive a pitying look, wondering just what the Death Eaters did to him before he and Kingsley got there. Because that's the only thing he can think of to explain the man's certainty that the other isn't dead.
And to explain why he thinks Regulus Black goes by the name Matthew. Frank isn't really surprised to find the young man dead; he's more surprised it took this long for him to see this particular body on the ground at his feet.
"What's your name?" he asks quietly, as gently as if he's talking to his son.
"Cory." Instinctive caution when it comes to dealing with law enforcement keeps him from giving his last name. It's been a while since he operated in England, but he really doesn't want to take any chances, not until Matthew is back and able to take care of himself.
"Cory," Kingsley says, "what happened here?"
"It's a really long story." Cory nudges Matthew with one foot. "And I'm not the best person to tell it. It wasn't really my idea. He'll do a much better job of explaining, once he decides to rejoin the party."
Kingsley shoots Frank an unhappy glance. A Muggle witness - one who insists that a very dead Regulus Black is about to wake up and explain things - is a complication they don't need.
Frank shakes his head. Until they get a full account, or at least, as full an account as Cory's able to give, they can't just obliviate him, as much as he'd like to. It will be a kindness, in the end, if the Death Eaters have messed him up this badly. "Why don't you tell us what you know first." Better to cater to his belief that the dead would rise than agitate him by insisting he face reality.
"How much time do you have?" Cory grins. It's disconcerting, especially considering what he must have been through. "That," he points at Regulus, "is Matthew, although he looks like Regulus Black right now. He took some kind of potion, and -" He breaks off, head tilting to the side as if he's listening to something only he can hear. "And he's back."
Frank blinks, raising an eyebrow at Cory before he looks over at Kingsley with a concerned expression on his face. Perhaps it would be better to not worry about Cory's side of the story, and just obliviate him now. The paperwork's annoying, but he'd rather do the paperwork than worry about what the man might do when Regulus doesn't come back as he's clearly expecting.
"Matthew." Cory drops to his knees, and checks his teacher's pulse. It's there, and getting steadily stronger, and after a moment, Matthew gasps and tries to sit up.
"Lie still, you idiot," Cory tells him firmly. "Christ. Next time you plan on doing something like that, warn me first. I nearly shot that bitch when you started screaming."
"I'm glad you managed to restrain yourself." Matthew sounds hoarse and beyond tired, but he manages a smile that fades into what Cory thinks of as his Official Expression when he notices Kingsley and his friend. "I see we have company."
He's sure he's seeing things when Regulus gasps, and sits up - even if it is with assistance. Frank doesn't know what to think of someone who manages to come back from the dead, particularly when that person is Regulus Black. There are worse people he could think of doing the same, but he's loathe to even think the name too loud right now.
"Kingsley, can you confirm what I'm seeing?" he asks instead, making sure that if he is seeing things, at least he's not alone.
"I see it," Kingsley answers, without taking either his eyes or his wand off of the two men in front of him. Cory looks up at them and winks. Black glares at him, then looks apologetically at Kingsley and Frank.
"I don't suppose you'd care to forget you saw anything?" he asks.
"No." Frank doesn't move the aim of his wand, though he's tempted to reach up and rub his temples. This is going to be a nightmare of paperwork, and he's not sure how to explain it. Or even if he should try to explain it.
That is, if it's not some sort of trap, considering who they're dealing with. He doesn't really have to check Regulus' arm for the Dark Mark when they're already certain he's a Death Eater.
"What's going on, Black?"
"I'm not Black." Judging by the Aurors' reactions, Regulus isn't high on their list of favorite people, and as a result, Matthew wants to clear up the matter of his identity as quickly as he can. "I assure you, the resemblance is only temporary. My name's Matthew Ellworth; I'm a detective inspector with Scotland Yard. You've already met Corwin." He gets to his feet, careful to move slowly and to keep his hands in sight. "I'm happy to explain, but unless you're absolutely certain that Bellatrix won't be back, I'd much rather do it somewhere else." He'd hate to have gone through all of that for nothing.
A Muggle, masquerading as Regulus Black, who is alive when he should be dead. Frank isn't sure he wants to explain this to the Order, much less to the Ministry. And if he's not Regulus, it's likely Regulus is still alive somewhere, though why the younger man went to a pair of Muggles rather than someone in the wizarding world, Frank isn't entirely certain.
"Where's Black, if you're not him?" If they have to take this conversation elsewhere, he'd much rather go wherever Regulus is, and clear up this entire mess. Before making his report to the Ministry - and he can cover the extra time by claiming to have chased the Death Eater who murdered Regulus Black.
"Somewhere else." Matthew shrugs. "I don't think he'd appreciate my telling you any more than that. As far as you and yours are concerned, he's dead, and he's going to stay that way." The expression on Matthew's face says as clearly as words that he's not in the mood to compromise on this point, and Cory tends to agree with him. Regulus - and the horcrux he stole - are too valuable to risk, and there's no guarantee that either of these men will keep their mouths shut.
Frank would really prefer to see with his own eyes that Regulus isn't dead, but he can understand the reluctance of the Muggle to share, especially since he doubts Regulus trusts anyone who works for the Ministry. Which may well explain why he didn't approach anyone in the wizarding world for assistance.
He looks over at Kingsley, raising an eyebrow in silent question about how much he's willing to trust the Muggle's word, or if he'd rather push for proof that Regulus isn't dead. Along with an explanation of this entire mess, no matter what goes into the official report.
Kingsley scowls down at the pair in front of him. "I think you should start from the beginning. Who are you, and why aren't you dead?" Regulus Black is one thing - Muggles who appear to have discovered the secret of immortal life are quite another.
"And take the chance that you're Death Eaters?" Not-Regulus shakes his head. "I don't think so."
"Just who you are would be a start, at least." Other than 'Matthew', which doesn't really give them much to work with. "And how you know Black." Frank wants to work through this enough to have things clear in his mind, so when the war ends, there's a chance to help Regulus. If he'll let them help him, and hasn't just gone and hidden himself in a deep hole somewhere.
"Left arms, first," Cory says, after a glance at Matthew, who still looks skeptical. "Turnabout being fair play, and all that."
Frank kept a smile from crossing his face by sheer willpower, rolling up his left sleeve without letting go of his wand. At least the Dark Mark can't be concealed, and it provides an easy way of identifying Death Eaters, when one bothers to look.
Kingsley rolls up his own sleeve. After a moment, Cory nods.
"Fair enough." He's not entirely sure what he's supposed to be looking for, but since their forearms are as unmarked as his own, he's willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Off Matthew's quizzical look, he reaches over and pulls up his teacher's left sleeve. The face Matthew makes at the tattoo on his arm makes Cory wish he had a camera.
"Apparently, Voldemort's been taking history lessons from the SS," Cory shrugs, tugging Matthew's sleeve back down. "Only he's marking up his followers instead."
"Why the hell haven't you people finished him off, then?" Matthew asks.
"Ignore him," Cory advises. "He's always cranky after he's been dead." He offers the Aurors his best 'I didn't do it' grin. "You wanted to know how I ran across Regulus Black, right?"
"Please," Kingsley says dryly.
"I tried burgling his house." Cory shrugs, unembarrassed. "It didn't go so well."
Frank is tempted to close his eyes at just how the Muggle met Regulus - anyone with sense didn't break into a wizarding home, if they could find it - but he consoles himself with giving Cory a disbelieving look. "And how did Matthew meet him, then?" He looks over at Matthew, curious just what the connection was. He's not even going to ask what Cory managed to do to get himself caught, as he can think of any number of ways to do so.
"I owed Regulus one for getting me out of there after I picked up the wrong thing, so I told him how to find Matthew, because Matthew can always find me." Corwin should not be able to look as innocent as he does. "Of course, once he did get in touch with Matthew, Matthew had to get involved."
"Because you have all the common sense God gave earthworms," Matthew retorts.
"And Black wanted your help to fake his own death? Why?" Other than the obvious that he'd probably pissed off Voldemort, or perhaps just his cousin. Frank isn't entirely certain which is more likely, and he's not sure he really cares, except to make a report to Dumbledore. Which is going to be much abbreviated as it is, though perhaps not as much as his report to the Ministry.
Cory takes a deep breath, clearly prepared to launch into an explanation, but Matthew cuts him off. His first instinct is to say nothing, but it's not as if Voldemort and his people are unaware of what Regulus did.
"He took something that belongs to Voldemort. Do you know what a Horcrux is?"
Frank let out a hissed breath, staring at Matthew for a long minute. Apparently, the Muggles Regulus has roped into his scheme to fake his own death aren't the only ones who are utterly insane. Though at least Regulus' insanity has - he hopes - resulted in one less item that's useful for Voldemort.
"He took one? For what?" For all that it might have good results, Frank still doesn't know what Regulus might have in mind. Not without more information.
"He wants to destroy it," Matthew shrugs, "or at least keep it from its owner. It's why I agreed to help. This war you people are fighting keeps spilling into our world, and the sooner it ends, the better."
"Right." Frank looks over at Kingsley for a long moment. There's no way to safely tell the Ministry this without the risk it'll get back to the Dark Lord somehow. He's not even sure they can tell the Order without that same risk - there've been murmurs there's a spy even there. He has to tell Dumbledore something about this, but not in a meeting of the Order. He'll have to come up with some reason they've been gone this long without much to show for it, but for now, this can't go beyond the room. Not yet.
"We'll clear things with the Ministry and Dumbledore." Clear them as in making sure nothing happens beyond the report of finding the body of Regulus Black, known Death Eater, in a London flat.
Matthew nods, then winces as the Polyjuice starts to wear off. Once it's finished, he takes a deep breath.
"I appreciate that. I'm going to try to get Regulus out of the country." He hesitates for a second, then adds, "If there's ever anything we can do to help - well. You know where to find me, and I know where to find Cory."
The offer is a surprise, but Frank nods, before slipping his wand back into its sheath on his arm, Apparating after a moment. He's got a report to write, and information to relay to Dumbledore. It's going to be a long night.