“Who in their right mind has a wedding in the height of war?” Sirius questioned as he helped pick up wrapping paper from the floor. James laughed as he juggled his wedding gifts.
“Come on, Sirius, it’s romantic! Two people, hunted by a maniacal, bloodthirsty fiend, getting married in the middle of a vicious war before they die.”
“No one’s dying,” Lily admonished while laughing. “And give me those before you break them.”
James stared at Lily sweetly before relinquishing the last of the wedding gifts they had just received. Despite the jest that James had been making, he wasn't wrong. The war was growing worse by the day and yes, they were in You-Know-Who’s eyesight. It still bothered Lily how close she and James had been to Voldemort three times by now. One of those times had been for recruitment of all things. Her, a muggleborn, in his ranks? He wanted her because of her intellect and it made her wonder just how much of this war was about muggleborn rhetoric rather than simply for power.
Lily gasped when she felt James’ arms around her and then smiled broadly when he turned her around with a gentle twirl. “James, I’ve told you countless times not to scare me like that.”
“You haven’t left me yet, so why stop?” James countered smartly. Yet another twirl and a tango-like dip, Lily saw Remus’ face upside down who was cleaning his reading glasses with the bottom of his shirt.
“You do realize that you’re going to spend the rest of your life with this man?” Remus reminded. “Are you sure you want to go through with it?”
“Of course she is,” James said happily. He pulled up his bride-to-be and let her stand beside him. “Who else is she going to marry? Peter?”
Peter, who sat quietly in the corner, rolled his eyes and fought hard to contain his blushing.
“One week to change your mind,” Remus chuckled before asking Peter if he wanted to help him sort out the messy kitchen. He recruited Sirius too who joked about being the Potters’ house elf while Lily sent James to join them.
Lily sighed contently as she stared in the kitchen’s direction. James was going to be her husband and the rest of the crew were her boys. Sirius, the adult child who had no intentions of moving out, Remus, the responsible one, and Peter, the baby of the family you couldn’t help but coddle. Merlin, she had a busy life ahead of her.
As she was straightening up the rest of the living room there was something outside that caught her eye. She stood still as a statue, training her eyes to differentiate between trees and shadows until she recognized movement that was more than just nature. Lily glanced back at the kitchen where she heard laughter rather than cleaning happening. She knew that she should’ve alerted everyone, but she did the opposite. Bottom lip between her teeth, Lily took a deep breath and headed towards the front door. She held her wand in a death grip as she took a tentative step outside, carefully examining her surroundings.
For the month of June there was a cool breeze whipping through the air which made this trek into the growing darkness of Godric’s Hollow all the more ominous. She swallowed deeply as she walked around to the side of the house, her wand raised and praying that none of her muggle neighbors saw her.
“I know that you’re out there,” Lily said bravely. She conjured a quick shield as an afterthought before continuing, “Come out with your hands up and I won’t hurt you.”
Seconds ticked by when there was nothing but earthly sounds. The wind. Leaves rustling. Branches creaking and cracking. Distant voices of people and televisions. A full minute passed before Lily began thinking that she had only been seeing things. War could do that to you. Make you paranoid and think that there was danger when there wasn’t. She took down her shield and turned to leave when the sound of a snapping twig got her attention.
“Immobulus!” Lily cast quickly, her spell disappearing into the trees. Although she couldn’t see whoever was there, she did see that the person had deflected her spell. She was ready to call for James and the others, another spell on her lips when the voice that called out to her stopped her dead in her tracks.
“Please, don’t attack me.”
Lily kept her wand raised, prepared to fight, but her head was tilted and her eyes wide. “Regulus?”
Regulus finally showed himself and came out from the greenery, albeit not fully. His head was hung low, his eyes flickering up to meet hers every now and again. His wand was protruding out of the pocket of his robes. It was a comfort to Lily that it wasn’t in his hand, however, it was still accessible should he need it.
“Accio wand!” Lily called, and she caught it in her hand with little effort. The young Black didn’t even try to snatch it on its way to her. “What are you doing here? How did you even find us?”
“Your home isn’t warded,” Regulus pointed out. “You should probably take care of that.”
“It is,” Lily snootily replied. “Unfortunately, it appears that being Sirius’ brother has allowed you to enter it.”
Regulus’ brow shot up. “You used blood-warded entries? Clever.”
“I’ll ask you again before I blast you off this property. What are you doing here? Obviously, it’s not to kill us or else you would’ve done it.”
Regulus shook his head solemnly, his hands in his pockets, shoulders slumped far enough to think he had none to speak of. “I don’t have it in me to kill you. Not anymore.”
To say that Lily was stunned would be an understatement. This was Regulus Black. For all the years that she had known him, he had always been the poster boy for muggleborn hatred. His thoughts on her type of witch and wizard were very clear and the day that he had become a Deatheater had been no surprise. Seeing him now after being branded two years ago, an apparent emotional wreck, was mind-boggling.
With his wand in her possession, Lily felt comfortable lowering hers to her side, but she still had its base held tightly in her palm.
“Do you know what’s so difficult about finally getting the thing that you’ve wanted for years?” Regulus asked her. “Getting it. The idea of something is always glamorous because you fill it with your own imaginations, but you don’t really know what it is. Peeking behind that curtain is always a let down, but once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it. And then you have to live the rest of your life with this version that pales in comparison to what you’ve always dreamed.”
The hold on her wand waned. Lily’s defenses were slowly coming down and she was seeing a side to Regulus that she knew all too well: despair. However, she could feel very little sympathy for him and she felt a sneer coming on.
“Life as a Deatheater not going as planned?”
Regulus stared at her with the mix of a deep frown and scowl. “On the contrary, it’s going exactly as planned. There are just...things that I didn’t sign up for. Things that no wizard should ever do.”
“Other than killing people?”
“As a matter of fact, yes.” Regulus took a step away from the trees so that all of him could be seen while Lily took an instinctive step back, wand aimed. The corner of his lips turned upwards in a smirk. “What do you know of horcruxes, Lily?”
The witch’s brows furrowed in confusion. “Nothing that I can recall.”
“I’m not surprised. Magic involved with such an evil thing wouldn’t be found in books that the side of Light indulges.”
“Are you going to tell me what they are or just continue being vague?”
Regulus' smirk turned into a full smile and he nodded. “It’s dark magic. A horcrux could be anything like a button or a book, but it's hardly innocuous. It houses a person's soul, torn apart by every murder someone commits.”
Lily's mouth fell open and her wand nearly dropped. “Are you telling me that You-Know-Who stashed his soul in an object?”
“That's exactly what I'm saying. It's his way of staying alive forever. Kill him if you want, but he'll only live on. It's a wondrous display of magic, truly, but it's not right. How can I trust someone who abuses magic like that? The Dark Lord doesn’t care about purifying magic or getting rid of mudbloods to do it. All he cares about is himself, power, and becoming powerful. If anything happened to any of his followers, if I somehow wound up dead, would he avenge me? Would he care? Death to you or...to Sirius...would go to a selfish man’s cause and nothing else. A cause that lays root to everything, I’m afraid. Greed and power. Magic is free and it’ll manifest itself in anyone it wishes. In people like you. People who treat it like a precious metal whereas the Dark Lord turns it into something heinous and against nature. That’s why I’m going to steal the horcrux. Steal it and destroy it.”
Had Lily's jaw not already dropped, it would have then. “Are you crazy? I can’t even begin to tell you how suicidal that is!”
“I know that it’s dangerous-”
“I said suicidal, not dangerous. You don’t just steal something from someone like You-Know-Who. Not to mention that something like a horcrux probably can’t be destroyed by simple magic if you can even get through his defenses which I’m sure he has-”
“He’s used Kreacher to test his defenses,” Regulus said curtly, anger evident in his voice. “I’ve asked him to take me there so that I can retrieve it.”
“Regulus,” Lily sighed desperately. “Don’t do this. If you’re really that fed up with You-Know-Who then...defect. Defect by coming to the Order and telling us what you know. We can help you! Sirius will help you.”
“Sirius doesn’t give a rat’s arse about me. He hates me.”
“He hates that you listened to your family and for the choices that you’ve made,” Lily corrected. “But he doesn’t hate you. Your brother could never hate you.”
Regulus shuffled his feet where he stood, his eyes lifting up to the second floor and Lily followed his gaze. Sirius’ bedroom. Obviously, he'd been watching this house for a while. “Perhaps… But even then, my being with you all, if I had ever decided on such a thing, would put you at greater risk than you are already. I’m doing this without your help.”
“Then why are you here?!” Lily shouted in frustration. “Did you want to play stalker for fun? Test out our defenses and bring them back to your Deatheater friends? Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve been contemplating walking through that front door, on your hands and knees, begging us to take you in and save you from the path you’ve been on.”
“I wanted to make sure that you were all safe,” Regulus answered. It was a lie, Lily knew, and it broke her heart to hear it. “When I do this it may have repercussions for you so I had to make sure first.”
“Right,” Lily huffed. “If that's the lie you want to tell yourself, fine, but I'm telling Sirius.”
“No, you're not.” Regulus snapped his fingers and Lily was more than surprised to find his wand gone from her hand and flying back to him. Wandless magic. He aimed it and said clearly, “Silencio.“
Lily was ready to protest when Regulus cast another Silencing Charm to mask his disapparating. She stood in awe of the past few minutes before realizing that James and the others were calling for her. She went around to the front of the house and smiled fondly at their worried faces.
“Lily!” James said in relief once he'd seen her. “We hadn't a clue where you’d gone.”
Lily raised her hand and pointed to her throat. “My voice is…” Her words trailed. She had expected silence, but her speech was clear and uninterrupted.
“What about your voice?” James asked in concern, but Lily shook her head.
“Never mind that. You won't believe it. I saw…” Again, Lily's words failed her, but this time it wasn't her own doing. “I saw…” Her sentence was ending in silence and she couldn't for the life of her say that she had seen Regulus.
“What did you see? Was it a Deatheater? Snatcher?”
Lily deflated. She took a deep breath before looking up at the sky. “Draco. The constellation. It's not very often you get a clear night to see it.”
“Yeah, well, it's cloudy now,” James said as he led her to the house. “We should head inside.”
Lily spent the next two days trying to tell Sirius and anyone within earshot about Regulus and what she had found out. With dismay, however, this modified version of the Silencing Charm had halted her at every turn, slowing her speech down to nothing. She had even tried writing it, but that would only render her script into unintelligible scribbles. With nothing to help her, all Lily could do was stay within the line of sight of the trees near her house. If Regulus had been watching the house for this long, he wasn't about to stop doing it.
On the fourth night Lily got lucky and was able to pick out Regulus' form from the shadows. She didn't want to risk the others finding him or seeing where she went off to, so she brought out Butterbeer for everyone laced with a Sleeping Draught. With a sorry smile, Lily left her fiancé and adopted children and headed outside. She didn't have her wand aimed this time and sighed.
“Don't you get tired just standing there all the time?”
Regulus came from his hiding spot and shrugged. “Deatheater life is all about staking places out. It's no different.”
“I see,” Lily mused. An awkward silence passed between them before she spoke again. “What kind of Silencing Charm did you put on me? I was still able to talk.”
“An alternative to the Lip-Locker Curse of my own making. I said the rest of the spell nonverbally so you couldn't find a way to undo it.”
“Impressive. I'm wondering, though, why you didn't just erase my memory. Why let me hold on to what I know?”
“A backup plan,” Regulus replied uncomfortably. “There's a chance that I might not make it back from this adventure of mine. I need someone to carry on with the work.”
Lily's heart began beating wildly. It drummed even more when she realized that Regulus had a rucksack slung over his shoulder.
“You're doing it tonight, aren't you? The horcrux… You're going to steal it!”
“Take me with you.”
Regulus took a step back in shock and stammered as he spoke. “Take you with me? Are you mad?”
“No, but you are to do this alone!”
“You're not coming, Evans. Forget it.”
Lily quickly spied Regulus’ wand in his hand. “Expelliarmus!” His wand flew to her, and she then pointed her wand at his body. “Petrificus Certis!”
Regulus groaned and grunted as his arms and legs stiffened. It wasn't a full body bind, and he scowled at the witch.
“What are you doing?!”
“You're not the only one who knows advanced magic,” Lily hissed. “You said Kreacher was taking you to the horcrux, yes? Good. He'll take us both.”
“Fine,” Lily shrugged. “Stay here like this. I'm sure Sirius and the rest of the gang will be very interested to see you.”
“Alright, alright!” Regulus reluctantly gave in. “You can come. Can you unfreeze me now?”
“Call Kreacher first.”
Damn clever witch!
The house elf appeared between the pair and was mortified at the scene.
“It's okay, Kreacher, I'm not in any danger,” Regulus attempted to soothe the creature. He looked up at Lily and gestured to his ridged state.
“Kreacher,” he snarled. “After Lily unfreezes me, you’ll take both of us to where the Dark Lord took you. To the locket. Understand?”
Kreacher bowed. “Yes, Master Regulus.”
Lily undid the spell and took hold of Kreacher’s hand. Regulus held onto the other and moments later they were on an island with raging waters surrounding it and stormy winds. Lily wished she had her cloak.
“Could You-Know-Who be even more dramatic?” She grumbled. She and Regulus followed Kreacher over the rocky terrain until they made it to a solid rock wall.
“Is this it?” Regulus asked Kreacher.
Regulus took a deep breath and turned to Lily. “My wand, please?”
Lily handed it over without question and she gasped when she saw him slicing his hand open. “What are you doing?!”
“Blood is the price of entry,” he told her as he smeared his hand along the rocks. They began to shift and morph until they were able to enter a space that led to a large lake. Regulus cast a bright light that barely lighted the place, but it was better than nothing. He then summoned a chain from deep within the murky water and a boat followed after both he and Lily used all of their strength to reel it in.
“After you,” Regulus gentlemanly offered. Lily inhaled deeply before getting onto the boat, the other two piling in after. The ride across the lake was quiet and ominous, and Lily could feel the hairs on her skin rise the further from the cave's entrance they drifted.
“What's that?” Lily asked as they came upon a piece of land in the middle of the lake and a single basin on top.
“What we came here for,” Regulus gulped.
The boat docked itself and the three of them carefully got out and approached the basin that held what looked like water.
“I guess it's a good thing that you came along,” Regulus said nervously as he picked up a cup. “Whatever happens to me, make sure that I drink all of it.”
“What will happen to you?”
“From what I've been told?” He stared fondly at his house elf who cowered silently beside him. “Not good things… And here.” He retrieved a locket on a chain and handed it over. “Replace the horcrux with this.”
Regulus scooped up as much as he could and downed it with Lily watching in anticipation, fearing what the consequences would be. When Regulus cried out in pain she ached for him, but if they wanted that horcrux they had to continue. With shaky hands she scooped more of the potion and forced it down his throat. He choked. He cursed. He begged for death, but Lily ignored it all with horror in her heart. Regulus stopped fussing when the last drop was drunk and Lily held the horcrux in her hand. A harmless-looking locket that she gave Kreacher to hold, the fake in the basin.
“I need water,” Regulus said hoarsely. “Water...there.”
Lily turned to where he pointed and it was into the black abyss that was the water they had traveled on. “Regulus, I don't think that's a good idea. It looks cursed.”
Lily swirled abruptly to find Regulus at the water's edge. She tried to stop him but his hand had touched it, and soon the quiet was disturbed by a terrible screech.
Inferi. Dozens of inferi began climbing out of the water and the majority of them had clung onto Regulus.
“Kreacher, go!” He shouted, lucid now that the inferi were taking him beneath the water. “Take Lily home! Destroy the locket!”
“No!” She screamed. Her wand was ablaze, furiously casting curses at inferi clawing at her and at the ones keeping Regulus submerged, only the tips of his fingers visible.
“We must go!”
“No! Not without Regulus!”
“We must! Master Regulus’ orders!”
Lily was apparated away by Kreacher and she found herself right where Regulus had instructed: home. Alone in her bedroom Lily cried. She sobbed horribly, convinced that her wailing had woken the bunch downstairs.
“Lily? What's wrong?”
It was Sirius, and Lily cried even harder. She opened her mouth to say “Regulus is dead,” but her words died in silence on her tongue. Even dead the charm was still active. Or worse, Regulus was still alive and she had left him there.
“My...sister won't come to the wedding.”
“I'm sorry,” Sirius frowned. “Siblings have a way of disappointing you that hurts more than anything. Take Regulus, for example.”
Lily hiccuped. “He loved you, Sirius.”
“No, he doesn't. He's selfish and cares for no one but himself and You-Know-Who.”
“You're wrong,” Lily murmured and bowed her head in grief as Sirius went to find James.