Regulus woke to the sound of a strange, incessant beeping. He opened his eyes, and looked down at his hands—but they weren’t his.
It wasn’t his long slim fingers, it was someone else’s, it was all wrong, and there were tubing and wires attached to a little metal cart with a bag of some potion attached. He looked at his left arm and it was bruised but clean, there was no dark mark ever on this body.
It was all very muggle. Regulus started laughing at the irony—was this his eternal punishment? To come back to life as a muggle? Not that he didn't deserve punishment, but he was very sure he was dead, he remembered the moment his lungs gave out.
He kept laughing until the laughs turned into a sob. As he sobbed, the bed started to rattle and a nameplate fell of the wall. Accidental magic. He wasn't a muggle after all.
Regulus’s crying quieted, until it was just tears running down his face. At least he still had this—though reaching inside him—his magic felt new and unsteady instead of the deep well it normally was, like the magic was settling in his marrow.
A woman in a strange burgundy top and matching trousers walked in the room, her face a picture of concern. She was wearing a nametag that said Gurki.
“Welcome back,” she said to him.
“Thanks,” Regulus intoned dully back.
“Are you in a lot of pain?” she asked him. “Can you rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 for me?”
Regulus took a deep breath. “Seven.”
“Okay, and I know in you teenage boys, that normally means nine or ten,” she said, and pressed a button that was attached to his finger. “Hitting the button should increase your painkiller dosage, just do that yourself if you’re in too much pain.”
“What happened?” Regulus asked her.
“Do you not remember the accident?”
Regulus glared at her. Obviously not.
“It’s okay not to remember Aaron, it’s your brains way of protecting you. There was a very bad car accident. We nearly lost you, you’re a miracle. Your heart stopped beating, but you came back a full minute later,” the muggle healer continued talking.
“Aaron?” he asked instead.
“That’s your name love,” Gurki said. "Does it not feel like yours?"
Regulus looked up at the ceiling. It might be this body’s name, but it wasn’t his, he was named after the stars, one of the brightest in the night sky.
“Right then Aaron, I’ll get the neurologist to come check you out in a few minutes,” she said, taking his lack of a reply for the 'no' that it was.
“Do you have a mirror?” Regulus asked her after a moment had passed.
“I can do that,” Gurki brightened, digging around a drawer for a hand mirror. “You’re still a handsome kid, no need to worry.”
Regulus looked at the reflection in the mirror. It didn’t talk back to him, muggles were so strange. And it wasn’t his face staring back either. A voice in his head that sounded suspiciously like Sirius wanted him to throw the mirror against the wall to watch it shatter. The teenager’s face—Aaron’s face---wasn't bad, but it wasn’t his. The hair was brown and curly instead of jet black and he had almond-shape brown eyes instead of gray eyes like every other Black. It was an innocent face, almost sweet and that was something his family never was. He looked young and sweet, but he felt neither.
Ugly purple and yellow bruises decorated his collarbone and creeped up his neck and jaw like ivy. He touched it, relishing in the pain. Pain was real, unlike this whole body.
“Enough of that,” Gurki said, taking the mirror from his hands. “I’ll go make sure the neurologist comes and sees you shortly, and have some food sent up.”
“Alright. Can you tell me where we are?”
“Hampstead, the Royal Free Hospital,” she said. “I’ll be back in a little while, your vitals are good kid.”
At least he was in London, as muggle as the surroundings were.
Regulus nodded, and watched her leave the room. He could hear snatches of conversation between Gurki and another healer just beyond the door about poor kid, only 15, lost his entire family, and something about waiting for when he’d be stable enough to call social services. Whatever it was sounded very sad.
This must be hell. He deserved it, but couldn’t stay here, he itched to get out of the sterile, magic-free space and go back to his world.
He wanted out, and he could do this. He wasn’t a Slytherin for nothing.
Regulus waited until the footsteps went away and braced himself for pain as he pulled the wiring out of his hand. He steadied himself on his feet, pressing through the throbbing tantrums his ribs were throwing. The Dark Lord’s Cruciatus was much worse. He was in some strange, open backed robes, but saw a folded up jacket and jeans next to the bed. He got them and a pair of dirty trainers on as quickly as he could, and he found some little muggle bills with the queen and a few non-gold coins in the pockets of the jeans.
Regulus made his jailbreak and calmly walked out of the ward, looking for the sign for the exit. He didn’t run, he knew that would be more suspicious and he wasn’t sure he could run anyway.
When he reached the exit, he nearly stumbled, but was helped to his feet by a muggle woman wearing a badge that said ‘Royal Free Foundation. Questions? Ask Me?”
“I have a question,” Regulus said to her, making his eyes very wide to look confused. The trick always worked on Slughorn, and when his Mother would still ask him if he knew what Sirius was up to.
“Is it whether you should be leaving the Royal Free? Because no offense mate, it really doesn’t look like you’re in any shape to be checking yourself out of A&E,” she said, not unkindly.
“That’s no business of yours. Do you have a map? I need to get to Islington, I want to go home,” Regulus huffed, clutching his ribs.
She blinked at him. “I have my own London A-Z, sure. But why don’t I help you to a cab?”
She sighed. “You know, black cabs, they’re everywhere, the drivers chat too much about the weather and politics? You give them money and they take you places?”
Regulus had never been inside a car, his mother called them dirty muggle deathtraps, though he had obviously seen plenty, the windows in his room looked onto the square below and he used to watch them drive around.
“I would appreciate the help,” Regulus confessed, and leaned on the room’s arm and she walked him through glass doors that opened on their own, and took him to the front of a queues of waiting taxis. The sun was shining brightly outside and the smell of spring and rebirth was in the air, but Regulus just felt ill.
“Where you off to then?” the driver asked him as she helped him into a seat.
“Grimmauld Place, Islington,” he replied.
“Wait kid,” the woman said before shutting the car door. “Do you even have any money on you?”
Regulus wasn’t sure how much the muggle notes were and she could probably see it on his face. She opened up her bag and handed the driver a coloured piece of paper.
“Thank you,” Regulus said to her, meaning it.
“No problem. I’m considering it my good deed for the year,” she said, and waved them off.
The driver started to move, and Regulus felt in even more pain.
“You look like you lost a fight with a lorry,” he commented, looking at Regulus in the mirror.
“Something like that,” Regulus muttered back, though it was worse. He remembered the pain shooting through his body and the slippery, cold fingers dragging him down to the bottom of the cave, his lungs filling up with water.
He closed his eyes thought of his parents, they surely wouldn’t recognise him looking like this but he had nowhere else to go, not without a wand or galleons or some rest. And if his parents couldn’t recognise him, then the Dark Lord or Bellatrix wouldn’t either. Thank Merlin for small mercies, maybe this body had an upside.
Regulus nearly drifted off, but awoke when the driver stopping the vehicle.
“We’re here, which one is yours?”
Regulus blinked and looked out to the square. He could still see Number 12 but knew the driver couldn’t.
“This is fine,” Regulus said, and stumbled out of the cab and climbed the stairs to Grimmauld Place, barely standing upright.
He stood outside the door while the magic judged him, he felt the wards prickling at his very core.
“Muggle blood may flow through these veins, but my magic comes from the Ancient and Noble House of Black,” Regulus spat out, leaning against the door. To his surprise, the door jolted open, and he walked into his home, something he never thought he would do again.
There were thick layers of dust everywhere. Regulus sneezed and walked past the hallway, until he happened on a portrait of his mother. It was moving, and he realised with a dull sense of pain and shock that she must have died.
In the portrait, she was sleeping, but awoke when he passed.
“Filth! Mudblood scum, defouling the house of my ancestors. How did you get in here, vagrant!”
“When did you die mother, what happened?” Regulus said, blinking back at her.
“I have no sons,” she spat out, and continued yelling about filth, looking right past him. She wouldn’t listen to his protestations at all.
Regulus went to close the curtains, not having the strength to keep arguing with the portrait, he just needed to sit, when he heard the pop of apparition.
“Nasty mudblood, how did you get into mistresses house,” Kreacher croaked out.
“Kreacher!” he exclaimed with delight. “It’s me, Regulus.”
“Master Regulus is dead, nasty mudblood is a little liar, is that why he’s all beat up,” Kreacher said, glaring at him.
“When I was seven, I was supposed to punish you for not letting our cousins into the house quickly enough, but we had a tea party in our room instead. Mother never found out, and you would sneak me teacakes and scones,” Regulus said.
Kreacher blinked his big eyes at him in lieu of a reply.
“You were the last living thing to see me alive, Kreacher, thank you for being there for me,” Regulus said earnestly and Kreacher started bawling.
“It is Master! But how?” Kreacher wailed, starting to bang his head against the wall.
“I’m not sure,” Regulus said softly. “Do you think you could help me to my room, I need to sit down?”
Kreacher nodded, and in the blink of an eye, apparated the two of them to his bedroom. Regulus sat, clutching his ribs.
“I don’t suppose we have any pain potion?”
Kreacher shook his head.
“Or a spare wand?”
Kreacher disappeared, and came back with his Grandfather’s oak wand. He waved it, sparks came out, but it was weak. It didn’t suit his magic very well, and he didn’t think it would be loyal to the muggle blood running through his veins, but it was better than no wand at all.
“Kreacher,” Regulus asked, fisting his hands in his new, curly hair. “Did you destroy the necklace? What happened?”
“No, Kreacher could not, Kreacher is too weak,” he cried.
“Okay,” Regulus said, his voice calm, thinking back to the Muggles milling about the hospital without any knowledge of the darkness lurking in the wizarding world around them. “But then why is the Dark Lord quiet? Why hasn't he revealed himself to the muggle?”
“The Potter brat has defeated him, master,” Kreacher said quietly.
Regulus scoffed. In what universe? “James Potter isn’t that good a wizard!”
Kreacher shook his head. “No, his half-blood son defeated him.”
Son? Potter was just married. “Kreacher, how long have I been dead?”
“16 years master,” Kreacher cried out.
“And how long have you been alone?”
“A decade,” Kreacher whispered.
“I’m so sorry,” Regulus told him, his head spinning. 16 years? James Potter’s son? It was too much, he was in too much pain. Regulus closed his eyes and let sleep take him. He felt Kreacher remove his shoes and jacket and let him fix the blankets.
The 16 years he had missed would still be there, like the bruises on his body, when he opened his eyes.