Warnings: incest, adultery
Word Count: about 900
Author's Notes: This one is for you, pansydarkbloom! The title is from a poem by Robert Graves. Thanks to sionnain for betaing and for putting up with my Andromeda obsession.
I never knew her, not really.
Regulus Black is curled like a cat on the third-floor landing of the fire escape, his black robes blending into the midnight shadows. It's a shabby place in Muggle London, unworthy of who Andromeda once was.
Only fair, now, he tells himself, and more than she deserves. Blood traitor. All I am doing tonight is cleansing the stain from the family honor.
The Dark Lord smiled when he told Regulus what he must do to prove his loyalty to the cause. When Regulus tried to protest, the Dark Lord only said, "Lord Voldemort is kind, Black. You should be thanking me that it isn't your brother."
So Regulus waits, brick at his back and pitiless iron beneath him, convincing himself that he never really knew Andromeda. She was older; we weren't close...
She was only the one whose low murmuring voice smoothed over the taunts of the other children; she was only the one who told him their words didn't matter and pulled him into her lap for a story. She always had stories, Andromeda, and they always ended with the hero triumphant. It always gave him hope.
No hope now. It's her or me.
He is waiting for the right moment to slip inside the flat, when the door to the fire escape opens and she steps out: white-gowned and staring into the depths of the sky.
He runs to her, the curse dying on his lips as he buries his head in her shoulder.
"Go into hiding," he says. They're seated now, leaning against the rough brick of the wall, bathed in the light of a crescent moon that hangs like a silver scythe in the heavens. "He's after you."
"And you?" she asks. "Will you come with us?"
"No." He will hunt me to the ends of the earth. I know too much. With me out of the picture, he might leave you alone. He is only using you as a weapon with which to strike at me.
"He'll kill you," she says.
"I know. He's immortal, you know."
"No one's immortal," says Andromeda, cradling Regulus in the crook of her arm.
He is pressed against her soft breast, cool silk on his cheek, and he finds himself thinking things he shouldn't be, things about her breasts and her smooth skin and what it would feel like to touch her, really touch her, be a man in her arms and not a child. He shifts his body away from her, afraid she's felt his hardness against her leg, afraid she will recoil.
Instead she slides her hand down his robes to caress him, and even as he pushes against her hand and bites his lip to keep from moaning aloud, he wants to protest: your husband, your child…
Yet as she rises to cover him, pale silk enshrouding his body, he sees nothing in her eyes of deceit, nor even of lust. There is only a boundless compassion, as though she is a priestess of eldritch days come to perform the rites for the king before his destined fall.
There is something strangely impersonal about it, he thinks as she moves slowly, gently over him. At the same time, it's the most intimate thing he has ever known, as if the masks of their bodies and their pasts and even that cursėd name have fallen away, and they are only souls. Only twin stars, holding out for a moment against the cold eternity of the firmament.
Afterward, Regulus smokes. He is restless, his mind running down dead ends in search of a loophole, some chink in the Dark Lord's armor.
The end of his cigarette smolders dull red like a joss-stick, and he looks at Andromeda through the swirling smoke. She is not looking at him; she's leaning her head against the brick wall like it's a satin cushion. Her eyes are closed, and her smile reminds him of a marble Kore he saw once in Greece.
He is wondering whether he should go now, leave her to sleep in peace, but she opens her eyes then, and speaks. Her words seem nonsense at first, but then they fall into a pattern, a pattern he knows: a fairy tale, artifact of one of the thousand nights sitting at her feet by the fire.
"Once upon a time there was an evil wizard, and his name was Kostchei…"
He listens, rapt, as if he's six years old again, as if he's not a man justly damned, as if she's his innocent cousin and not a married woman he came to kill and fucked instead. She spins him a tapestry of fiery birds and souls kept hidden in eggs and a hero victorious, and he wonders if maybe she's on to something.
"I won't be the hero," he says. He's got a few days, at the outside, and then he will sleep forever while the Dark Lord goes on smiling his death's head grin, and Regulus will never know whether the hero rises at all, whether anyone ever comes to lay Lord Voldemort in his grave. He only knows one thing--he will deal as grievous a blow to Him as he can, before he falls beneath the green stars.
"You will be, to me," says Andromeda.