Laura Walker (googlebrat) wrote,
Laura Walker


TITLE: Terminus
DISCLAIMER: Death of Rats, Quoth and Albert belong to Discworld, and Discworld readers will probably also recognise the Guard. The rest are JKR's.

Somehow, he had never thought that he would be left here alone. Regulus had never given much thought of what would happen afterwards. All his thought and planning had gone into trying to find a way he could get away with it, a way he could get the locket destroyed before Voldemort could stop him. None of it at all had gone to consider what might happen here. But on the whole that was true of the majority of people.

This fic is part of a small series, and you will probably want to read the others first.

End of the Line
Mischief Managed
The Station Clock Said Twelve
Ticket to Ride
Wrong Side of the Track


“I blame that bloody raven, Master. It’s always hanging about. You know what they’re like for shiny objects. ‘You can always trust a raven to go thieving,’ that’s what my old aunt used to say.” Albert sniffed hard, and gave this a moment’s thought, “Mind, that was before we found the box of jewellery the cunning old biddy was hiding under her bed. Turned out she’d been swiping it for years and blaming the birds.”

It could sometimes take a few minutes to digest what Albert had said and work out what the old man had actually been talking about. IT IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY THAT YOUR AUNT HAS BEEN IN MY OFFICE, ALBERT, he pointed out reasonably, AND THE DEATH OF RATS ASSURES ME THAT QUOTH IS MOST RELIABLE, IF POSSESSED OF AN UNFORTUNATE LIKING OF EYEBALLS.

“Yeah, well he would say that, wouldn’t he?” Albert said sourly. “You’ve got to look at the bird’s reputation is all I’m saying, Master. There’s got to be a reason the Ravenclaw’s bird is an eagle. They know not to trust the buggers.” He sniffed again loudly.

Still, the Guard sounded doubtful, STILL, A TAPESTRY IS HARDLY A SHINY OBJECT.

“Maybe those boys who were hanging around then,” Albert suggested. “Can’t trust teenage boys – they’ll have their thieving hands into everything. Speaking as someone who was a thieving little bugger myself in my time.” He looked mournfully into his now-empty mug and stood it upside-down in the little office sink. The metal hissed as a few remaining drops trickled out. Albert tended to take a “kill or cure” approach to tea. In a place where death had already happened, that it had any visible effect was more than a little impressive. But Albert had learned at an early age to never underestimate the power of a cup of tea.

I DO NOT BELIEVE THEY COULD HAVE GOT INTO THE OFFICE. The Guard stood, seeming even taller than usual in contrast to the little old man at his side. I SHALL HAVE TO INVESTIGATE IT LATER. COME, ALBERT. THE TRAIN WILL BE LATE.

Albert shuffled after him, a gleeful grin on his face as he settled the smart cap back onto rather dirty white hair. After all, he’d always wanted to be a train driver when he was a boy.


Somehow, he had never thought that he would be left here alone. Regulus had never given much thought of what would happen afterwards. All his thought and planning had gone into trying to find a way he could get away with it, a way he could get the locket destroyed before Voldemort could stop him. None of it at all had gone to consider what might happen here. But on the whole that was true of the majority of people

His mother had been the first to arrive. Regulus had seen her and run up eagerly, expecting to be greeted. He hadn’t wanted much – a hug, reassurance that she had done the right thing, that she had loved him and missed him. He’d seen it over and over in the others he had watched from where he waited at the station, sitting patiently on the very uncomfortable seats

But Walburga hadn’t even given him that. Calmly, coldly, she had looked straight through her youngest son, her face twisting into the kind of sneer that in life she had usually reserved for Mudbloods. She hadn’t even spoken to him, but stepped around him. Regulus had watched helplessly as she had boarded the train with his father, leaving him on the platform.

Perhaps he should have known, and expected it. She would never have approved of him betraying Voldemort in life, so why should it be any different in death? Certainly the only time she had approved of him, been her favourite had been when he was following in Bellatrix’s footstep, his star in the ascendant compared to Sirius and his rebellion. It had taken only days to fall from grace in the end and he knew he’d earned her withering scorn. But he had never expected her to just leave him behind.

It had been the same with the people who Regulus had once called friends. He was a pariah, stuck in between. Boys he had known in Slytherin hurried in the other direction when he approached them. Death Easters he didn’t even dare to approach – even trying to view things as optimistically as possible, he couldn’t see that having a good outcome

Still, there was hope. After all, he’d done a good thing, hadn’t he? Mother and the others might not see it that way, but he’d done it for them too – for everyone. He’d done it to save people, to try to fix the wrong he had done. Somebody, surely, would understand that

There was still Sirius to come, after all. Sirius who had fought for years against Voldemort, despite the family’s reaction. Sirius who had reacted with such horror and disgust on finding his younger brother had become a Death Eater that Regulus hadn’t dared to contact him again. Surely Sirius would understand what he had done, Sirius would forgive him.

When he finally saw Sirius though, his brother was too busy to notice him, laughing and lost in his group of friends. Regulus felt his spirits lift a little at the sight, and he broke into a relieved grin. At last!

He was so relieved that he didn’t notice for a moment the direction the group of boys were heading. By the time he realised and broke into a run, they were already boarding the train, the doors closing behind them as the Guard’s whistle blew. Regulus banged on the doors, hoping they might open, but the train was already moving. A strong arm caught him around the waist, pulling him backwards


“But – my brother! I have to get on the train!”

It was his last hope, his best and most desperate and he could see it pulling further and further away disappearing into the curious mixture of billowing steam, light and absolute darkness that obscured where the line went.

I AM SORRY. The Guard was apologetic but firm, THAT TRAIN HAS ALREADY LEFT THE STATION


They would come. Kreacher knew if he waited long enough they would come. How could they cope without him after all? Who would carry their tea trays, and cook their dinner, and look after them if he were not there? Humans needed their house elves. They couldn’t be expected to cope on their own.

Some of them he had seen leave already. He had watched as they bustled through the station, hurrying onto trains, never thinking to look for Kreacher. He hadn’t thought to mind – it wasn’t his place to mind. They would come back, wouldn’t they? When they needed Kreacher, they would come back.

He clung to that hope, never leaving the station, never boarding a train. It wasn’t so much fear of his destination that held him, for Kreacher would have gone anywhere he was ordered, whether he was afraid or not. That was being a house-elf and he was proud to serve as a true elf should. No, what frightened him was leaving and not being at the station when they needed him. They would have told him if he were meant to leave, surely. Until then, he would wait

It wasn’t as though there wasn’t work to be done as he waited. There was a crack as he Apparated, reappearing outside the door of the Office. Avoiding being stepped on by people too busy to notice such a small creature in their midst he darted through the crowd, clutching another gleaming object within his hand. Kreacher would keep the Black family’s things safe. Kreacher always had, sometimes even from themselves.

He didn’t notice the even smaller figure behind him, patiently following the house-elf’s footsteps.



“Hard luck.” Regulus didn’t realise his attempt to board the train had been watched until he went to sit back down on a bench. He was followed by an old man who sat down without waiting for an invitation. “He might have waited for you, don’t you think?”

Startled, Regulus looked at the man who had intruded into his moment of desolation. He was an odd-looking man – older than anyone Regulus had ever seen before, and with a beard that fell almost to his feet in an ostentatious display of wizardly gravitas. It was a face that he felt he should recognise, and yet couldn’t put a name to. Not overly keen on discussing his situation with a stranger, he shrugged a little trying for diffidence or something that masked how much that abandonment had hurt him. “He didn’t see me. Besides, he was busy with his friends.”

“If he cared about you, he could have waited for you,” the old man informed him pityingly. “This is the place where you truly have as much or as little time as you care to take for someone.” He studied Regulus, examining the boy with sharp grey eyes. “Brother was he? Or family of some type? You look alike.”

“Brother,” Regulus confirmed shortly, “I’m sorry, do I know you? I don’t know your face.” Years of practice allowed him to put all the cold haughtiness that was needed into that question. By rights, the old man should have apologised and hurried away. Anyone else would have.

Instead the old man smiled at him, and offered a wrinkled hand. “Salazar,” he introduced himself calmly, “Salazar Slytherin.”

“Oh.” That was a name to jerk Regulus out of feeling sorry for himself, and he stared a little, feeling unaccustomedly shy. Here, after all, was the one man no pureblood could try to truly lord it over. “Oh, I uh – sorry, I’m Regulus. Regulus Black.” He shook Salazar’s hand a little awkwardly, unsure whether there were other formalities he was expected to conform to.

Not that the old man seemed to mind. “Black, is it? There’s a name that’s been around a while,” he nodded, setting comfortably back on his bench. “Now, tell me about this brother of yours.”

Regulus wavered a moment, and Salazar shook his head, seeing the hesitation. “Didn’t anyone teach you to respect your elders, boy?” he demanded. “We old people have earned the right to be nosy by living for long enough to run out of interesting things of our own. Tell me.”

“I followed someone I really shouldn’t have,” Regulus didn’t try to hide from it or make excuses. He’d passed through that phase when he’d been alive and made his decisions then. “Someone who was doing very bad things. Things that were killing a lot of people. So I… I tried to fix it. I did something I thought might help save them. Sirius was angry at me for what I’d done wrong… I thought he might have forgiven me if I did something right instead.” He sighed a little, hunching down on the bench. “Guess I was wrong. Guess I did too much for it to be fixed.”

“I’ve met boys like that,” Salazar nodded. “Hard to live up to, they are. Boys that never do anything wrong themselves, and can’t understand it when someone close to them is less than perfect. This Sirius of yours, was he the type to always behave himself?”

Despite the situation, the question was enough to almost make Regulus want to laugh. He thought of his older brother for a moment, and how many times he’d been in and out of scrapes, practically existing as a singularity of chaos and mayhem that sucked in everyone around him, and shook his head, “Oh, no! Not like that at all!”

The old man looked at him curiously, head tilted a little to one side. “Then why in Merlin’s name did he ever expect you to manage to always do the right thing?”

“It’s complicated.” Regulus struggled to explain it, trying to find the words. “Sirius did a lot of little things wrong, but I guess he never saw what he did as on the same scale as what I did.”

“It does sound like a rather big thing you did there,” Salazar agreed in a smooth tone. “I expect you ran away from home to join the forces of evil, broke your mother’s heart, that kind of thing?”

This time Regulus’ laugh held a touch of bitterness. “No, that was more Sirius’ type of thing, really. Mother was all for the Death Eaters. He was the one who ran away. I guess he thought I should have done the same

“Must have been a brave boy,” Salazar commented. “Not a small thing to do, running away from home, defying your parents, finding somewhere to live, struggling for money…”

“Well, one of his friends took him in,” Regulus admitted. “I mean, he wasn’t homeless or anything. And my uncle left him some money.” He thought of how angry their mother had been the night she discovered that, cursing Sirius’ name, Alphard’s name, and anyone else unfortunate enough to get in her way. “Quite a lot of money, actually.”

“I see. It seems your brother had a talent for landing on his feet,” Salazar said thoughtfully, “Would your uncle have done the same for you?”

“I don’t know.” Regulus shrugged. “Never tested it. Mother was so upset after Sirius left, and the family was in enough uproar as it was, and with him gone I was meant to step up and be the Heir so the line could continue…” He glanced down at himself, a little ruefully. “Guess that part didn’t work out so well.”

“Sounds to me like you were doing the best you could.”

“Oh yes,” Regulus agreed. “It’s just that for most people, doing the best you can probably doesn’t involve taking a job where you have to kill people.” He shifted, running a hand though long dark hair. “I was an idiot. I should have told Mother “no” earlier.”

Salazar looked at him, grey eyes intense. “What does she think now of what you’ve done?”

“She won’t talk to me, so I would imagine she doesn’t think anything good,” he admitted. “You know, I don’t even know if that’s because she thinks I got killed for letting the Dark Lord down, or if she knows what I actually did do. Not that I suppose it matters… I should have known how she’d react. Look how she reacted to Sirius after all.”

Still it stung, more than he would like to admit. She was his mother and he’d done a lot of things for her approval that did nothing but hurt others and himself.

“It sounds like you got a poor reward for trying to save people.” Salazar said gravely. “Your brother hates you because you were killing people, your mother hates you because you stopped.” He smiled thinly at Regulus, “I bet you wish now that you hadn’t stopped. At least then, you would have had someone waiting for you.”

Regulus hesitated. In truth, the thought had crossed his mind. “I didn’t say that.”

“Why not? It’s true.” The old man’s voice softened, sounding almost like a hiss as he continued speaking. “You gave up your chance to have somebody who cared about you enough to wait for you by trying to save people like him. People who don’t even care about you enough to check you’re okay, make sure you’re safely on the train. People who found it easy to be good, and don’t understand you had to give up everything to stop being bad. Why should you save them? Why shouldn’t you regret it? They didn’t deserve it.”

It was a coaxing voice, poking at the anger and resentment Regulus had tried hard to bury deep inside himself. He bit down on his bottom lip, giving a quick shake of his head.

Salazar took no notice, his words a soft tempting murmur that crept in no matter how Regulus tried not to listen. “You could make it up to those you betrayed, you know. They’re not so judgmental as those on the good side – they understand that somehow, despite people’s best intentions, they do things wrong. You could try to work with them – certainly lives don’t matter so much anymore here, but there are souls, and aren’t they worth so much more? You could be happy!

“Stop it!” Enough was enough, and Regulus jumped to his feet, taking a quick step away from the bench. “Just… shut up! I don’t want to be that person any more!”

“People like your brother will never accept you, no matter how good you try to be,” Salazar warned. “They will always remember that you were bad once and keep walking.”

“I don’t care!” Regulus snapped. “That’s not why I did it!”

“Then why did you do it?” The old man smiled up at him beatifically from the bench, still utterly calm and composed.

“Because maybe they didn’t deserve to be saved, but they didn’t deserve to die either!” Regulus said sharply. “And it wasn’t up to me or the Dark Lord to make that choice. Because… because I’d done something wrong so I had to make it better. It wasn’t so that Sirius or anyone else would know. I knew. I knew I’d done something wrong, so I had to know I’d at least tried to do something to fix it.”

“Then no-one will meet you at the station,” Salazar warned.

“Fine!” Regulus shook the warning off. “Then I’ll wait here forever – I don’t care! I’d rather wait here forever than know I’d started hurting people again just to get my chance to leave.”

Brave words, even if the thought did make his blood run a little cold. To wait here forever, even after everyone he’d known had passed out of the station ahead of him? It seemed a hard price to pay.

“I wouldn’t be so quick to say that,” Salazar gave that sharp, thin smile again.  “Those of us who have waited at the station a good long time learn that it has certain disadvantages and hardships that normal people just aren’t prepared for.”

“I’ll cope with them,” Regulus said fiercely. “Whatever they are, I’ll find a way to cope.” He glared at Salazar for a moment before adding, a little more tentatively, “Uh, what are they?”

Salazar rose from the bench a little more slowly than Regulus had, struggling to his feet. He met Regulus’ gaze, holding it silently for just long enough to let the boy’s imagination run wild, imagining all the horrors than might be hiding in the cracks and corners of the station.

“The tea,” he said finally, as though it had taken that long to consider his answer. “The tea is really unbelievably bad.”







It was the sort of argument that drew attention. After all, it wasn’t every day you saw a Guard squabbling with a skeletal rat in the middle of a train station. Even here, where people were more concerned with their own personal journeys than anything around them, some stopped to look.

Regulus was among them. When you were stuck at a train station for what was potentially the rest of eternity, entertainment of any sort was welcome. He watched as the rat stamped and glared, its squeaking taking on an agitated note.


Perhaps Regulus could have watched for the rest of the afternoon, but the rat was not a tall creature and as more people crowded around he lost sight of it. He gave a grunt of annoyance, pushing his way back to the front

It was then, and only then, that he saw what the pair were arguing over. Crouched over a small pile of objects, his ugly features set into a defiant scowl, the house-elf looked as though he cared little what they decided. It didn’t matter what they thought, he wasn’t going anywhere


The elf physically jolted at his name, and he twisted, dropping to his knees as he saw Regulus. After so many people who had walked past – good friends, family, people he would have sworn would still care for him no matter what – it made Regulus’ heart hurt a little to see the way Kreacher’s face lit up.

Sometimes you needed somebody who needed you like that, even if it was only a house-elf.

“Master Regulus!” Kreacher scrabbled on the ground, gathering up his little pile of objects – objects that seemed oddly familiar now Regulus came to look more closely. The house-elf held them out to him, offering them hopefully. “Kreacher found them. Mundungus Fletcher tried to steal them – nasty sneakthief! – but Kreacher found them, and took care of them for Master Regulus, and my mistress, and…”


SQUEAK, the rat added, seeming to agree with him on that.

Regulus took no notice, gently lifting the lost possessions from Kreacher’s trembling hands, and sorting through them. It was a strange little assortment. There was the tapestry with its gold thread, tracing the roots of the House of Black. Odd that Mother hadn’t removed his name, even when she thought he had been killed for failing the Dark Lord. Well, that could go. It wasn’t as though he could use it for anything other than a list of people who hated him now. There were the pictures – taken so long ago now. Regulus’ heart ached as he leafed through them, pictures of happy people looking just like any other family. There were Mother’s gloves

“Kreacher kept them,” the house-elf said in his usual hoarse croak as Regulus went to set those aside. “Kreacher kept them safe for his Mistress. Mistress gets cold hands, and she will need them at the station when she comes back.”

Regulus hesitated, still holding the gloves, remembering how his mother had pushed past him and left for the train without even a glance back. “Kreacher,” he said gently, “Mother’s not coming back.”

Kreacher just stared at him, blinking his watery eyes, not quite seeming to understand.

“ Didn’t you see the trains?” Regulus asked patiently. “Don’t you have anyone to – oh, of course you probably don’t need anyone,” he interrupted himself quickly. “It’s not as though you’ve done anything to make you afraid of the destination. Why didn’t you get a train, Kreacher?”

Kreacher looked at him, expression confused. “Kreacher was waiting,” he answered, as though that should have been obvious. “Kreacher knew his Masters and Mistresses would come to the station, and they would need Kreacher when they came, so Kreacher waited.” He looked anxious suddenly, his face twisting. “Did Kreacher do wrong?”

Regulus knew that expression, and acted quickly, hastily catching at the house-elf’s hands before he could try to hurt himself. “No, Kreacher,” he said quickly. “No, you did the right thing. You did well. Very well.”

He closed his eyes for a moment, trying not to imagine the house-elf waiting patiently here as his parents and cousins brushed past, none of them thinking to call him or wait for him. It wasn’t a case of anger as it was for Regulus, wasn’t a case of Kreacher being guilty of a crime they could not forgive. No, it was simple negligence and forgetfulness which was worse in some ways. No-one had remembered Kreacher.

Even he himself had forgotten. He’d been too busy moping around the station, immersed in his own misery to think about something which seemed so inconsequential as a house-elf. He felt a stab of guilt at that thought. All his strong words of responsibility and doing the right thing, all of his hurt at his brother seeming to forget him as he left without him, and he still hadn’t thought…Even when he’d forgotten Kreacher, Kreacher had remembered him.

“You could order him to stay.” The voice came from behind him, and Regulus’ eyes flew open, recognising the soft sibilant tones. “He’s only a house-elf, he wouldn’t know any difference really. But he’d be better than nothing if you’re so fixed on spending eternity here.”

Instinctively, Regulus stepped in front of the house-elf, as though to shield him from Salazar. “He’s got no reason to stay.”

“Not unless you order him, no,” the old man agreed. He looked around Regulus, eyes seeking Kreacher out greedily. “But if you told him to… well then. He’d stay as long as you told him to. They’re made to serve, after all.”

For a moment Regulus allowed himself to think about it. What harm would it do, really, if he ordered Kreacher to stay? Most people might not count a house-elf as company, but it was better than an eternity alone here. It wasn’t even as though Kreacher mightn’t be happy – having a Master around generally made him as happy as he was ever likely to be.

“Just order him,” Salazar prompted. “Tell him he isn’t to get a train.”

“Master? Is Kreacher to stay?” Kreacher asked from behind him, worried but perfectly willing to do whatever he was told.

Regulus hesitated, and then shook his head. “No,” he said firmly, “I’m the one who messed up, and not him. He shouldn’t have to stay here with me forever just because I made a mistake.”

“You’re making another big mistake,” Salazar warned, but Regulus ignored him, already striding off towards the edge of the platform, Kreacher trotting at his heels like a puppy.

The tannoy was crackling to life as they reached it, hissing out its almost-incoherent message. “The train at platform nine-and-three-quarters is the delayed 2PM train. Can all passengers please ensure they take all belongings with them onto the train. A snack-bar will be located in coach G.”

There wasn’t much time then. Regulus crouched down by Kreacher’s side, wanting to be on a level with the house-elf for once. “Kreacher? The train will be coming soon, and I want you to get on it.”

“Yes, Master,” Kreacher agreed obediently. Of course, he would. Didn’t he always agree to everything he was ordered?

“I won’t be coming with you,” Regulus continued, and tried not to see the way the old house-elf’s eyes teared up. This was for the best, he had to remember that. He was doing it for Kreacher’s own good. “Or after you, for that matter. You’re going to a good place, I think, Kreacher. I’m not exactly sure where, but I think it’ll be a happy place. I just need you to go there on your own.”

It was only the second time he had ever had to order Kreacher to go anywhere alone, and the first… well, the first hadn’t ended so well. He’d sent him into darkness and if he was going to send him somewhere for the last time, then it would be into light.

Kreacher looked heartbroken at the very idea, tears pouring down his face, and yet still he nodded in response. “Yes, Master.”

“Good. That’s good.” Regulus kept his own voice calm with an effort, standing up as the train came in.

The step up onto the train was too high for Kreacher to scramble up, and Regulus had to lift him up, into the carriage, grasping the house-elf firmly under the arms.

He hadn’t expected or anticipated the hand that hit his back as he did so, giving him a firm shove forwards. Regulus stumbled, landing almost on top of Kreacher as he fell into the carriage.

The doors closed firmly behind him as he fell. On the platform, the Guard’s whistle blew. This train had no time to wait for unintended passengers to disembark before it moved on to the next station. After all, it was late. This train was always late

Regulus scrambled back to his feet, and looked out of the window, only to see the platform vanishing fast behind them.

“Master Regulus?” The voice came from his side, where Kreacher stood patiently, waiting. “May we go home now?”


On the platform, the Guard turned slowly to look at the old man standing beside him. If skulls had eyebrows, he might well have raised them. SOME WOULD REGARD THAT AS CHEATING

Salazar shrugged, smiling to himself as he watched the train vanish into the distance. “If the boy hadn’t realised after all of my questions that he had nothing left to fear from his destination, he needed a helping hand. Besides, you can’t say he went alone. He had the house-elf.”

The Guard contemplated this. THIS IS TRUE, he agreed, a little reluctantly. THOUGH IT WAS A VERY SMALL CREATURE.

“Who measures the size of love?” Salazar asked mildly, “The boy loved him enough to put him on a train, even if it meant being alone. The house-elf loved him enough to wait. Noble sacrifice has its place, but unnecessary martyrdom benefits no one in the end. That should be enough to see both of them through to the other side.”


Salazar grinned, tugging lightly on his long beard as he turned to face the Guard. “Sometimes, I think it’s best to disregard the rules if its in order to get something I really want,” he said as he flourished a hand and a green and silver porcelain cup of tea, completely unlike the lurid orange of the station tea, appeared in his hand. It defied the nature of the rules, an impossible thing, in an impossible place.

He smiled even as he murmured under his breath, more to himself than anyone else. “I’m rather known for it in fact.”

Tags: fic
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