Regulus Black is Not the Half-Blood Prince

by T.L. Bodine

He may, however, still be an incredibly important part of the story, and play a role that absolutely nobody expected. If you’ll humor what sounds like an outlandish theory for just a moment, I might be able to explain away a few mysteries or at least give you something to chew on. Ready for this?

I don’t think Regulus Black is dead.

I was browsing the Name Origins section here at MuggleNet, and came across the name meaning for Regulus Black. Now, I knew about Sirius’ name and its astronomical connotations — one of my favorite books as a kid was Diana Wynn Jones’s Dogsbody which is all about the Dogstar, and my knowing about that story actually led me to know Sirius was an Animagus before it was revealed in the story (it also fixed firmly in my mind the idea that Sirius’ eyes are bright, livid green, despite their actually being grey, so take that with a grain of salt). So my interest was initially piqued when I read about Regulus being named for a star also, only in a different constellation — it seemed like an interesting pattern to naming your kids. So I pulled down OotP, and lo and behold, Sirius and Regulus aren’t the only members of the noble family of Black with star-names. More on that later. Then I noticed that there is in fact something slightly confusing about a guy named for a lion-star who isn’t a Gryffindor (he was a Slytherin, wasn’t he?). Which made me think of lion-associations — and wham, the descriptive snippet Jo put on her site about HBP came to mind.

I’ve never thought for a minute that the description was of the actual Half-Blood Prince. I’m almost positive that’s a diversionary tactic — she’s brilliant at it. But who could the person be?

He looked rather like an old lion. There were streaks of grey in his mane of tawny hair and his bushy eyebrows; he had keen yellowish eyes behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles and a certain rangy, loping grace even though he walked with a slight limp.
–Excerpt from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

You’re immediately led to believe that he’s elderly, because he’s described as looking like an old lion and has greying hair — but that’s not necessarily completely true. Many things which are young can look like an old version of something else; think of any number of hound breeds that are all wrinkly when they’re puppies. Lupin has greying hair, and he’s the same age as the rest of the Marauders. Who else do we know with something akin to “rangy, loping grace” after all? It seems an awful lot like a description of someone in the Black family. Look at this:

Sirius was lounging in his chair at his ease, tilting it back on two legs. He was very good-looking; his dark hair fell into his eyes with a sort of casual elegance neither James’s nor Harry’s could ever have achieved, and a girl sitting behind him was eyeing him hopefully, though he didn’t seem to have noticed.
–OotP, pg. 642

Even when Sirius falls through the curtain at the end of OotP, he does so “with a graceful arc.” I see a definite parallel between the descriptions of Sirius and this mysterious lion-like figure.

Then think about the description of the Black family tree and Regulus’s death. He died fifteen years before the fifth book, which was quite a bit after Sirius left home and presumably lost contact with his family. In fact, it puts him right in line with the fall of Voldemort. But apparently he died before Voldy. Sirius offers this explanation for his brother’s death:

“No, he was murdered by Voldemort. Or on Voldemort’s orders, most likely. I doubt Regulus was ever important enough to be killed by Voldemort in person. From what I found out after he died, he got in so far, then panicked about what he was being asked to do and tried to back out.”
–OotP

And that’s the only answer he gives — which seems less than satisfactory. Who did Sirius get this information from? Depending on when exactly Regulus died, Sirius could well have been in Azkaban before news reached him. I’m going to assume that if Sirius left his family in his sixth year of Hogwarts, and his mother blasted him off of the tapestry, that he probably wasn’t keeping close tabs on his family. He probably wasn’t even invited to the funeral. So how did he find any of this out? We know he spent a good portion of his time in Azkaban as a dog (to evade the Dementors), and I can’t imagine prisoners have a lot of contact with fellow prisoners. Either way, it seems likely that news of Regulus came to Sirius second-hand and probably very distorted (as news has a tendency to be, especially in the Potterverse) and he never bothered to figure out any more details. We all know about Sirius’s tendency to gloss over important details about his family because he hates it so much — like when he assumes Kreacher’s been hiding in the attic during his absence, even after it seems likely that he could have left the house:

Sirius looked slightly disconcerted for a moment, then said, “I’ll look for him later, I expect I’ll find him upstairs crying his eyes out over my mother’s old bloomers or something. Of course, he might have crawled into the airing cupboard and died. But I mustn’t get my hopes up.”
–OotP, pg. 505

At best, Sirius just doesn’t know or care what happened to Regulus, so assumes he is in fact dead. And both Harry and the reader take him at his word, because we have no particular reason to think anything else.

But how many other Death Eaters have we met who were supposedly dead who really weren’t? Two come immediately to mind, and they played huge roles in the books in which they were introduced. Peter Pettigrew faked his own death to evade capture, and only came out of hiding after he was threatened by Sirius. Barty Crouch, Jr. faked his death to escape from Azkaban and had been laying low at his father’s house for an undetermined amount of time. I can’t see any reason why a third couldn’t also be summoned back from supposed deadness. Besides, if he’s been killed by a Death Eater or Voldemort himself, there’s no proof of his being killed. So it seems incredibly possible that Regulus faked his death for one reason or another and has been lying low (which would also explain the bedraggled appearance of the lion-guy in the description) for sixteen years. Perhaps he’s hiding out from the other Death Eaters. What if HE is the death eater who is “too cowardly to return,” rather than one of the three DE’s “dead in my [Voldemort’s] service?”

So there’s my evidence that Regulus could, in fact, still be alive. What implications does this have for the series?

First, let’s take a look at the details. How old is Regulus? We know Sirius is 36 when he died in Book 5. Fifteen years previously, he was 21. We know Regulus is the younger brother, and assuming you have to roughly be of legal wizarding age to be a Death Eater, he must be no more than four years younger in order to be eligible as a DE the year he died, so he’ll be around his early thirties by HBP. This means that he was at Hogwarts at the same time as the Marauders, presumably not in the same house; what was he doing while his big brother was tramping around the forest with a werewolf? Who knows. It’s possible he may have been spying on Sirius in his sixth and seventh years, after he’d run away from home, and it’s also possible that Regulus and his family just didn’t much care for him or what he was doing.

So any knowledge of what Regulus was doing in his schoolboy years is a mystery. Let’s turn to his name and any clues therein.

Sometime after he leaves Hogwarts, Regulus joins up with the Death Eaters, which made him a bit of a hero to his family. And at some point later, one of three things happens:

1. He chickens out and tries to leave Voldemort, thus gaining him a death-sentence.
2. He chickens out and tries to leave Voldemort, and manages to fake his death.
3. He is actually a loyal death eater and he was put into hiding for some reason.

What does this mean to the trio and the series? No idea. He could be anything from the new DADA teacher to a new villain to a newly-reformed good guy to an informant. He could inherit Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. There are just so many possibilities and I, for one, will be eagerly watching to see if they come true.