Chapter 11 : An Unlikely Allegiance
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“The brat is not being even close that time,” Kreacher croaked. He had returned to his active dislike of Padfoot and his tolerance of Harry after helping Padfoot find Harry earlier that month; Grimmauld’s wards were so comprehensive that they tracked anyone leaving the house via magical means and Kreacher had been able to read them at Padfoot’s request.
Padfoot was much nicer to the old elf as a result - and because he was back to cooking and cleaning - and even tolerated his obsession with the drawing room.
"Not at all?" Harry asked.
“Not at all," Kreacher told him. "Clearly Master’s ineptitude is catching. Kreacher just hopes Kreacher does not catch it too-”
“I’m trying, all right?” Harry snapped.
“Apparating’s hard,” Padfoot had warned him when Harry approached him with the idea a few weeks earlier. “Quite a few grown wizards can’t even manage it, but then, house elves can Apparate before they can walk.”
Padfoot was watching now, with an over-done sulky expression; Harry had warned him to look upset about the whole thing to keep Kreacher happy, because the only way he’d got Kreacher to agree to it, was by telling him that Padfoot thought it was a bad idea.
Padfoot actually thought it was a very good idea, because, while he was limited by the wards, Kreacher wasn’t and Padfoot hoped he could pass that skill onto Harry. Padfoot had tried to get Kreacher to teach him how to see the wards and Apparate through them – so he could teach Harry instead - but it had resulted in a shouting match, and animosity between the pair for days until Harry, who was sick of Padfoot being moody and Kreacher’s muttering, forced them to drop it.
“The brat insists on wasting Kreacher’s time,” Kreacher muttered.
Frowning, Harry clutched his wand - house elves didn’t need wands but all wizards did – and muttered the incantation again; if he had any hope of Apparating in Grimmauld Place, he’d need to see the wards. House elves, according to Kreacher, could see them naturally, but people required an incantation and it had taken Harry almost a week to find one.
Finally, he’d found it in the book they’d found in Regulus’ room, titled Traces and Auras: See The Magic Around You. It was an interesting read in Harry’s opinion, and none of the incantations required a wand, only concentration and innate magical ability. So far, it was the concentration that Harry was struggling with.
“Try saying them out loud,” Padfoot suggested.
“The book says to think them,” Harry snapped.
“Try it,” Padfoot said patiently.
“Ostendere me omnia,” Harry said, rolling his eyes at his godfather. His mouth fell open. The entire room had come to life and was pulsing with light and magic.
“Is it working?” Padfoot asked. His magic, Harry noticed, was a brilliant red colour, and it looked like the sea on a rough day, constantly swirling around him, surging and massing at various points and then gone and somewhere else the next. Kreacher was a soft green, so pale it was almost white, and brittle, Harry thought, though he couldn’t explain why or how if he tried. His magic didn’t move much but it was very concentrated.
Harry himself was red and gold, made of tiny sparks, like the ones that had come out of his wand the day he bought it. Even the walls had magic; he could see the complex weave of Orion Black’s murky green and black magic in thin, wire-like strands, Padfoot’s interwoven crimson and here and there and Harry’s own red and gold, presumably from the Fidelius Charm.
The warding moved as a whole entity, pulsing. Harry now understood what Kreacher had said about them being alive, but he didn’t understand how in Godric’s name he was supposed to find a hole in them. “Finite,” he said. The colour faded and then the training room was back to its normal - and now comparably dull - state. “It’s brilliant,” he said. “And sorry for snapping.” Padfoot smiled.
“It-” But what Padfoot was about to say, Harry never found out. Right at that moment, there was a loud pop outside and a hooded figure dressed all in black appeared in the street. The figure dropped his hood and revealed a man with black hair to his shoulders - almost like Padfoot’s - and a sallow face. The other features were distinguishable, but Padfoot’s jaw dropped. “No,” he gasped, running over to the window to get a better look.
“Who is it?” Harry wanted to know, following his godfather to the window.
The man glanced at Number Thirteen and then at Number Eleven. Then he turned and stared at Number Twelve. He would be able to see it, of course, since the Fidelius Charm didn’t actually hide the house; usually the Fidelius Charm was entwined with others that did, but Padfoot had said that making Number Twelve vanish would draw attention to it, and Harry was inclined to agree.
What the Fidelius Charm did hide, was Harry and Padfoot; someone could walk into Number Twelve and search every room and never find either of them, because, as long as Harry and Padfoot were inside the house, the charm would conceal their existence. Padfoot had said Dumbledore himself could stand in the same room as them and not know they were there.
“That,” Padfoot growled, “is Snivellus.”
Harry stared. “That’s him? What’s he doing here?”
Padfoot whistled loudly; after listening to the sales witch in Diagon Alley, Padfoot had attempted to train Hedwig so that he could prove dogs were better companions. She’d learned to come when she was called, but disdained - privately, Harry didn’t think it was necessary for an owl to learn to hoot on command or chase its tail – to learn the other tricks Padfoot had attempted to teach her to do. He’d bragged about the victory for days.
A moment later she flew into the training room and landed on the window seat. Padfoot had Summoned writing equipment from the other side of the room and was writing a note. Harry got a glimpse as he passed it to the owl.
What do you want? it said in Padfoot’s neat, rather pointy hand.
Harry opened his mouth to ask if confirming that they were there – even though he couldn’t find them unless Harry told him where they were - was a good idea but he thought it might be a bit too late for that; Snivellus - Snape was his real name, Harry remembered - was watching Number Twelve with an odd mix of glee and loathing, and seemed to be deciding whether to come inside or not. “Send the quill too,” Harry suggested.
Padfoot nodded stiffly and gave Hedwig the quill. Harry opened the window and she flew out, startling Snape. He wrote something down and sent it back.
Padfoot opened the note at once and Harry craned his neck to read it. To talk, Snape had written in a messy scrawl.
Then talk, Padfoot wrote.
Come in, then. Hary could hear the challenge in those words.
Am I able to?
Snape stared at the note for almost a minute before he scribbled something back. I believe I’ll require an escort.
“What do you think?” Padfoot asked Harry, his eyes never once leaving the man on the street.
“Er... I dunno - can we trust him?”
Padfoot snorted but then his expression became thoughtful. Send your wand back with the owl, Padfoot wrote on the back or the scrap of parchment.
“You’re letting him in?” Harry asked.
“He knows where we are,” Padfoot said, “but he’s not bound by the Fidelius Charm so he can tell whoever he wants that we’re here. No one would be able to find us, but I don’t even want them looking. If we tell him the secret, he’s bound by it and he won’t be able to say anything.”
“Oh.” Harry looked back out the window at Snape, who was glaring between Padfoot’s note and the house.
A moment later, Hedwig returned with a long wand made of reddish wood. Break it and I will kill you with my bare hands, said the note accompanying it.
“Red Oak,” Padfoot murmured, tossing the parchment aside. “And Dragon Heartstring, I think.”
“How do you know?”
He snorted, shoving it into his pocket. “The number of times Prongs and I stole this thing... I’ll tell you about it later. Our... guest... is waiting.” Harry and Padfoot made their way to the front door. “Obscuro,” Padfoot said calmly. A blindfold appeared, covering Snape’s eyes. The other man seemed annoyed but he didn’t fight it. Padfoot and Harry walked down, took one of Snape’s arms each and led him up the stairs and into the house. They took him into the study and Padfoot locked the door with a charm and closed the curtains.
Only then did he take the blindfold off. Snape’s cold black eyes trailed over the room, taking in the closed door, the covered windows and then finally came to land on Padfoot, with loathing. They moved to Harry a moment later. The man looked like he’d been slapped. Harry stared back at him, defiant. Snape’s eyes moved to his eyes instead of his face and hair and then he swallowed and looked away.
“How did you find us?” Padfoot demanded.
“I had a dream,” Snape said in a curt voice. Harry found his eyes drawn to the man’s hooked nose and greasy hair. Both were just as bad as Padfoot had always said.
“You dreamed about the house?” Padfoot said flatly.
“Your brother, actually.” Snape said. “I was the one who told your mother he’d died. Did you know that?” Padfoot bared his teeth. “Apparently not. I remembered your elf and this house. How else could you trick the Trace? You aren’t stupid, Black, but you aren’t competent enough to set up wards that could throw off a Ministry-order monitoring charm, nor are you competent enough to get by without magic-”
“Yes, but how did you know?”
“You opened the window,” Snape drawled.
“No, I asked-”
“I heard you the first time, Black,” Snape said impatiently. “I listen, you see. It’s quite a useful skill-”
Padfoot snarled and took a step closer to the other wizard. “So help me, Snivellus-”
“I suspected you might be here,” Snape said with a nasty smile. “But nothing more, at least not until you sent your bird out. I’ve been told time and time again, assured, that you loathe this house so very much that you’d never dream of setting a foot inside.” Snape’s expression soured. “I did suggest you might be drawn to the house, if only for the neighbours, but Dumbledore assured me that was not the case, that the house had been checked before you took the boy-” Snape’s eyes flicked to Harry. “- and had been watched ever since.”
“If only for the neighbours?” Padfoot asked, puzzled.
“Surely you know,” Snape drawled. Padfoot and Harry exchanged bemused looks. Snape eyed them both before lifting an eyebrow. “Fascinating. It seems, Black, that your powers of observation are as pathetically limited as they were the last time we met-”
“Why did you come?” Padfoot asked coldly. “Why alone? I’d have thought you’d bring a hundred Dementors, Dumbledore and the Ministry.”
“Don’t tempt me,” Snape said, his dark eyes glinting. “There’s still nothing more I would like than to hand you over to the Dementors, Black.”
“So why haven’t you?” Harry asked while Padfoot seethed.
Snape watched him curiously. “I happen to know the truth.”
“You?” Padfoot snarled.
“Me,” Snape said with a nasty smile that showed his yellowing teeth. “I’d never have picked you for a traitor, Black-”
“I’m touched,” Padfoot said, in a tone that suggested he was anything but.
Snape glowered at him. “A murderer, yes - how could I not? - but never a traitor. Not to Potter anyway. And then, as it happens, I ran into an old school friend of ours. One I’d believed dead.”
“Peter,” Padfoot hissed. One of the lamps on the wall exploded. “Where? Where was he?”
“He could be anywhere by now, I’m sure,” Snape said with a glance at the lamp. “This was two weeks ago.”
“Reparo,” Harry muttered. The lamp fixed itself, though it resembled a mosaic more than the smooth glass dome it had been before. Snape looked at him for a moment and then turned back to Padfoot.
“So you figured it out,” Padfoot said. He Summoned an armchair from the corner and sank into it. “Who else knows?”
“No one,” Snape said.
“And I’m supposed to believe that?” Padfoot asked, incredulous. “After everything that happened between us in school, I’m supposed to believe you’d do us a favour, Snivellus?”
Snape’s eyes flicked to Harry. “Believe what you will,” he said curtly.
Padfoot struggled with himself for a moment, growled once and then, looking rather annoyed asked, “Why?”
“For the same reasons you’ve said nothing,” Snape said. “There’s no evidence but my word or yours. Dumbledore might believe me, or perhaps even Lupin, but that accomplishes nothing. They cannot get you a pardon. Even if the Ministry were to believe you were not the Secret Keeper, they’ll still charge you with everything else you’ve done. If you have any hope of freedom, they’ll need to realise they’re wrong themselves. Only once they’re tripping over their apologies will you have any hope.” He looked like he hoped that day would never come.
“And for them to realise they’re wrong, I need Peter,” Padfoot muttered.
“Precisely. And even if I were to tell the Ministry anything, or have someone tell them on my behalf, they would no doubt trace the rumour back to me and I will be forced to explain why I am defending you. The Ministry is utterly incompetent but even they could not overlook an old Death Eater working to absolve a supposedly active one...” He shook his head. “I worked hard to redeem myself after the war and I will die before I throw that away for the likes of you.”
Padfoot watched Snape like a dog might watch a cat; Snape was clearly the prey but Padfoot didn’t want a nose full of claws either. “Then why have you come here at all?” he asked finally. “Why not just stay quiet and pretend you know nothing?”
Snape’s eyes flicked to Harry again. “I had to check on the boy.”
“Since when do you care about James’ son?” Padfoot asked.
There was a pause. Snape’s eyes met Harry’s again. “I do not care for Potter’s spawn,” he said finally, looking away. “But while you’re guiltless of killing Potter an-” He cleared his throat. “-The Potter’s, you have other crimes. I will not have a child - any child - in an environment where they are not comfortable.”
“I am,” said Harry at once. Snape looked at him. “Comfortable, I mean.”
“You enjoy Black’s company?”
“He’s loads better than the Dursleys.”
A flicker of irritation passed over Snape’s face at the mention of the Dursleys but it was gone again a moment later. “Very well.” He looked back to Padfoot. “Will he be attending Hogwarts?”
“Of course!” Harry and Padfoot said together.
“I’ve done what I came for then,” Snape said, brushing dust off his robes. He turned to Harry. “Know now that I will treat you as I would any other student.” Harry nodded. Warning received. He’ll hate me because he hates Padfoot and Dad.Snape held out his hand. For a moment Harry thought he wanted Padfoot to shake it, but he merely said, “My wand.”
“You’ll stay quiet about what happened here?” Padfoot asked, extracting the wand from his pocket.
“As I’ve said, I have no desire whatsoever to implicate myself.” Padfoot waved his own wand and the door opened. “That also means, should you slip up and find yourself back in Azkaban, you can expect no help from me.”
“I wouldn’t want it anyway,” Padfoot said.
Harry privately agreed but he elbowed his godfather nonetheless. Padfoot scowled. They walked Snape to the front door and then Padfoot passed him his wand and sent him on his way.
“Arse,” Padfoot muttered, glowering at Snape’s retreating figure. “‘Expect no help from me’,” he said in a bad imitation of Snape’s drawl.
“I thought you said you didn’t want it,” Harry said, his lips twitching.
Padfoot huffed. “I don’t. He didn’t have to say it, though.” He wrinkled his nose. “You know, I don’t think he’s washed his hair since I last saw him.”
* * *
“And then,” Padfoot said with tears in his eyes, “Prongs walked right up to Snivellus and sprayed him with shampoo!” Harry laughed. Snape’s visit the day before had seemed to make Padfoot want to relive all of his Snape-based memories. Not that Harry minded in the least; he was happy to hear any stories about his dad, his godfather and - if Padfoot was to be believed - the man that was his ‘godmother’, Remus Lupin - who Padfoot assured him was not usually as he had been in London.
It troubled him a little to hear how cruel they’d been to Snape, but - with prodding - Padfoot had also revealed that Snape was capable of giving as bad as he got, if not worse. Still, having heard what he’d heard, he didn’t find it hard to see why Snape had hated Padfoot and his dad, or why they had hated him.
“Here,” Padfoot said.
Harry, who had been reading over the Black family tapestry - and given up on making sense of the unfamiliar names and instead begun counting the members (there were nearly five hundred) - glanced up.
“Er... thanks?” Harry said, peering at a cracked pair of reading glasses.
Padfoot chuckled. “Consider it an advanced birthday present.”
“I know just where to put them too,” Harry said, dropping them into the rubbish bag.
“You aren’t keeping them?” Padfoot asked in falsely injured tones.
Harry snorted. “I’ll keep mine, thanks.”
“I think they were my grandmother’s,” Padfoot said with a shudder. “They’d probably bite or something anyway. Horrible woman.”
“Seems to run in the family,” Harry said. “Except for maybe Regulus.”
“Yeah-Hey!” Padfoot spun, ready to grab him but Harry’d anticipated this and moved out of reach. “You evil, little-” Padfoot muttered.
“Little what?” Harry asked innocently.
“Boy. Evil, little boy.” Harry grinned. “Here- Ow!” Padfoot said, dropping a silver snuff-box which appeared to have bitten him. He examined his hand, his expression curious; as they watched his skin turned brown and crusty. “Must be Wartcap powder, in there,” he said finally, tapping his hand with his wand. He levitated the box into the rubbish bag. An Order of Merlin, First Class, awarded to Padfoot’s grandfather followed it a moment later.
“Services to the Ministry?” Harry asked.
“He gave them a lot of gold,” Padfoot said dismissively, gesturing for Harry to put it back in the bag.
There was another copy of Nature’s Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy. “How many of these things have you got?” Harry asked; so far they’d come across one in Regulus’ room, one in the downstairs study, one in the library and now another one here.
“Who knows,” Padfoot said, shrugging. “But any chance my mother had to remind herself of her spotless bloodlin- Oi!” A spindly, silver thing had just come crawling out of the cabinet and was trying to stab Padfoot with one of its pointed legs. He crushed it with the book; it let out a high pitched squeal before Padfoot picked it up gingerly and threw it into the rubbish bag. The book followed.
Kreacher let out a whimper. “There are two other copies in this house,” Padfoot said, shooting the elf an irritated glance.
Kreacher had spent the majority of the morning standing in the doorway to see what they were throwing out. He’d made attempts to rescue things; some, like a photo of Walburga Black, Padfoot hadn’t let him keep (“There’s a massive one downstairs!” he’d said before ordering Kreacher out of the room), but others, like a golden ring that bore the Black crest, Harry had persuaded Padfoot to let him have. Kreacher had sobbed for almost five minutes when he learned it was his to keep forever and even bowed to Harry before he stole downstairs to tuck it away in his den behind the boiler.
“Eurgh,” Padfoot said. “Look at this thing.” A heavy golden locket landed in his lap. Harry shivered for no real reason. There was a large ‘S’ made of emeralds on the front of it but otherwise it was fairly plain.
Harry tried and failed to open it, frowned and tossed it back to Padfoot. “It won’t open.”
“It’s probably just got a picture of my mother or grandmother in it,” Padfoot said, but he couldn’t open it either. “Ah well.” Harry held the rubbish bag open and Padfoot lobbed it in. Kreacher wailed. “What?” Padfoot asked annoyed.
“The-the locket,” Kreacher managed. He tottered into the room and scooped the locket out of the bag.
“Put that down,” Padfoot said.
Kreacher dropped the thing immediately but it seemed to pain him. “Could Kreacher... keep the locket?” he asked Harry.
“We already gave you a ring,” Padfoot said.
“Kreacher will give back the ring,” Kreacher said, crawling over to grip the cuffs of Padfoot’s jeans. “Kreacher will give back the book and the photo of Mistress Cissy and Mistress Bella if Kreacher can have the locket.”
“No,” Padfoot said. “The locket’s going in the rubbish.” Kreacher picked the thing up and clutched it to his chest. Padfoot wrestled it out of the old elf’s grasp and Kreacher burst into tears. “Stop that,” Padfoot said, irritated, tossing the locket back into the rubbish bag. Kreacher glared at him and then looked beseechingly at Harry. “You’re not getting it,” Padfoot said. The elf let out a croaking sob.
“Why do you want it?” Harry asked. “Why’s it better than that ring?”
“Kreacher promised,” the elf wheezed. Harry frowned and looked uncertainly at Padfoot, who was frowning too.
“Promised what?” Padfoot asked. “Tell me.”
The elf quivered but couldn’t disobey. “To destroy it. Kreacher promised Master, yes he did, but now he’s failed, yes he has, and mean Master, nasty Master won’t let Kreacher have it!” The elf threw himself on the ground with a wail.
“What Master?” Padfoot asked. “Kreacher, stop crying.”
Kreacher sat up sniffling. “M-Master Regulus,” the old elf wailed. A tear leaked out of one bulbous eye and he threw himself on the ground shrieking. “Bad Kreacher!” he croaked, slamming his head into the ground.
“Kreacher, sit still!” Padfoot ordered. “No more punishments unless I say so!” Kreacher froze and looked up at them both with red-rimmed eyes. “What did Master Regulus tell you?”
“To destroy the locket,” the elf moaned, pulling the locket out of the bag. “Master Regulus-”
“Drop that. Yes, we know, the locket was Master Regulus’,” Padfoot said impatiently. “I want you to tell me everything you know about this locket and what Reg had to do with it.”
“Master,” Kreacher said in a very thin voice, “was a naughty boy. Master broke Mistress’ heart when he ran away to live with blood-traitors. Master Regulus was a good boy, and proud and happy and knew what was due to his bloodline and to the noble name of Black.”
“Yes,” Padfoot said, rolling his eyes, “we know.”
“Master Regulus had been watching the Dark Lord for years,” Kreacher said, almost reverently. Harry grimaced, thinking of all the clippings they’d stripped off the wall. “When Master Regulus was sixteen-”
“Seventeen,” Padfoot muttered.
Kreacher and Harry both shot him dirty looks. “Master Regulus joined the Dark Lord and he was happy, he was proud to serve. And one day, a year after he joined, Master Regulus came down to the kitchen to see Kreacher and Master Regulus... Master Regulus said the Dark Lord required an elf.”
“An elf?” Padfoot said, frowning at Harry, but his eyes weren’t in focus.
“An elf,” Kreacher agreed pitifully, “and Master Regulus had volunteered Kreacher. Master Regulus said it was an honour, for Kreacher and for Master Regulus, and that Kreacher must be sure to do whatever the Dark Lord ordered him to do, and then c-come home.” Kreacher began to rock, his thin arms wrapped around his scrawny legs, his breath coming in pitchy gusts.
“So Kreacher went to the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord did not tell Kreacher what they were to be doing but Kreacher and the Dark Lord went to a cave. A cave by the sea, and beyond the cave was a cavern and inside the cavern was a lake. A great, black lake. There was a boat, and the Dark Lord and Kreacher used the boat to get to an island.”
Harry was feeling nauseated. Padfoot looked uneasy. “Then what?” Padfoot asked in a quiet, almost gentle tone.
“There was a-a b-basin full of potion on the island.” Kreacher trembled. “The Dark Lord made Kreacher drink it... Kreacher drank and Kreacher saw terrible things. Kreacher’s insides burned. Kreacher cried for Master Regulus and for his Mistress Black, but the Dark Lord only laughed and made Kreacher drink it all... Kreacher drank the potion... the Dark Lord dropped a locket into the empty basin... He filled it with more potion. And then the D-Dark Lord sailed away, leaving Kreacher on the island.”
Kreacher sniffed and wiped his running nose. “Kreacher needed water, he crawled to the island’s edge and he drank from the black lake... and hands... dead, cold hands came out of the water and dragged Kreacher under the surface.”
“Hands?” Padfoot asked sharply. “What hands?”
“Hands!” Kreacher sobbed. “Cold, dead hands!”
“People. Witches and wizards,” Kreacher whispered, his eyes filmy.
“Inferi,” Padfoot muttered, his mouth pulling down at the corners.
“What are Inferi?” Harry asked.
“Reanimated cor- Dead people who can walk and attack people.” Harry’s mouth fell open with revulsion. “Were they Inferi, Kreacher?” Padfoot pressed.
“Kreacher doesn’t know. Kreacher never knew!”
“All right!” Padfoot said hastily. “How did you get away? Did you Apparate?”
Kreacher nodded his ugly head. “Master Regulus told Kreacher to come home, so Kreacher came home.”
“What did Reg do?”
“Master Regulus was worried, very worried. He told Kreacher to hide and to stay in the house. One night, it was a little while later, Master Regulus came to visit Kreacher again. Master Regulus was disturbed in his mind, Kreacher could tell. Master Regulus told Kreacher to- to-” Kreacher sniffled and stopped talking.
“To what?” Padfoot asked.
“Kreacher promised. Kreacher promised Master Regulus... none of the family... Master... family.”
Harry was confused but Padfoot seemed to understand. “Tell Harry,” he told the elf. Padfoot caught Harry’s eye. “If you’re all right to hear the rest?”
Harry nodded. Padfoot left the room. “So...er... then what?”
Kreacher edged closer, his croaky voice coming almost silently. “Master Regulus told Kreacher to take him to the cave, the cave where Kreacher had gone with the Dark Lord. Krecher did and Master Regulus drank the potion... first he ordered Kreacher to swap the lockets and re-fill the basin... Master R-Regulus had a locket just the same as the Dark Lord’s locket... and he told Kreacher the locket must be destroyed... made Kreacher promise...”
“Then Master Regulus drank it, drank it all and ordered Kreacher to leave... without him... to never tell Mistress... and Kreacher watched as Master Regulus was dragged... under the water... and... and...” Kreacher wailed and threw himself on the ground, fists pounding the carpet.
“Kreacher, sit up,” Harry said. “What happened when you came home?”
“Mistress was sick with grief. Mistress didn’t know why Master Regulus could never come home - all Mistress knew was that he wouldn’t - because Kreacher had been f-f-forbidden, Kreacher had promised never to tell any of the family about what had happened in the c-cave.” Both Kreacher and Harry turned to the locket at that point, where it was lying innocently on the floor by the rubbish bag.
“Kreacher tried to destroy the locket, Kreacher could feel its evil but nothing Kreacher did made any mark. Kreacher was sure the key to destroying the locket was to open the locket but nothing Kreacher did... so many powerful spells... Nothing worked... Kreacher failed!”
“It’s all right,” Harry said, quickly. “We won’t throw the locket out, I promise, all right?” Kreacher halted mid-sob and glanced up. “Do you know why Regulus wanted to destroy the locket?”
“Kreacher doesn’t know. Kreacher only knows Master Regulus wanted it destroyed. Kreacher tried!”
“I know!” Harry said, trying to calm him down. “You’ve er... done very well. I’ll erm... maybe I can talk to Padfoot - to Master Sirius - and see if he can try to destroy it.”
Kreacher threw himself on the floor at Harry’s feet with a wail. Harry petted him awkwardly on the head until Padfoot came back and gently but firmly sent Kreacher to his cupboard to calm down.
When Kreacher was gone, Harry explained what had happened in the cave. Padfoot looked exceptionally grim, and when Harry finished, he sat down on the couch and massaged his temples.
“Does Kreacher know the name of the potion he drank?”
“I don’t think so,” Harry said. “Why?”
“I was hoping to find an antidote for it.”
“For Kreacher? It’s a bit late, isn’t-”
“For you-?” Harry blinked. “You aren’t going to try it?”
“I want to know what Reg was doing stealing Voldemort’s necklace,” Padfoot said with a shrug.
“Maybe he thought it looked nice?”
“It’s ugly though.” They both glanced at the locket. “Obviously it’s important. Kreacher says it feels evil, and I don’t know whether you noticed, kiddo, but you shivered when you touched it.”
Padfoot nodded grimly. “I didn’t think anything of it, but now... Look, whatever it is, it’s important enough for Reg to die for, and if Kreacher’s tried to destroy it, there’s obviously some fairly dark magic keeping it alive.”
“It’s alive?!” Harry yelped.
“Not alive like you or me, but it’s not a blackened piece of metal yet, either, is it? It’s not natural.” One of the emeralds flashed as Harry titled his head.
“Why’s it so important?” he asked, picking it up.
“Voldemort hid it in a cave, on an island guarded by Inferi, in the vilest potion he could find. Obviously he thought it was worth protecting... Reg knew why, but he’d never leave that sort of information lying around.”
“But he did,” Harry said slowly. “There was that book- the book with the Dementor’s Draught page marked.” Padfoot frowned. “I’ll bet you anything that’s the potion Kreacher drank. And the other book, the one that had the locket in it, remember? You wanted me to look for that ring.”
Padfoot stood and walked out of the room. When he returned, he was holding a pile of books - Harry could only imagine how he’d found them, given the disorganised state of the library - that Harry remembered from the day they’d cleaned Regulus’ room. Harry reached for the one with the locket in it and Padfoot flicked through the potions book until he found the Dementor’s Draught.
“It doesn’t say anything about the locket being evil,” Harry said. “It only says it was Slytherin’s.”
“So it’s had something done to it,” Padfoot mused.
“Regulus might have left another clue,” Harry said, “or maybe Kreacher-”
“If Reg was going to leave any hints, he’d have left them with everything else. He probably thought it was too dangerous.”
“But he had all these lying around,” Harry said, refusing to be discouraged. “He might-”
Padfoot shook his head. “Dementor’s Draught isn’t that unusual - it used to be used as a sedative in Azkaban before they brought actual Dementors in. Its use was outlawed in the early seventies because its effects are stronger than those of a normal Dementor, but lots of dark wizards used it in the war. And Regulus liked to read, so a book on old wizarding artefacts wouldn’t have seemed unusual, and neither would these.” Padfoot waved a hand at the books on warding and defensive magic.
Harry slumped. “So he’d have kept it quiet? Whatever the locket is? He didn’t tell anyone?”
Padfoot shook his head slowly. “That’s not... No, I don’t think so.” Padfoot stood up suddenly and started to pace. “From what Kreacher’s said, I don’t think Reg was ever planning to get out alive...” Harry shivered at that, trying to imagine what it would be like to knowingly walk to his own death. “Why else would he take Kreacher with him but not make him drink it? No, he had to know or at least think it was a possibility and he’d want someone to understand why he did it...”
Padfoot was quiet for a long time and then, “Voldemort.”
“No, really,” Padfoot said, slowly. “Who else could he tell? Anyone he trusted would be in danger and why would he tell someone he didn’t trust?”
“But Voldemort? If that locket’s as important as you think, Voldemort would have killed him as soon as he heard!”
Padfoot frowned. “Maybe he told him afterward - delayed the message somehow...”
“What d’you mean?”
“If you had a secret, an important one, and you had to share it, but couldn’t tell anyone, how would you do it?”
“Write it down?” Harry said after a few moments. “Did he have a diary or something?”
“No. I... er... I used to take it and read it and eventually he just gave up. Even if he had, I doubt he’d want Voldemort reading it...” They both shivered. “How about a note? Somewhere safe, where only Voldemort would find it.”
“And information on where to find the note’s not too dangerous to leave lying around,” Harry said. “Is it? He might have left something - another note, a photograph, something.”
“I’m going to have a look around,” Padfoot said, standing immediately. “We didn’t throw anything out that was interesting or unusual so chances are it’s around here somewhere. You might go through everything we’ve been sorting today, just to make sure.”
Harry turned to the bag of things they’d removed from the cabinet and rifled through. Nothing seemed even remotely significant and he tossed everything back in, disappointed. He glanced at the locket.
“What are you?” he asked it. It disdained to respond. Curious, Harry decided to try looking at it magically - after his success yesterday, he’d been looking at all sorts of things from a magical point of view. “Ostendere me omnia,” he whispered, and felt his vision shift. The room came to life around him - the tapestry on the wall glowed a pale green, the rubbish bag a mix of silver, blue and maroon. Harry could see his own red and gold sparks.
And then there was the locket. Black, like a shadow, but it wasn’t as if light was blocked, it was as if it was sucking light in. Green and silver flickered inside the black, so faintly that it was hardly there, and never in the same spot for more than a second. Harry dropped it, his skin crawling. Kreacher was right, though he hadn’t really doubted it. It was evil. “Finite,” he muttered and the magic vanished - it was still there, but not to his eyes.
“What are you?” he asked again. The emeralds glinted wickedly. Harry picked it up again and held it rather gingerly at arm’s length as he tried to pry it open again. It didn’t work. Harry frowned. “Open,” he told it, frustrated. “Open. Open.” It did, and so did the door.
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