HPBFL CH 9

CHAPTER NINE: DARKNESS WITHIN

“Master Black will want to be rid of the Darkness Master Regulus stole from the Dark Lord then.” With another POP, Kreacher disappeared, reappearing a moment later, holding a golden Locket with an emerald S on the front. Dark whispers caressed Harry’s ears as he swayed on the spot.

“Take it to Hárasteorra Hall; we’ll be there shortly,” Sirius ordered, allowing the little House Elf to pop away.

“What was that?” Remus asked, his pupils almost blown. “The evil from it was calling to my Wolf.”

“I have an idea,” Sirius replied grimly, then turned to Tonks and her father, “Get your mother and meet us at the Hall.”

“No problem,” Tonks and her father disappeared, then Sirius led the other three back to the Floo room. Sirius had gone ahead to add her to the Wardbook, followed quickly by Harry.

“Hárasteorra Hall,” Hermione called out following Harry’s example, but unlike Harry, she stepped out into the parlour with ease brushing the dirt off herself.

“Hermione, I just have to warn you-“ Harry began but never finished as a voice that haunted her nightmares cut across him.

“Black, I hope that’s you, you’ve been gone for-ever,” Draco Malfoy sauntered into the parlour, stopping when he realised Harry’s friend was also there. “Granger.”

“I don’t want to be impolite, but what’s Malfoy doing in your home?”

“Draco is family, but more than that, his family asked for sanctuary here,” Harry explained quickly.

“Lucius Malfoy isn’t here, is he?” she asked. She had only met him once but knew how cruel he had been to Dobby the house-elf. Hermione also knew he was a Death Eater.

“No, my mother and I decided not to grovel at the feet of a monster, Granger,” Draco replied acerbically.

“Draco, do play nice,” Harry drawled in an almost perfect impression of Narcissa.

“I do hope that’s not an impression of me,” Narciss walked into the room, looking stately and beautiful.

“No, Cissy, I was practising for when we returned to Hogwart’s,” Harry lied, giving the women his best puppy dog eyes. Cissy? Hermione wondered.

“Oh, I can’t be mad at you,” the woman broke out into a smile. Hermione thought she looked so different.

“Hey, I’m your son; you shouldn’t get mad at me,” Draco pouted, so different from the boy she had known for the last four years.

“Hey is for horses,” Hermione and Narcissa spoke at the same time. They looked at each other and laughed.

“Not another person to bond with,” Draco complained, getting a sympathetic look from Harry.

“I think your mother is going to love Hermione,” Harry commented, receiving a big smile from the teen. 

“Ah, so you are the famous Miss Granger I hear so much about.”

“I hope most of it is good,” Hermione quipped.

“Depends on who you ask; Draco is constantly complaining about how smart you are and how you’re the best in class,” Narcissa looked at her son, who seemed to want to shrink. “Harry, on the other hand, is always talking about you; I don’t think he can say a sentence without your name cropping up.”

“Do you really, Harry?” Harry wondered if this was what an embarrassing mother was like. His face was as red as Draco’s, and he wanted to shrink into the ground.

“However, I didn’t come here to embarrass you, though that is a bonus,” the woman was enjoying this as a sudden whoosh heralded the entrance of Remus.

“I seem to have missed something,” Remus looked between Harry and Draco, who both had red faces, then the massive grins on Hermione and Narcissa’s face.

“You look pale, Remus. Are you alright?” Narcissa asked, suddenly concerned, as she noted how pale the man appeared to be.

“Ah, good, here you are,” Sirius entered the room. “Narcissa, I need you to take a look at something,”

The fireplace whooshed to life as Andromeda stepped through, followed quickly by her Husband and Daughter.

“Tonk’s said you wanted to see us,” Andromeda directed her comments to Sirius.

“We found something,” Remus told her as Sirius led them into the drawing-room. Standing in the room was Kreacher holding the locket.

“That’s your mothers’ elf, right?” Andromeda said, then noticed the locket, “I’m sure I’ve seen it before.” 

“It’s Master Regulus’s,” Kreacher grumbled.

“You called the locket ‘Master Regulus’s,’” Sirius asked. “Why? Where did it come from? What did Regulus have to do with it? Kreacher, tell me everything you know about that locket and everything Regulus had to do with it!”

 “Master Sirius ran away,” the elf glared at his now-master, “good riddance, for he was a bad boy and broke my Mistress’s heart with his lawless ways. But Master Regulus had proper order; he knew what was due to the name of Black and the dignity of his pure-blood. For years he talked of the Dark Lord, who would bring the wizards out of hiding to rule the Muggles and the Muggle-borns … and when he was sixteen years old, Master Regulus joined the Dark Lord. So proud, so proud, so happy to serve … And one day, a year after he joined, Master Regulus came down to the kitchen to see Kreacher. Master Regulus always liked Kreacher. And Master Regulus said … he said …” The old elf rocked faster than ever. “… he said that the Dark Lord required an elf.”

“Voldemort needed an elf?” Harry repeated, looking around at Draco and Hermione, who looked just as puzzled as he did.

“Oh yes,” moaned Kreacher. “And Master Regulus had volunteered Kreacher. It was an honour, said Master Regulus, an honour for him and for Kreacher, who must be sure to do whatever the Dark Lord ordered him to do … and then to c-come home.” Kreacher rocked still faster, his breath coming in sobs.

“What happened next?” Narcissa asked soothingly.

 “So Kreacher went to the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord did not tell Kreacher what they were to do but took Kreacher to a cave beside the sea. And beyond the cave was a cavern, and in the cavern was a great black lake … There was a boat… There was a b-basin full of potion on the island. The D-Dark Lord made Kreacher drink it …” The elf quaked from head to foot. “Kreacher drank, and as he drank he saw terrible things … Kreacher’s insides burned … Kreacher cried for Master Regulus to save him, he called for his Mistress Black, but the Dark Lord only laughed … He made Kreacher drink all the potion … He dropped a locket into the empty basin … He filled it with more potion.

And then the Dark Lord sailed away, leaving Kreacher on the island … “ Harry could see it happening. He watched Voldemort’s white, snakelike face vanishing into darkness, those red eyes fixed pitilessly on the thrashing elf whose death would occur within minutes, whenever he succumbed to the desperate thirst that the burning poison caused its victim … But here, Harry’s imagination could go no further, for he could not see how Kreacher had escaped. “Kreacher needed water, he crawled to the island’s edge, and he drank from the black lake … and hands, dead hands, came out of the water and dragged Kreacher under the surface … “

“How did you get away?” Harry asked, and he was not surprised to hear himself whispering. Kreacher raised his ugly head and looked at Harry with his great, bloodshot eyes.

“Master Regulus told Kreacher to come back,” he said.

“I know –but how did you escape the Inferi?” Kreacher did not seem to understand.

“Master Regulus told Kreacher to come back,” he repeated.

“I know, but –“

“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it, Harry?” Hermione spoke up. “He Disapparated!”

“Could he have apparated out? Voldemort seemed to protect whatever this is,” Andromeda wondered. Narcissa was staring at the locket in Kreachers’ hands. No one noticed but Draco.

“Elf magic isn’t like wizard’s magic, is it?” Draco suggested, “They can Apparate and Disapparate in and out of Hogwarts when we can’t.”

There was a silence as everyone digested this. How could Voldemort have made such a mistake? But even as he thought this, Hermione spoke, and her voice was icy. “Of course, Voldemort would have considered the ways of house-elves far beneath his notice … It would never have occurred to him that they might have magic that he didn’t.”

“The house-elf’s highest law is his Master’s bidding,” intoned Kreacher. “Kreacher was told to come home, so Kreacher came home … “

“Well, then, you did what you were told, didn’t you?” said Hermione kindly. “You didn’t disobey orders at all!”

Kreacher shook his head, rocking as fast as ever.

“So what happened when you got back?” Sirius asked next. “What did Regulus say when you told him what happened?”

“Master Regulus was very worried, anxious,” croaked Kreacher. “Master Regulus told Kreacher to stay hidden and not to leave the house. And then … it was a little while later … Master Regulus came to find Kreacher in his cupboard one night. Master Regulus was strange, not as he usually was, disturbed in his mind, Kreacher could tell … and he asked Kreacher to take him to the cave, the cave where Kreacher had gone with the Dark Lord … “

And so they had set off. Harry could visualise them quite clearly, the frightened old elf and the thin, dark Seeker who had so resembled Sirius and now himself… Kreacher knew how to open the concealed entrance to the underground cavern, knew how to raise the tiny boat: this time it was his beloved Regulus who sailed with him to the island with its basin of poison …

“And he made you drink the poison?” said Hermione, disgusted. But Kreacher shook his head and wept. Hermione’s hands leapt to her mouth: She seemed to have understood something.

“M-Master Regulus took from his pocket a locket like the one the Dark Lord had,” said Kreacher, tears pouring down either side of his snoutlike nose. “And he told Kreacher to take it and, when the basin was empty, to switch the lockets …” Kreacher’s sobs came in great rasps now; Harry had to concentrate hard to understand him. “And he ordered –Kreacher to leave –without him. And he told Kreacher –to go home –and never to tell my Mistress –what he had done –but to destroy – the first locket. And he drank –all the potion –and Kreacher swapped the lockets –and watched … as Master Regulus … was dragged beneath the water … and … “

“Oh, Kreacher!” wailed Hermione, who was crying. She dropped to her knees beside the elf and tried to hug him. Kreacher moved away from the girl with fear in his eyes. Sirius seemed to be swaying on his feet as he discovered what had happened to his brother. Both Andromeda and Narcissa seemed appalled.  

“So you brought the locket home,” Sirius said relentlessly, for he was determined to know the whole story of his brother now. “And you tried to destroy it?”

“Nothing Kreacher did made any mark upon it,” moaned the elf. “Kreacher tried everything, everything he knew, but nothing, nothing would work … So many powerful spells upon the casing, Kreacher was sure the way to destroy it was to get inside it, but it would not open … Kreacher punished himself, he tried again, he punished himself, he tried again. Kreacher failed to obey orders; Kreacher could not destroy the locket! And his Mistress was mad with grief because Master Regulus had disappeared and Kreacher could not tell her what had happened, no, because Master Regulus had f-f-forbidden him to tell any of the f-f-family what happened in the c-cave …” Kreacher began to sob so hard that there no more coherent words.

“Put the locket on the table and return to Grimmauld Place,” Sirius ordered. The house-elf did not even bow as he popped out of the room.

“Wow, that was some tale,” Harry was the first to speak.

“There are only two ways to destroy a Horcrux,” Narcissa spoke, stunning the room into silence. Remus looked at the woman aghast while Sirius did not appear too surprised.

“What’s a Horcrux?” typically, it was Hermione who asked the question.

“A Horcrux is one of the worse things wizard-kind created. It is a container to hold a soul, like this.” Remus was shocked when Sirius spoke up, picking up a cup. “It’s some of the foulest magic in existence.”

“The first known Horcrux was created by Herpo the Foul, and it involves premeditated murder with a very complicated ritual,” Narcissa continued. “They can only be destroyed by Fiendfyre or Basilisk poison.”

“That’s how Voldemort was able to survive for fourteen years,” Remus theorised.

“So we destroy the locket, then we can destroy him,” Harry suggested.

“Riddle’s diary!” Hermione blurted out.

“Excuse me,” Narcissa looked at the girl strangely.

“In our second year, Ginny Weasley was possessed by a magic diary, you remember Harry, you told us it was draining Ginny of Magic, and the ‘soul’ was becoming more alive,” Hermione told the group. “ Harry only destroyed it by stabbing the diary with the Blade of Gryffindor.”

“So Voldemort made at least two Horcrux’s?” Narcissa said thoughtfully.

“No wonder he is insane,” Sirius murmured. Andromeda approached the table and began using various diagnosis spells on it.

“What do you mean?” Draco asked.

“The more times your soul is ‘broken’, the more your sanity will be lost,” his mother answered. “So we assume there is more than one out there.”

“We know of two, but I would assume he has five or seven,” Remus mused.

“Why do you think that?” Sirius looked at his oldest friend.

“Both are magic numbers; the Dark Lord seems to be obsessed with magic numbers from what I’ve heard,” Remus concluded.

“That’s true,” Narcissa added as Andromeda took a sharp intake of breath.

“What is it?” Sirius asked.

“The ‘evil’ within has the same signature as the one in Harry’s head,” everyone turned to look at Harry.

“What do you mean? I’ve got a piece of Voldemort’s soul in my head,” Harry stared at the adults.

“You remember those tests I took? We found a bit of dark magic centred around your scar?” Andromeda asked, getting a nod from Harry. “It seems He made a living Horcrux.”

“No one has ever done that, not in recorded history,” Remus spoke up, looking sick.

“Does that mean I have to die?”

“NO!” Sirius made everyone jump. “We’ll find a way to get it out of you, I promise you.”

“I, erm, need to be alone,” Harry mumbled and left the room.

“Shouldn’t we go after him?” Hermione asked, looking at the back of her best friend.

“Just give him time to process things,” Remus told her kindly.

“We need to keep it safe until we work out how to destroy it,” Andromeda suggested.

“I’ll keep in the vaults below the house,” Sirius returned, then the adults began to discuss the Horcrux. Hermione shared a look with Draco leaving the room behind.

She still remembered the look on Harry’s face a few day’s later. How pale he was. The bushy-haired girl had not seen her best friend in those days. Harry had locked himself in his room. Hermione looked around her room again; it was, as Lupin suggested, a deep purple colour. Now that she had been at Hárasteorra Hall for a couple of days, she was coming to like the purple walls. In the centre of the room was a large four-poster bed with purple curtains along the top. There were cupboards for the clothing that had been retrieved from Grimmauld place. The difference between Grimmauld and Hárasteorra was like night and day. Hárasteorra Hall was absolutely beautiful; a couple of times, she had imagined herself as a Princess.

“Hermione, are you alright?” Harry’s voice drew the young woman out of her thoughts. She looked up at him to see Harry was wearing some shorts and a tee-shirt.

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” she told him, standing up to smother her summer dress out. Harry had to turn away quickly as it became a little uncomfortable in his shorts. Harry knew his best friend was female, but her chest was a lot more noticeable in the summer dress.  Although he rather liked the way Hermione looked, he didn’t know how his friends could drool over some of the big-breasted girls like Susan Bones or Lavender Brown.

“I’d rather not talk about that. Can we discuss something else?” Harry asked, looking out the window. “ I came to ask if you wanted to go for a walk before the family meeting?”

“Actually, that would be lovely. Am I being allowed into the meeting?” She asked as they walked down the hallway, passing many of Harry’s ancestors. Hermione had been incredibly shocked when she discovered that not only was Harry a Black, but the son of Sirius. Then add to that the Horcrux revelation, and she had had a lot to think about the last few days. But Harry seemed intent on ignoring the problem, so she would wait for Harry to come to her.

“Sirius decided it would be nice for you to see a family meeting, unlike the one you saw the other day, plus you’re practically family now,” Harry gave her a grin that made her body shiver. Harry wasn’t sure what Sirius was trying to achieve, but he knew the old marauder was up to no good.

“Sounds fantastic. I would love to look around the library more. There are so many fascinating books there,” she babbled, then was off chattering about the different sort of books the young witch had found in the last three days. If Harry wasn’t taking her somewhere or showing her around, she was found in the library next to Remus, reading book after book. Harry led her outside into the beautiful August sunshine. They passed over the bridge and past the greenhouses.

“What are you thinking about?” Hermione stopped her babble, looking at him. He saw a loose hair and tucked it behind the girl’s ear, receiving a beaming smile.

Inside the manor Remus, Sirius and Narcissa watched from the Study window, all three with smiles on their faces.

“When do you think they will realise they like each other?” Narcissa asked.

“I give it six months; by Christmas, they will be a couple,” Sirius suggested.

“They look like you and Holly were,” Remus bought up. The other man frowned, moving away from the window abruptly to take a seat behind his desk.

“Was that a lie?” Sirius asked, remembering Holly Du Vere, she had been in their year in school, but he had met her while training to be an Auror. She was training to be a Healer at St Mungo’s, but their paths had crossed frequently.

“I don’t think so, but we’ll soon find out,” Remus replied, settling in a chair opposite his friend, “I was really shocked at Harry for giving Hermione Sanctuary.”

“To be honest, I think she’ll need it. The Death eaters are getting bolder; someone seems to be giving them addresses of the mundane-born’s homes,” Black looked over the two of them, “I think, with the coming legislation, she may need more.”

“What do you mean? There’s not much more than Sanctuary,” Remus frowned.

“Oh no, that might push them apart,” Narcissa cottoned on to what her cousin was suggesting. Moments later, Remus also realised what the other man was suggesting.

“Their relationship is barely fledgeling; a betrothal contract might kill that off,” Remus argued.

“But it would tie her to the family in ways Sanctuary cannot,” Sirius returned.

“Hermione is a strong young woman; she may well believe betrothal contracts are too arcane. Harry struggled with it, and he doesn’t know much more about mundanes than pure-blood wizards,” Narcissa added to the argument.

“I know what you’re saying, but that boy loves her,” Sirius flung his arm out where Harry was now lightly holding Hermione’s hand. “I don’t think he realises it yet, but those two are made for each other.”

“I can see that, but they may rebel against the betrothal,” Narcissa countered.

“Not if we pitch it to them the right way.”

“What’s the right way?” Narcissa looked at the man sceptically.

“Harry has that ‘Saving people thing’ if we tell them it’s to protect Hermione, I’m sure Harry would go for it in an instant. However, I do think we should try to help them get together,” Sirius outlined his plan.

“No, we’re not going to help them ‘get together’. However, the other part of your plan warrants talking about,” he was firmly told by the witch.

“Weasley!” a voice spoke up near the door. Arthur looked up from his desk to find Auror Proudfoot stood in the doorway of the small cupboard.

“Caleb, what a pleasure to see you. What can I do for you today?” the red-head was sure he’d be visiting a house about a charmed muggle artefact soon.

“The boss wants to see you in her office, pronto,” the Auror demanded.

“No problem,” he shared a confused look with his assistant, Perkins, then managed to pull himself out of his tiny office. Following the corridor, he entered the Auror bullpen, which was a hive of activity. He got a few hellos from people he knew, but he noticed how busy they were. There was a couple of boards for current cases, but he barely got to see them as the press of bodies hid them away. He pushed through another set of double doors into the reception of the Office of the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.  Arthur moved up to the desk, noticing a man in white healer robes.

“Hello, Rita, how’s your husband?” the receptionist gave him a genuine smile.

“Wonderful, Arthur, we must have you and Molly around for dinner soon,” the woman gushed, “Madam Bones is just finishing a meeting but will be with you soon,”

“Thank you,” Arthur told her, sincerely, taking a seat close to the office door.

“-This is the sixth attack on Muggle-borns in the last month; we’re lucky we had stationed an Auror there to keep an eye out,” Madam Bones was saying to an unknown person.

“Did we at least capture the werewolf for interrogation?” a deep voice asked. Arthur recognised the voice as that of Rufus Scrimgeour, Head of the Auror office.

“No, unfortunately, but the Auror did wound that animal. Luckily none of the Creevey’s was injured; they are currently in a safe house,” Bones responded. Creevey? Now how do I know that name, Arthur wondered.

“Madam Bones, Arthur Weasley and Derek Laidlaw are here to see you,” Rita’s voice crackled through a speaker.

“Right, Rufus, we’ll pick this up at another time, but I want constant updates on the cases,” she ordered.

“Of Course, Madam,” Rufus growled, leaving the office. He had the look of an old Lion; there were streaks of grey in his mane of tawny hair and his bushy eyebrows. The old Auror had keen yellowish eyes behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles. He took a quick look at Arthur before loping out into the bullpen.

“Arthur, come in,” Madam Bones snapped. Arthur entered the office, closing the door behind him; he looked at the woman behind the desk. Her grey hair was close-cropped, which showed off her square jawline. She had a monocle in her eye, which he took note of the magical sheen around it.

“Hello, Madam Bones, I was told you wanted to speak to me,” Arthur looked at his boss nervously. He had got into trouble recently, especially with the Ford Anglia.

“There are many things I would like to discuss with you, Arthur, but the first and foremost is; are you a part of the Order of Phoenix?”

“Excuse me?” of all the things Bones could have come out with, Arthur was not expecting this. He knew Fudge was trying to route out Dumbledore supporters; perhaps he would declare the organisation Terrorists.

“I’m not Fudge; this isn’t to get you fired. However, I’ve just discovered I have two Order agent’s in my own Aurors, and I don’t want another in my office. I will not have people with split loyalty in this office. I don’t believe Dumbledore is trying for the Minister’s job, but he is dangerous, so I’ll ask again; are you in the Order of Phoenix?”

“Yes,” Arthur admitted, he knew if he lied, his job at the Ministry would be over.

“Good, I’m glad you are being honest with me. You have a couple of choices ahead of you; you can remain a part of Dumbledore’s Order and be relieved of your job. Or you leave the Order of Phoenix. I have been speaking to Rufus about a new department; you are one of the people I’m considering heading up the department.” Arthur was torn; he knew Molly was loyal to the old Headmaster, but he had been seeing things a lot clearer recently, and several things did not make sense. He vaguely recalled speaking to Dumbledore after his sons reported bars and a cat flap in Harry’s room.

“I have known Professor Dumbledore a long time, and I’m sorry, but I don’t toe the official ministry line that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is dead,” Arthur spoke almost apologetically.

“What I’m about to say doesn’t leave this office,” she looked at him sternly, then continued when he nodded, “I believe Lord Rendlesham that He is back, I’ve been trying to subtle get our budget increased, but Malfoy and his cronies have deep coffers. I’m hoping to get the Duke of Anglia onside to overturn some of the spending budgets.”

“I think he would agree to that,” Arthur smiled, “It’s one of the reasons I joined Professor Dumbledore; there is a great evil out there that must be defeated,”

“If I get the budget to go-ahead, then I’ll put you in as the Head of the new department,” Amelia told him.

“I will speak to Professor Dumbledore; you have my loyalty, Madam Bones,”

“Good, the other subject I’d like to discuss with you is about your daughter. I had a report recently that she was involved in possession and an incident with a Basilisk,” Bones was so surprised her monocle fell out, “Why was I not informed of this straight away when it happened?”

“I don’t know, Amelia, did Professor Dumbledore not contact you after the first Petrification?” Arthur returned, finally using Bones first name. Though she was his boss, they had still known each other for a long time.

“No, I’ve been given some information about the happenings in Hogwart’s that I was not aware of; it seems the Tri-wizard tournament is the latest in a long list of incidents to befoul Hogwart’s,” Bones replied, then pressed a button on her desk. “Rita, can you send in Derek Laidlaw?”

“Yes, Madam Bones,” was the reply. Minutes later, there was a soft knock on the door before the other man entered, taking a seat next to Arthur.

“Thank you for speaking with me,” the man offered.

“Arthur Weasley, I would like you to meet Derek Laidlaw; he is a Private Mind-Healer at St Mungos Hospital,” Bones introduced the pair, making Arthur even more confused. “In the last couple of days, I have been contacted by Gringotts. Mr Laidlaw has been paid to become your daughter’s personal Mind-Healer.”

“After the experiences she had, Miss Weasley should have seen a Mind Healer after the possession,” Laidlaw spoke; he was soft-spoken but oddly reassuring.

“Paid for? Molly refused to let her daughter near a Mind-Healer,” Arthur explained. Madam Bones fitted another piece into the puzzle as Arthur said ‘her’ not ‘our’ daughter.

“Yes, I have been fully paid; however, your daughter is such an interesting case, it will make for an interesting case study. If you are willing, I would like to meet your daughter today, don’t worry about Mrs Weasley; I can be quite persuasive,” Laidlaw chuckled.

“Arthur, you are released for the rest of the day; why don’t you take Mr Laidlaw home to meet your wife and child. Just remember what I said to you, Mr Weasley,” Bones told the man who realised they had been dismissed.

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