[A/N]: Thank you so much for the amazing reviews! I hope you all enjoy this chapter. Somewhat filler-ish, but definitely necessary. Again, enjoy (you better! I have a midterm tomorrow, but I'm uploading this at 1 AM :D)
"Enlighten us, Potter." Harry ran a hand through his hair, collecting his thoughts.
"Voldemort created something called a horcrux. Several, actually. You asked me what a horcrux is. A horcrux is an object in which a person conceals part of their soul. You literally split your soul and hide part of it in an object outside of the body so that you can't die, because part of the soul remains bound to the earth, unharmed. You'd be less then a spirit, less than a ghost, but still alive. Many would prefer death over that," Harry said quietly.
"But how can one split one's soul? That's...impossible," Draco said.
"You can split one's soul by an act of pure evil...murder. Killing rips the soul apart. If one were to want to create a horcrux, they would use that damage to their advantage: They would encase the torn bit of soul into an object with a spell," answered Harry, almost reciting it, like Hermione used to. He had recited it in his head so many times in the past year.
"And the Dark Lord created several?" Narcissa asked, horrified.
"Seven, to be exact. That's what allowed him to live after the killing curse meant for me rebounded. That was what had opened the Chamber of Secrets in my second year. That diary was a horcrux." Draco's eyes widened.
"They are that powerful?" he asked. Harry nodded grimly.
"Voldemort wanted to put one of his horcruxes, Slytherin's locket, under lock and key, so to speak. He had everything prepared," Harry shivered at the memory.
"Not everything," Regulus said in a low voice. Harry nodded and went on with what he knew.
"He had a lake full of inferi, an enchanted boat that would take two people but bring back one, and a basin full of some kind of terrible potion, but no locket." Regulus shut his eyes tightly, remembering. The room was hushed. Narcissa was looking at Regulus worriedly. "I'm...not exactly sure what the potion did-"
"It burns you from the inside out. It makes you weak with thirst. It makes you remember the worst memories of your life, makes you see it happen again, right before your very eyes. Makes you feel unbelievable pain, and not just physical. Hardly. It makes you wish for death, anything to get rid of the unbearable pain," Regulus said, his voice ragged. Narcissa Malfoy was looking at him with a horrified look, her eyes filled with worry. Draco showed no emotion except for a taut jaw. Harry knew they were thinking of the same thing: Of Albus Dumbledore's last moments. His pleas. Harry downed a large swig of his Firewhisky in one gulp, welcoming the burning sensation, anything to dull the ache. Narcissa, who had ignored her glass since she had set it down on the table, grabbed it off the table, took a small sip, was about to put it back, thought otherwise, and drank another sip before holding it between her trembling hands. Draco finally spoke, breaking the uneasy silence.
"You say that as if from experience," he said in a low voice, breaking Harry out of his painful thoughts.
"That's because he has. Drank from it, I mean." Narcissa seemed to have realized this but a silent tear slid down her pale face. If Harry hadn't been watching so closely, he wouldn't have noticed. He went on.
"Voldemort wanted an elf, something worthless and disposable in his eyes, to drink the potion in the basin so he could place his horcrux at the bottom of it. So he made Kreacher, the volunteered elf, drink the vile potion, placed the locket, and filled the basin with more of it. And he left. He just left Kreacher there to die."
"But, didn't you just say that Kreacher...?" Draco asked, perplexed.
"What Voldemort didn't count on was the magic a house elf possesses. Of course he wouldn't. After all, he believed that house elves were far beneath him," Harry said wryly.
"Then what happened?" Narcissa asked in her quiet voice.
"I ordered him to come home," Regulus said simply. Confusion swept over Draco's face before understanding dawned on his features. Narcissa nodded in understanding. Harry was surprised they had understood so quickly.
"So Kreacher came back...and told his master everything. I believe this is the time when Mrs. Malfoy believed Regulus had changed." Narcissa nodded, eyes glistening. "I'm not sure how, but Regulus Black found out about what was going on, and he found out fast."
"The Black family library possesses quite a few nasty books," Regulus said in a strained voice. Harry nodded. He took in a breath before he went on.
"He began acting oddly, trying to protect the ones he cared about," Harry said, looking meaningfully at Narcissa. Her lips trembled.
"Protect them from what?" Draco asked, worried about his mother's reaction.
"From the effects of what he was planning on doing. If he was caught or found out...things wouldn't have been pretty for the ones he loved," Harry paused, "He was planning to retrieve and destroy the horcrux."
Narcissa covered her mouth with her hand. Draco paled slightly. Harry chanced a worried glance at Narcissa and turned questioning eyes to her son.
"I'd like to stay and listen," she said softly, understanding Harry's behavior. Harry nodded. Draco looked worried. Regulus's eyes were narrowed in thought, trying to remember something. Something wasn't right...
"So one night, Regulus came to find Kreacher in his cupboard and ordered him to take him to the cave where the locket, where the Dark Lord had taken him. Once they were there, he produced a locket from his pocket, a locket similar to the one in the basin. He told Kreacher that, once the basin was empty, he was to switch the lockets." Narcissa was trembling all over now, a sheen of bright tears visible in her startling blue eyes.
Draco, alarmed, placed a hand around her shaking frame, holding her to him. "Mother?" Narcissa wordlessly shook her head. Harry understood.
Harry bit his lip. This was important, though. Regulus finally seemed to realize what was going on. He took one look at Narcissa and swiftly pushed out of his chair and was at her side, his arm rubbing her back soothingly. "Shh Cissa," he said, using his old nickname for her, "I'm right here, alright? I'm fine," he said quietly. Narcissa nodded, leaning into his embrace, finding comfort in his words. Draco finally understood.
"What happened next Potter?" Regulus slightly pulled away.
"I ordered Kreacher to leave without me, told him to never tell my family and loved ones what had happened to me. I told him that he had to destroy the first locket, no matter what. And then," he dragged in a ragged breath.
"You drank the potion- all of it," Harry said. Regulus flinched slightly. Narcissa was furiously wiping her eyes. Draco took in a sharp intake of breath, finally realizing the conclusion his mother had reached before it was spoken.
He was horrified.
"And," Harry continued, his voice slightly weaker. Sure he had heard this story from Kreacher not too long ago but then, it was just that: a story. Now, with Regulus standing before him, it was so much more painful. So much more real. It didn't help matters any that Regulus resembled his brother so much.
"This is the part that doesn't make any sense," he swallowed, looking at Regulus oddly. "He said he watched you get dragged beneath the water by the inferi, Regulus," Harry said softly.
Regulus's eyes were wide, his body entirely still. He hadn't even mentioned anything at Harry calling him "Regulus." All eyes were on him. He felt something gently nudge his leg. Pulled out of his reverie, he looked down and saw his glass, now filled with Firewhisky, hovering in mid-air. He looked up and saw Draco deliberately looking away, a hand in his right pocket. He grabbed the glass and poured the contents into his mouth, welcoming the burning sensation, wishing it to help get rid of the dull ache in his chest, the confusion in his mind. He barely felt anything.
Draco frowned, for some reason, seeing himself in the stranger before him for the second time that day. Regulus was shaking slightly. Draco cleared his throat. Harry immediately turned his attention to him, glad for an excuse, anything to break the silence.
"I think Black's tired. He's obviously not remembering anything and he definitely needs a break. I think that's enough for today. Mother and I are leaving. We'll...visit later," he said, already standing up, a hand outstretched towards his mother. She took one look at Regulus and nodded, agreeing with her son. She could see that he needed some time alone. She was reluctant to leave him, but she could see that it was necessary. She took hold of his hand and unsteadily got up. Harry awkwardly got up as well, an odd look on his face. He cast a look at Regulus, who didn't seem to notice. Draco, however, noticed his odd behavior. He lifted a brow in question. Harry smiled wryly.
"I'm considering where I should go for the night. I'm a bit...homeless at the moment," he said, his eyes touching Regulus. Narcissa looked startled, but understood quickly.
"Oh!" She hesitated, looking at her son uncertainly before turning back to Harry, "You are welcome to stay with us at the manor, if you'd like." Draco's eyes widened imperceptibly, but he said nothing, years of good breeding and manners wouldn't allow it. Harry was just as horrified with the offer as Draco was, but also slightly touched. He wasn't sure where else he could go, though...
As Narcissa moved to push her chair back in place, Regulus's gaze snapped to her. "Narcissa, where are my mother and father?"
"They've been gone for a long time, Regulus. Almost as long as you," she said softly. Regulus nodded as if he had expected as much, but Harry saw his hands tighten into fists at his sides. Regulus didn't know what to feel. They had not been the kindest parents, but they had been his parents nonetheless. He finally looked up, deciding not to feel anything at the moment.
"Narcissa can you- Would you stay for the night? With your lovely son, of course. You could even invite Lucius if you'd like," Regulus said, Narcissa being the only one who noticed the pleading edge to his otherwise collected voice.
The room's tension increased, a strained silence followed. Draco froze, an unidentifiable look on his face, his jaw taut. Harry looked away. Narcissa pretended not to have heard the last part of her cousin's request. Regulus sensed the tension, but wasn't sure why it was there, what had caused it. Was it something he'd said?
"What's wrong?" He asked, realizing the foolishness of his words only after they were said. What wasn't wrong would have been a better question to ask. He thought back to what he had said and asked quickly, "Is Lucius alright?" Draco's fists were clenched tightly by his side, his eyes on his mother. He looked as if he wanted to reach out for her and leave. Narcissa swallowed audibly, her quiet voice breaking the silence.
"Lucius is...he's not available at the moment," she said in a shaky voice, her eyes on Draco. Harry avoided meeting their gazes, not wanting to see their pain. He knew where Lucius Malfoy was; He was in Azkaban. He knew he shouldn't have felt guilty, but he couldn't help it. He knew that it was hardly his fault, or even up to him, but he still felt guilty. Narcissa went on as if everything was fine, as if her husband was simply on vacation. "I'd love to spend the night. I'm not sure if Draco would like to stay, but I'd appreciate it if you'd let Harry stay," she said, ignoring her son's murderous glances.
"Potter?" Regulus asked incredulously, his eyes landing on Harry. He looked at him as if he had already forgotten he was there. This caused Draco's anger to alleviate slightly. Regulus quickly amended, "Potter is welcome here for as long as he wishes to say," he said with a gracious nod in Harry's direction. Harry was touched, startled at how...amazing Narcissa Malfoy was.
"Thank you," he said in a fervent whisper to her before turning and thanking Regulus as well.
"As for your son, he is more than welcome here if he wishes to stay," he said, looking at Draco oddly. Draco shot his mother an incredulous look.
"I'm not going to just leave you here," he said. Narcissa smiled softly.
"Would you like me to show you to your rooms or-" Narcissa cut Regulus off.
"I think we can manage," she said kindly. "You should just to get some rest in your room-" her eyes flew to Harry's as something just occurred to her. Harry nodded once in assurance that his room was perfectly fine. In fact, Kreacher had cleaned it just recently, along with the rest of the house. "Perfect timing," he thought wryly. Narcissa Malfoy looked relieved. "You should go to your room and get some rest. You're probably exhausted. We have a long way ahead of us," she said kindly, her voice sad.
Suddenly a loud crack could be heard coming from the living room. Harry's eyes widened. He had forgotten about Kreacher! He quickly turned to Regulus. "Please, let me speak to Kreacher. He can't see you. Not like this, not after..." his voice trailed off. Regulus hesitated. Harry worried. There was no telling what Kreacher's would be if he saw his beloved master after so long, after he had thought him to be dead. Regulus finally nodded stiffly, realizing it was best.
"He listens to you?" he asked quietly. "Kreacher is required to listen to all Black family members, but you?" Harry nodded.
"It's a long story. I'll go and talk to him. Good night. And thank you," he said before sprinting up the stairs before Kreacher would come into the kitchen in search of "Master Potter."
Harry saw Kreacher straightening the cushion that Draco had been sitting on in what seemed a long time ago. "Kreacher," Harry said. Kreacher turned around and bowed so low that the golden locket around his neck dragged onto the floor.
"Master Potter, Kreacher is back. Kreacher saw-"
"That's not important. I have two very important guests over and they're spending the night here. I'd like you to make them feel as at home as possible. They've done me a great favor by staying here. Is that understood?" Kreacher nodded and he could tell by his carefully polite expression that he had assumed that Ron and Hermione were his "special guests." "Now, before I introduce you, I also wanted to ask you to leave my floor alone for a while. No matter what." Kreacher looked at him oddly before nodding.
"Yes Master Potter. Kreacher will avoid the top floor." Harry nodded his approval.
"As for our guests," he said, "I'm not sure if you've met before but I'm quite sure you have met at least one of them. And you should recognize the other," Harry said, remembering the time in sixth year when he had asked Kreacher and Dobby to spy on Draco Malfoy. Kreacher looked startled. "I want you to stay here until I call you, alright?"
"Of course." Harry nodded before heading into the kitchen to grab a glass of water. He idly wondered which room Narcissa and Draco Malfoy had gone to. When he stepped into the kitchen, though, he saw Narcissa sitting in one of the kitchen chairs, her hands clasped together . Draco was pacing without really realizing he was doing so. He stopped at the sound of Harry's footsteps, his eyes on him.
"I thought you had gone... er...guess not," Harry said. Narcissa Malfoy smiled in understanding while the younger Malfoy looked like he was holding back a snarky comment. "I...wanted to thank you for...for everything," Harry said awkwardly, turning his back to them as he filled a glass with water. He finally turned around, propping his elbows on the sink behind him. He took a swig of the glass, enjoying the feeling of the cool water easing his dry throat. He awkwardly cleared his throat. "Er...Kreacher?" Draco was looking at Harry with raised brows, wondering if Potter had finally lost his mind. He opened his mouth to say so when, with another loud crack, a figure appeared before Harry, his back to Draco. Harry stood up straight. "Kreacher, these are my guests," he said, gesturing to Draco and Narcissa Malfoy, "I want you to-"
When Kreacher turned around, Harry stopped, looking weary. Before Draco could raise a questioning brow at Harry, Kreacher burst out, bowing ridiculously low.
"Master Malfoy! What a pleasure! Master Malfoy. Here! As Master Potter's guest! Oh, Kreacher would be most honored!" Draco Malfoy was beginning to look terrified. Harry smiled wryly. "And," Kreacher looked up and gasped, "Mistress Black!" Draco thought he was mistaken, but were those tears in his eyes?
"Oh Mistress Black it is so good to finally see you here again!" Narcissa Malfoy smiled softly, but Harry could see that it was a bit strained. Narcissa Malfoy was feeling a bit weary, what with all the memories she had relived. So many things were washing over her...
"Kreacher would be most honored to serve you both. Please, allow Kreacher to show you to your rooms!" Kreacher said excitedly. Draco looked slightly frightened.
"Good night," Harry said to their retreating backs. Narcissa Malfoy turned around to respond.
"Good night," she said. It seemed like all she could say. Draco looked as if he was just fine leaving without a word but gave a quick nod in Harry's direction before following.
All the while, much to Draco's discomfort, Kreacher had been muttering to himself. Draco could only catch bits and pieces of it. "Ecstatic...Mistress Black...Black Manor...Master...Malfoy..."
Harry rubbed his palm warily over his face. Narcissa was right; They had a lot to do, there was a long way to go.
Narcissa Malfoy was walking down the hallway, the tips of her fingers gently brushing the walls as she passed. She couldn't believe that she was here again. The memories were almost too painful to bear.
"Here we are, Mistress Black," Kreacher said. "This room should be suitable for you, I presume. I'm assuming that Master Malfoy would like a separate place to retire?" Kreacher asked, turning to Draco.
"Yes, Kreacher," Draco said. He thought he saw Kreacher's eyes fill up once more and didn't know what he had done wrong.
"Right this way Master Malfoy," Kreacher said with obvious adoration in his voice. He turned around to face Narcissa. "Should Mistress need anything, feel free to call Kreacher," he said, bowing low before leaving. Draco turned around and glanced at his mother.
"Goodnight mother," he said, voice soft. Narcissa walked towards him and threw her arms around her son.
"Goodnight, my Draco," she said quietly. Draco wrapped her small frame in his and squeezed gently.
"I'll be nearby, alright?" She nodded before reluctantly letting him go. Draco placed a soft kiss on her forehead before leaving, letting the door shut behind him quietly.
He saw Kreacher waiting a little ways away, mumbling about something or another. Draco couldn't help but sneer. Potter's house, everything, was old and somehow...messed up.
"Master Malfoy," Kreacher said, bowing. Draco only then noticed the golden locket around the elf's neck when it caught the light. Was it the same? The one that Potter and Regulus had been talking about? Draco decided to find out later.
He followed Kreacher into a spacious room. A large bed lay in the middle, a bedside table lying next to it. A slightly ajar door showed an empty closet. Draco Malfoy's lips curled in distaste as he realized that he had nothing to change into.
"Is Master displeased?" Kreacher asked, sounding hurt. Draco realized that Kreacher hadn't left yet.
"No, it's fine. I'll call if I need anything," Draco said, dismissing the elf. The house elf looked slightly crestfallen but, with another quick bow, he quickly left the room.
Draco sat down on the bed, dragging a hand through his hair. This was going to be a long night. And this was just the beginning.
Regulus Black was pacing in his room, unable to sink into the comfort of sleep. His room looked the same as always, but that was probably the only thing that felt right, and he wasn't even sure about his room. Something felt...off. For some reason, he felt absolutely exhausted, although he felt...odd. As if he had been asleep for a very long time. He realized that a lot of the noise in the house had died down. So they were settled. He walked back to his bed, slipping under the covers, hoping to get some sleep; He had a long way to go.
[A/N]: Please review, you have no idea how much it means to me. Feel free to criticize! What did you guys really think?