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Chapter 26 : Guilt
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Harry entered the Gryffindor common room and smiled to himself when he saw the curled up form on the couch by the fire. Ginny had been waiting up for him to return when she fell asleep. Harry sat down carefully and stroked her hair softly. Ginny stirred and opened her eyes. She smiled when she saw Harry looking down at her.
“I fell asleep again, didn’t I?” she said as she sat up straight.
“Yeah. You really don’t have to wait up for me, you know.” Harry said, even though he knew better. He knew Ginny never wanted to go to bed until she had seen him.
Ginny merely shrugged at his last statement. “So, Jacinta will live with you and Sirius then?” she asked.
Harry nodded. “She already told you?”
“She told all of us.” Ginny laughed. “Well, me, Ron, Hermione and the twins at least.”
Harry smiled. “She seemed really happy about it.”
“Of course she did!” Ginny said. “She’ll finally have a home. A real home.”
“Well, it’s not exactly the brightest home.” Harry grinned. “I wonder how Sirius and Lupin are getting on with the redecorating.”
The two Marauders were planning to renovate Grimmauld Place by the time Harry would return for the summer.
Ginny laughed. “Mum wrote me about it. She’s helping them, but I think she didn’t know what she was getting into. I think Lupin is fine, but Sirius has horrible taste apparently.”
“I can imagine.” Harry laughed.
“So how was Dumbledore?” Ginny asked when they were done laughing. “Did you guys think of anything new for the last two… you know?”
Harry looked around the common room quickly. Although it was empty except for them, he casted a quick Muffliato charm before he answered.
“He still doesn’t think Voldemort found relics of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, but we think we know what one of the remaining two is.”
“Nagini?” Ginny asked surprised. “That’s his snake, isn’t it? Why would he do that?”
Harry shrugged. “Because he’s a Parselmouth, I think.” he said. “He inherited the ability to talk to snakes from Slytherin himself, so it would be a powerful symbol for him.”
Ginny nodded slowly. “You may be right.”
She stretched out on the couch again and Harry cuddled next to her, hugging her from behind.
“Are you smelling my hair?” she said after a few minutes.
“Maybe.” Harry mumbled and she laughed. He loved the smell of her hair. It always made him think of carefree summer days at the Burrow.
Ginny turned around on the couch so she would face Harry. She cupped the right side of his face with her left hand. “I love you, Harry.” she said softly.
“I love you too.” Harry muttered. He gave her a soft kiss on the lips.
“Will Dumbledore really take you with him then? When he tries to get hold of a Horcrux?”
Harry nodded. “He said he would.”
“It could be dangerous.” Ginny said.
“Perhaps.” Harry said slowly. “But I’ll have Dumbledore with me. I’ll be fine.”
“That’s just the beginning though.” Ginny said softly. “The Horcruxes. Even if you can destroy all of them, you will still have to beat him.”
“Better not to think about that too much.” Harry said.
“But I have no choice, Harry.” Ginny said more loudly now. “I can’t help but think about it. I think about it all the time.”
Harry pulled Ginny towards him and she buried her face in his shoulder. He felt Ginny crying against him, something that didn’t happen often.
“I can’t lose you, Harry”, she muttered. “Not now I know how it is to finally be with you.”
Harry hugged her silently until she had calmed down and then said: “Look, Ginny. I can’t promise you that we will all see the end of this mess, no one can. But I can promise you one thing. I will do everything I can to stop him, whatever it may take. But I will also do everything I can to come back to you, so we can have a future together.”
Ginny looked up at him silently.
“That’s why we’re doing it.” Harry continued. “That’s why we can’t just stand by and let others do the work. That’s why we have to fight. Because none of us can ever think of a future as long as Voldemort is alive.”
When Harry woke up the next morning, he instantly realized they had fallen asleep together again. Harry looked at Ginny’s peaceful face for a few moments until someone nearby cleared their throat. Harry jumped. He had thought they were still alone in the common room. He sat up and saw his godfather sitting in an armchair nearby, watching him with raised eyebrows.
“We fell asleep last night.” Harry said quickly. “We didn’t… Nothing happened or anything.”
Sirius grinned. “Well I had guessed if you chose to take your relationship a step further you would have found a more appropriate place for that.”
“It’s nothing like that.” Harry said.
“Relax, Harry. I know it’s not.” Sirius laughed. “We never had that talk, did we? Maybe we should do that soon.”
To his consternation Sirius seemed to mean the last part.
“What are you doing here anyway?”, he quickly asked before Sirius could start to tell him everything about the birds and the bees.
Ginny started to stir on the couch and slowly opened her eyes.
“Who are you talking to, sweetie?” she mumbled.
“To me, pumpkin.” Sirius said dryly.
“Sirius! What are you doing here?”
“I was just about to say.” Sirius grinned. “Dumbledore sent me a Patronus this morning, asking me to meet him as soon as possible and to bring you, Harry.”
Harry looked stunned. “Why? Is it about Jacinta?”
“No idea.” Sirius admitted. “But we’d better go and see now. See you later, cutie pie!” he called to Ginny as he followed Harry through the portrait hole.
The scatter pillow missed him only by an inch.
Harry entered Dumbledore’s office with Sirius in his wake.
“Good morning, Professor.” Harry said politely.
Only then he saw that there was another man in the room. He seemed to be around Sirius’ age and he looked slightly familiar to Harry. Dumbledore and the man were both looking very pale and had heavy bags under their eyes, as if they hadn’t slept at all that night. Harry turned to Sirius, ready to exchange a clueless look, but his godfather was staring at the stranger with wide eyes.
“This isn’t possible.” he muttered.
“Hello, Sirius.” the stranger said. His voice trembled slightly.
Sirius plumped down into one of the chairs in front of Dumbledore’s desk.
“How?” he asked.
“It’s a long story.” the stranger said.
“What the hell is going on?” Harry asked urgently. “Sorry, sir.” he added quickly when he realized what he had said, but Dumbledore smiled at him.
“Maybe you should sit down too, Harry.” he said. “It is indeed a long story and I think you should both here it.”
“Who are you?” Harry asked the stranger.
The man turned to him and said: “My name is Regulus.”
The name was certainly familiar, but he couldn’t place it immediately.
“Regulus Black.” the stranger added.
An image of the Black family tapestry flashed before his eyes and he remembered what Sirius had told him about his family. He also realized where he recognized Regulus from. He looked very much like his mother.
“You’re Sirius’ brother?” he asked dumbfounded. He looked at Sirius who was still frozen in his seat. “But didn’t you – I mean – weren’t you…”
“Dead?” Regulus said and for the first time a hint of a smile appeared on his face. “Yes, that’s what I wanted people to believe.”
He turned to Sirius and said solemnly: “I am really sorry, brother. I owe you an explanation.”
“I would think so.” Sirius grumbled. “Why don’t you start with the time you decided to join the Death Eaters!”
Regulus nodded. “I know that came as a shock to you. We may have had very different believes back then, but you knew I didn’t agree with the methods Voldemort used. I never dreamed of joining him.”
“Then why did you do it?” Sirius asked.
“Because I found out Voldemort’s secret.”
Harry quickly glanced at Dumbledore who nodded almost unnoticeably.
“It was at the wedding reception of Lucius and Narcissa.” Regulus continued. “We were in the garden of Malfoy Manor – me, Lucius, Narcissa and Bellatrix. Lucius was bragging about something of extreme importance Voldemort had given him to keep safe. I must admit I was quite curious and I persuaded him to show it to me.”
“The diary.” Harry said.
“Indeed.” Regulus said with a short nod in Harry’s direction. “I recognized it immediately for what it was.”
“How did you recognize a Horcrux?” Sirius asked.
“You know about the Horcruxes?” Harry asked surprised.
"I informed a few select members of the Order about the Horcruxes after our last meeting." Dumbledore explained.
“This is all really confusing.” Harry grumbled and Dumbledore smiled.
“So, how did you recognize it?” Sirius insisted. “You weren’t planning on – “
“No of course I wasn’t!” Regulus said firmly. “But I had come across the term once when I was reading and I admit that it quite intrigued me. I asked our father and he knew everything about it. But I would never sink to such low deeds, you must know that.”
Sirius looked at him sceptically and shrugged. “Then why would you keep quiet?” he asked. “You knew I had joined the Order of the Phoenix after I left Hogwarts. You could have told me and then Dumbledore would have known.”
“I didn’t trust anyone, Sirius.” Regulus stated. “I knew Dumbledore had spies among the Death Eaters and Voldemort had spies within the Order. I think you can imagine what would have happened to our family if Voldemort heard from one of his inside men I told Dumbledore about his greatest secret.”
Sirius sighed. “And you thought the next best thing would be joining him?”
“I thought that it would place me in a position to find out more. And I did. I found out about at least three other Horcruxes. One of them is in my possession.”
“What are they?” Harry asked eagerly. “Which one do you have?”
Regulus gestured to Dumbledore and the latter opened the top drawer of his desk. He pulled out an old golden locket with a snake-like S on the front.
“Slytherin’s locket!” Harry said. “Where did you find it?”
“It was hidden in a cave somewhere up north.” Regulus said.
“A cave.” Harry mused. He turned to Dumbledore. “Was it – “
“The same.” Dumbledore nodded.
“The protection was rather effective.” Regulus continued. “It would have been my death if it weren’t for Kreacher. He apparated me away when I was attacked by Inferi.”
“Kreacher?” Harry asked involuntarily.
“He was our house elf back when we were kids.” Sirius explained. “Nasty piece of work, he was.”
“What happened to him anyway?” Regulus asked.
“He died.” Sirius said. “Right before I moved back into Grimmauld Place, by the looks of it. I think he might have seen it coming that I’d return.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Regulus said.
“Yeah, you would be.” Sirius grumbled.
“So you had found the locket.” Harry said. “What were the other two you knew off?”
“Firstly, there’s his snake, Nagini.” Regulus said. “I can’t be one hundred per cent sure of that one, but Voldemort has an unusual control over her, even for a Parselmouth. The only logical explanation seemed to me that a piece of his soul resided within her body. But Dumbledore told me you already thought of that too.” He nodded to Harry again. “I am afraid I never got the chance to kill the beast though.”
“What about the other one?” Sirius asked.
“Yes you have not told me about that one either.” Dumbledore said.
“Well I don’t really know what it is exactly, except that it once belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw. It’s supposed to be hidden here somewhere.”
“What do you mean, here?” Harry asked. “Here in the castle?”
“At Hogwarts, yes.”
Harry looked at Dumbledore. All this time they had been discussing places of significance to Voldemort, but they had never thought of Hogwarts.
“But how did he get it here?” Sirius asked. “Surely, this was a long time after he graduated. And you don’t simply walk into Hogwarts.”
“Of course…” Dumbledore said. “Voldemort visited me all those years ago to ask for a job. I was certain that he knew I would never hire him, but he still came. I was convinced he had a reason, but I never found out…”
“So now you did.” Regulus said.
“You have to explain one more thing to me, Regulus.” Sirius said after a long silence. “I believe everything you told us, but why did you disappear. Why did you make everyone believe you were dead. If you were really opposing him, than there was no reason to hide after he disappeared, was there?”
“Lucius and Narcissa caught me when I was trying to steal the diary from Malfoy Manor.” Regulus explained. “I knew my game was over. Once Voldemort heard about it, he would know and he would be able to use other measures to maintain his immortality. I narrowly escaped, but I knew I had to flee the country. I went into hiding in Belgium for a long time. I didn’t return when Voldemort fell, because I knew the Malfoys had talked their way out of Azkaban as expected and our cousin Bellatrix hadn’t been caught yet either. We both know what she’d like to do to me now that I betrayed her master.”
Sirius nodded grimly.
“I only returned briefly once to ask Kreacher to spread the rumour that I had been killed by Voldemort himself shortly before his downfall.” Regulus continued. “That way I was sure our family would be left alone by the remaining Death Eaters and Voldemort wasn’t there to contradict the rumours.”
“Why didn’t you ever contact me?” Sirius asked.
“The whole world thought you had changed sides shortly before Voldemort disappeared.” Regulus said. “And I was silly enough to believe them. Probably more evidence of how little we knew each other.”
Sirius nodded slowly. “You seem a different man than you were before.”
“I am.” Regulus said. “I have learned a lot over the past years and I see now how insignificant lineage and origins really are. I know we had a lot of problems in the past, Sirius, but I hope we can get that behind us now.”
He held out his hand and after shortly hesitating Sirius shook it.
Dumbledore seemed extremely pleased about the reunion of the Black brothers. “Alright.” he said after a few silent moments. “We finally have a Horcrux in our possession. I think it is about time we got rid of it, don’t you?”
They all nodded. Suddenly Harry realized that despite the fact that he and Dumbledore had talked about the Horcuxes for hours together, they never really discussed this point. “Er, how?” he asked.
“Pardon me?” Dumbledore said politely.
“How are we going to destroy it? It won’t be as easy as just to smash it, will it?”
“Oh no, certainly not.” Dumbledore agreed. “But surely, you remember how you destroyed Tom Riddle’s diary in the Chamber of Secrets, Harry?”
“I stabbed it with a Basilisk fang.” Harry said slowly.
“Indeed you did. Basilisk venom is one of the few substances that can destroy a Horcrux.”
“Do you mean we have to go down there?” Harry asked.
He knew there wasn’t any danger anymore in the Chamber as the Basilisk had been killed, but it wasn’t a place he fancied to visit anytime soon.
“Heavens no.” Dumbledore chuckled. “Although that might be a solution for the future when we have no other choice. But for now, I think we can use this.”
He walked over to the wall and took down the sword of Godric Gryffindor.
“The sword?” Harry asked puzzled.
“Yes.” Dumbledore said simply.
“I don’t understand.”
“That’s the sword you killed the Basilisk with, isn’t it?” Sirius asked as he was looking at the sword in awe.
“Of course...” Regulus said. “The sword is Goblin-made, I guess?”
Dumbledore nodded encouragingly.
“Then it should work”, Regulus agreed.
“Sorry, what does the fact that it’s made by Goblins have to do with it?” Harry asked.
“Metal that has been forged by Goblins repels all substances” Dumbledore explained. “Therefore the sword never needs to be polished or anything of the sort. Dirt and rust don’t have any influence on it.”
“There are some substances that it would absorb. In general, anything that makes it stronger.”
Harry was speechless for a moment, but then he understood. “The sword’s impregnated with the Basilisk venom!”
“Exactly.” Dumbledore said. “And therefore I would think it is capable of destroying Horcruxes.”
He walked over to a three-legged table by the window and put the locket on it.
“Who would like to do the honours?”
Regulus and Sirius looked at each other briefly.
“I’ll do it.” Sirius said.
He took the sword from Dumbledore, lifted it above his head and struck the locket. Except he didn’t.
“I can’t touch it.” Sirius frowned as he was seemingly probing the air surrounding the locket.
“Of course.” Dumbledore said. “It has to be opened.”
“I tried that.” Regulus said. “Dozens of times. It won’t budge.”
“No, it would not." Dumbledore said slowly. “I think there’s only one way to open it.”
“How?” Sirius asked impatiently.
“We will simply have to ask it to. In Parseltongue.”
“Well, we’re screwed then." Regulus said. “The only known Parselmouth alive is Voldemort and he’s not bloody likely to help us, is he.”
“You forget who’s with us." Sirius grinned and he looked at Harry. Regulus looked at him disbelievingly.
Harry looked intensely at the snake-like S on the locket and imagined it to be a real snake.
“Open.” he said with a low hissing sound. The locket clicked open and Sirius stepped forward with the sword ready.
A terrified scream came out of the locket. Harry felt his insides turn to ice. He knew that scream. He had heard it hundreds of times in his dreams or when he was near Dementors, when he was forced to relive the last moments of his parents’ lives.
Sirius paled as he stared at the locket. “Lily.” he muttered.
“Don’t wait, Sirius. Stab it!” Regulus said firmly, but Sirius was staring as if he was in a trance at the two figures that rose out of the windows of the locket.
“Why did you kill us?” the form of James said, but he spoke with the voice of Tom Riddle.
“I – I didn’t.” Sirius stammered.
“You told us to change Secret Keepers.” the Riddle-Lily said. “You told us to choose him. You murdered us.”
“I thought we were best friends, but you couldn’t even do that for us when we were in danger.” the Riddle-James continued. “You could have kept us safe. You could have saved us. But you killed us instead. Murderer.”
“Murderer.” the Riddle-Lily repeated with a high unnatural voice. “Traitor!”
With an agonizing scream Sirius forced the sword into the locket. One last shriek and the Horcrux was destroyed. Harry looked at his godfather. He was white as a sheet and he had tears in his eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Harry.” Sirius said. “But it’s true. I did kill them.”
He collapsed into a chair and put a trembling hand before his eyes. Harry sat down beside him.
“It’s been almost fifteen years and still not a day goes by that I don’t think about what I should have done differently back then. If I had used my brains your parents would still be alive today and you wouldn’t have this horrible burden to bear.”
“I don’t blame you.” Harry said. “You told me what happened the first night I met you and I have never blamed you for it. And neither do they. Those weren’t real. It was just one of Voldemort's sick, twisted tricks.”
Harry looked at his headmaster. Dumbledore was as white as a sheet too.
“I have made many mistakes back then too, Sirius.” he said. “And it’s keeping me awake just as much as it does you, I think. But we cannot live in the past. They have moved on. And so should we.”
“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world” – Mercedes Lackey
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