The Heir and a Spare – 6/6 – SASundance

Title: The Heir and a Spare
Author: SASundance
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Family, Hurt/Comfort, Tragedy
Relationship(s): Gen
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Incest, Torture, Violence – Graphic, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, Cousin Incest, Discussion of canon related under-aged sex and pregnancies, Suicidality of a character, Insanity, Infertility issues, Linebreeding, Very dark themes, Rape and torture of victims, Child abuse, Bigotry and ignorance, War and cults, misogyny, dubcon, misunderstanding of genetics.
Author Notes: If you are likely to be triggered, please take warnings seriously. There is a lot of dark content in this one. It is a story of war, hate and vengeance. Please see main story page or post 1 for additional information. Author uses British spelling.
Word Count: 177,000
Summary: It was clear to Lord Arcturus Black, Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Black that the most powerful pureblood family in Britain faced the prospect of line extinction within the next few generation. Unless the decline in birth rates, fertility, magic, and longevity wasn’t arrested soon, it would be too late. He came up with a unique solution to his problem, never realising that it would make it possible for the House of Black to defeat an existential threat to the magical and muggle world. But that victory would come at considerable cost to the family, in particular to his heir and the spare.
Artist: librarycat9



Part Six:  Heroes and Horcruxes

Chapter 39

8th October 1979

Regulus Black was waiting for his house-elf, Kreacher to return. Together they had come to the sea cave where Kreacher and Lord Voldemort had gone earlier to hide Slytherin Salazar’s locket which was where Voldemort had chosen to hide the despicable Horcrux he’d created. He’d returned with his house elf to steal back the priceless artefact that he corrupted it for his personal use by premeditatedly killed an innocent to create a container for part of his soul to reside in so he couldn’t die.

As a son of the House of Black, Regulus sense of propriety was deeply violated, not only by the presence of a Horcrux, which was one of the darkest foulest acts of magic. It was also his choice of Salazar Slytherin’s locket, which he defiled to use as a vessel to house a part of his soul to ensure immortality which incensed the young Death Eater. Regulus knew that the only way to destroy the Horcrux was to also destroy the piece of priceless magical history.

After they’d stolen it tonight, he’d ordered Kreacher to destroy the locket as the magic within it was too wicked, too evil to permit it to exist. Even though destroying the locket was sacrilegious, it must be done. He did not doubt that his loyal old house-elf would do what he asked of him; Kreacher was intensely loyal to him and wouldn’t let him down. Just as Regulus knew that he’d also obey his master’s orders not to tell anyone where he was, except he’d shocked him by disobeying his order.

He’d ordered his elf to leave him here, he told Kreacher that it was necessary to keep his family safe from Voldemort’s wrath but that was not the whole truth. Lately, he’d been facing the increasingly unpalatable truth that Voldemort was not the saviour of the wizarding world he purported himself to be. Regulus fought hard, not wanting to admit that he’d been deceived, that Sirius was not a blasphemer, that his brother and his Great Aunt Cassie had been telling Regulus the truth from the very beginning.

Lord Voldemort, who he’d sworn his allegiance to, who he’d killed and tortured wizards, witches, and muggles for, was nothing more than a fake. A murderous, cruel but insanely powerful wizard who cared about nothing but power and revenge. Regulus had fought so damned hard not to see the truth but tonight, oh Merlin’s Mother, he could no longer keep up the pretence.

In the two years since Regulus had taken the dark mark, he had reluctantly come to see Lord Voldemort as a monster who would destroy everything and everyone who got in his way to gain power at all costs. Regulus had worked his way up the ranks, along with his lover (Rabastan Lestrange who he’d been madly in love with) until they were both a part of his inner circle. He’d been inordinately proud when they joined Lucius Malfoy, Rodolphus Lestrange (Rab’s brother), Bellatrix Lestrange (Regulus’ insane cousin), the incestuous Carrow Twins (who rivalled Bella in the sick fucker stakes) and his mentor and friend at Hogwarts, Severus Snape as Lord Voldemort’s most trusted lieutenants.

Some of the shit Lord Voldemort had asked him to do or to turn a blind eye to had turned his stomach and forced him to question who he’d become. There were days when he thought that he couldn’t take it anymore, yet somehow, Regulus found a way to justify his morally repugnant actions, often after he’d made love to Rab, who he loved beyond rhyme or reason.

Tonight though, Regulus Arcturus Black was forced to confront the brutal reality, to finally acknowledged what he’d been hiding from for years. He, like his lover Rabastan and all his friends, his family who’d supported Voldemort and all of the other pureblood dumb fucks who’d believed in what he’d promised were all just a bunch of cold-blooded killers. They had been duped by a liar, a mass murderer, and a lunatic.

As he lay there on the island wishing the death would take him, Black admitted to himself that Voldemort would kill every one of them without turning a hair if he thought it would advance his agenda. The facts were that Voldemort and his Death Eaters had killed quite a lot of purebloods, and no, that was not counting the so-called blood traitors in Albus Dumbledore’s pathetic army of followers that he’d named The Order of the Phoenix, either.

Voldemort sometimes killed or maimed his own Death Eaters if they in some way drew his ire, even  if it was over the pettiest of transgression or even on one occasion, because he was bored. Voldemort was cruel and it was obvious that he got off on hurting people. If it wasn’t his enemy, then one of his own would do if it meant he could satisfy his lust for pain, fear, or death.

It wasn’t until tonight that Regulus finally recognised the painfully obvious truth. Voldemort cared naught for any living creature, except himself – and just maybe his familiar, Nagini but if he did, it was only because he saw the snake as an extension of himself. No one else truly mattered to him although he was affectionate with Bella, probably because she worshipped him and allowed herself to be used as a fuck toy, used, and abused at the Dark Lord’s convenience. Black did not want to think about how neither one had any shame; Voldemort would take her regularly in front of his most inner circle.

Rabastan had told him how he’d demanded her attention several times even as Bella and his brother had been having sex, trying to create an heir to the House of Lestrange which Rodolphus Lestrange Sr had desired. One time Voldemort barged in right when Rodolphus had been just about to come, to tell her he wanted to fuck her right now, and she’d leapt to do his bidding while Rab’s brother was left to jerk off. On another occasion, Bella and Voldemort had sex in front of his brother and Voldemort had Cruciated him for his disrespectful expression.

Regulus had been shocked by the story, naturally, but mostly he’d just been relieved that the Dark Lord wasn’t attracted to wizards, specifically his wizard, because Regulus didn’t think he could share Rabastan. Not even with Lord Voldemort!

It was uncaring of him, but Reg was just now seeing that after two years of a war against the blood traitors, half-bloods and muggle-born, he’d become increasingly indifferent to torture and taking life. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he didn’t care that their glorious leader was cock blocking one of his most trusted lieutenants who also just happened to be his lover’s brother, and Regulus’ friend. In the scheme of things, he’d managed to rationalise a lot worse than that since he was recruited. Sure, it was personally offensive, but it was also a rather minor point when compared to rape, torture, and mass murder.

In his new mood of introspection, lying unable to move, the distraught wizard knew that if it had only been the revelation of the Horcrux (as heinous as that news was) it was quite possible he’d have found a way to justify it though, just as he’d done with every other damned atrocity he’d committed in Voldemort’s name or watched Voldemort and his Death Eaters carry out.

No, what had completely and irrevocably tipped him over the edge, finally and brought him to his senses, had been nearly losing his beloved house-elf Kreacher.

~o0o~

Earlier that day he, along with Bella and Malfoy been summoned to the Dark Lord’s chamber for individual audiences with him and his creepy familiar Nagini. Bella, as his favourite when first and he and Lucius waited outside in the hallway of the muggle mansion, where their headquarters were. It wasn’t quite a castle, but it also wasn’t far off it either, plus there were plenty of well-appointed rooms to house his most loyal of followers.

Of course, the comfort levels of his lieutenants and his Death Eater troops didn’t greatly concern Lord Voldemort but the fact that it had plenty of what had once been dungeons, but had in recent times, been converted into a storage area for wine and produce did though. It was a minor inconvenience to convert them back into dungeons to house his enemies, along with the regular supply of muggles that he had his Death Eaters abduct for him.

Regulus tried not to think about those muggles. Some of them were tortured and killed quite quickly, although often very painfully but others remained captive for months, particularly if they were pretty. Voldemort was a sadist who had a nearly insatiable sex drive and would expect Bella or any other female in residence to service his needs day or night. When in a good mood, Voldemort would frequently cast the Imperius curse on pretty muggle females to make them have sex with him, sometimes more than one muggle at a time.

When he was angry, which was quite a lot, he would curse his victims with a Body-Binding spell and then he would use them most foully. It wasn’t uncommon for the muggle females to kill themselves or to just stop eating or drinking and die after being forced to have sexual intercourse with the Dark Lord. If he were being perfectly honest, Regulus would probably have reacted the same way too after being used like that too.

Then there were the pretty muggle men. No one was permitted to touch the females on pain of death, but the muggle men were given to Voldemort’s minions as rewards when he was pleased with them. Not that Regulus ever participated, he was sickened at the thought and of course, he was in a loving relationship with Rabastan; he had no desire to seek out sex with muggles, no matter how beautiful they might be, any more than he would want to have sex with a female. Nor did he understand why wizards who were ‘ostensibly straight’ like Lucius would be so eager to fuck a muggle male. Unless they were bi?

It had come as a terrible shock when he discovered that Rabastan had been cheating on him, having sex with muggle men. Regulus was so damned hurt – he thought that they loved each other, and he’d believed that their love would last through the ages. He tried not to think about Aunt Cassie’s advice that schoolyard crushes rarely went the distance unless it was a political union or a marriage of convenience. He cringed recalling his foolish schoolboy rebuttal.

“Our love is pure. We’ve pledged to be together forever.”

Cassie had looked at him pityingly and said, “For your heart’s sake, Regulus, I hope you are right.

Oh Merlin, what a fool he’d been.

He’d confronted Rab in a jealous rage about him being unfaithful, and his wizard had laughed at his naivety.

“Fucking those muggle vermin isn’t about sex, my love. It is about feeling powerful. Forcing them to suck me or take my dick into them against their will makes them feel like the worthless pieces of shit that they are, and it makes me feel like I can conquer the world. If it were all about sexual desire, why would Lucius and the others want to do it every chance they get. They’re straight wizards and some like Malfoy are married. They have beautiful witches they can fuck whenever they want to.”

Regulus felt conflicted. Jealousy rippled through him, along with relief that it wasn’t that Rab wasn’t attracted to him. Plus, there was a dubious explanation about why his straight associates enjoyed raping muggle males. Yet there was also doubt, doubt that perhaps if he were better looking (like his brother, Sirius) would his lover still chosen to bury himself in another man’s hole?  There was doubt that it was perfectly normal for straight wizards to enjoy having sex, even non-consensual sex with other males if he, a gay wizard would not dream of raping a female muggle and getting off on it. And still the jealousy, tinged with fear.

“What if you catch something from them, Rab?”

His lover had hugged him passionately. “Do not worry, my lover. We use a muggle device called a comdum that protects us, so we won’t catch anything from them,” he assured him before initiating sex by magically getting them both naked.

It had reassured him at the time, especially since his lover had given him several orgasms but he still felt uncomfortable when he saw evidence of the muggles non-consensual sex; the Death Eaters and Voldemort weren’t exactly gentle with them. Many men chose to kill themselves.

When he’d attempted to communicate his fears and ambivalence about Rab forcing the muggle men to have sex, Rabastan had shaken his head. Would you be jealous if I were having sex with goats like that old fool Aberforth Dumbledore, the barkeep at the Hogs Head in Hogsmeade?

Regulus stared at him in horror. “Of course not.”

“Well, muggles are really just clever animals, Reg. You have no cause to feel jealous,” he’d assured him fervently.

All this flittered through his mind as he and his cousin Narcissa’s husband and Voldemort’s aide de camp leant back against the cold stone wall and waited to be called in to see the Dark Lord. Bella had been in there an awfully long time and it didn’t require any imagination to figure out what was going on inside. Especially when Bella kept screaming instructions that left little to the imagination.  It seemed that she liked to be fucked by him with his dick and his wand simultaneously.

Lucius remained discreetly silent through their multiple sexual acts, even if he had an expression on his aristocratic features that suggested he was smelling something highly offensive. Although now he came to think about it, he often wore that same look, only today it was more pronounced.

When Bella finally exited Voldemort’s room, she had lips that were swollen and white threads of liquid that Reg didn’t want to think about, were drooling down her chin. Her hair was mussed, and her clothes were partially open, revealing more of his cousin’s body than he ever desired to see. He focused on the cloth bag she carried which contained some sort of silverware – maybe a cup inside before she disappeared down the corridor and out of sight.

Their Dark Lord called Lucius in next and thankfully his audience with Voldemort was much briefer. Probably no more than fifteen minutes later, he exited, shoving an old tatty looking book inside of his immaculate robes which bore the crest of the Malfoy family on his breast.

He looked at Regulus unblinkingly but with a faint air of distaste, saying, “Lord Voldemort will see you now,” before tapping his cane on the stone floor twice and gliding away. The Malfoys, like the Blacks, were schooled to move with elegance and grace and Lucius had learnt his lessons well, somehow it lent him a menacing air.

Entering Voldemort’s chamber er study (if you could call it a study when there was a freakin big gold throne in the middle of it) he was greeted by the Dark Lord. He tried to ignore the over liberal use of gold upholstery and furnishings, along with the copious amounts of reflective surfaces where Voldemort could look at himself. He also tried to squelch the insolent thought that if he looked like Lord Voldemort did, the last thing he’d be interested in would be staring at his own reflection constantly, because Voldemort was a master Legilimens. He had no desire to be crucio’d.

Regulus bowed low. “You wished to see me, my Lord?”

“Regulus Black,” Voldemort nodded, his voice sounding breathy and emphasised the sibilant ‘S’ in his name with a hissing sound a little like a snake. “I am pleased with your service to me since you swore your allegiance to me. Like dear Bellatrix and Lucius, my faithful aide de camps, I require your help in a most delicate matter.”

“Of course, Lord Voldemort, anything.” He’d replied like a sycophant, wondering if the hissing was a speech impediment or affectation.

“Excellent! I require your loyal servant; I believe you call him Kreacher. Call him here immediately.”

Regulus regretted responding that he would do anything. He loved his old house-elf and was ecstatic when he turned up with a letter from his grandfather, Lord Black telling him he was permitting him to serve Regulus again. He had forbidden Kreacher from having any contact with Regulus’ mother, Walburga who Arcturus had banished to her own set of suites, prohibiting her from seeing anyone, apart from her husband and son. If Kreacher disobeyed Lord Black’s orders and tried to communicate with her in any way, he would be cast out of the Black Family permanently.

Reluctantly, he called him and Kreacher appeared with the usual elfish pop that heralded Apparating by house-elves. “Youse called Kreacher, Master Regulus,” he bowed proudly to the wizard he was devoted to.

“I did, Kreacher. Lord Voldemort has requested our help. Go with him and follow his orders as if they were mine, then return as I have need of you. Do you understand your instructions, Kreacher?”

The elder house-elf turned, his large poppy-eyes on Voldemort and said, “Kreacher understands, Master Regulus.”

Voldemort smiled which Regulus found quite disturbing. “Excellent!’ he hissed, dismissing Regulus.

Regulus had spent the rest of the day worried about Kreacher. By dinner time when there was still no sign of him, he went to number 12 Grimmauld Place. He sat down on his childhood bed and sank into a meditative state as Kreacher had taught him years before to try to find him. He received an overwhelming feeling of terror and called him sharply. “Kreacher, I need you to return home.”

The old elf appeared in a heap of scrawny limbs on the floor, sobbing in terror. “Need water, Master Regulus.”

After quenching his thirst for over five minutes, he lay panting on the ground. When he’d recovered, he told him a story that made Regulus extremely angry. He described how he had accompanied Voldemort to a sea cave that contained a lake.  “A very evil bad place, Master. Black magic! Make Kreacher want to shit his self.”

Kreacher told him that there were many enchantments, “They be protecting the cave and there be a pedestal with a basin on island in the middle of lake.  Lord Snaky Death want to go there but only way to island was by boat.”

His house-elf informed him that Voldemort called forth a magical boat hidden in the lake.

Kreacher said, “It be big enough for one wizard and a house-elf onlys. That be why he wants Kreacher, Master.”

Regulus nodded soberly. “And then what happened?”

“We’se got to the island. Dark Lord Hissy wished to hide something bad, dark. A locket of goblin gold inside basin but…” Kreacher began to tremble again and collapsed on the floor, wailing in distress.

Chapter 40

Regulus regarded his devoted house-elf who had collapsed on the floor, overcome with sickness, moaning about water. He swiftly conjured up more water which he handed to the elder elf. Kreacher gulped it down rapidly, nodding his appreciation.

“Master Regulus is too kind to Kreacher.”

“Are you feeling well enough to continue, Kreacher?” Regulus asked the elf solicitously.

“Kreacher can continue. Basin on Dark Lord’s island be covered by a potion. It cannot be touched. Potion cannot be Vanished, cannot be Charmed, cannot be Transfigured. Potion can only be drunk, Master Regulus.” He frowned as he licked his lips nervously as he stared up at his master.

“Then what happened?” Regulus asked.

“Drinking potion causes pain that be excruciating; makes Kreacher very weak, ill.  Also, there be unbearable thirst.” Kreacher looked at Regulus with rheumy horror-filled eyes.

“The Dark Lord forced you to drink the potion?” he said furiously.

“Yes Master. Lord Hissy Snake said Kreacher was useless old elf, wouldn’t be missed. Said stay with the locket, do not leave. Kreacher was so thirsty, Master, he almost drank from the lake,” he wailed, his eyes filling up with unshed tears.

“What happened?”

“Kreacher be in so much pain. Then you come searching for Kreacher as he showed you. You called out to him and Kreacher is good elf – must obey his master. You save Kreacher’s life, Master Regulus,” he said, his adoration plain to see.

“Kreacher, what would have happened if you’d drunk out of lake?” he asked him gently as the elf started to tremble.

“Bad, bad, very BAD, Master. Inferi lives in lake. Sleeping, yes, they are. If Kreacher drink from lake he would be deady bones, he would be,” the old house elf moaned.

Regulus was a son of the House of Black. He didn’t need to look up what Inferi were – he already knew that they were the undead. Horrified he asked the house-elf kindly, “Why didn’t you conjure up water that was safe to drink, Kreacher?”

“Water cannot be Conjured when youse on the island; enchantment protects the basin and now has Lord Snake’s locket. Only way to get water is the lake.”

“Or if you took it with you,” Regulus countered.

Kreacher considered that proposition before nodding his head so hard his ears flapped. “That would work, Master Regulus.”

Regulus had wondered why Voldemort would want to hide a gold locket in such a dangerous place.

“Can you describe the locket, Kreacher?”

He closed his eyes and conjured up a replica and handed it to Regulus gingerly who studied it and left to go down to the family library. It took him a while, but the wizard found a picture of it in a book in their library. It was Salazar Slytherin’s locket, one of the founders of Hogwarts.

Not realising he was speaking out loud he pondered, “What’s so special about the locket, apart from who it belonged to and the fact it is probably priceless?

“Not just a locket. Vessel for a bit of Lord Hissy Snake’s soul. Locket is tainted, yes, it is,” Kreacher explained.

Regulus realised straight away what Kreacher was referring to. “A Horcrux? That explains why he wants to hide it. Kreacher,” he said, trying to remain calm. “How long did Lord Voldemort tell you to stay on the island?”

“Never leave. He wants Kreacher to be Inferius too, so he cannot tell secret.”

And that had been it, the one thing Regulus couldn’t overlook. Learning that Tom Riddle (yes, finally he was ready to admit he was no Lord) had made a Horcrux was unconscionable to Regulus. But he supposed that the mode of creating it – the premeditated murder of an innocent to detach and harbour a piece of his soul – wasn’t that different to forcing his Death Eater into taking the dark mark. He forced them to kill a muggle so they could receive their tattoo, so as heinous as a Horcrux was, he felt it was hypocritical for him to judge how the Horcrux was made.

His first muggle killing gave him nightmares, the boy had been only a year or two younger than Regulus was but with each new killing, it became easier, just as all of his friends had told him. He was deeply offended about the Horcrux itself however because it was evil incarnate and only a monstrous entity would consider it.

But what gave him the wake-up call that he needed to finally see the truth was that Kreacher could have, would have died.

It was clear that Riddle wanted his elf to accompany him to the sea cave so Kreacher could drink the potion, instead of doing it himself. Once Kreacher had served his purpose he’d become a loose end, someone who could expose Riddle’s secret and therefore he must die. Only Kreacher’s devotion to Regulus saved him but it had been a close thing. Even though he had ordered him to return home, Kreacher was too old and ill from drinking the portion until Reg had reached out to his elf with his own magic which had been the conduit he needed, to latch onto so he could Apparate back to Grimmauld Place.

He looked at the decrepit old elf and felt completely unworthy of his love. What if the next time, Voldemort wanted to use one of Regulus’ family – his mother, father or one of his cousins? What if it was Pegasus or Gemini? Would Regulus betray them like he betrayed Sirius? It was his fault that his brother was ambushed the night Voldemort tried to recruit him. He knew Sirius was sneaking around spying on his mother and father, so he told his father who decided to bring forward their plan to recruit him.

He thought back to that night over three years ago; Sirius hadn’t taken the easy way out, like Regulus. He stood up to Riddle, stood up to them all. He’d refused to kill that muggle; he’d been beaten and Cruciated twice by Riddle who was an expert at inflicting maximum pain with the curse while still leaving the victim conscious and of sane mind, when he chose to, yet his brother refused to give in to him. Somehow Sirius had managed to escape from Cygnus’ home, and he’d rescued the muggle too.

His brother had never wavered once. He had seen through Riddle when other Blacks welcomed him. He was a hero.

Even now, two years after leaving Hogwarts, Sirius was one of the youngest Hit Wizards in UK history along with James Potter and he was still fighting against the Death Eaters and risking his life for others, despite being disowned by their parents for not following Lord Voldemort.  He was a hero.

At that point, Reg knew now what he must do. He didn’t expect it would redeem his soul – he’d killed too many muggles for that and done it willingly. But he could at least make sure that Riddle was no longer immortal. He would substitute the locket and order Kreacher to take it and destroy it and then he would die in Kreacher’s place.

The truth was that he would welcome death because he couldn’t live with all the terrible violence he had committed in the name of an evil monster. But at least he would die a hero. Even if no one ever knew, he would die knowing he’d saved the world.

When Kreacher transfigured Salazar Slytherin’s locket, Regulus sought out parchment, quill, and ink, unable to resist writing a ‘Fuck you’ note so that if Riddle ever tried to retrieve his Horcrux, he would know that Regulus had outsmarted him. It was enough to let him die happy, in the knowledge that he had changed the outcome of the war.

When Kreacher took him back to the cave, he realised that Regulus wasn’t going to ask the house-elf to drink the potion, he was. His old elf became distraught, he begged him to let him get help, not to try to do it alone. Regulus ordered his elf not to get help, he told him that he didn’t wish to place anyone in his family in danger. Steeling himself for what lay ahead, he drank the potion even though once he began it hurt so much that he wanted to stop, but if Sirius could stand being crucio’d by Riddle he could do this too.

After they retrieved the locket and he handed it to Kreacher, he felt the malevolence of the Horcrux, the sheer unadulterated evil that was inside and considering whose soul fragment it was it was understandable. It was like seeing inside of Riddle’s soul. But would his own soul be any less tainted after what he’d done? That thought bothered him a lot and he became increasingly maudlin and morose despite all the water that Kreacher had insisted on bringing over to the island, believing he was going to retrieve the locket.

Unfortunately, in calculating the quantity needed, he’d factored in enough water for a house-elf, not an adult wizard. It wasn’t Kreacher’s fault – he didn’t know.

They both knew that it wouldn’t be enough, but Regulus had wanted to die with dignity. He knew now that wasn’t going to happen, he wouldn’t be able to resist the availability of the vast amount of water that was in the lake. He would end up an Infirius which was probably what he deserved. He’d pictured his corpse or his skeletonised remains, waiting on the island to welcome Riddle when he returned. That would not happen!

He knew now that he was fated was to lie sleeping at the bottom of the lake for eternity, to be used by Riddle or some other dark wizard to commit atrocities. It was ironic but it was no more than he deserved for his crimes. The only good thing was that at least he would not be sentient. He could not live with the reality of everything he’d done – it was much better this way. For everyone.

Kreacher begged him to wait for him until he returned with more water, but Regulus told him he was ready to die. When he ordered him to leave, Kreacher looked at his master with terrible sorrow, as though he wanted to indulge in self-punishment, but instead, the old elf cast a house elf’s version of the Body Binding Charm. It left Regulus fully aware but unable to move a muscle, let alone reach the lake to kill himself, before his suddenly disobedient elf left him there alone, popping off he hazarded a guess, to get assistance for his Master.

Oh Kreacher! What have you done?

~o0o~

The old house-elf was shattered! He could tell that his Master wanted to die and become an Inferius but Kreacher was going to have to disobey that order. Lord Black had already ordered him not to permit Regulus to endanger his own life. He felt bad that he was disobeying his master, but he had no choice in the matter, a house-elf must also obey the Head of their House, especially the Lord of an Ancient and Noble House.

He knew that if he let the young master die, Arcturus would be true to his word and give Kreacher clothes, a situation which would be an unbearable humiliation for a loyal elf such as himself. He wanted to join his relatives when he died, who had been granted the ultimate honour for a house-elf of having their heads nailed up onto the wall in Grimmauld Place for all to see, but if he disobeyed Lord Black his body would probably end up in a rubbish bin somewhere.

There was also the fact that Kreacher loved Regulus fiercely and had no desire to watch him die. No, he didn’t. So as much as it hurt him to let Master Regulus down, he was also grateful to Lord Black for overriding Master Regulus’ order to leave him there to die. Kreacher needed to find help.

He crossed swiftly back to the shore, exiting the cave trying not to think how awful his master must be feeling from the potion. He knew that it would make him feel like he was dying but the potion’s real danger lay in the almost unquenchable thirst it produced, its purpose to lure the victim down to the lake to drink. Nevertheless, the old house-elf knew that Regulus must be suffering unbearably. Once Regulus was safe, Kreacher would iron his hands as punishment as any obedient house elf would do for disobeying their master or mistress.

Kreacher reached out with his elf magic, searching for the wizard who he was going to ask to help him. It pleased him that he could at least obey one edict that his master had given him. He’d forbidden Kreacher from telling anyone in the family what had happened at the cave. His master knew that the locket was tainted with dark magic; he thought they’d be protected if they didn’t know. Kreacher decided that he would find the Blood Traitor, Sirius Black and tell him.  He was not family!

As a newly trained Hit Wizard, the Blood Traitor would have to help, even though he wasn’t family. He had been cast out of the family by his old mistress four years ago. The best part of his plan was that Regulus hated his older brother, so if knowing about the Horcrux placed Sirius in danger with Lord Red Eyes, then that was happy days for Kreacher.

He didn’t think Master Regulus would be all that disappointed if the Dark Lord killed him. He decided that his former Mistress Wallsy would be so happy with him that she might put his head up at Grimmauld immediately instead of waiting for him to die of old age.

There might have been a chance that there was still a faint trace of the Black magical energy left over from before the Blood Traitor had been disowned and that Kreacher could tune in on it to track him down, but he decided against it. His master was in unbearable pain and Kreacher had no desire to connect with Sirius’ tainted magic. It was faster to use his elf magic to communicate with Fleamont and Euphemia Potter’s house-elves to find him. After swearing on his Elf Magic that he wouldn’t harm him, that Black’s brother was in peril and needed help, Timms informed him that Sirius Black’s flat was in Diagon Alley where he lived with James Potter.

Although the flat had very impressive wards, Kreacher was determined to save Master Regulus’ life and he forced his way in, landing with a pop in the middle of the living room where the Blood Traitor sat with his friends James Potter, the werewolf abomination, Remus Lupine, a repulsive red-haired mudblood witch who was sitting on the lounge, along with four others who were Aurors, still in their distinctive red robes.

The house-elf noted that they were drinking butterbeers, eating curry from the local Indian restaurant and laughing uproariously. It was so cramped in the small flat that some of them were sitting on the floor.

In the blink of an eye, all of them had their wands out and pointed at Kreacher, who glowered at Sirius like the diseased wizard he was.

“Sirius Black is nasty ungrateful swine; he broke his mother’s heart. Got what he deserved when my Mistress cast him out of the Ancient and Noble House of Black,” he stated proudly.

Sirius rolled his eyes at his hated nemesis from his childhood. “And it is so lovely to see you too, Kreacher but I can’t imagine you went to the trouble of tracking me down for old-time sake…unless the old battle-axe has dropped off the twig? Is my mother dead?” he asked hopefully, not caring that he was enraging the decrepit house elf.

Looking as if he’d been asked to eat dragon dung, Kreacher replied tersely, “Master Regulus needs help. Is in terrible pain, out of his mind. He ordered Kreacher to let him die, not tell anyone in his family because he doesn’t want them to be in danger. Kreacher is an obedient house elf so he tells the Blood Traitor,” he said, disdainfully before dropping a small piece of parchment onto Sirius lap.

Sirius picked up the piece of parchment ginger. It was an exact copy of the one that Regulus had written and left inside the fake locket in the basin. His I don’t give a fuck expression momentarily faltering as he read the note.

To the Dark Lord:

I know I will be dead long before you read this, but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can.

I face death in the hope that when you meet your match you will be mortal once more.

R.A.B.

The blood traitor went white and glared at Kreacher and demanded, “Where is Regulus?”

Kreacher tried not to smile. He knew that the Blood Traitor would save Regulus. “Poisoned by Lord Hissy Snake’s potion and surrounded by Inferi in the sea cave full of dark magical enchantments. Kreacher will take you there.”

Potter said, “Now hold on a second. You cannot seriously be thinking of going anywhere with him. It could be a trap, Padfoot. Regulus betrayed you before.”

“Last time I looked I am Sirius and yeah, it might be a trap, but I don’t think it is, James. Read this.”

James rolled his eyes at his friend’s pun before he read the note before passing it to the others. “What’s a Horcrux?” he asked.

The Blood Traitor looked grim. “A piece of magic so dark that the caster must fracture their soul. If this is true, we need to destroy it at all costs. I must go.”

Kreacher noticed that the disgusting little mudblood read the note and asked, “What are Inferi?”

The filthy werewolf answered her, “They are animated corpses who do the bidding of the dark wizard who created them.

The mudblood looked sick and went a shade of green. Kreacher wondered hopefully if she might puke all over Sirius.

The female Auror added, “Think of them as macabre puppets, Lils.”

One of the other Aurors said, “The singular form of the word Inferi is Inferius.”

The Blood Traitor rolled his eyes impatiently, “I have to go. Despite everything, he is my brother.”

The Potter heir told him, “You aren’t going without us, Pads.”

Kreacher assumed it was some ridiculous Auror nickname.

When the Blood Traitor started to argue, Frank said. “Not without backup, Black.”

A chorus of assent from the others drowned out his objections.

Potter continued, “You did read the bit about the Inferi, right? Besides, it still could be a trap. We are going with you, so stop arguing,” he said slapping four separate Auror tracking devices on Sirius.

“We’ll track your apparition trail and be right behind you, my brother.”

Sighing, the Blood Traitor gave in and extended his hand. “Fine, come with me then and we’ll roast some animated corpses. Ah, good times!”

He glared at Kreacher and ordered him, “Kreacher take me to Master Regulus.”

Kreacher’s skin crawled as he grabbed the Traitor to the House of Black and with a pop Apparated him to the sea cave.

Holds on Master Regulus, Kreacher coming!

Chapter 41

As they landed, Kreacher hastily snatched his hand back from Sirius and started wiping it on his threadbare old tea towel that he insisted on wearing as his Mistress had given it too years ago. His disrespect was clear.

Sirius ignored it – he was used to it. Plus, he was too busy scoping out their locale attempting to figure out if this was a trap. One by one the other’s Apparated to his position, looking immensely relieved to find him there and Sirius was quietly glad to have them as a backup.

“I said to take me to Regulus,” he scowled at the elf that had contributed to many a nightmare of his when he was a child. “Where is he.”

Kreacher shrugged arrogantly. “Anti-apparition wards inside the cave. Plus, Kreacher needs to conjure some water. Lots and lots of water to take to island. Is antidote to potion Master Regulus drank. Cannot Conjure water on island.”

“Fine, but you need to get us inside. We can probably figure it out but that’s gonna take time, quicker if you do it, Kreacher,” Sirius instructed as the elf conjured up five cases of bottled water which Sirius cast a featherlight charm on, sans his wand.

Despite himself, the old house-elf looked impressed by Sirius’ casual display of magic. Glowering to hide his grudging admiration, he commenced going through the sequence of steps necessary to enter the magical cave.

Sirius turned to the other Aurors and came up with a plan to deal with the Inferi. Lily and Remus reminded him that they weren’t going to be left behind. He looked at the husband-and-wife duo of Frank and Alice Longbottom, the senior Aurors amongst them and James, Gideon, and Fabian, all Hit Wizards like himself and silently asked for input.

Frank said, “They’re adults and having another couple of individuals handy with a wand wouldn’t go astray.”

Alice looked at the two civilians, “We know you are both capable but stay with Frank and me. No solo heroics from the civilians, okay?”

As Kreacher succeeded in getting the cave to open, the six wizards and two witches crowed inside. They could see the island in the middle of the lake with a lump they presumed to be Regulus Black on the ground.

Frank looked across at Sirius. “Any ideas, Mate?”

Sirius watched as Kreacher called forth the small rowboat sans oars, loading in the cases of bottled water.  He told them, “The Inferi have a fear of fire so I suggest that you create a ring of fire to prevent them from leaving the lake.”

He bent down at the edge of the lake, unholstering his wand with the slickness of an experienced Auror and pointed it at the murky water casting a Luminos charm. Lily shrieked in revulsion at the sight of decomposing but animated corpses, muttering something about zombies as the rest of the group looked disgusted.

Gideon and Fabian without even prior communication suggested that they position themselves around the lake to ensure coverage and that they would take to the air on their brooms so they could be the aerial reconnaissance to spot any Inferi who managed to get through their defences.

Frank nodded approvingly. “That’s good thinking, guys. Plus, while you’re flying around up there, you’ll be able to keep your eyes on our back too.”

“Agreed. But what about getting Regulus?” Alice asked.

As they grew accustomed to the low light in the cave, Sirius could see him lying stiff as a plank of wood out on the island. He looked at Kreacher who was shivering and cast a warming charm on the poorly clad elf because as much as he hated him for all of the abuse the elf had inflicted on him growing up, they needed his intel to rescue Regulus. At this point, he was a Hit Wizard and Kreacher was their informant, and the most important rule was – always look after your assets, even if they are abhorrent to you. Kreacher looked surprised and then shocked when he realised what Sirius had done.

“What’s the boat for, Kreacher?”

“Boat travels to island. Only way out there. Cannot Apparate. Cannot fly to the island,” he explained giving Sirius a weird look.

“Okay, so why didn’t Regulus use the boat to return then?” Sirius asked reasonably.

“Kreacher is not sure. Potion does strange things to the mind. When Old Snaky Nose made Kreacher drink the first time, he wanted to die. Kreacher thinks it might be why or it might be something else,” he hopped impatiently from one foot to the other, shooting worried looks at his master out on the tiny island.

“It may be that once the potion has been drunk, it will not allow the individual to leave.” Remus speculated.

“But if Kreacher drank the poison potion with Tom Riddle, and he left him there?” Alice asked and the old elf nodded reluctantly, “Then how was he able to leave the island?”

“Kreacher cannot say. He was feeling weak and ill. Kreacher thought he was dying when he felt a pull on his magic, and he heard his master calling for him. The next thing Kreacher remembers is appearing in Grimmauld Place with his master. Master Regulus gave Kreacher much water which counteracts the poison.”

Sirius shrugged, “Okay, the plan is that Kreacher and I go over in the boat, administer the antidote then Kreacher brings Regulus back to you guys. If the Inferi tries to stop them, you hit them with a ring of fire. If Remus is right, hopefully, if he’s had the antidote, they won’t feel compelled to stop him. Then Kreacher brings the boat back for me and we all go home.”

Remus smirked, “Okay, I know I’m just a civilian, but can I say something?” When he sensed no opposition, he said, “Marauders we need a Plan B.”

Despite the seriousness of the situation James and Sirius burst out laughing before James explained, to the others, “Remus was always the cautious one when we were at school. He always insisted we needed a Plan B.”

“And how many times did Plan B save our bacon?” Remus demanded sternly.

Sirius said, “Okay, point taken. In the interests of speed, do you have a Plan B, Moony?”

“A suggestion rather than a plan. If Inferi are repelled by fire, what about upping the stakes and using Fiendfyre,” he said sombrely. “If it’s capable of destroying practically everything in its path then you can be bloody sure it will destroy Inferi as well,” he reasoned as the other wizards and witches shivered.

The Fiendfyre Curse was highly advance magic – many people called it dark magic. The charm produced enchanted flames of massive size and tremendous heat. Sirius, schooled in dark magic in his early childhood also knew it was one of the few ways to destroy a Horcrux, but he also knew that Fiendfyre was highly dangerous. For the first time since he was disowned, he wished he could call on his grandfather Arcturus, there were few wizards or witches who had the power and the training to control the Fiendfyre and he was one.

Still, there was no point in wishing for what could never be. In these later years, Sirius had come to have a grudging respect for Arcturus. He did not take the dark mark and had steadfastly refused to give Riddle access to the mountain of books about dark magic in the Black Library.

James was saying doubtfully, “I’m total rubbish when it comes to casting Fiendfyre guys, even though we studied it at the Auror Academy.”

The others were agreeing except for Sirius. Sighing he said reluctantly, “My grandfather taught me that spell when I was fourteen. I can cast it but I’m not sure I have the power to control it, not for long anyway.”

He didn’t mention that since his encounter with Riddle when he failed in his attempt to recruit him, he was better at casting complex and dark magic. Something to do with the rage he felt afterwards which Charlus called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but he feared it was his bad Black blood. He tried to avoid practising the spell, even in his Auror training. He knew the other trainees were judging him and labelling him a dark wizard. Truthfully, he wasn’t sure that they weren’t right, and he was dark like Riddle – after all, he’d managed to almost get that greasy git, Severus Snape attacked by Moony (Remus’ werewolf) but for James saving the day.

He knew that it affected his relationship with not just the Marauders, especially Remus who could have been executed for his stupidity blurting out about the Shrieking Shack, but his Gryffindor friends too. Admittedly, they only knew a part of the story that Snape had told to Lily; Moony’s secret had remained safe until they left Hogwarts. He worried that his friends believed he was a dark wizard too.

He gave a tight grin, “Remus, I gotta say that your Plan B isn’t up to your usual standard.”

Remus shrugged, apparently not disagreeing.

Sirius said, “But since we don’t have time for exhaustive research, I say that it’s the best we have. So, Plan B is Fiendfyre to destroy those creepy fuckers if the collective Incendio charm isn’t enough. I’ll cast it as a last resort if you all agree to get your special arses out of the cave when I do.”

James chuckled, “Special arses, Pads? Something you want to tell us; you proposing an orgy, you kinky bastard? He joked until he realised the rest of Sirius precondition.

“Wait! What! No way are we leaving you here, you stupid prat!”

Sirius looked grim. “You’re all special to me, Prongs. You’re my family and I don’t want you to get hurt. Fiendfyre is notoriously difficult for even the most powerful wizards to control. Casting it is the comparatively easy part. So, if it all turns to shit and gets away from me and there is a fair chance of that happening – just so we’re clear, then promise you’ll get out of here.

“And promise you’ll make sure that Regulus is put into protective custody. If Riddle finds out what he did, he’ll kill him, and something is telling me that Regulus is too valuable an asset.”

Lily regarded fiercely. “And what about you, you dunderhead? You’re a Hit Wizard.”

Sirius looked stubborn. “He’s been a part of Riddle’s inner circle, which must be how he knew about the Horcrux. I’ll bet my life that he knows a lot of other valuable intel that could save a lot of lives, Lils. Don’t let the Death Eaters get to him.”

James felt the glimmering of an idea at the back of his mind. “You said it takes great magical power to control Fiendfyre. How powerful? Like Dumbledore?”

“Yeah, or Grindelwald or Riddle and Lord Black.”

“Except for Dumbledore, the others are not options,” Frank said.

Gideon shook his head. “Neither is Dumbledore. He’s not here; he’s in Antwerp.”

His twin confirmed it. “Gid is right. Official Mugwump business. Aaron and Ares are part of his protection team,” he told them, referring to their younger set of Prewitt twin cousins who were also Gryffindors. Like Fabian and Gideon, they were red-headed terrors, and now they were Aurors, too. But then most Gryffindors had joined up since the war began.

Remus cursed and everyone looked surprised.

James was thinking, “So what about the Head Unspeakable, Saul Croaker?” Croaker worked with his Aunt Dorea and Uncle Charlus, even though his uncle wasn’t an Unspeakable but a respected healer.

“Um maybe,” Sirius said, not knowing much about Croaker. “Okay, so are we agreed. If I need to cast Fiendfyre then you all leave, and you take Regulus into protective custody and do not let Riddle or his assassins near him. Trust no one, suspect poly juice and keep his safe, please.”

With great reluctance, they all promised Sirius and he set off immediately for the island with the water and Kreacher in tow. They gained the small island, careful to avoid the edge and swiftly administered the antidote before he motioned Kreacher to release the Body-Binding charm enough that the two brothers could talk. As Regulus started berating his house-elf, Sirius stopped him.

“You two can bicker about all that later. How certain are you that the Horcrux?”

Scowling at Kreacher he said, “Positive. I was almost sure when Kreacher told me about it but when I retrieved it and substituted the fake one, I could feel the evil inside. It wants to take possession,” he said.

“Okay, here’s what’s going to happen, Regulus. Kreacher is going to take you back across the island and you’re going into hiding from Voldemort.”

Regulus scowled at his brother. “Let me die here, Sirius. At least this way I won’t put anyone else’s life in danger.”

“Don’t be a hippogriff’s arse, Regulus.” Sirius yelled “We’ll make sure that he thinks you died being taken down by the Hit wizards. And I have the perfect idea where to hide you where he would never think to look for you in a million-year, little brother.”

Regulus looked at him tiredly. “Why are you bothering to do this? I am a bad wizard – a murderer. I don’t deserve to live.”

Sirius knew it was true, knew that one day, Regulus would be judged for his choices – either in this world or in the next one, but they faced much more important concerns for now.

“I will not argue with you Regulus, but what I will say is that you can help us defeat the Dark Lord.”

“I already did. Kreacher has the Horcrux, and I will order him to turn it over to you. Without it, Riddle is no longer immortal if you kill him before he learns that I took it and has the chance to make another.”

Sirius looked at him pityingly. “And how do you know that he hasn’t already made more Horcruxes, Reg?”

“But that would be…” he’d been about to say it would make him one sick fuck, but Voldemort had already fractured his soul once, why not do it again? He was most assuredly crazy enough.

Suddenly Regulus remembered Bella leaving after her audience with him, her clothing all dishevelled and his semen still dribbling out of her mouth. She was one of his most trusted lieutenants. She had been carrying something in a cloth bag and had been sloppy and let Malfoy and him catch a glimpse of a silver cup, just as he pictured an old leather book that Lucius had secreted in his robes. Great Merlin’s smelly armpits! Were the objects other Horcruxes he’d created too? Had the Dark Lord asked them to hide them somewhere safe for him?”

Sirius noted his nonverbal body language. “I’m right, aren’t I? That isn’t the only Horcrux he’s created, which is why we need your help to find them. Plus, you probably have a shit ton full of intelligence that will help us defeat the son of a bitch.”

Regulus was pissed that he hadn’t thought of it himself. He was one of his most trusted associates, how could he have overlooked such an obvious possibility?

Feeling embarrassed, he lashed out at his older brother. “Of course, your right, Sirius; you always are! Just like you were right about him being the half-blood son of a muggle and a witch who was practically a squib. Proves that a powerful wizard doesn’t need to be pureblood or from an Ancient and Noble House to take over the world,” he snarled belligerently.

Sirius shrugged. “What the blood supremacists will never understand is that we need new blood to keep the wizarding world strong and vibrant but there is a place for the Ancient and Noble Houses too, in preserving our culture and heritage. In using its massive resources to help encourage half-blood and muggle-born wizards and witches to be the best they can be and encouraging innovation. But that is a topic for another time and place.”

He looked at Kreacher and said, “Take your master back to the shore. Tell no one that he lives. If anyone questions you, tell them, Sirius Black, the Blood Traitor ambushed him and killed him. Say he fought bravely for Lord Voldemort and refused to be captured, do you understand?”

Kreacher did. Sirius could see it in his huge hate-filled bug eyes. He hated that it was Sirius telling him this but as he turned to watch his master, his devotion was transparent. He would not give him up even if the Death Eaters tortured him.

Sirius had watched the vile old elf as he and Regulus had argued. He knew damned well that Sirius was going to protect his brother and that Regulus had agreed to help them defeat Voldemort. It seemed that he’d also had something of a change of heart about the self-titled Dark Lord, but Sirius couldn’t find it in him to forgive his mother’s old house-elf, he doubted he ever would.

Kreacher levitated the still weak Regulus carefully into the boat and it set off for the other side. It was a tense four and a half minutes, but it made it all the way back without mishap. The Aurors helped Regulus out of the boat and Kreacher started back towards the island. Once the boat arrived Sirius wasted little time climbing aboard. Poised with one foot in the tiny rowboat the other in mid-air he was caught off guard as a decomposing hand reached out and grabbed Sirius around his ankle and pulled him partway into the water. Straddling the boat and the other leg mid-calf deep in the murky depths, more hand clutches at him as the Hit Wizard struggled hard, trying not to lose his footing and get dragged into the lake.

Seeing him in trouble, Frank and Alice immediately began casting the Incendio charm as the Prewitts mounted their brooms and took off to cast their charms from above. Regulus, Lily and James, jumped into action too as Kreacher hung on for dear life in the little boat, his expression grim.

Sirius screamed at him, “GET BACK ONTO THE ISLAND. NOW KREACHER!” as he valiantly fought to stop the boat from getting overturned.

Casting his own fire charm at the animated corpses that had hold of his leg, he waited until Kreacher had regained the island before he made his desperate leap, trying to reach solid land. He ended up taking several Inferi with him who had maintained a death grip on his right ankle. Gideon, in a move that was reminiscent of the quidditch games they used to play in at Hogwarts, dived down to hover about six foot above him. Unlike their quidditch matches though, he cast a series of cutting charms at the Infiri’s arms, separating them from the decomposing corpses’ bodies. Creepily they didn’t let go. These rotting disembodied arms still attempted to drag him back into the water.

After sharing a string of curse words with Gideon, Fabian hovered above the island, next to his twin as Sirius and the twins shot precise fire charms at the Inferi arms until they finally let him go. Then all three hit wizards incinerated the limbs in an impressive display of synchronised casting. Meanwhile, the ring of fire seemed to have driven the Inferi back into the lake. Fabian suggested that Kreacher and Sirius double with them on their brooms but found that Kreacher was correct, the boat was the only way back to shore. The twins could fly over the lake but couldn’t fly low enough over the island let alone land on it.

They waited for almost half an hour and since the Inferi appeared to be slumbering, finally, Sirius elected to try again. This time he pulled the little rowboat well up on the shore and he and the old house-elf climbed in carefully. He used an extendable charm on his wand to make it longer and used the wand to push them off from the land as Kreacher made the boat move towards the shore. Everyone was metaphorically holding their breath, maintaining what the Moody-trained Aurors referred to as constant vigilance. Everything was proceeding to plan until the boat reached the halfway point and suddenly all hell broke loose.

The Inferi started rocking the boat violently while a frightening number of corpses started up an inhuman ululating sound, part wailing part screeching as they rose out of the water and began to attack the wizards and witches waiting ashore. Using wandless magic, Sirius cast a sticking charm on himself and Kreacher, sticking them to the vessel so they didn’t fall out. He also cast an anti-capsizing charm on the boat that he created spontaneously – needs must. He just hoped it would work.

Meanwhile, his wand was in constant use as he cast the strongest Incendio spells he could manage on the animated corpses trying their best to kill them. The trouble was he knew he couldn’t keep it up indefinitely.

He was peripherally aware of his friends fighting to contain the Inferi, but he was concentrating hard on stopping the corpses from clamouring into the tiny boat. He heard a cry and knew it was Alice. As he stole a glance, he saw one on the undead was trying to drag her toward the water and sent a cutting curse at the Inferius before realising that another one was after James.

“FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!” He screamed in anguish and frustration. It was time to put Plan B in motion. This would not end well!

“Incoming Fiendfyre people, clear the cave! Clear the cave!” he yelled.

Taking a deep breath, he cast the charm, watching as the enchanted flames grew exponentially, taking on the form of fiery dragons which swooped to engulf the Inferi. The screams of the animated corpses would be the stuff of nightmares for Sirius for decades, that’s if he made out alive, which the pragmatic Hit Wizard knew was looking highly unlikely. All Hit Wizards were either pragmatist by nature or soon developed the necessary trait since their work was highly dangerous and every engagement with their enemy could be their last. Sirius figured that it was just his time.

At least he’d saved Alice and Regulus, and his partner, brother, and best friend, James Potter.

Thankfully, James had kept his word and evacuated the cave. That still left Kreacher, however. There was no reason he should die by Fiendfyre as well as Sirius. As much as he loathed him, it was still Sirius job to protect innocent civilians.

Without letting his concentrate waver because that would lethal, he told his brother’s devoted house, “Apparate off the boat to the shore, Kreacher.”

“Kreacher told youse, cannot Apparate.”

“You’re a house-elf, you did it before when Regulus called you. He needs you, Kreacher. Everyone’s gonna think he’s dead when he goes into hiding. He. Needs. You. Get the fuck off this boat!”

He could hear Kreacher bitching. “Bloody Fuckety-fuck. Noble self-sacrificing Gryffindor saves Kreacher. Lord Black he not be pleased. Gonna give Kreacher clothes, he is. Hoped blood traitor would die for what he put my Mistress through but not like this.”

Sirius could feel his control slipping. The longest he’d be able to maintain Fiendfyre with his grandfather had been ten minutes. After his encounter with Voldemort and his damned Cruciate Curse, his power increased, and he’d managed to contain it for maybe fifteen minutes in Auror training but Kreacher arguing with him was interfering with his concentration. He wasn’t sure how long he could hold back the Fiendfyre from engulfing him. He could feel himself getting weaker.

Screaming at the stupid old house-elf, he said, “For fucks sake, Kreacher, leave now. You’re distracting me. I need to be able to concentrate.”

Kreacher snorted, “Fine, Kreacher leaves, but first, he is going to let Fiendfyre kill the Horcrux. Yes, he is. For Master Regulus and Master Sirius,” he snapped his fingers and Salazar Slytherin’s locket appeared.

He laughed maniacally, his eyes sparkling furiously. “Bye-bye nasty Serpent Wizard. Burn youse soul-thief! May you rot for eternity in Hells!” He screamed, throwing the locket into the enchanted flames.

Almost instantly, a black soul fragment rose into the air, forced out of the locket as the flames devoured the priceless artefact. The soul fragment was shrieking and wailing as the Fiendfyre left the locket irrevocably destroyed.

Sirius hear a pop that indicated that Kreacher had indeed managed to Apparate out of the rowboat, and he felt relief at being able to focus, yet curiously bereft at being alone. Finally, the soul fragment of Tom Riddle disappeared, swallowed up by the enchanted flames which had turned into some terrifying predatory avian creatures and Sirius started trying to apply the counter curse. This was the part where he usually got into bother and was why he really hadn’t liked Remus’ Plan B. He had to say that his good friend’s Plan Bs were usually a lot better than this one, but in fairness, Remus didn’t have a lot of time to work this one up.

At least it was highly improbable that the enchanted flames would be able to escape the sea cave. It was clear that the cave was protected by dark magic. He had a mental image of the Fiendfyre dormant, lying in wait for someone like Riddle to come back and retrieve the fake locket. Hopefully, Frank and Alice would ensure that they tracked down any other Horcruxes that sick fuck had created. At least with Regulus’ help, they stood a good chance of doing just that.

Then maybe they could trap him into going back to the cave. As he resigned himself to die by the dark magic he’d cast, all of a sudden Sirius was conscious that his magic was being shored up by one, no two incredibly powerful wizards. They were also applying the countercharm in concert with himself and this time he could feel the Fiendfyre yielding under their force. Magically and physically exhausted, he wasn’t aware of the little rowboat as it started up its journey back to the shore. Nor was he mindful that someone gently used a counter course to his sticking charm before gently helping him out of the boat and onto the shore.

He heard snatches of conversation, “So incredibly proud of you, Son…” and… “He saved everyone…” before he identified one of the voices as his Grandfather, Arcturus Black and he realised that they were talking about Regulus. He’d been disowned. Arcturus wouldn’t be proud of him.

Feeling like he couldn’t stay awake a moment longer, he felt himself falling into a deep, dark hole. He did not know that as he collapsed in exhaustion it was Lord Black who caught him or that his grandfather Apparated them away to a safehouse that Saul had set up months before in case they needed one.

He was completely unaware that Regulus and Kreacher had already been escorted there by Frank and Alice Longbottom as the senior Aurors present. He had no idea that the rest of his friends and colleagues would join them soon enough for what Saul kept calling a debrief.

Sirius was quite literally exhausted and insensate to everything around him and he would remain that way for some time to come.

Padfoot whispered to him to rest now…so he did.

Chapter 42

James had apparated to his Aunt Dorea’s home, desperate to find the Head Unspeakable, Saul Croaker. He knew he was her boss at the DOM but more importantly, he was also a family friend and James reckoned Croaker was the only wizard capable of helping Sirius to control Fiendfyre, at literally a moment’s notice. When his Aunt saw his extreme state of distress and heard that Sirius was in trouble and the trouble was Fiendfyre, she’d turned as pale as a vampire. She’d wasted no time in asking questions and he would always be grateful for her ability to stay calm in a dire emergency because right now, every second mattered.

The situation was extremely dire, James was under no illusions about that. This rescue mission was a long shot and probably Padfoot’s only hope. James felt a wave of irrational and uncontrollable anger at his best friend and his partner. How could Sirius be so damned stupid, so noble and self-sacrificing, risking his life to save Regulus who was a vile piece of shit? If Sirius died because of Regulus, he swore that Regulus would not live long.

James just didn’t understand why this Horcrux thing had been so bloody important that Sirius was prepared to go off with that foul-mouthed little house-elf into what could easily have been a trap. Sirius had never been very forthcoming about his childhood, but it wasn’t good, and it was clear as crystal that Kreacher hated him but adored his brother, Regulus. Regulus was a Death Eater and since the house-elf was loyal to him, that automatically made Kreacher dangerous. Sirius had taken an enormous risk, the stupid plonker.

Luckily, Dorea had sent her Patronus to Croaker, explaining succinctly that Hit Wizard, Sirius Black required his help urgently regarding a Fiendfyre charm at an unknown location and to meet at her home where Hit Wizard, James Potter would brief him. When the Unspeakable arrived within ten minutes of Aunt Dorea’s Patronus being sent, he felt a small stirring of hope in his heart. When he realised that Saul had not come alone, he felt a massive sense of relief because two Unspeakables could control the enchanted flames better than one. Maybe!

When the other wizard who accompanied Croaker turned so James could get a good look at him, he realised his error. This was no Unspeakable, this was Lord Arcturus Black, Padfoot’s paternal Grandfather, or he had been before the family had disowned him. Part of him wanted to scream at Lord Black and demand to know what he was doing here, but the rational side of his brain reminded him that Sirius had said Arcturus was one of the few wizards powerful enough to be able to contain Fiendfyre. He hoped that his friend was right. Maybe between the pair of wizards, they would be able to save Sirius.

James wasted no time on explanations – time enough for them later. Sirius needed help and he prayed to Merlin that they weren’t already too late to save him. Sirius was the closest thing he had to a brother and he loved him with a fierce love, it was different from the love he had for his fiancé, but it was love that was equally as strong.

He looked at Saul and said, “I need to Apparate you both but one at a time.”

Croaker nodded, his untidy pure white hair flying around messily. “Take Lord Black first, then come back for me, James. He is far more skilled than I am when it comes to Fiendfyre.”

James looked at his Aunt; she’d become quite fond of Sirius ever since his mum and dad had offered to be his legal guardians. She nodded, so he grasped hold of Lord Black’s outstretched hands and Apparated them to the entrance of sea cave where Longbottom was reluctantly preparing to seal the exit shutting Sirius in, effectively sentencing him to death. When the Aurors saw who’d arrived with James they all looked like a massive weight was lifted off their shoulders.

Arcturus Black looked around swiftly, if he noted the presence of Kreacher (and how had the elf gotten out of the rowboat, James wondered) or Regulus there waiting, there was no sign of it. Just grim determination and focus.

He looked at Frank and told him, “Step aside, Son.”

Frank fell back gratefully, hurrying to comfort his wife, Alice who was trying to soothe Lily who was sobbing.

Arcturus took a deep breath, looked at Potter and send, “Fetch Croaker,” before disappearing into the cave, where the fiendish flames had morphed into giant birds of prey.

The enchanted flames sought out the vile work of the Dark Lord – animated corpses who’d attempted to hide under the water. Unfortunately for the Inferi, the waters of the lake did not affect the enchanted flames, and they dragged Inferius after Inferius from even the deepest depths of their watery grave. He couldn’t believe just how many Inferi there still were until they were consumed by the Fiendfyre.

As James apparated away, back to Potters Keep, to collect Saul Croaker, Head Unspeakable of the Department of Mysteries, he heard the inhuman cries of the dead as the Fiendfyre shredded what was left of their corporeal bodies even as they devoured the vestiges of the Inferi souls. It was a noise that he was sure would haunt him for the rest of his days.

By the time James and Saul had returned, they could see Sirius in the middle of the lake. Somehow, he had managed to create some sort of shield filled with bright white light that hurt James eyes when he stared at it too long. Yet he couldn’t take his eyes off it because Padfoot was inside the bubble, fighting with everything he had to contain the shield and stop the expansion of the flames.

Saul took one look at the shield, muttered, “Oh my goodness,” before entering the cave, following in Arcturus’ footsteps as he fought his way into the cave.

Lord Black had been fighting his way in, coming up behind Sirius so their magical powers would be focused on the same direction. Inch by inched, he’d fought his way in until Arcturus reached the lake’s edge and began issuing the counter curse which Sirius had been trying to apply, simultaneously with keeping his shielding up. Having made some serious headway, Croaker reached Arcturus relatively quickly, Arcturus having already done all the heavying lifting, driving the Fiendfyre back across the cave. As Saul reached Arcturus’ side, he also began to apply the counter curse with his wand while using wandless magic to hold the Fiendfyre at bay.

James and Remus looked at each other in amazement. It took tremendous magical powers and skills to be able to cast two different spells especially wandless casting. They could see that Sirius was using this own ebony wand he’d had since before he’d attended Hogwarts and the standard Hit wizard issued backup wand, in case the Auror or Hit Wizard’s primary wand had been stolen or destroyed. While they were impressed that Sirius was able to use the two wands simultaneously, it was obvious that he was tiring fast.

Remus said guiltily as they watched the three wizards battling the enchanted flames, “I should never have suggested using Fiendfyre, Prongs. I could have killed him.”

James without taking his eyes off his brother of the heart, said, “What’s done is done, Mooney. You didn’t know.”

“No, but Sirius did,” Remus growled. “What was he thinking?”

“That it was a last resort,” Lily told them, sidling up to slip her hand into her fiancé’s, looking to give and receive comfort.

The trio watched in awe as the three wizards’ magic worked in concert, driving back the flames gradually overcoming the dark magic until it was gone. Standing guard just in case, Arcturus and Croaker stood shoulder to shoulder – the tall athletic form of Lord Black, contrasting sharply with the smaller wirier frame of the Head Unspeakable. It seemed that they’d gained the upper hand not a moment too soon. Before their eyes they could see Sirius’ shield of light growing dimmer as it collapsed, his exhaustion taking over or perhaps his magic recognising that the danger had passed.

Standing as a sentinel by the shore, Arcturus ordered that they bring Sirius to shore, as he seemed to be in what Saul described as a fugue state. He was unresponsive to their calls and Sirius’s friends all exchanged concerned looks. Lily wondered out loud how this would impact his PTSD. Shockingly, it was Kreacher who started up the rowboat which had been stranded in the middle of the lake.

Slowly the boat began its journey back to shore where there were many willing hands to help guide Sirius out of the boat onto the shoreline where they could all touch him and reassure themselves that he had survived.

Although he remained nonresponsive, when Arcturus left Croaker at the lake to embrace his grandson and tell him he was incredibly proud of him, James noticed a look of intense sorrow and pain fill his vacant eyes before he started in fall. Too far away from him, he watched in amazement as Lord Black caught him in his arms and Apparated away with him. He stole a glance at Regulus and saw that he wasn’t the only one to be left speechless by Arcturus Black’s actions. It was hardly the behaviour of someone who disowned their own flesh and blood.

At the cacophony of outrage and dissent that broke out with the apparent abduction of Sirius by Lord Black, Saul reassured them, saying that he’d taken him to a safe house where Charlus Potter would also be making his way to in due course. He ordered the Longbottoms as the most senior Aurors present to accompany Regulus back to the same safe house, revealing its location to everyone there before Apparating back there himself to lower the wards.

James was fairly sure that Croaker was going to be obliviating them all at a later point, regarding the existence and location of the safe house. He’d be requiring wizards’ oaths from them to keep it secret, or else putting the property under a Fidelis charm so no one could find it. Frank and Alice had gone on ahead with Kreacher and Regulus who’d been taken into protective custody.

That left him and Gideon and Fabian as the DMLE professionals to seal the cave and eradicate all signs of them being there in case Voldemort should return. Before he left, Croaker had issued orders to the three Hit Wizards to set up detection sensors to alert them should Voldemort return. After several hours of clean-up work, James was finally free to Apparate to the safe house, desperate to see how Sirius was doing.

~o0o~

Later that night, James, Remus, and Lily had camped out in the small bedroom where Sirius was sleeping off an extreme case of magical exhaustion, Croaker and Lord Black came in to debrief them. The trio told the two wizards how they all came to be at the cave this evening. James was kind of surprised that Remus and Lily as civilians, could remain but then again, Lord Black, while a member of the Wizengamot, was also a civilian. Then the hit wizard realised that they would probably all need to be debriefed more formally later, it was after all SOP.

Both elder wizards immediately became very grave and rather forbidding when James reached the part of their sitrep about Voldemort making a Horcrux. Their demeanour was even more fierce when James told them of the conversation between Sirius and Regulus when the younger Black begged his brother to let him die in the cave. James explained how Sirius had managed to elicit data from him confirming that there were probably other Horcruxes too. Although James and the others still had little comprehension of why Sirius and now Arcturus and Saul had freaked out about these Horcruxes, the younger wizards and Lily were beginning to realise just how bad they were. It helped explain why Sirius had reluctantly agreed to cast the Fiendfyre Charm, even knowing how dangerous it was.

As they listened to the discussion, the two older wizards agreed with Sirius’ assessment that it was highly probable that he’d made more than one of those things. Arcturus and Croaker also subscribed to his line of thinking that Regulus held vital information that could be used to defeat Voldemort and his band of assassins. That meant that they needed to explain Regulus’ sudden disappearance.

To that end, the Ministry would announce that Regulus Arcturus Black, a close associate of He Who Must Not Be Named, and a suspected Death Eater had been arrested by Sirius Orion Black, the disowned son of Orion Black and Regulus’ brother. Regulus tried to escape, there was a bloody firefight between the two estranged brothers and Regulus was killed by a Killing Curse Regulus cast which rebounded on him after the trained Hit Wizard erected an impenetrable shield.

Croaker had already decided that it was going to be necessary to give Regulus a fake identity and remain in protective custody, which complicated matters enormously, given that there were spies in the Ministry of Magic and the DMLE. When James informed Lord Black and Croaker that Sirius said he had an idea about how to hide his brother, they agreed to wait until he’d woken up before deciding where to hide him. In the meantime, Regulus was going to be interrogated exhaustively to find every last iota of intel that they could use to win the war against Voldemort.

Somehow, with the difficulties in maintain security because of Death Eaters infiltrating the Ministry, James had an idea that they were about to get seconded, and he was absolutely fine with it. He was almost certain that everyone else would be too. After all, it was the reason why so many of them had become Aurors right after finishing school.

Two Days Later

The Head of the Department of Mysteries, Saul Croaker and Lord Black called a meeting for everyone who’d been involved in the rescue of Lord Black’s grandson, Regulus. The only individuals who would not be present were the House Elf Kreacher and Regulus Black. Apart from that, all those individuals who had a part to play in liberating their informant were invited to attend.  Since they were all deeply invested in seeing Voldemort defeated, they all were planning on intending, hoping to learn why Horcruxes were so important to his defeat.

When Sirius finally deigned to wake up from his epically long, I exhausted my magical reserves saving everyone sleep, a few hours ago, he had a meeting with Arcturus and Croaker to explain his ideas for hiding their informant. He’d suggested that his brother should be hidden amongst the Hitchens clan. When Arcturus and Saul Croaker gave him a blank look, he’d embarked upon an account about how the sister of Phineas Nigellus Black who was his great, great, great grandfather, Iola Black had married a muggle named Bob Hitchens and she’d gotten herself disowned by the family.

“Iola and Bob Hitchens have passed on, but they had six children, four who were magical and two who were squibs,” he informed them.

Arcturus looked bemused, “How do you know this information, Sirius?”

He grinned at his grandfather sardonically. “Well, because being a defender of muggle rights, Great, Great Uncle Nigellus stayed in contact with his Aunt Iola and her children and Great Uncle Marius’ boys went to Hogwarts with some of the Hitchens children at Hogwarts. There are several Hitchens witches and a wizard currently attending Hogwarts with Great Aunt Cedrella’s grandchildren. They all refer to themselves as the Black Sheep because they or their Black ancestor was disowned by the family.”

“And you’ve know this for how long?” Arcturus wanted to know since most of it was news to him. He knew that his cousin Marius was a squib and disowned by his father Sirius Black, aka the previous Lord Black. Marius had several boys who were wizards who’d attended Hogwarts because Marius’ sister, Dorea had told him but he had no clue that there was a whole bunch of disowned witches, wizards, and squibs out there.

Sirius shrugged. “I don’t know, forever. Uncle Alphard and the Great Aunts Cassie and Dorea were always in contact with Marius and his three boys, Rigel, Aquila and Leo and we played with them sometimes. Anyway, the point is that between the Weasleys, Hitchens and Marius, there are lots of folks who would be happy to hide Regulus if we explain that keeping him safe is vital to defeating Voldemort,” he said.

Saul nodded approvingly. “I like it, and if we think anyone is taking too much interest in him, even with a glamour charm, then we just move him to another home.”

Arcturus looked dubious. “Surely the first place anyone would look for him was with family.”

Saul and Sirius exchanged meaningful looks before Sirius shook his head. “Why would they look for him amongst the Black Sheep Clan, Grandfather? In the collective consciousness of purebloods, once you’ve been cast out of the family, effectively you cease to exist, you become invisible.”

He didn’t say that even Arcturus had no idea what had happened to former members of the family, that to him they had become ‘the unseen.’

Saul looked at Arcturus. “I think that is a fairly accurate observation, Sirius and because the Black Sheep become invisible, Voldemort and his cronies won’t think that your family of purebloods might be in contact with what has ceased to exist, Arcturus.

His Grandfather looked bemused. “But clearly, they do exist.”

And that’s why Sirius’ idea is a good one, because they will never believe that anyone in the House of Black could behave in such an enlightened manner and maintained contact. Although they would probably substitute barbaric for enlightened.”

Arcturus side-eyed Saul, getting he’d just been insulted in the politest of ways as Croaker suddenly nodded assertively, having reached a decision.

“Hit Wizard Black, please put your plan into a report asap, along with any recommendations you might wish to share. Regulus Black is to be arraigned before a secret tribunal and I want to have the DOM proposal for how we plan to protect our informant already finalised.”

Sirius had nodded. “Yes, Unspeakable Croaker, I’ll do that immediately.”

~o0o~

Sirius’ report outlined not only the brief biographical details he’d sketched out for Saul and Croaker but a great deal more detailed analysis of the family, supplying up to twenty names of magical family members of the Hitchens clan. It seemed they were spread out all over the UK. His report pointed out that hiding Regulus among the Hitchens family was a good option since there were so many of them and they were geographically widespread. Sirius suggested that Regulus Black be given a female Auror as his security and that to avoid suspicion, said female Auror should be prepared to go undercover as his wife. He recommended that they enlisted Marius Black’s help as an emissary in the first instance to request placing Regulus with the Hitchens.

Black Sheep to the rescue!

Chapter 43

Croaker nodded appreciatively after reading Sirius report before showing the report to Arcturus. He was impressed with it but felt that they were overlooking other options regarding Regulus. “What about asking Marius to shelter him? It’s crystal clear that he has remained in contact with Dorea, and Cassiopeia so wouldn’t that be much simpler?”

“I ruled Uncle Marius out as a possibility because his boys are still young and might accidentally talk about Regulus, even if not by name. I don’t want to endanger him or them,” Sirius said firmly, his Hit Wizard persona firmly entrenched as they nutted out the options.

Croaker backed him up. “I agree. It is far too risky, for all concerned. Plus, the Hitchens are a further two generations removed from Marius and there are a lot of them.”

“Plus, Marius still goes by the name Marius Black,” Sirius pointed out.

Arcturus acknowledged that was a good point.

Sirius continued to supply his well thought out rationale. “The Hitchens family are big enough for Regulus to sell the story of being a distant relative of Bob Hitchens without raising suspicion within their extended family. And before you ask why I suggested that Uncle Marius makes the contact as opposed to Alphard or me, we may be the newest members of the Black Sheep Clan, but we are just too obvious if anyone thought we might be hiding Regulus. We may be followed or recognised because of the media-generated after we were disowned. Plus, I’m a Hit Wizard and too close to the Ministry but Marius is anonymous and most importantly, he’s maintain contact with a lot of the Hitchens already.”

Hearing the barely disguised hurt in his son’s voice as he identified himself and his Uncle as the two latest members of the Black Sheep Clan, Arcturus reviewed his decision to let Sirius believe he’d been disowned. Less than 3 days ago, he’d almost lost him fearlessly trying to save his brother and he realised Sirius could have died believing that Arcturus had turned his back on him. He wasn’t a soppy sentimentalist but the situation with Regulus and Sirius had been traumatic and he found himself questioning his choices made two decades ago. Indeed, even before he’d decided he needed a new heir, his foolish financial support had helped created the monster he was now actively fighting against. He’d made some colossal errors!

Alphard had been pleading with him for years to tell Sirius the truth – that neither wizard had been officially disowned.  He wanted to explain that after Riddle’s attack, when Walburga had highhandedly taken it upon herself to disown her son who was a minor, without the approval of Lord Black, he’d opted to let everyone go on thinking he was disowned. Arcturus hadn’t contradicted her because he felt that if the Death Eaters thought he wasn’t a member of the family, it would make him less of a target.  Mentally, he could hear Charlus and Alphard admonishing him, saying that his intentions might have been pure, but he should remember that Sirius had a severe anxiety disorder that should be considered.

Acknowledging that they had been right, and he’d been wrong to let Sirius go on believing he’d turned his back on him, Arcturus sat him down before admitting the ruse of his disownment. He told him that he was still his heir – the next heir, that Orion had been stripped of his role as heir for his role in hurting Sirius. He also assured him that Alphard was not disowned either. In fact, Arcturus had been giving Alphard money for his care ever since the Potters became his guardians and when Sirius entered the Auror Training Academy, they wanted him to have somewhere safe and comfortable to live in Diagon Alley. At first, Sirius didn’t believe him but after talking with his Uncle Alphard, who confirmed everything his grandfather told him, he’d been furious about being kept in the dark.

Arcturus didn’t mind that Sirius was angry because it stopped him thinking and asking awkward questions, at least he hoped that it would. Although, it hadn’t thwarted him for as long as Arcturus had hopped.  He supposed it shouldn’t have been a surprise, Arcturus was highly aware of that fact that Sirius was highly intelligent.

Once he started analysing it, he was relentless. Like a dog with a big meaty bone, he refused to surrender it. Why, if his uncle and himself weren’t officially disowned, were their names blasted off the family tapestry, making everyone in the family believed that they’d been disowned? Arcturus had no choice but to tell him the truth – that the tapestry was a fake, but he was oath-bound not to reveal why. Then to try to head off more equally tricky topics, Arcturus informed him that three other members of the House of Black knew he and Alphard hadn’t been booted from the family.

Eventually, under the dogged questioning, Arcturus revealed that Cassiopeia, Dorea and Charlus knew too but were oath-bound as well, although that wasn’t strictly true. Only Dorea had sworn on her magic not to reveal her true relationship to him.

Angry as Sirius was, he’d agreed that telling anyone that he was still Arcturus’s heir would increase the danger for everyone. Not that Arcturus thought that he was fussed about being his heir, just that he’d hated the shunning he’d endured by all the adults in the family.

At least he knew the truth now…well some of the truth. The question was, should he be told who he really was? Arcturus knew that he could write him a letter telling him the truth and arranging for it to be given to him after his death. What remained unanswered was, would it help or hinder his son? Perhaps, it was something to discuss with the other four people who also knew the truth.

Hopefully, he wouldn’t die any time soon – he still had much to fix, specifically he must atone for his foolish and misguided support of Lord Voldemort, but as Lord Black, he must also be realistic. They were fighting a war and any one of them may die.

~o0o~

The expression on all the young witches and wizards’ faces was absolutely priceless when Croaker walked in and welcomed them all to the Resistance, informing them that they now belonged to him. They were meeting in a large drawing room where the chairs had been arranged in a rough horseshoe.  Alice, Frank, Lily and Remus immediately objected, saying that they were already fighting for Dumbledore’s Order of the Phoenix, causing the Head Unspeakable to glower at them fiercely before Croaker counter attacked. He lambasted the Leader of the light, telling the Phoenix fledglings that to defeat a sick fucker such as Voldemort, you needed to be ready, willing, and able to get down and dirty; to give as good as you got. That Dumbledore wasn’t prepared to do that.

When they protested, Sirius supported Croaker. “Remember the Slytherin team’s tactics in the final of the Quidditch Cup in your last, year, Alice and Frank. Slytherin was willing to do whatever it took to win, whether it was keeping to the rules or not, so long as they won. That’s why they usually won every game – not because they were the best team but because they were willing to ignore the rules.

“The only way we beat them was in the final was when Gideon and Fabian turned their tactics back on them. It the same principle with the Death Eaters who use Unforgiveables while Dumbledore has forbidden them.”

Frank nodded slowly. “Yeah, you’re right, Sirius. Plus, the brand-new brooms didn’t hurt.”

Arcturus said, “I’m not sure that new brooms will help in this instance, but I’ve created a sizable war chest to be used to defeat the Death Eaters, including making sure everyone fighting them has top of the line PPE.”

Seeing a few befuddled looks, Fabian whooped in excitement as Gideon explained, “Personal protective equipment such as dragon skin armour and shields.”

Croaker smiled grimly and told them that Dumbledore’s Order of the Phoenix was doomed to fail in the defeat Voldemort’s army of Death Eaters because he spent way too much time and energy trying to redeem monsters who didn’t want redemption – the Death Eaters liked who they were.

He then proceeded to demonstrate why Voldemort was so evil, giving the occupants of the room a chilling lecture on Horcruxes. Saul stressed the absolute urgency in hunting them all down and destroying them before they took down Riddle once and for all. Much chastened by what they’d heard the Longbottoms, and Remus were less inclined to argue with him when he outlined his plans for Voldemort’s defeat, which was all to the good since he was in a take no prisoner mindset. If they’d objected, Arcturus figured that Saul would have them obliviated.

He had to admire the seemingly mild-mannered Head of the Department of Mysteries; Croaker certainly didn’t mess around. He explained that he intended to hire Lily Evans, who he found out was James Potter’s fiancé and Lily looked stunned as well she might since she was a muggle, and it was simply unheard of for one to be hired to work in the DOM at her age. Normally muggles were lucky to get hired on to some dead-end, insignificant department and if they were extremely lucky and played their cards write might get a shot at working in such a prestigious department after thirty years of hard slog. Croaker, describing her as the smartest witch of her generation informed the group that he wanted her to be a researcher, helping them to hunt down the Horcruxes.

Croaker looked at Remus, informing him that he planned to hire him to join the DOM research team too. Arcturus was not surprised when Lupin objected – it was illegal for Lycanthropes to be employed by the Ministry of Magic, and the wizard seemed to be beholden to Dumbledore out of some misguided sense of loyalty for letting him enrol at Hogwarts. Saul sighed, stood up and requested that Remus join him for a private word outside. He invited Hit Wizards Potter and Black to join them and motioned for Arcturus to accompany them too.

He led them into a small room that he transfigured into a sitting room, motioning them all to take a seat.

“Now Mr Lupin, tell me, do you want Lord Voldemort to be defeated?”

Remus glared at him. “Of course, I do. He is an evil, insane monster. How could I not want to defeat him,” he demanded angrily.

Croaker nodded. “Good. And you should all know that the more Horcruxes he creates, the more unhinged he will become. So perhaps you can tell me why you are reluctant to help us track down the Horcruxes.

“Because I am a member of the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore has informed me that he had a very important task that he needs me for.”

“I see. And no one else can carry out this mission?” Saul pressed him.

Looking extremely uncomfortable, he said, “No. I’m afraid not, Unspeakable Croaker.  Besides, Dumbledore has been very kind to me over the years in letting he attend Hogwarts. I owe him.”

Croaker ran his hand through his fly-away white hair and sighed exasperatedly. “Look lad, I already know that Albus intends to send you undercover in Fenrir Greywolf’s pack of werewolves, hoping you can spy on them or even more dangerous and equally improbable, to turn some of his pack.”

“You know? Dumbledore said it was top secret.”

Realising that he’d also just confirmed his werewolf status, Remus shot a panicked look at Arcturus.

Saul smiled gently. “Arcturus knows about your Lycanthropy, Remus. The attack on you was all over the papers at the time. And I’m guessing by their lack of reaction, James and Sirius also know about it. Of course, I know since your parents registered the attack with the DMLE and as required by the Ministry, you were placed on the Dangerous Creatures Registry when your lycanthropy was confirmed,” he told him matter-of-factly.”

“Then you should know that you cannot hire a werewolf,” Lupine told him bitterly and Arcturus was shocked to hear the degree of cynicism in someone so young.

“We, Mr Lupin, are at war. I can and will do as I bloody well choose. I choose to claimed exigency circumstances to hire you and Lily Evans to help hunt down the Horcruxes. Please tell me yes.

“But Dumbledore’s plan…”

“Will more than likely get you killed. Greyback is another evil monster but he is no fool. He will be suspicious of you suddenly turning up after he has aligned with Voldemort. As to him saying it was top secret, Albus is far too predictable and transparent. He’s been making less than discreet inquiries about the location of Greyback’s pack via his gamekeeper Hagrid, who everyone knows is utterly devoted to him. That’s practically the same thing as taking out a full-page advertisement in the Daily Prophet’s classified section.”

Remus looked sick, James and Sirius were furious. “That silly old fool,” Sirius muttered under his breath.

“But I gave my word,” he protested weakly. “Dumbledore let me enrol in Hogwarts. I owe him.”

“Not enough to go walking into a trap, Moony,” James argued.

“Tell the silly old bugger you have Dragon Pox,” Sirius suggested, and Croaker nodded.

“An excellent suggestion. Look why not join up and help locate the Horcruxes which is the quickest way to make Voldemort vulnerable and then once that’s done, if you want to go undercover, you can still do it, but believe me when I say that this is a much better use for all of your skills, Mr Lupin. Your academic record was outstanding.”

With a good deal of persuasion, Remus agreed to join the Horcrux Hunt to the relief of his fellow Marauders.

Everyone else was seconded for the physical hunt for and destruction of the Horcruxes. Frank and Alice Longbottom, Sirius, James and Fabian and Gideon Prewitt were seconded to Saul’s Horcrux hunt which had the odd code-named, Operation Augurey. He informed them that he intended to second the younger Prewitt twins, Ares, and Aaron, who were Aurors into his squad, along with Pegasus Potter, who was just completing her final weeks of Hit Wizard training. Croaker explained that he wanted to keep the whole process of hunting for the remaining Horcruxes as quiet as possible, so they were trying to keep it within the Marauder and Ankle Biter family as much as possible.

When the head unspeakable asked if anyone else had any personnel suggestion, Arcturus suggested that his cousin Dorea be brought in as the Head Researcher and that Callisto Abbott, who was a seer be brought onto the research team as well. Sirius expressed the opinion that Callisto’s daughter, Pandora Abbott also be brought on board as an additional researcher as she was a Ravenclaw and academically gifted. He confessed to his grandfather later that she was also a seer, like her mother and her Ollivander grandmother before her, but Panda was uncomfortable with people knowing about it, so he wasn’t going to out her without her permission.

Saul had accepted all their suggestions without question, aside from insisting on the inevitable exhaustive vetting process and frankly, Arcturus thought they had a talented team. He was increasingly confident that they would be successful in locating and destroying Voldemort’s Horcruxes. To be honest, failure wasn’t an option.

“There was a couple more item on the agenda for the Resistance and Saul turned to Arcturus. I’ll let you handle this part, Lord Black.”

Arcturus rose gracefully, nodding to Croaker. “As you can imagine, my grandson Regulus has been interrogated extensively over the last several days and not only about the Horcruxes. He’s been questioned about every last conversation, every tiny detail about Riddle or his movements to learn where he might have created additional Horcruxes. He has also supplied information about Voldemort’s minions, and he has confirmed a lot of individuals that we either knew had taken the dark mark or strongly suspected had taken it.”

Saul nodded. “It will take us months to analyse all of the data he has supplied us. Saving him was well worth the enormous risk involved. Well done, all of you.”

“To return to the subject of Horcruxes, briefly. I will be attempting to procure enough basilisk venom to destroy the Horcruxes which we find, which is a safer method of wiping them out than Fiendfyre.”

Croaker beamed at Arcturus. “That is an excellent suggestion, Lord Black, but not easy to find or cheap.”

“I am aware, but the Ancient and Noble House of Black has much influence, and our vaults are expansive. It may not be easy, but I am confident it is achievable. Of course, most things are when you are prepared to fling galleons at an obstacle. My main concern will be not to alert Riddle.”

Saul nodded. “Yes, that would not be good, however, you are adroit at being discreet, Arcturus.”

Arcturus smirked a little, “That I am, Saul.” He took a deep breath and continued with the difficult part. “My grandson Regulus supplied us with valuable intel about the Death Eaters that Riddle has recruited. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending upon how you look at it, he identified rather a lot of individuals we had no idea were Death Eaters, prominent people who work at the Ministry of Magic, including some individuals in the Aurors, the DMLE and the Department of Mysteries.”

He ignored the exclamations of anger and betrayal because it got worse. “We have yet to formulate a plan on how to proceed.”

Seeing the puzzled looks, he explained, “Do we arrest them immediately or leave them in place, so they don’t know how much we know and arrest them when we take down Riddle after we’ve located the Horcruxes? We haven’t decided but until we do, please remember that everyone not in this room or vetted to join it must be viewed as a potential spy. You cannot trust anyone.”

Sirius looked at Arcturus’ arctic expression and knew that he had been manoeuvring them towards the news that he really wanted to tell them. “It’s worse than that, isn’t it, Lord Black?”

He smiled grimly, “My grandson can read me too well apparently. Yes, Sirius. I have worse news which will hit people in this room hard. Two of the names that Regulus provided as being trusted Death Eaters of Riddle were Peter Pettigrew and Severus Snape,” he told them gently as Lily started to weep.

Arcturus decided that she’d probably suspected but not known for sure. He looked across at the Marauders who looked completely blind-sighted and sick, although Sirius also looked angry. Had he, like Lily suspected his friend or was he just reacting because of what Charlus called his post-traumatic stress disorder?

Which reminded him that he would talk to Saul about bringing on board a mind healer for them all. They needed it.

~o0o~

Regulus had been given a secret trial by the DOM rather than the DMLE. It was highly unusual but not without precedent in times of war and was due to the significant infiltration of the DMLE by the Death Eaters that would have made it impossible to protect Regulus’ identity. For his crimes, including multiple counts of torture and murder, he’d been sentenced to having his soul sucked out by the Dementors, but the sentence had been commuted due to his continued cooperation in giving them intel. to defeat Tom Riddle aka Lord Voldemort. Not that Regulus was all that fussed about his commuted sentence since he figured that a Dementor’s Kiss would probably be less painful than having to live with the guilt of terrible crimes he’d committed.

Only the fact that Sirius had been prepared to die because he believed that Regulus held the key to being able to defeat, He Who Must Not Be Named, swiftly and efficiently, with the least number of casualties gave him the strength to endure. Regulus Black may be a selfish git, but he was not that selfish – he would help the Ministry of Magic to defeat the Dark Lord if it was the last thing, he did.

Thus, Regulus had been given a new identity, the great-grandson of Bob Hitchens, his name was Edward Hitchens, a squib who was married to a half-blood witch, named Doris. Doris’ real identity was Marlene McKinnon, a Hit Wizard and old girlfriend of Sirius’ who’d gone to Hogwarts with the Marauders and had played on the Gryffindor’s quidditch team with James and Sirius. Before he left the safe house to stay with Bob’s grandson in Hereford, the Head of the DOM had put a binding on Regulus’ magic and his wand had been confiscated.

While Regulus was willingly helping them, it was decided that it would not be wise to give him too much temptation, even if he had a dramatic change in attitude towards the Dark Lord. Kreacher was tasked with keeping watch over him but not reveal himself to any of the Hitchens family for which he was grateful, feeling that they were all beneath the dignity of a proud elf from the House of Black, but Lord Black had insisted. So, he watched over his master, ready to protect him with his life if necessary.

Meanwhile, Voldemort was furious about the death of one of his inner circle of trusted lieutenants. Rabastan had raged when he heard that Sirius Black had killed Regulus, trying to arrest him.  He sworn that he would avenge the love of his life.

He vowed he’d hunt Sirius down like a dog and kill him.

Chapter 44

Arcturus reviewed the remarkable progress that had been made in the last couple of weeks. He was just extremely grateful that he and Croaker had been meeting together when James Potter went to Dorea looking for Saul to try to save Sirius.  If Saul had been on his own, he wasn’t sure if Sirius would have survived. The Fiendfyre seem to have been feeding off all the ambient dark magic in the cave not to mention the Inferi it consumed that had fuelled it. It had taken all three of the wizards’ powerful magics to bring it to heel.

After learning about the existence of the Horcruxes, he and Croak had immediately decided it was time to form a war council whose first order of business would be to hunt down all the remaining Horcruxes and destroy them. That done, they would obliterate Riddle, wiping him and his Death Eaters off the planet, no mercy given. Tom Riddle and his band of assassins were too dangerous to take chances with.

For the time being, Dumbledore and his ineffectual Order of the Phoenix would be allowed to continue, as a distraction while he and Croaker operated in the shadows. It was a shame, as Croaker had pointed out, he had some incredibly talented people in his order, but they were effectively hamstrung. It wasn’t their fault that they were so unsuccessful at waging an effective campaign against the Dark Lord, it was because their rules of engagement as defined by Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore gave too much benefit of the doubt to the enemy, at the expense of his own people. Saul and Arcturus would not be making the same mistakes.

Operation Augurey would consist of three main components, a research team to identify the Horcruxes and pinpoint their location, a field team of curse breakers and ward breakers they assembled from the DOM to plan their extraction and the Marauding Ankle Biters who would help retrieve them. It was a small but skilled team, all sworn to secrecy so that Voldemort would never know that they were taking out the Horcruxes before they took him down.

One year later:

The Horcrux hunt had concluded successfully. The research team had discovered there were five Horcrux and at their inception, they had already destroyed one – Salazar Slytherin’s locket – thanks to Regulus, Kreacher and Sirius. Which left four more to go. Not that the destruction of the first Horcrux had been easy, it wasn’t. It had nearly cost Sirius his life.

But once that they knew about their existence, Arcturus and Croaker had vowed to retrieve each Horcrux only after careful strategic planning had taken place with proper risk assessment. There would be no more going off half-cocked like Regulus had done, going on suicide missions to assuage his terrible guilt. The Horcruxes were the key to defeating Voldemort who had escalated the war as the death toll rose.

Meanwhile, the Ministry led forces and the Order of the Phoenix were taking a real beating. Despite this the Chief Warlock insisted on keeping the ban on the use of the Unforgiveable Curses in place, effectively leaving brave wizards and witches fighting to protect its magical citizens one-handed. Croaker wanted to throttle Albus, but Arcturus made him see sense, for now they must focus on the job at hand.

During his extensive debrief, Regulus had revealed that Lucius Malfoy had been given a leather-bound book or journal by Voldemort on the same day that he had ‘borrowed’ Kreacher and gone to the cave to hide Salazar Slytherin’s locket. Saul, who was in no mood to mess around when it came to locating the Horcruxes, authorised that Malfoy would be captured and interrogated about the journal. The hit wizards on the squad: James, Sirius, Fabian, Gideon, and Pip Potter ambushed him in a well-orchestrated raid. They’d used a honey trap with Pip as bait using glamours after they learned that Lucius had a thing for red-headed witches in leather yielding riding crops. Frankly, since he was married to Sirius’ cousin Narcissa, it was a lot more than any of them ever wanted to know about his sexual fantasies, but they used them, nonetheless.

After securing their target, they interrogated him using a combination of Veritaserum, Legilimency by a highly skilled practitioner and Lucius’ own well-developed sense of self-preservation. They broke him; Malfoy soon admitted that Lord Voldemort had given him a dark artefact to hide, a diary that belonged to Tom Riddle when he was at Hogwarts. Ulrich Meyer, who was Sirius’ old Occlumency tutor and Master Legilimens (who had been recruited by Arcturus to join The Resistance) had been able to verify everything that Malfoy told them. The Death Eater readily agreed to turn the diary over to them and be obliviated – not that he had any real choice in the matter, but it soothed his fragile wizard’s ego and made him easier to handle so they played along with the facade.

For now. They needed him to return to Voldemort side and behave normally, so Tom didn’t suspect that they were on to him. Once they had all the Horcruxes, Malfoy would be going down along with the rest of the murderous minions.

Getting hold of Hufflepuffs’ Cup, which thanks to Lucius, they now knew to be residing in Bella’s vault at Gringotts was going to be harder than retrieving the journal, or so they thought. It didn’t work out that way. The research team had a number of plans they were working on to acquire what they’d soon realised was probably Hufflepuff’s Cup but there was always a flaw that couldn’t be ironed out. In the end, Arcturus had stepped in and notified the Goblins that there was a dark artefact being stored in the Black/Lestrange vault which Lord Black would appreciate that they seize and destroy. He pointed out that hiding a dark object in a vault was in direct contravention of the terms and conditions of Gringotts Banks to harbour such items in their branches. He warned them that what was being housed could potentially possess customers or Gringotts employees.

He’d also taken a leaf out of Regulus book, conjuring up a very realistic copy of the cup and offering the Goblins an outrageous fee for placing it in Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault. Then when they invited Arcturus to witness the destruction of the real cup, he made an outrageously generous donation to their Orphans Fund, as well as giving individual gratuities to all the goblins who’d been tainted by having to handle such dark magic.

When Gemini Potter expressed her amazement at how easy it had been to get the Horcrux out of Bella’s Gringotts vault, he smiled at his granddaughter and said, “Money talks.”

Saul chuckled cynically, “That it does, my friend and Goblins listen.”

“Lots of wizards and witches prepared to listen to money,” Sirius said, thinking about how many times Abraxas Malfoy had talked his way out of jail for himself and his son. Well, not this time – those disgusting pricks were going down!

Callisto Abbott located the fourth Horcrux. She’d had a vision while she was holding the destroyed Riddle diary of how Voldemort made a Horcrux after paying his uncle, Morfin Gaunt a visit to Little Hangleton where he discovered that his father was a muggle also living in Little Hangleton. After Stupefying Morfin and taking his wand, Voldemort used it to kill his father, Tom Riddle Sr, and his paternal grandparents, creating a Horcrux with the Gaunt family ring that he stole. He returned to the Gaunt shack to give back Morfin Gaunt’s wand, setting him up to take the fall for the Riddle murders. He also hid the newly created Horcrux under the floorboards of the shack with some unpleasant traps waiting for anyone who might try to retrieve it. Meanwhile, Voldemort’s only surviving relative, Morfin Gaunt was convicted of the murders of the three muggles, and he died in Azkaban.

Thanks to Callisto’s vision, they were able to head straight to the Gaunt home, such as it was. It was a dilapidated, falling down shack that was something of a death trap, and that was before they even got to the Horcrux. She’d warned them all about the traps Voldemort had put in place and the retrieval team had gone prepared, including the knowledge that he’d imbued the ring with a compulsion charm to coerce anyone in close proximity to the ring so that they’d put it on and sustain a fatal curse. As Callisto said, Voldemort had been in a murderous frame of mind when he hid that Horcrux and anyone going after it needed to be extremely careful.

Saul ordered them to take their own Curse-Breaker Team, the DOM’s equivalent of the DMLE elite squad of Hit Wizards to retrieve this particularly nasty Horcrux. As an added precaution, he only let strong Occlumens go on the hunt for the ring, knowing that the ring would try to find the wizard or witch’s mental weaknesses and exploit them. So only Sirius and James were deemed to have strong enough mental protection to assist the curse breakers.

After protests by the other Aurors and Hit Wizards that that was not enough backup if things turned ugly, Ulrich Meyer and Arcturus Black, as two strong Occlumens volunteered to be their back up. Knowing what they were going to face in terms of the traps that Voldemort had left behind, and the preparation done by the curse breakers and the retrieval team, everything proceeded smoothly, if slowly. The whole operation took over six hours, but as one of the Unspeakables from the Curse-Breaker Team commented, the last thing they wanted was to trigger an alarm.

They returned with the ring, mentally and physically exhausted by the retrieval but euphoric – there were no casualties and the team celebrated long into the night. Once again, they left a fake ring and reset all the traps so that unless Riddle bothered to examine the ring, he would assume it had remained undisturbed for all these years.

After the dangerous retrieval operation, the hunt for the final one of the Horcruxes was almost anticlimactic by comparison. Inspired by her mother’s significant contribution to defeating the Dark Lord, Pandora Abbott with her mother’s encouragement was keen to see if she could find the last object. Sirius supported his friend, telling her if she wanted to try to use her ever-growing seer abilities, then she should go for it. Holding the now destroyed Gaunt ring and focusing she reached out trying to connect psychically with the sole remaining Horcrux.

After nearly ten minutes of trying, she handed the lump of twisted gold into Croaker’s aged hand and smiled. “I know where we can find the last Horcrux. It’s Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem, by the way,” she informed Saul proudly.

He looked sceptical. “But that’s been missing for centuries,” he objected.

Pandora nodded. “I know. Rowena’s daughter, Helena stole it from her mother – that witch had some serious issues by the way, and then she hid it in Albania. Somehow, Riddle was able to sweet-talk her ghost into telling him where it was. He was already very charismatic and quite handsome when he was younger although even back then his aura was pulsing with evil,” she shivered. “He went there and retrieved it at some later date, killing a muggle to create another Horcrux and when he went to Hogwarts to apply for the DADA professorship in 1946, he hid it in the castle.”

Saul and the others were listening to her recital, spellbound.

Saul looked intensely sad. “Such a tragic irony that after it being missing for centuries, Pandora finds it through the other Horcruxes only for it to be destroyed.”

Arcturus was furious, “In the scheme of things, it can’t begin to compare to lives of all those people he murdered but it is a priceless piece of Wizarding history. He is truly a heathen savage.”

Sirius didn’t disagree but he decided that it was time to get them back on track. “So where did he hide it, Panda?”

She chuckled. “Oh, you’re not going to believe this, Siri.”

And presented  with such a challenging statement everyone wanted to guess. “The girls’ bathroom, Slytherin common room, the Black Lake,” were a few of the suggestions but Pandora indicated they were all wrong.

Gemini chuckled. “Hogwarts is a big place, give us a clue, Pandy.”

Looking over at Sirius impishly she said two words, “Dancing trolls.”

He remembered how they had wasted months searching for bloody crystal phials when they were making their Animagus potions and how Pandora had dragged him up to a room filled with discarded junk. He recalled how they had to walk up and down the corridor in front of a tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy on the seventh floor of the castle, who had been trying to teach trolls wearing tutus how to dance. Oh, the irony!

“Not the room outside Barnabas the Barmy tapestry, Panda?” he asked.

She smiled. “The room is called the Room of Requirement – it becomes whatever you need it to be. If you require it to hide something it is like a lost property cum junk room. If you require it to be somewhere to hold a meeting it will magically have seating and a table. If you require it to be someplace safe where you can hide, it will become that too and Rowena’s Diadem is hidden in the room where we found the crystal phials.”

Seeing that Callisto was looking as clueless as everyone else except Remus and James who were grinning widely, Sirius looked at his friend. “That wasn’t your mum’s vision, it was yours, wasn’t it?”

“I’m sorry, Sirius. I shouldn’t have lied to you, but I didn’t think you’d come with me if I told you, it was my vision,” she admitted regretfully.

“You are my friend and I follow my friends, anywhere,” he told her sincerely.

Having located the Diadem, the planning began in earnest to retrieve the last one of the five Horcruxes. Since there weren’t a lot of curses and traps protecting it – probably because Voldemort would have had a limited time frame in which to hide the Diadem when he revisited Hogwarts, the planning was less complex.

Soon enough, the game was on for the Marauders the Marauders to play their greatest prank at Hogwarts! Armed with the Marauders Map, plus a uniquely intimate knowledge of Hogwarts, thanks to seven years of pranking, James, Sirius, and Remus snuck back into the school one night via one of the many secret passageways they’d discovered during their quest to build their map. The map had gained a great deal of admiration from the other members of the Resistance, particularly when their curse breakers tried to force it to reveal its secrets and it threw out barbed insults at them.

Using the map to keep a lookout, they made their way to the seventh floor of the castle and the Room of Requirement. They’d brought food and water with them for several days, just in case the Ravenclaw Diadem was difficult to find in a room filled with junk. After all, it had taken days to find the crystal phials and there’d been five of them searching. Although the Curse Breaker Team wanted to go in, they’d settled for waiting at the Shrieking Shack in case they were required.

Ulrich Meyer had given his approval for Remus to go in with James and Sirius as his Occlumency skills were deemed to be more than capable of protecting him from the Horcrux. Even though they were after a Horcrux – it was almost like old times for the Marauders as they vowed to pull off one last prank against Hogwarts and Professor Dumbledore together. As the leader of the Order of the Phoenix, he wasn’t winning a lot of popularity awards with the Resistance a. the death toll steadily mounted up and they saw colleagues and school mates buried. The Marauders, even Remus were so they were chomping at the bit to pull off this massive prank, right under his long-crooked nose.

The Headmaster’s continued policy of non-lethal resistance, his overall goal of holding out salvation to a bunch of thugs while good people in his Order died or like Alastor Moody (a highly experienced Auror and James and Sirius’ training Auror) sustained life-threatening injuries was rapidly weaking their chances of winning the war. Although Moody ultimately survived, he was left with life-long injuries for his efforts and too many others weren’t so lucky.

Fortunately, even though the room was filled with junk, thanks to Pandora’s directions in narrowing down their search area, it took about ten hours to find their target and then they waited, remaining in contact with the rest of the Retrieval Team via their magical mirrors. The plan was once they found the Diadem, they would remain in the Room of Requirement until one hour past midnight before exfiltrating the castle the same way they went in. Twenty-four hours after they snuck in, the three Marauders snuck back out of Hogwarts with their final target securely wrapped in dragonhide and placed in a lead-line box, brought with them to transport the Horcrux.

The Horcrux had been destroyed with basilisk venom procured by Arcturus, amid much joyful euphoria, it didn’t take long before the fury set in. The Wizarding world had lost another priceless part of their heritage due to the narcissism of an evil Wizard. Yet, as the anger gradually subsided as they contemplated what they’d achieved together, the members of The Resistance allowed themselves an epic celebration before the final stage of Operation Augurey commenced. They’d overindulging mightily, requiring a bathtub full of Sober-Up Potions before they tacitly redoubled their efforts, this time to research how to take Voldemort and his thugs down successfully. The war wasn’t over just yet and they all stepped up the final assault.

Early on after the formation of the task force, it was Lily’s suggestion to exploit their vulnerability, a suggestion that would seem to be a no-brainer, but Lily was quite devious as it turned out. Regulus had given them a massive amount of information about Voldemort and his Death Eaters, but it was a piece of information that had turned everyone’s stomachs which she argued was the key to taking them down. Regulus had described in graphic detail what went down every time the Death Eaters abducted a group of muggles.

As depraved as their behaviour was, Lily felt that this was a time to catch them at their most vulnerable or as Gideon Prewitt quipped with the grim gallows humour that made it barely possible to do the job, to catch them with their pants down. Their mind healer, Hugo Burke (grandson of Belvina Black) confirmed that if Operation Augurey struck at them while they were focused on torturing their prisoners, they’d have the best chance of taking down the Death Eaters with a minimum number of casualties for their side. Plus, as Sirius pointed out with a pained expression, reminding them all of what they were fighting for, hopefully, they could save as many innocent victims as was wizardly possible.

After the destruction of the Diadem, Callisto and Pandora had checked and double-checked to make sure they hadn’t missed any Horcrux or that Voldemort hadn’t created any new ones. The Unspeakables, headed up by Dorea and her exigent team of researchers, Lily, Remus, and Pandora had figured out a way to detect Horcruxes that didn’t rely on seers. In studying the Horcruxes before they were destroyed, Remus observed that they all were emitting an ultra-low frequency vibration that was unique as far as he could tell and was undetectable to the human ear. He was able to hear it due to his extrasensory hearing because of his Lycanthropy. So, they built a device that was able to search for that extremely specific low range frequency and so far, its readings were confirming the two seers’ psychic searches. There were no more Horcruxes!

At which point it was time for Arcturus and Croaker to launch the final assault on Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. They had been planning this attack ever since the first day of the Horcrux hunt when they’d fought the Fiendfyre in the cave. When they received intel that Voldemort’s thugs had hijacked a group of muggle tourists from a bus in Cornwall, Saul gave authorisation of the final phase of Operation Augurey to be launched.

Step one was the mass arrests of Death Eaters who worked in the Ministry, of which there had been a shocking number. The arrests were kept confidential, and all the arrestees were transported to their French, German, and Italian counterparts to be held in high-security cells until after the final assault on Voldemort and his inner circle. Saul deemed all information pertaining to the arrests and Operation Augurey as need-to-know and most people in the Ministry were deemed as not needing to know, including one very disgruntled Albus Dumbledore.

Step two involved briefing all of the Aurors and Hit Wizards two hours before the raid who the DOM had previously vetted as being uncompromised by Voldemort’s taint. They were assembled and briefed about the planned operation to take down Tom Riddle and his bunch of assassins using information supplied by Regulus and confirmed by other Death Eaters over the last weeks who they’d captured and interrogated. After the exhaustive briefing, everyone was closely monitored until it was time to go, to guarantee there wouldn’t be any innocent leaks of their plan. The Head Unspeakable was not terribly trusting and Arcturus backed him one hundred and ten percent.

Step three involved Charlus Potter setting up a field hospital with a team of trusted healers to help treat muggle victims and any casualties that they may incur. They set up the field hospital 25 kilometres southwest of Voldemort’s HQ – a massive almost castle that he’d acquired thanks the financial backing of his pureblood supporters. Charlus had ordered in massive supplies of potions, particularly blood replenishing potions and pain potions which he fervently hoped wouldn’t be required, but the pragmatist in him knew they would.

It was at this point, Saul Croaker authorised the final phase of Operation Augurey – the assault, starting with their Curse Breaking Team with their state-of-the-art ward busting devices. They had been designed specifically for this occasion and made short work of knocking out Voldemort’s wards. Swiftly they set up the DOMs own anti-Apparition wards to prevent Death Eaters from trying to flee. The Resistance Team lead the assault, surrounded Voldemort and his men who were in the middle of torturing and raping the busload of muggle tourists they’d abducted that morning down in the dungeons or in various bedrooms in the mansion.

As the senior Hit Wizards on the team, Sirius and James had called dibs on taking down Voldemort – Croaker had already authorised that he be killed on sight, classifying him as too dangerous to try to apprehend. They found him in his quarters and took him down ruthlessly right in the middle of him raping a poor muggle who looked about the same age as Gemini Prewitt.  Using the sword of Godric Gryffindor provided by Saul, Sirius Apparated right up close and drove it straight through Tom Riddle aka Lord Voldemort’s heart, although he remarked later that it was questionable that the monster possessed one. He then handed the founder’s sword to James, his best friend and brother, who’d grimly taken off the brute’s head, mindful of the adage – cut the head off the snake and the body will die – because they’d learn that you could never be too sure.  After the battle, Remus had insisted that they burn his corpse because you couldn’t be too careful when it came to the likes of Tom Riddle Junior.

Peter Pettigrew knew that the jig was up when he saw Remus raising his wand to capture him. His only chance was to run. He shifted into his rat form and ran straight into the jaws of a hungry Nagini who had been waiting for just such a chance to devour him. Unfortunately, her master had forbidden her from eating the rodent-like wizard but as his familiar, she’d known the minute that Lord Voldemort died. She figured that with his death, all bets were off as she swallowed the rodent; her hemotoxic venom had already started digesting Peter when Remus forced an Expelling Charm on her that forced her to spit him out.

Remus caught Peter, placing him into an escape-proof rat cage that would not allow him to shift back into his human form. Even after the few short seconds he’d spent inside Nagini (that left him with lifelong nightmares, fear of the dark, herpetophobia and claustrophobia), Pettigrew had suffered horrific disfigurement, losing part of his nose and both of his ears, plus all his claws on his left front foot and his whole right hind leg, plus his tail was just a stump. Although the healers managed to stop any other damage, countering the hemotoxin with a base solution, they couldn’t fix the damage already done. Standing trial in his human form some weeks later, he looked like a hideous monster.

When James asked Remus why he’d saved Peter’s life instead of letting Nagini have him, Moony had responded saying that he wanted him to spend the rest of his miserable life in Azkaban suffering for all the evil he had committed. Letting Nagini eat him would have been way too merciful.

James figured he was okay with that, “Just as long as you didn’t do it because you felt sorry for the rat, Moony.”

Moony had growled at him and said, “Don’t be a stupid arse, Prongs. He deserves everything he gets. I’ll save my pity for Voldemort and Peter’s victims.”

Remus also pointed out when he was less angry, that if by some long shot, Peter ever managed to escape or be set free from Azkaban, his gross disfigurement would make it impossible for him to fade into the background. He would instantly be recognisable as the cowardly Death Eater, Peter Lyle Pettigrew. James reckoned that rather than feeling sorry for Peter, Moony was in an remorseless mood and he didn’t have a problem with that.

After Voldemort’s death, his assassins, the ones that hadn’t already been captured or arrested during the final battle, mostly decided that surrendering and begging for mercy was the best option by far. They expected that their money, station in life or simply the fact that they were purebloods would let them get away with claiming that they’d been under Voldemort’s Imperious Curse. They were wrong, in many cases, dead wrong. Saul Croaker was nothing like Dumbledore, he didn’t care about their redemption – he only cared about seeking justice for every last one of their victims.

He also neutralised any influence that Dumbledore tried to exert with a wiliness that would do a Slytherin proud, despite being a Ravenclaw in his youth. He had Albus charged with organising his private militia and had him suspended as the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot while Saul rammed through all of the Death Eater trials, hiring outside counsel to prosecute. Of Voldemort’s inner circle, Severus Snape, Bella and Rodolphus Lestrange and the younger Lestrange brother, Rabastan were all sentenced to life in Azkaban while Lucius Malfoy and his father Abraxas seemed to have gotten away. They had been placed on the Ministry of Magic’s Most Wanted List.

A few days after the final battle, it was announced that all of the members of The Resistance had been awarded the Order of Merlin for their efforts in ridding their world of an evil wizard. Most of the team were proud to wear their medals at official Ministry functions except for Arcturus. He requested that his Order of Merlin, First Class, for his services in defeating Tom Riddle and saving their world, remain classified and Croaker and his fellow team members respected his wishes to remain anonymous.

Arcturus felt it was hypocritical of the Ministry to award  him an OOM when he had initially been a financial backer back in the mid-1950s. Indeed, he knew that he would spend the rest of his days, bitterly regretting the fact that his blood supremacy bullshit had helped Riddle to take so many lives. He knew that because of his stupid and short-sighted choices, he’d contributed to his youngest son becoming a murderer. While it was true, just as Callisto Abbott had foretold that because of Regulus, Voldemort had been defeated, that wouldn’t negate the evil his son had committed or the heavy toll it extracted from them all. In particular Sirius who still loved his brother while hating the things he had done.

Regulus’ sentence had been commuted permanently but the binding of his magic would remain – at least for the next twenty-five years. Many would say he got off too lightly, including Arcturus but as Sirius had pointed out, the burden of having to live with what he’d done laid heavy on his soul. Arcturus thought his heir was probably right – he knew how much it cost him to live with his own actions.

“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.”  Voltaire

Epilogue

Shortly after the war ended, Lily and James had married in a quiet wedding with a few friends and close family. They were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first baby in a few months.  It seemed as if the end of Voldemort heralded in a new wave of prosperity with a much-awaited child for Frank and Alice Longbottom due around the same time as the Potters.

Sirius and Pandora had surprised everyone when the two childhood friends realised that their feelings for each other were much deeper than just friends. Everyone except Pip Potter thought they were perfect together; she was crushed but couldn’t say that Sirius had led her on in any way. After one last attempt to seduce him with an engorgement charm on her boobies that had never gotten noticeably big, had failed to capture him, she realised she was never going have him. Pandora didn’t tell Sirius that she had a vision that they got married and their first child was a daughter. The vision revealed that the little one was also a seer, like her mother and grandmother before her. Their daughter was blonde, and her eyes were silver-grey, just like her father. In her vision, the young witch wore unusual pieces of jewellery such as a necklace of butterbeer corks and what appeared to be radishes for earrings. Following the tradition of naming Ollivander daughters for the moon, they’d named her Luna.

Pandora didn’t share her vision with him because she knew that with Sirius’ fear of intimate and loving relationships, thanks to his abuse filled childhood, it would take time and patience for him to accept that he deserved to have a loving relationship and a family of his own. She wasn’t fooled by the damage that had been done to his psyche over the years by his horrible family. She hoped though that with time and patience he could overcome a lot of the damage and trust issues he had. She would let him set the pace.

And meanwhile, Dumbledore was feeling mostly aggrieved that his Order of the Phoenix had proven to be wholly irrelevant in the defeat of Lord Voldemort when he’d planned to save the world from another Dark Lord. Wholly disgruntled to be kept out of the loop, he was equally furious that as Chief Warlock he’d been prevented from presiding over the trials of the Death Eaters just because  of some minor transgression over the Order of the Phoenix, for Merlin’s sake!. All the Death Eaters were getting short shrift in his absence. Azkaban was rapidly filling up with prisoners and the Wizengamot was not even willing to entertain mitigating arguments about the accused being under the Imperious Curse. It was a travesty.

Frustrated beyond measure at his impotence, he found himself drinking butterbeer in his brother’s pub in Hogsmeade. He was ostensibly there to interview a new candidate for the Divination Professor’s job, a witch he’d quickly labelled a kook and a fraud. Well, that was until Miss Sybill Trelawney had a vision about a child prophesied to destroy the Dark Lord.

He knew it!

He was certain that Tom Riddle hadn’t been vanquished for good. Albus had gotten Slughorn plastered one night, and Horace had drunkenly confided in him that Tom had been asking about Horcruxes back when he was in Slytherin. Here was the proof!

Well perhaps just maybe, Albus might have found it simply too tempting to read the Potions Professor’s mind when Horace was far tipsy to hard resist the Legilimens probe but that was a minor transgression. Horace was tipsy and he had confided about Riddle and the Horcrux – the details surely weren’t important. Needs must when the devil drives as the saying went!

He, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was the Leader of the Light and his motives were pure. The main thing was that he had verified that Tom Riddle knew about Horcruxes as far back as when he was still a student at Hogwarts.

It stood to reason that he’d made one and Albus intended to be ready for him when he came back again. While he was looking for a way to return to corporeality, Albus must find the Horcrux and destroy it. It took an immensely powerful wizard to destroy such terrible evil but luckily, he was up to the challenge. Although perhaps he should wait upon the child in the prophecy to enter the world before he started searching for it.

The child in the prophecy could be either Lily and James Potters’ child or it could be Frank and Alice Longbottom’s infant. Everyone knew they were due around the same time. It was a shame the baby would have to grow up without its parents, an orphan like Tom Riddle for Dumbledore’s plan to work.

He would need to have enough influence over the child to convince them to sacrifice themselves for the greater good and if their parents were alive, that would be nigh near impossible. Perhaps he should plan for contingencies to ensure that he had an Heir and a Spare. It would be a tragedy to lose Alice, Frank, James, and Lily in one fell swoop, but truly, what were four lives when he could save the wizarding world?

It saddened him that they must be sacrificed, it truly did, but he tried to be pragmatic. It was not as though any of them had lived up to the potential they’d shown at Hogwarts. Although all four were members of the Order when he’d formed it initially, they had failed to contribute in a meaningful way, frequently pleading work commitments when asked to go on assignments. Of course, all but Lily were Aurors, and he supposed that they were busy, but he would make sure that their ultimate contribution to the defeat of Lord Voldemort was never forgotten. He was going to make them martyrs to the cause.

Feeling energised since the first time he’d learnt that Voldemort had been defeated, he ordered another butterbeer. It was time to make plans. He would personally vouch for young Severus Snape and have him released from Azkaban. Hogwarts needed a new Potions Professor since Horace had decided to retire and in return, young Severus would become Albus’ spy when Voldemort rose again.

Meanwhile, he would contact Remus Lupin and remind him of the task he wanted him to undertake last year. He would embed him the Greyback Werewolf Pack as a backup spy for when Voldemort returned. It would be undeniably dangerous, but it was for the greater good.

The End


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SASundance

Writer and reader from down under, obsessive filler of pot-holes um plot holes. You can find me at A03 and fanfic.net under my pen name SASundance

5 Comments:

  1. Another great story! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love how everything turns out better than it did in canon, but Dumbledore’s ego refuses to accept his irrelevance. It truly was a wonderful story. But now I want to see Dumbledore get his ass handed to him by the Marauding Ankle Biters.

  3. Thank you for sharing this story with us. I really enjoyed it. Especially the nuances and details of the years Sirius and company were at Hogwarts. It really fleshed out the reasons behind the hatred they felt for specific members of the other side as well as why Dumbledore found it so easy to incarcerate Sirius without trial in canon. Regulus did get off easy but I guess that’s why being an informant pays. I can’t even imagine if Sirius and Regulus ever reconcile. Regulus’s multiple betrayals and assisting in murdering Sirius make that a hard pill to swallow.

    I did actually feel shivers when Dumbledore was ruminating on securing an Heir and a spare. That really can’t be good.

    The Malfoys being in the wind is also concerning. I wonder if Narcissa fled with them.

    Anyhoo, thanks again for the story. It’s one I will read again.

  4. Wow, this story was beyond amazing! I loved it so much. I so hope Albus gets what’s coming to him though! I also secretly hope that Sirius learns of his parentage. What a lovely story, thank you for writing it.

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