Chapter 73

Hogsmeade, Horcruxes and Holidays

Hogsmeade - Sirius, Remus & Shacklebolt.

Sirius and Remus entered the fight, back to back, trusting each other completely. They were outnumbered for only a few minutes, but that few minutes seemed like forever. Between Sirius and Remus, they had to fight off three sets of spells and fire of those of their own to keep the balance. Not to forget having to duck whenever their partner did, indicating something fatal was coming their way, that there was no known shield for. It's the only reason they ducked, since it was Death Eaters they were talking about, it was every few seconds unfortunately.

"Duck!" shouted Remus pulling Sirius down with him, causing the sickly green spell to wiz past them and hit the shop window before disappearing in a hail of breaking glass.

"Thanks," said Sirius, "Stupefy! Petrificus Totalus!"

"Five o'clock," said Remus turning abruptly and firing of a spell, as Sirius did the same. "I thought Dumbledore was having this place watched?"

"I thought so too," said Sirius, looking down at the floor before saying another spell that would turn an object to stone. His particular one was water; someone must have used the Aguamenti spell to put out the fires. "Duro!" grinning in a feral way when the Death Eater panicked firing off a stunning spell to subdue him so he couldn't spell his way out. Summoning his wand to keep him down, he wouldn't be able to fight now. Stuffing the wand in his pocket, he continued on, trying to get to Shacklebolt. He was just glad the more…sadistic Death Eaters were behind Azkaban and safe, Voldemort couldn't get them out. So if they were caught, they would at least remain there, the last war was a constant struggle, capture them, they get out and the process would just begin all over again.

Despite what Cornelius Fudge had done, he respected him for that alone, ensuring Azkaban was put under the Fidelus Charm. Well that and Albus' decision to actually reassure Fudge, who probably would have gone on the defensive that night if not for the Headmaster's candid words.

"Twelve!" shouted Sirius, his head ducking slightly when he heard an explosion, covered in soot and ash from the fires clouding the place he looked around and saw an influx of red robes. He had to get to Shacklebolt soon, otherwise they would be retreating.

"Come on, we have to find him," said Remus on the same wavelength as his partner.

"I know!" yelled Sirius, choking and gagging as the disgusting taste and smell invaded his mouth and nose.

"Bulla capite!" tapped Remus, his voice muffled and Sirius sighed as fresh air invaded his lungs making him feel better. Of course, the Bubble-Head charm, why hadn't he thought of that? This was why Remus was the academic one he was just brilliant.

"Thanks," said Sirius, his own voice now muffled, grabbing a hold of him he began a desperate search for Kingsley. Using his wand to disperse the smoke so he could actually see in front of him. He was staying as far down as possible, since the battle was still currently going on around him. In fact Remus was still shouting spells at any black robes that moved, still doing his bit to help.

"Did you hear that?" asked Sirius his voice muffled, now that the smoke had disappeared he cast a spell to remove the Bubble-Head charm and sighed the recycled air wasn't the best thing in the world. Remus did the same thing as he listened for whatever Sirius wanted him to hear.

Remus suddenly nodded, they were Apparating away, and they had run out of time.

"SHIT!" cursed Remus, "Your left!"

Sirius turned, and saw that there was a familiar green spell spitting from a Death Eaters wand directly aimed at Kingsley Shacklebolt.

"ARESTO MOMENTUM!" shouted Sirius, as Remus ran at the wizard to try and get to him before the deadly curse hit him. The spell stopped in mid air, before hurtling back at its castor, Sirius stood stunned he'd aimed it at the Death Eater not the killing curse itself. Had he unknowingly come upon some form of counter against the spell? Rushing over to Remus and Kingsley.

"Finite Incantatem!" spelled Sirius, removing the Imperious Curse from their fallen comrade.

A broken moan left Shacklebolt's lips.

"Hang on, Kings," said Sirius, using his nickname. "Ferula!"

"Ferula," added Remus, bandaging his arm.

"We're going to Apparate you to St. Mungo's alright? Hang in there." said Sirius, sharing a worried look with Remus, he looked really bad. They had to get him to the hospital right away, holding onto Shacklebolt as Remus cast a spell to place him on a stretcher. Once that was done and Shacklebolt was secure, they Apparated away, praying they'd done enough to save their friend.

"What happened?" asked two Healers immediately making their way to the injured wizard's side.

"He's been kidnapped by Voldemort, he's been under the Imperious curse but we have no idea how long…he's also been under the Cruciatus curse and has at least one broken arm and leg." said Sirius, as Shacklebolt was carted away from them.

"I hope he makes it," said Sirius, strained, as he slumped down on one of the seats in the emergency room.

"Should we go and get some rest? We won't hear anything back, that's if they will tell us." wondered Remus, as he too sat down completely exhausted.

"I hope James and Nick are alright," said Sirius, his brow furrowed in worry.

"Me too," said Remus.

More wizards and witches were brought into St. Mungo's and before long the ones badly hurt were levitated off. Ones less hurt were told to sit down and a Medi-Witch would be with them as soon as possible. Which was true, they'd barely sat down before they came down and led them off to get healed. Albus Dumbledore made an appearance, Sirius and Remus wished they could say they were surprised but they weren't.

"How is he?" asked Albus, he looked slightly bewildered but at what they couldn't say.

"He's just been taken in," said Sirius, they would still be assessing him to make sure to catch all the severe injuries that needed immediate attention were seen to first. He knew the routine well, despite the fact he had been unconscious when he was taken in for assessment half a year ago now. It was hard to believe, time had gone so quickly, he and Remus had gotten a close call, which made him more determined to be careful. Especially when it came to Remus' life.

"Did he say anything to you?" asked Albus, he was hopeful to get some news out of this tragedy.

"Albus, he's in extremely bad shape, he might not make it." said Remus grimly, shaking his head in irritation, Albus could be down right insensitive at times. "This isn't a time to get information; you should just be glad he's back, anything he may have learned can and should wait."

"Of course," said Albus contritely. "Do not get me wrong I am worried about him…without a spy I find it rather difficult. I want to know what Voldemort is up to."

"We all do, it doesn't mean we want to pry information from a wizard who's hurting." said Sirius, he would have been furious if it was Remus. "Is James and Nick alright?"

"Both are fine, Nick kept a steady nerve and fought bravely, I'm really proud of him." said Albus beaming in delight, he was getting there, before long he would be able to take on the Death Eaters by himself. Maybe one day soon he could take on Voldemort and beat him as he was prophesied to.

"Thank Merlin for that," said Sirius relieved, beside him Remus sagged in relief at the news as well.

"If you wish to leave I'll keep you updated," said Albus, sitting down himself.

"No, we are staying; we want to know how he is. No matter how long it takes, but you can head back to Hogwarts, Albus, we'll be fine." said Sirius, knowing the Headmaster's game.

"No, no I shall remain as well, Minerva can keep an eye on things at Hogwarts." said Albus.

Just then another wave of Auror's and one red headed wizard flooded in, but none of them were hurt, in fact they made their way directly to Remus and Sirius asking how the wizard was. They had cards, flowers, chocolates and other knickknacks for the Auror to let him know he was being thought of in this tough time.

"It's not going to be easy, laddies." said Alastor grimly. "He might take a while to recover from the Imperious curse; we don't know what they've made him do."

"I know, I just hope they didn't make him hurt someone," said Tonks.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they did," said Smith bitterly, Death Eaters were disgusting creatures.

"He's here now that's all that matters, I'm sure between us all he can recover fully," said Arthur. He hoped Shacklebolt was alright, not only was he a brilliant Auror, fantastic order member but a good friend. He hadn't held out much hope that he would be found, but they weren't out of danger yet, since Sirius and Remus had quickly explained how bad he was. Broken bones were dangerous things; it could lead to amputations if they weren't dealt with immediately. With the Imperious curse on him he was walking with it. They could of course banish the bones, but there would be nothing they could do for the nerve damage, at least not yet but Potions were making leaps and bounds. Harry Peverell was doing so much for that community, he was impressed. The whole Ministry was constantly talking about him and his accomplishments, and his medals since he'd been awarded the Order of Merlin at such a young age too.

"We can only pray to Merlin that that's true." said Sirius sincerely.

Everyone went tense worried silence; the only noise heard was from the Medi-Wizards and Witches calling for people. Also the quiet crying of the children complaining of ailments having been caught in the crossfire between the Death Eaters and the Order.

St. Mungo's Hospital For Magical Maladies

Arthur had to leave since his wife would have worried to death if he hadn't. Sirius knew from personal experience just how loud Molly could be if she even remotely worried, so wasn't surprised Arthur was the first to leave. The others followed after a few hours, when they were falling asleep waiting to hear back from the Healers. Sirius and Remus were exhausted as well, but weren't giving up on him. He had no family and nobody would be here for him so it was up to them to help him. A familiar face when you were in the hospital helped a lot.

"I'm going for coffee, would you like one?" asked Remus, as he jerked awake once again.

"I wouldn't mind." murmured Sirius, sitting up straighter, rubbing at his eyes. "I'll be outside, I need to get some cool air or I'm going to pass out."

"Alright," said Remus setting off once again to get a couple of coffees for them. It was a testament to how exhausted Sirius was that he was drinking coffee. He didn't drink coffee unless he was worried, stressed or shattered. If they had company he'd force himself to take a few sips, other than that zilch.

Sirius stepped outside, sighing softly; he'd expected to hear from the Healers by this. The state Kingsley was in, no news was in fact good news. He'd obviously survived the worst of it, but he obviously wasn't out of the woodworks or someone would have been by to see them. Staring down at his watch, he realized they'd been there for sixteen hours; daylight would soon be breaking out above the clouds. It was five AM and they hadn't had a moments sleep between them, of course they weren't the only ones in the emergency room awaiting news. Family of the other wounded people were there, but all things considered there had been no fatalities so all was good.

Shivering at the cold, which was invigorating with how tired he was, he headed back in just in time to see Remus returning with their coffee. Sitting down he accepted the cup suppressing a tired yawn, blowing on it in a bid to cool it down so it didn't scald his tongue.

"Are you the gentlemen that brought in Kingsley Shacklebolt?" asked a Healer making his way over. Sirius and Remus recognized him as one of the Healers who had taken Kingsley to be assessed.

"Yes, I'm Sirius Black, this is my partner Remus Lupin, I am an Auror and a good friend of Kingsley's." said Sirius, and if he had to pull the Auror card to get information he would do it.

"How is he?" asked Remus.

"I am healer Strout, I remember you both," she said nodding at them, "Auror Shacklebolt is out of danger, he's been sent up to the IC ward so he can be closely monitored. Even with a Fever-Reducing Potion his temperature is staying extremely elevated. We've done all we can to bring it down, but we must keep an eye on it if it gets higher it could be fatal. He's on a course of antibiotics which will help bring his fever down as well. Now his arm and leg have been patched up but not healed, he had many internal injuries and his internal organs are shook up enough with the amount of damage done by the Cruciatus Cruse. Once his fever is down and if he doesn't have any seizures we will be getting his arm and leg fixed as soon as possible."

"Are the seizures permanent?" asked Remus his eyes shadowed with worry; Shacklebolt loved being an Auror, if he had anything like seizures that would be him on permanent desk duty.

"I'm sorry, I cannot say for sure, we will just have to keep an eye on him." said Healer Strout.

"How is he…you know, mentally?" asked Sirius wearily, the professional Auror nowhere to be seen, it rarely was when it was one of their own or family.

"He hasn't regained conscious yet, he had a haemorrhage which we are keeping an eye on. To know for sure, we will have to wait on him waking up. He won't be for at least twelve hours we've given him a very strong pain relief potion." said Healer Strout, as much as she wished she could give them good news, she couldn't. As a healer, it wasn't worth her job to give them false platitudes, no, it was better to tell the truth, for better or for worse.

"Thank you, Healer Strout," said Remus smiling wearily.

"My suggestions is go and get some sleep, nobody will be getting in to see him until we have been able to fully assess him." said Strout, he could be extremely violent upon wakening, he had been held prisoner for the past two months according to the records from the Ministry when he'd been declared missing.

"Thank you for everything," said Sirius, swallowing thickly, being injured months ago had given him a new respect for the Healers. Hundreds of people injured and they'd more or less saved everyone who had come through their doors still breathing. They'd had help, but during tough times communities did come together and help each other.

"It's my duty," said Strout, she would have done it regardless, especially since he was an Auror, they risked their life every day to help them all. During these dark times, Auror's was all that stood between them here and now and anarchy and pandemonium.

"Come on, Remy," murmured Sirius his shoulders hunched as the exhaustion grew to unbearable portions. "Bye." he added before Apparating to Grimmauld Place.

"I could sleep for a year," confessed Remus tiredly, as he began to disrobe, his bed had been calling him for the past nine hours. Sliding into bed, with nothing but his boxer shorts on, this was what he slept in. He was warmer than Sirius, so he didn't need to wear anything. Although Sirius usually did, but not tonight, as he flopped on the bed and he was out like a light. Rolling his eyes, he slumped into bed and covered them before he too was out for the count.

Grimmauld Place - Sirius & Remus

"Well that's it, the entire house has been searched from top to bottom," said Sirius, throwing an expensive trinket at the wall, one his mother would have gone berserk at him for touching never mind breaking. A lot of things had changed, but his short temper certainly wasn't it. He would put up with a short temper as long as he didn't end up with the 'Black madness' as it was coined. Four generations ago it had been the 'Gaunt madness' descendants of Salazar Slytherin in their bid to keep their 'blood' as pure as possible took inner breeding a step too far. It resulted in lunacy; it's as if they had a synapse in their brain missing that caused them to descend into insanity.

"What about the dungeons?" asked Remus, maybe they'd find a room down there that they didn't know about. Or that Sirius had forgotten about? Who knew? He wasn't the one who had lived there all their lives; although Sirius hated it most of the place had been refurbished.

"Nothing, all the walls were broken in to give you room to move as Moony." said Sirius, "Well the Potions lab is there, but it was a makeshift one, Snape created it the last year of the war. He can sense dark magic and would have gotten rid of it, if he remembered it he would have said."

"Have you noticed Kreacher taking things?" asked Remus, currently watching the House Elf creeping down the hall with a handful of things. As soon as he was mentioned he popped away, could he know something they didn't? Plans immediately began forming in his mind.

"Yes pieces of junk," said Sirius rolling his eyes, sighing in defeat, he had been hoping to do this, for Harry. He'd let him down so often, this had been his way to prove he wanted to be part of Harry's life. He had a feeling Harry merely tolerated him some times; he would chose to go away with someone else to discuss stuff before coming to him. He'd confessed his thoughts to Remus, who had suggested he read some Potions books, so he could converse with Harry regarding an art he loved so much. The idea had been distasteful at first, but remembering seeing Harry leaving with the other Potions Masters made him realize Remus had a point. So his plan was tonight raid the Black library and begin to read, it would be worth it if he could just talk to Harry without past getting in the way.

"Sirius, I want to try something…promise me you won't get angry at him, just treat him with some respect please?" asked Remus his voice calculating and calm. He wanted the House Elf to cooperate, and to do that he couldn't let either of them get at the others throats. He had a feeling deep in his bones that there was something they were missing, Regulus didn't have anywhere else to stay, and the Horcrux had to be here. "Did Kreacher get along with Regulus?" asked Remus suddenly.

"What are you on about?" asked Sirius baffled by Remus' sudden interest in Kreacher, he'd always been exasperated by his kindness to the bloody thing, it was trouble and he hated him. He would have let him go but it was too dangerous, he knew too much about the Order. "Course the thing liked Regulus, they all did." added Sirius, without his usual disgust when it came to his brother. The residual words written in that book could nearly still reduce him to tears. He'd become a Death Eater yes, but his little brother had regretted it. That's what mattered and he had tried to fix it, he'd thought Voldemort only had one Horcrux. If he had, his brother would have been the hero who brought Voldemort down, that would have been a way to have the light shine on the Black name for the first time. It would have also spared his godsons from a life of difficulty, and they both did have a difficult life just in different ways. Nick had been spoiled, and it had crashed down around him when he realized what the world wanted of him. He was still scared, that was obvious but he was determined to see it through. He'd said to Nick if he wasn't scared then he was suicidal. Anyone that wasn't scared before a battle, Sirius had confessed, was lying. Being scared helped, it stopped you getting overconfident.

"Siri, I think he might know where it is," explained Remus.

"What…let's go!" said Sirius already moving out of the living room.

"No, wait, listen to me, you cannot go in there and demand from him, he will lie and get defensive, we need to get him on side." said Remus.

"He can't lie," said Sirius shaking his head staring at Remus.

"He will work around it, Sirius, please, for me?" asked Remus, he just wanted to do this his way. "If it doesn't work then we do it your way. You draw more flies with honey than vinegar."

Sirius paused, this was important with Remus; he didn't normally stick to his guns so ardently. "Alright, we'll try it your way, but I can't promise anything, you know how I hate the damn House Elf."

"Just try," said Remus, "It's all I can ask."

"Okay." said Sirius in agreement. "Let's get going then."

Remus didn't need to use a spell to figure out where Kreacher had disappeared to. Although he didn't like how they were treated, since he too was considered a 'creature' and stared at in disgust by the general population. Thanks to his association with the Order and the Auror's as well as Dumbledore, nobody had the guts to really say anything. Especially not with Sirius around, nobody had dared to, if anyone had tried they would have know all about it. The cupboard he used as a den, which was right next to the kettle. Remus opened the door, to find the House-Elf inside, feigning sleep, the items he stole apparently nowhere in sight.

Remus threw Sirius a look, 'do not screw this up' he was their best chance of finding this damn Horcrux. Kreacher knew every inch of this bloody house; he cleaned it after all…or rather went around cleaning barely enough muttering darkly under his breath. He could hear everything he said, but refused to tell Sirius, knowing how his hot-headed partner would do.

Taking a deep breath, his mind thought about how to deal with this. Then suddenly he was thinking about Harry and how he'd been with the House-Elves, Dobby and Rose was it? He wasn't exactly sure, but he realized he would have to be kind. It's what Harry would do, and if he found out he'd alienated a chance to find the Horcrux he would blow a fuse.

"Kreacher? I'd like to talk to you, please sit up." said Sirius, a grimace set on his face. He did not like being nice to the House Elf at all. He kept reminding himself it was for Harry and Nick, mostly Harry, he'd do this, and he would have his godson's pride. He'd done worse things at the end of the day, right? Yes…no…maybe, it didn't matter he was doing it and that was that.

"Yes Nasty Master Black?" muttered Kreacher, his bloodshot eyes glaring down his nose at him.

Sirius literally had to bite his tongue; this was harder than he thought it would be. "If you are honest with me, I will give you ten items of your choosing to keep, anything in the house." said Sirius, he could keep it all, as long as he didn't come across it actually for all he cared.

Kreacher stared at his Master barely able to comprehend what he was saying quite reluctantly. "Yes, Master Black."

Crouching down, face to face with the Elf, he was probably the last one to ever see his brother alive and he found himself desiring answers more than getting into a shouting match. "Did Regulus ask you to do anything, Kreacher?"

"No sir," murmured the House Elf, his shifty eyes not able to meet his current Master's eyes.

"Did he ask you to keep it quiet?" Sirius wondered out loud, the quick look the Elf gave him confirmed his suspicions. Swallowing thickly, he was right; Regulus had let the House Elf in on whatever he had been doing. Perhaps he did have the Horcrux and had been protecting it or something unaware of what it was.

"Kreacher I know about the Horcrux, I know Regulus found one, its very dark magic, it shouldn't be tampered with where is it?" asked Sirius. He hoped it wasn't drawn out, they would be leaving to see Kingsley in just under twenty minutes with any luck. They didn't know if he would be awake, or if they would be allowed to see him or how his mental state was going to be. They'd slept for seven hours then began to search every room in the house to make up for lost time, not that it had been productive until now. Now they had hope that Kreacher knew something they didn't.

Kreacher didn't answer, just continued to sit hunched over in his cupboard.

"Regulus wanted it destroyed Kreacher, so do we," said Remus, holding his breath, waiting for something, anything to happen. Merlin Kreacher had to help them, he just had to otherwise they were stuck.

There we go will Kreacher tell them or will they destroy the rest of the Horcruxes unaware of one hidden away and have one hell of a cliffhanger ending of him coming back once more? Will Harry get pregnant on the cruise or would you rather wait a until Voldemort is out of the way? Or would you like it to be a surrogate who has the child for them with harry and severus' combined DNA? perhaps using a squib that leaves them with enough magic to actually heal their core so they can be witches afterwards? giving society a way to accept squibs and stop them being abandoned? will Dumbledore die going to the cliff alone? or barely get back to tell them only to realize he died for nothing when they realize it was a fake? or will we see Dumbledore having to come to terms that Nick is not the boy who lived? when will they learn about Harry being the boy who lived? before he defeats Voldemort or after? R&R please.