Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
Special thanks to my betas, boushh, xHarryIsMyHomeboyx, and breannatala. Extra special thanks to xHarryIsMyHomeboyx for beta reading this chapter. Enjoy!
Chapter 19: Return to Grimmauld Place
For a recap of the story so far, see Chapter 18.
Harry was too preoccupied to fall asleep that night. He couldn't stop thinking about going to Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. He thought about Sirius for a while, an empty feeling settling in his gut. It still hurt to dwell on him for too long, so Harry tried to distract himself and snatched up a defense book he got for his birthday. All that did was cause him to worry about the next day's mission. He didn't want to see anyone else get hurt, but from his experience with the Horcrux in the diary he knew not to underestimate the evil that Voldemort sealed in Slytherin's locket.
He practiced some new shields, hoping to be more prepared. He continued reading the defense book until his eyes got heavy and he couldn't see straight anymore. Putting his book and wand on the nightstand, Harry pulled out the Marauder's Map. He watched Snape move between his lab and storeroom several times. Dumbledore was in his office, probably seated at his desk, as his label was stationary. Besides his still flickering name, Harry also spotted Remus and Tonks' names on the map, both unmoving side by side in Remus's quarters. Getting bored watching the few castle inhabitants on the map, he closed it and glanced at the clock for the last time. It was already three in the morning. He took off his glasses, closed his eyes, and forced himself to clear his mind. It wasn't working. Harry sighed. It was going to be a long day.
"Don't forget your dad's cloak," Remus called up the stairs from the Gryffindor common room.
"I know!" Harry yelled back, digging through his trunk for his wand holster that he would need for their trip to Number 12 Grimmauld Place.
Finding the dragonhide sheath, he attached it to his body and tucked his wand safely inside it. With his invisibility cloak stashed in his pocket, he rushed down the stairs two at a time to meet Remus.
"Ready?" Remus asked, standing straight from where he had been leaning against the stone fireplace mantle.
Harry nodded and followed Remus out of the portrait hole and to the Headmaster's office. Panting already from both adrenaline and the excitement of tearing up his dorm to find what he needed, Harry attempted to calm himself before meeting the others.
"You-No-Poo," Remus said to the gargoyle guarding the Headmaster's office.
Despite the stress of the upcoming mission, Harry couldn't help but laugh, "You-no poo! That's brilliant!"
Remus smiled, "One of the twins' new candy inventions, I've been told. Albus said he saw the poster in Diagon Alley and couldn't resist trying some. He would have been admitted to St. Mungo's with a bowel obstruction if not for Madame Pomfrey's judicious use of therapeutic laxatives. It's also the reason he couldn't join us in the chamber yesterday. He was a bit, well, indisposed."
"Gross," Harry remarked, wrinkling his nose. "Sorry I asked," Harry whispered as he pushed open the office door.
"Harry, Remus, have a seat. We're just waiting on Kingsley and Nymphadora," Dumbledore announced from the head of an oval table that was now situated on the other side of his office across from his desk.
"Hey, nice to see you both again," Bill Weasley smiled as he stood and greeted Harry and Remus. "And you, Harry, the Headmaster wasn't lying when he said you look different."
"Yeah, it's taken some getting used to," Harry added as he shook Bill's hand.
"It's nice to see the real you, though," Bill commented cheerfully.
Remus moved to sit next to Snape, who was seated across from the Headmaster, while Harry took a seat between Dumbledore and Bill.
"Excuse me a moment," Dumbledore said to them both as he stood and joined Remus and Snape in conversation.
"How is everyone?" Harry asked, eager to find out what his friends were up to, since he hadn't seen them for nearly a month.
"They're all good. Charlie got a promotion and is one of the head dragon breeders on the reserve," Bill mentioned.
"That's great! How's Fred and George's new shop going?" Harry questioned.
"They're always busy. I've never seen them work so hard. Mum and Dad were worried when they didn't sit for their N.E.W.T.S, but they've come around. I think they like seeing the twins serious about building a successful business," Bill answered.
He continued, "Hermione's spending the last two weeks before school at the Burrow. Ginny enjoys having another girl around, but I think Ron's happier to have her around than she is. He hasn't admitted it, but I think he's smitten with her," Bill explained.
"But they argue all the time," Harry said, trying to think if he ever saw anything more than friendship between them.
"That's the way Ron is. With so many kids in the house, to get attention he would act as the instigator. When he had crushes on girls growing up, he would tease them, follow them around, or just do little things that would get on their nerves. Hermione's been so focused on her studies that she doesn't see his behavior for what it is and gives as good as she gets," Bill said, smiling.
Harry thought about asking what Ginny did when she liked boys, but was interrupted as Dumbledore came back and took his seat.
"Bill, I hear congratulations are in order," Dumbledore said with a beaming smile.
"Thank you," Bill said, blushing.
"What happened?" Harry asked.
"I'm engaged to Fleur Delacour," Bill answered.
"That's great! Congratulations! Mrs. Weasley must be excited to plan a wedding," Harry stated.
Bill chuckled, "She and Fleur have done nothing but talk about wedding details for the past week. I actually look forward to going to work lately so I can avoid being stuck in the middle of fierce debates like this morning's about teal versus turquoise linens."
Dumbledore and Harry laughed and Bill joined in, drawing the attention of Snape and Remus.
"What's so funny?" Remus asked curiously.
Before Bill could answer, Kingsley stepped out of the floo. He quickly stepped aside and Harry understood why as Tonks spilled out, stumbling over her own cloak. Kingsley, who appeared used to her unsteadiness, already had his arm out and caught her by the wrist before she toppled over one of Dumbledore's spinning antiques.
"Thanks," Tonks smiled to Kingsley before they both greeted everyone.
Tonks took the seat beside Remus and across from Harry while Kingsley sat between Bill and Snape.
"Thank you all for coming," Dumbledore began. "As you know, we did prove that Harry inherited Kreacher and in all likelihood Headquarters as well. However, we cannot be sure until we go there ourselves. Other dangers exist as well, so Tonks and Kingsley were kind enough to agree to help us this evening."
At his nod, Kingsley responded in kind and Tonks smiled.
"Once we determine the general safety of Headquarters, you both are free to leave and Severus, Remus, Harry, and I will remain behind to ready the building for our use. Severus and Remus, we spoke earlier and you are both prepared, correct?"
"Yes, Headmaster," Snape spoke as Remus nodded in agreement.
"Harry, you have been briefed earlier and we will explain more once we're sure ownership of Number 12 Grimmauld Place transferred to you," Dumbledore explained to Harry.
"Yes, sir," Harry responded.
"If there are no questions, we will depart via portkey," Dumbledore added as the others stood.
"Come along," Dumbledore announced and the others quieted and gathered around the wire hanger that he held up.
A few seconds after each of them had a grip on it, the portkey activated. Harry felt like he was attached to the hanger by a narrow thread as he was whirled around. Just when he thought he would sick up if he spun around anymore, Harry's feet firmly hit the ground at Grimmauld Place. His knees buckled and he almost fell, but was caught by Snape.
"Thanks," Harry murmured and Snape released his arm.
The eclectic group walked down the street, Dumbledore whispering concealing spells as they walked. They quickly reached Number 12 and huddled on the doorstep.
Harry thought the stoop must be enchanted because all six of them were able to fit on the landing, barely touching shoulders.
"Harry, come forward. If it's yours, the wards will respond to your magical signature. If not, well, that's why we're all here," Kingsley spoke up.
"Just grab the handle," Dumbledore urged, stepping back and guiding Harry towards the door with a gentle nudge.
Harry hesitated for a moment, but was reassured by the presence of the group of highly qualified individuals behind him and grasped the large serpentine handle, his thumb on the latch.
When nothing strange happened, Harry relaxed and opened the door. Memories of Sirius assaulted his brain. Reminders were everywhere. The curtain covering Walburga Black's portrait was still singed where Sirius set fire to it. The coasters were still where he left them, on the side table that Sirius had animated during the Christmas holidays to fly around the room so that he could demonstrate some of his favorite seeker moves.
"Thank you, Harry. I don't mean to state the obvious, but the house is yours," Dumbledore spoke out as they all stood in the foyer.
Dumbledore's words jolted him back to the present. Everyone was safely inside and, with the exception of Snape, staring at him with looks of concern.
Harry hated that look. As much as he was missing Sirius right now, they had a task to do and he couldn't let them see his grief.
"Stay here, Potter," Snape ordered when Harry started to move away from the door to follow Tonks and Kingsley.
"We need to wait for them to clear the house first," Remus reminded Harry.
"Oh, yeah," Harry responded, embarrassed.
Dumbledore and Remus were casting a variety of protection spells over the door, most of which Harry had never heard of. Meanwhile, Snape was casting a variety of spells aimed at the floor and corners of the room. He was mumbling a string of Latin words, few of which Harry could understand. He watched as golden tendrils slithered along the floor, spreading out and sending off sparks of light that danced up the walls to join the streaks of light that were originating from the corners.
Harry's eyes tracked the golden tentacles as they merged with the blue glow surrounding the door, engulfing the room in a green glow. He didn't know why, but the cold, isolated feeling that overwhelmed him slowly disappeared until he felt as though he would never be alone again.
He was jerked out of that peaceful feeling as the glow from the spells faded into the walls and the curtain covering Mrs. Black flung open.
She began screeching furiously. "How dare you vile urchins defile the House of Black!"
"Nice to see you, too!" Tonks yelled over the obscenities, her hair turning fire red as she grabbed the curtain from Remus and yanked it shut with more force than necessary.
"Thanks for the help," Remus joked as he got closer to Tonks and put an arm around her, causing her hair to turn pink again.
Kingsley was already talking to Snape near the fireplace in hushed tones. Harry hadn't seen Snape walk away during the commotion, but everyone else seemed to notice as Harry trailed after Dumbledore and the others into the next room.
"I take it you found nothing?" Dumbledore asked as they approached Snape and Kingsley.
"All clear," Kingsley responded, snatching up some floo powder and motioning for Tonks to join him with a jerk of his head.
"Time to get back to work," Tonks said as she gave Remus a quick kiss.
"Thanks again," Dumbledore said as he shook first Kinsley's then Tonks' hand.
"Not a problem, but we have to return before our absence is noticed," Kingsley responded.
"And nice seeing you again, Mr. Potter," Kingsley said right before he disappeared in the green flames of the floo.
"See ya in a bit!" Tonks added as she too was whisked away.
Harry looked up at Snape and Dumbledore, the seriousness of the search sinking in.
"I'll tackle the first two floors. Severus, you can cover the basement, and Remus, you and Harry can start with the attic," he ordered and began to walk away from the others.
"Wait!" Harry called out, annoyed. He wasn't going to be babysat here too, subjected to following one of the others around. He came along because he wanted to help search, not act like Remus's living shadow.
"Why can't I start on the third floor? It'll take twice as long if the four of us don't split up," Harry said as he tried to defend his case.
"Potter, for once in your life, can't you just do as you're told?" Snape sneered.
Dumbledore ignored Snape and answered Harry, "While safe from general threats, such as decapitation spells in entryways, there may be hidden dangers that have yet to be removed. It would be safer if you would stick with one of us."
"I'm not thick," Harry said, ignoring the scoff from Snape. "Voldemort and I have this connection. If there's anyone that can sense a part of him in an object, I think it would be me. If I find something that looks dangerous, I'll call one of you. Trust me," Harry pleaded.
Dumbledore stared at Harry for a while before turning towards Snape. "Give him the portkey," Dumbledore ordered.
Snape looked ready to make a snide comment, but Harry was confused when he said nothing and instead reached into his robes, pulled out a rock about the size of his palm, and handed it off to Dumbledore.
Dumbledore sighed. "I suspect you don't realize how much I do trust you," he said softly before holding out the rock to Harry. "You can search the third level and do the fourth together with Remus. Just satisfy an old man's concern and take this portkey as a precaution. The password is wartcap. It will take you to my office should you encounter any trouble and find yourself in need of escaping before we arrive to your aid."
"Thanks," Harry replied, tucking the ordinary river rock in the pocket of his jeans. He was surprised how readily the Headmaster agreed with him. "I'll be careful."
"I know you will, my boy," Dumbledore answered with a smile. "Let's begin, shall we?" Dumbledore announced.
Two hours later, Harry was wishing he had just worked with Remus. He suspected he would have been far less bored if he had the other man for company. Instead, he was now getting down on his stomach to peer under one of the beds in Fred and George's old room.
Based on the large amount of contraband hidden, their center of operations seemed to be located under what he was assuming was Fred's bed.
He grabbed his wand, using it to shove what looked like melted moldy canary creams out of the way to inspect further. As he squinted to read the labels on some overturned vials, Harry noticed something sticky attached to his wand.
"Gross!" Harry grimaced as he saw what looked like runny poo off of his wand. It smelled like cotton candy as he used a pillowcase to wipe it off, making Harry suspect it was a new product the twins were developing.
"Wonder what creature they were basing that product on?" Harry muttered, chuckling softly as he imagined possible uses for the substance. It would have worked wonders against Umbridge.
He was startled out of his thoughts when a loud crack rang throughout the room.
"Master called?" Kreacher asked, bowing slightly.
"Kreacher! You scared me!" Harry answered, lowering his raised wand and trying to calm his racing heart.
"Kreacher is sorry, Master, but you is calling, so Kreacher is coming," the elf explained.
Harry was confused. He thought back to what he had said.
"Creature," he whispered, laughing.
"Yes, sir?" Kreacher said, only causing Harry to laugh more.
"Sorry, Kreacher. I was just looking for something and misspoke," Harry explained.
"Then Kreacher will return to the attic. That wolf man is making a mess," Kreacher added, a scowl on his face at the mention of Remus.
"Actually," Harry added, causing the elf to pause. "Maybe you could help me and we'll all leave sooner. Have you seen a locket anywhere in the house?" Harry asked, knowing he was vague but not wanting to give too much away.
"A locket, Master?" Kreacher looked at Harry suspiciously and continued, "You cannot have it. Master Regulus gave it to me."
Kreacher seemed nervous to Harry, which was unlike him. He had to be talking about Slytherin's locket, especially if a Death Eater previously had possession of it.
The elf was loyal to Sirius's brother, so much so that he would probably die before giving it to Harry. He needed more information.
"Tell me about the locket," Harry ordered, moving to sit across from Kreacher on the ratty area rug in front of one of the beds.
The nervous look vanished instantly and Kreacher looked sadder than Harry had ever seen him, looking as if he just found out that Sirius wasn't really dead after all.
"Master Regulus had just returned from a meeting with the Dark Lord," Kreacher began. "Master was more frantic than Kreacher had ever seen him…"
In the year 1979…
"Kreacher!" Regulus bellowed, tearing off his mask and storming up the stairs.
He had fifteen minutes to send Kreacher to the Dark Lord before he would be summoned and likely tortured to death on arrival. With Potter's escape on his watch, the man wouldn't hesitate to kill him with one flick of his wrist.
"Master called?" Kreacher asked, appearing in front of Regulus who was pacing in his room.
"I have something very important for you to do," Regulus said as he paused, stopping to sit in front of Kreacher so that they were nearly at eye level. "The Dark Lord has an assignment and I know you are the best elf for the job."
At that, Kreacher stood taller, straightening his already pristine uniform bearing the Black family crest.
"Kreacher is honored," he whispered, a joyful look on his face.
"As you should be," Regulus responded. "You will follow me back to the Dark Lord. He has a task for you to complete. He did not say what it entails, but you are to do as he says," Regulus instructed.
"Kreacher will, Master Regulus," Kreacher responded, nodding his head several times.
"However, you must always remember that you are my elf. I will not have him steal you from me, regardless of the power he may have. Once your primary task is complete, I order you to return to me," Regulus demanded.
"Yes, Master Regulus. Master is too kind, looking out for Kreacher," the elf stated, tears welling in his eyes.
Minutes later, Regulus found himself in front of the Dark Lord once again, this time with Kreacher at his side.
"Splendid," Voldemort remarked, a twisted smile appearing on his handsome face. "You can go," he said to Regulus. "Elf, follow me," he added, forcefully grabbing Kreacher by the arm and apparating him away.
When they landed, Kreacher at first thought that Kreacher's arm was broken because of the force the Dark Lord had on it. Kreacher hated apparating with wizards. With Master Regulus it wasn't so bad because Master was kind and made sure Kreacher was prepared. Instead, Kreacher was nauseous and dizzy.
When the Dark Lord finally let go, Kreacher did as Master said and followed the Dark Lord through a maze of tunnels in a wet, dark cave. Kreacher slipped and fell a few times, but managed to run and keep up with his rapid pace.
Kreacher followed him into a boat and across a dark black lagoon deep in the cavern to a small island. On the island was a large basin filled with a shimmering green liquid.
"Drink," was Voldemort's only command.
Kreacher grabbed a full cup of the liquid. His hands were trembling, but despite his anxiety he brought the cup to his lips and began to drink. He screamed, almost dropping the cup in the process.
Images played in his mind like a nightmare. Kreacher watched as his mother stood in the kitchen in front of the stove, yelling at him for messing up an order at his first dinner party. Mistress Black was coughing, her voice harsh and raspy as she struggled to breathe. A young Master Sirius standing back, laughing as one of his pranks exploded in Kreacher's face, burning the tips of his ears.
He was brought back to the present as strong hands roughly grabbed a small tuft of hair on the top of his head, dumping more liquid down his throat.
Kreacher cried out, but the Dark Lord only laughed, shouting, "Drink, you whimpering beast!"
With no other choice, Kreacher drank down two more scoops of the green potion, emptying the basin. He began to feel lightheaded and couldn't stop trembling. He watched with blurry vision as Voldemort dug a locket out of his pocket and placed it in the basin. He took out a flask and poured more green liquid on top of it.
Kreacher really wasn't feeling well at all. He stepped closer to Voldemort and coughed. Blood spattered his hand and a few flecks landed on the hem of Voldemort's robe. The man looked down at the wide eyed elf, a sinister grin revealing shiny white teeth.
"Don't follow me," Voldemort commanded as he strode to the boat, stepped in, and paddled away.
Kreacher knew he was dying. He coughed more, splattering blood across the rocks on the tiny island. He looked around, but the slight turn of his head made him even dizzier. He lost his footing and fell into the lagoon.
Suddenly, he was being pulled under. Cold, bony hands grabbed his legs and wrists. He swallowed mouthfuls of water. His vision blurred once more and he focused all of his remaining energy on disapparating home.
Kreacher landed in the Black living room on his feet, but promptly fell over. Blood oozed from his nose and mouth as he watched the fading shape of Master Regulus rush to his side.
"Poison," Kreacher croaked before another coughing fit overwhelmed him.
"Relax," Master Regulus commanded as he dug out some vials from his pocket.
"I'm sorry, Master," Kreacher whispered. His eyes closed and the last thing he remembered was Master Regulus shoving a bezoar down his throat.
"How did you survive?" Harry asked the elf, engrossed in the story.
"Master Regulus saved Kreacher," the elf whispered, a tear dripping down his wrinkled face. "Kreacher only lived because Master ordered Kreacher home."
He took a deep breath then continued, "Once Kreacher was well, Master Regulus wanted to be taken to the cave."
"Kreacher tried to stop him, but Master wouldn't listen!" the elf cried.
"Master Regulus drank all the poison just like Kreacher did. Master replaced the locket with another one and gave Kreacher the Dark Lord's. Regulus Black ordered Kreacher to return home, destroy the locket, and to not tell anyone what happened to Master. Master…" Kreacher sobbed, "Master died in that cave. Kreacher tried, really tried, but Kreacher could never destroy the locket! Kreacher failed Master Regulus!" he cried, his knees cracking as he dropped to the floor and sobbed into his hands.
Harry couldn't believe it. One of the Horcruxes was here. He just needed to figure out how to get the elf to give it to him.
"I'm sorry, Kreacher," Harry began, awkwardly patting his bony shoulder. He hesitated before continuing, making sure he didn't give away too much. "The locket is why we are here. We want to destroy it." After a second, he added, "for Regulus."
Kreacher brightened, wiping his eyes on the back of his hands, "Really?" Kreacher asked, looking like all of his dreams had been answered.
At Harry's nod, Kreacher flung himself at Harry's feet. "Master Harry! Thank you!"
Once he was able to wretch himself from Kreacher's grasp, Harry directed Kreacher to take him to the locket. Now he stood alone, facing the door to Regulus's old room. He had lingered in front of Sirius's room next door but reluctantly moved on at Kreacher's irritated insistence. He sent the elf to get Dumbledore, Snape, and Remus, and now debated whether or not he should search the room where Kreacher stashed the Horcrux or if he should wait until the adults arrived. He had his hand on the knob, but he couldn't bring himself to open it.
Instead, he turned and crossed the narrow wooden hallway. He knew Kreacher would lead the others to Regulus's room soon enough, but right now the idea of surrounding himself with Sirius's things was much more appealing. He missed him so much at times that he wondered if he would ever be happy again. Giving into the urge, Harry slowly turned the knob.
His breath hitched as all the air was stunned out of his lungs. It wasn't possible. "Sirius?" Harry choked out from the doorway at the figure looking at him from across the room.
"Harry!" the man said happily. "I've missed you!"
He turned from the window and took a step closer to Harry.
"No," Harry responded, tears falling down his face. "You…you died. I saw it!"
Downstairs in the basement, Snape was digging through crates of antiques, many of them carrying at least one dark enchantment. He was startled out of his concentration as a crack of an arriving house elf rang through the air.
"Master Harry has ordered Kreacher to tell the others that he has found Master Regulus's locket and that he is getting it from Master's room," Kreacher announced.
At that, the elf vanished and Snape raced out of the room, not waiting to rely on the others to stop Harry from doing something foolish.
Also heading to Regulus's room were Dumbledore and Remus, and all three men started racing up separate staircases as they heard Harry's scream.
"Harry, it's not that simple," Sirius attempted to explain. "I was lost for a while, but I'm back now. We can be together forever," he added as he stepped closer to Harry, reaching out a hand to his godson. "I'm so sorry," he whispered to the boy.
Harry was still skeptical. "What are you doing here?"
"I didn't plan on leaving you at all. I was a target to get to you. It was only a matter of time before they would find a way to capture me to draw you out. I was putting everyone in danger by simply existing," Sirius explained. "I had to do something, so I faked my death."
Taking a deep breath, Harry was stunned. "Why didn't you tell me? How could you make me think…HOW COULD YOU LEAVE ME?"
At that, Harry broke. He looked up at Sirius, tears dripping down his face. "I've missed you so much," Harry cried.
"I know," Sirius replied as he stepped forward, gripping Harry in a fierce hug.
After a few minutes he pulled away. "Now tell me what I've missed," he added, smiling down at his godson.
Snape met Remus and Dumbledore outside of Regulus's room. All three had their wands ready and at the Headmaster's signal they burst through the door, only to find a surprisingly well-kept room that looked like the occupant just stepped out that morning. Handwritten notes were still strewn across the desk, but the leftover mementos were the last thing on the minds of the three wizards.
"Where's Potter?" Snape asked, anger edging into his voice at what he was beginning to think was some horrible trick. He looked at the others, worry clouding each of their expressions.
"I have an idea where he might be," Remus added as he looked across the hall at the partially open door to Sirius's room. Dumbledore lead the way, bringing his small but mighty army to a stop in front of the door. They could hear two voices inside, one of the young boy and the other of a man long thought gone forever.
Without thought, Remus pushed past the others, crying, "Sirius" as he burst in the doorway.
Snape grabbed the back of Remus's cloak, stopping him from moving too far and the three men were stunned by what they saw. Harry was chatting animatedly with a healthy appearing Sirius. He looked better than Snape had seen him in recent years, making him suspicious.
Once again, Remus tried to get closer, but Snape held him back.
"Don't," Snape said, pushing Remus into Dumbledore's grip. "It's likely a trap."
"I'll keep him here," Dumbledore told Snape. "You are best equipped to deal with Harry right now."
"I'll deal with Potter," Snape agreed. "You two get the Horcrux so we can get out of here."
The others left, leaving Snape alone. He closed and warded the door behind himself, Harry and Sirius oblivious to his actions.
"Potter," Snape called as he walked closer. As he suspected, the boy only had eyes for his godfather. He decided to try another tactic.
"Well, well. Look what the Inferi drug in," Snape sneered.
"Snivellus!" Sirius growled, standing as though ready to attack Snape, except he made no move to grab a wand.
The shift seemed to draw Harry out of his spell and he turned on Snape.
"Why can't you leave him alone? I just got him back!" Harry choked, standing in front of Sirius in a protective stance, wand out and ready to attack Snape.
"Potter, this is not Black," Snape responded calmly, taking a step forward. His wand remained in his hand and down by his side.
"You're lying! Leave us alone!" Harry screamed, sparks shooting out of his wand as he looked wildly between Sirius and Snape.
"Of course I'm Sirius, Harry," his godfather said in a tone that matched Snape's.
"No Harry," Snape continued urgently, not noticing that he used the boy's first name as he struggled to make him understand. "He's not real. There are many forms of magic that you have yet to be introduced to. He's a traggob." He paused, and then continued rapidly as he saw the sliver of doubt in Harry's eyes. "A traggob takes the form of whomever the first magical person desires the most at the time it is spotted. It draws you in until all you do is listen to it without regard to your own well-being, eventually leading to death. The only person that can stop the spell is a witch or wizard with an equal amount of negative emotion towards the form that the traggob has taken," Snape explained.
"Don't listen to him, Harry. He has always hated me. He'll do anything to keep us apart," Sirius begged, tugging on Harry's hand.
"Look at me, Potter," Snape urged. "You need to listen to me. Ask him something, anything. He won't know the answer."
Harry looked between the two. He looked confused, but Snape could see that despite the boy's desire for him to be wrong, he was still thinking over everything that he had said.
Harry took a deep breath and turned to focus solely on Sirius. "When did we talk on the two-way mirrors?" He asked.
Silence swept over the room until Sirius spoke, "Harry, what does that matter? I came back to you."
Tears welled in Harry's eyes. "It matters," he replied. "Answer the question."
"Don't you remember, Harry? We talked every night," Sirius answered with a grin.
Harry responded with a choked sob and stepped backwards behind Snape and against the wall.
"Expelso," Snape said with a flick of his wand, vanishing the conjured Sirius before it could do any more damage. He then turned towards Harry.
The boy looked devastated, as though he had just watched his godfather fall through the veil all over again.
"Potter," Snape called, trying to get the boy's attention as he slipped his wand into his pocket.
"How could you?" Harry muttered under his breath.
Snape looked at Harry questioningly but said nothing.
"How could you just stand there?" Harry repeated as he brought his tear-filled eyes up to look into Snape's dark piercing ones. "How could you…how could you let me go on thinking, even for just a minute, that Sirius was back? Why didn't you vanish that thing once you saw it?" Harry ranted.
As calmly as possible, Snape explained, "I had no other choice. You had to realize it was an illusion before the spell was broken. Otherwise, you would have spent the rest of your life consumed with finding Black."
Harry looked away. "It was just so real," the boy said, and Snape realized he wasn't talking to him anymore but instead trying to understand what just happened.
He watched as Harry took several deep breaths and walked over to Sirius's desk. He heard the boy gasp as he fingered a small mirror partially hidden beneath a few scraps of parchment.
"If only I had used that bloody mirror!" Harry cried. With an ear shattering wail, he picked up a half-full inkwell and flung it against the wall, just missing Snape's head.
As suddenly as the anger appeared, it was replaced by wrenching sobs.
Snape was in an uncomfortable position. He wanted to turn the boy over to someone more capable of compassion than himself, but at seeing his son falling apart in front of him, he was inexplicably drawn forwards.
With slow movements as though Harry was going to explode at any moment, Snape reached up and rested a hand on Harry's shoulder and squeezed. Harry hadn't moved, but the sobs continued.
Snape slowly moved his hand from the boy's shoulder up to the back of his neck. That was all that it took for Harry to lean forward, resting his head on Snape's shoulder and clutching at the man's robes tightly.
He couldn't explain why he did it, but he needed to be close to Harry. He thought it would feel uncomfortable or foreign, but as he drew an arm around the boy and wrapped him in a protective hug, it felt natural. At that moment, he realized he would do anything to protect this boy, his boy. Voldemort be damned.
After a few minutes, Harry calmed and Snape, sensing the boy's discomfort, turned away to allow him to compose himself.
He turned back around when he heard Harry clear his throat and without a word opened the door, ushering Harry out.
As they walked downstairs in silence, Albus's patronus greeted Snape and instructed him to return to Hogwarts. "Take out the portkey," he instructed Harry.
As he handed it out to Snape to grab onto, the boy looked him in the eyes and after a moment said, "Thank you."
Snape responded with a nod, unsure of what to say. Instead, he said the password to return both of them to the Headmaster's office.
"Severus, Harry," Dumbledore greeted. Harry noticed he kept his eyes on Snape for several moments longer than necessary, no doubt communicating something about the earlier events.
"You okay?" Remus asked, resting a hand on his shoulder and enveloping Harry his second hug of the day. "Albus told me what happened. It had me momentarily charmed as well, but he got me away before it spoke to me. Good thing Severus was there," he added grimly, turning to Snape to thank him personally.
"No need, Lupin," Snape commented. "I'm more concerned about the results of this little day trip. I presume you've found the locket?"
"Of course," Dumbledore said as he held out a velvet-lined wooden box with the locket safely ensconced inside.
Snape took the box and sat, carefully examining the locket. The others all took seats around the Headmaster's desk as Dumbledore asked, "How did you find it, Harry?"
Harry explained Kreacher's story of Regulus's betrayal of Voldemort. By the end, Snape had handed the locket back over to the Headmaster and was reaching for it back again. He was stunned.
"Did you know about this, Severus?" Dumbledore asked curiously.
"There were rumors, but I was never certain he defected. We all just assumed he was killed during a raid," Snape explained.
"Can I see it closer?" Harry asked as he took the box from Snape's slack grasp, the man still deep in thought.
It was ornate, sure, but to Harry it didn't look like a dangerous object. Suddenly wanting nothing more than to open the locket, he reached forward to snatch it.
He was stopped by Snape's thin fingers forming a tight grip on his wrist. Remus grabbed the box from him and gave it back to the Headmaster.
"Sorry," Harry muttered, yanking his arm from Snape's tight grip. "I don't know what happened. I just really wanted to open it."
"Yes, it does provoke one's curiosity," Dumbledore paused as he examined the locket with a strange spinning handheld device. "Which is why I think we should destroy this now," he finished.
A/N: Sorry for the long time between updates, but I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Please review!
Thanks to all of you that already reviewed or added this story to your alerts or favorites. I like knowing there are some people out there reading this and enjoying it as much as I enjoy writing it, even though I'm not able to update as quickly as I want to.
Updates on the progress of upcoming chapters can be found on my profile page at fanfiction dot net.
Coming up: Will Harry finally discover that Snape is his biological father?