One-Shot Notes: I was reading this great compilation from The Reviews Lounge called Something Wicked This Way Comes which was HP character sketches around the season of Halloween when I had an idea for this story. I wanted to add it but then I found out you had to sign up in advanced. I see the point, it would be cheating that I picked my character and wrote this story with no deadline, so I decided to self publish it. I wrote a bit about Albus and Kreacher's special relationship in my Christmas chapter of Albus Potter and the Year of the Badger, but this story allowed me to show how bittersweet it is sometimes for the old boy. I hope you like it!

Bart

Disclaimer: All Jk's...every last jot and tittle...I would like that Scottish Castle and the bankroll though! (SIGH!)


A Better Place

Kreacher tried not to eavesdrop, but with his large, bat-like ears it was impossible to do. In those first days, if Mistress Warburga had caught him listening in, he would have been ordered to dip his feet in hot oil. He still had some scars from that particular punishment.

Those days had passed. Now, in these second days, he would be invited to participate in the conversation, and actually give advice. It made him feel confused sometimes, this new world, but happy nonetheless. The two worlds were always as different to him as Azkaban and home.

He paused in his wiping linseed oil on the banister with a polishing rag, when he heard his name mentioned. It was being spoken by his favorite person in the house.

"This is my costume! I've been working on it for days, Kreacher helped me find some of this stuff." said Albus Potter. His voice was coming from down the left side hallway and his father's office.

Mistress Ginny's voice was patient. It had the same tone she used with her eldest son, when she was trying not to leave him on a convenient doorstep. "Now Albus, did you tell Kreacher who you were going as?"

"I wanted it to be a surprise!"

"Well the old fellow loves you to death, but Regulus was the first person to ever be kind to him, and he had to walk around with the memory of Regulus' sacrifice inside of him for years without telling anyone. Not even his grieving mistress. It nearly drove him mad. I just don't know how he will react," came the voice of Albus' dad, Master Harry.

"You said this costume was supposed to be of a Hero of the war against Voldemort. I know Kreacher would want Regulus to be remembered. He tells me that I am the same size and build as Regulus was, and I have brighter green eyes but my hair is the same brown," explained Albus adamantly. "You didn't object when James and Lily wanted to dress as Remus and Tonks, you even spelled Lily's hair pink before they flooed to Aunt Looney's for the party! You two are going as their namesakes, all are dead, and I don't hear anyone complaining!"

"We just want you to have a chance to win the costume contest Al. I don't know how many will recognize Regulus Black from what you have on," his dad replied.

Kreacher had a sudden influx of emotion. In his mind's eye, he got such a strong vision of those first days, that he swayed on his feet with the memory.

Reg was sliding down this very banister. He was upset and trying to get away from the argument going on upstairs. He ran past Kreacher into the sitting room and crumpled down in the corner where the ornate antique china cabinate with its slithering snake print inhabitants, met the side of the humidor. There he quietly sobbed. Kreacher heard Sirius shouting about how Mistress Warburga had her son to love, she didn't need him anyway.

"Master Regulus?" Kreacher called kindly.

"Go away," came the snotty reply but with no real force behind it. Kreacher found he could ignore Master Regulus' orders with no punishment because the boy seldom really meant them.

"What's wrong Master Regulus?"

"Sirius is packing his bags, he's going to leave us and go stay with the Potters. He doesn't love me."

Kreacher's ears drooped; he was really starting to dislike that Sirius Black. He felt no need to punish himself for that feeling either.

"Come on out Master Regulus, Kreacher will make you your favorite, Cinnamon Toast with apple butter. Sirius loves you Master, how could anyone not?" He reached his fingers out and gave Regulus' exposed trainers a light tug. He heard a giggle. Regulus crawled out wiping his face on his sleeve; Kreacher quickly cleaned that little mess off of the cloth before Mistress Warburga could see it. Regulus grabbed his hand as they went down the stairs into the kitchen.

Kreacher came back to the here and now. He found his eyes were misty. He suddenly had an idea how Albus could look more like Regulus.

He apparated down into his cupboard den and plucked something off of the wall.

Then he popped into the office, startling everyone. He held his gift under his polishing cloth.

Albus was standing there in some of Regulus' old robes with a Slytherin green and silver scarf, some of Regulus' specs with the lenses spelled to glass. His mum and dad looked similar to how they always looked, except Master Harry had different glasses, his hair deliberately ruffled and Mistress Ginny had spelled her hair a deeper red, and put a wave in it.

Kreacher studied Albus. "Master Albus, what are you doing?"

Albus grinned, "I am going as Regulus Black, how do I look?"

Kreacher acted critical, "Oh Master Albus, this won't do, this won't do at all."

He saw Albus' shoulders fall in disappointment. Kreacher walked up to him, and placed a silver chain around his neck, hanging from it was an antique silver locket. "There, Master Albus. Now they'll know who you are," he said with a smile.

Master Harry and Mistress Ginny slipped an arm around each other. "Are you sure Kreacher, we know how much that locket means to you?" she asked softly.

Kreacher nodded, "Of course Mistress Ginny. Always a pleasure to help my family."

Albus looked at the locket reverently. "They'll know me now!" he blurted out excitedly. Master Harry nodded in Kreacher's direction. "They sure will," he said. "You want to come along Kreacher?"

Kreacher shook his head, "No, no Master Harry, I have too much to do!"

They smiled and they all flooed out, but before Albus left he ran across the office and gave Kreacher a hug.

"Thanks Kreacher," he said.

"You are most welcome Reg, er...Master Albus."

In the stillness that followed Kreacher looked around Number twelve Grimmauld Place, he chuckled to himself. He could almost see a little boy playing tag with his older brother while their mother was away marketing in this very room. Their joy, always tempered by the oppressive atmosphere that dwelt here for so long. Now this house was one of joy, and happiness and kindness. A place to be nurtured not shaped. To be allowed to find one's way, not to be dictated to.

"This house is a much better place, Mistress Warburga," he declared to the silence. This time he didn't feel the need to punish himself.