and Author’s notes: Anything in this story that looks like it’s
J. K. Rowling’s is, and is being used with neither permission from her or
intent to make a profit.
want to thank Moey for beta reading once more, and
also J.K. Rowling for being nice enough not to mind publicly and in court when
people borrow her toys.
Phineas was growing increasingly impatient. He had gone
directly from the Headmaster’s office to the master bedroom in Number Twelve,
Grimmauld Place, certain that his ungrateful great-great-grandson would be
there tending to his pet Hippogriff, but only the bird gazed back at him. Room
after room held only silence as he went from picture frame to picture frame,
calling Sirius’s name. His no-good great-great-grandson couldn’t really be
dead, as Dumbledore had claimed – Phineas wouldn’t have it – but where was
must have been searching the house for a good hour, including wings that the
Order of the Phoenix hadn’t gotten
around to decontaminating the summer before, and still had found no sign of the
errant last of the Black family. Could he simply be moving from room to room,
and Phineas simply kept missing him? … No, of course not. Ridiculous notion. If
that were the case, Phineas would surely have heard echoes in the distance, and
known which way to head. Reluctantly Phineas concluded that his descendant
didn’t seem to be home. But that left him with the same conundrum in different
form; Sirius knew better than to leave the house, so where on Earth could he be?
He had to be somewhere; the very idea that he might be dead was absurd, surely.
he went through the house again, making certain to make inquiries in every
portrait frame save one. He was starting to have doubts that he would actually see
Sirius out of the next portrait frame, but perhaps the regular inhabitants
of those portraits might know something, so he made sure to ask them all (as
well as calling for Sirius himself, just on the off chance). But there were not
nearly as many pictures as Phineas would have liked, owing to the purge of last
summer, and those who remained expressed concern but no certain knowledge.
Phineas did not bother to enlighten them.
ascertained to his complete dissatisfaction that Sirius was not in the house
and no one sane in it knew where he might be, Phineas finally turned with a
sigh to his last resort. Cassiopeia Black had never been his favorite
grandniece, even when in possession of her faculties, and ten years of
increasing decrepitude had not improved her. Phineas was not relishing the
prospect of asking her, but she must have known where Sirius went and when, and
might even manage to be coherent enough to tell him.
it transpired, he never had to ask her. As he stepped into her frame in the front
hall, he heard voices in the kitchen – very angry voices. At last! he thought.
Whoever was in there – could it be Sirius? Phineas would have some sharp words
for him, if it was so – would give him some answers. Without further ado
he headed for the kitchens. The snippets he heard were enough for him to decide
that it was Lupus or whatever, his great-great-grandson’s werewolf friend, who
was doing the yelling – Lupin, that was it – and the unfortunate victim was a
“traitor” and a “murderer” and a “pitiful excuse for a” something.
Mr. Lupin,” Phineas said as he arrived. “Might I ask what you are doing to the
House-elf?” For Lupin was gripping Kreacher by the throat and shaking him, in a
more towering rage than Phineas had ever seen the werewolf.
worthless piece of –“ Lupin flung Kreacher so hard into the wall that the old
elf lay there motionless for a few moments, and was lucky not to have anything
dislocated. “Phineas! I – didn’t see you come in.”
occurred to Phineas that he should perhaps be just a trifle worried. From what
he had seen of Lupin, the werewolf never lost control of himself, and made a
careful effort to never use his full force on anything. All werewolves had
considerably augmented strength over people without the condition – a werewolf
without would not survive his first transformation – and Lupin had always been
particularly wary of that. The fact that he could so lose himself as to show
such violence, particularly to a House-elf who surely could have done nothing
to deserve it, was troubling. And if the elf did do something to warrant the
werewolf’s wrath, well, that was troubling in itself.
But Phineas let
none of this show. “So I observed. I was hoping you could tell me where my
wastrel of a great-great-grandson might be, as he seems to be nowhere in the
house. Perhaps you could take some time out of your schedule of battering
House-elves to recollect?”
pained. “Phineas, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but –“
Phineas closed his
eyes. “So it is true, then. I didn’t want to believe it, but – is my
great-great-grandson dead, and the House of Black with him?” He opened his eyes
to see Lupin nodding, and not meeting them.
Against the far
wall Kreacher was stirring again. “Master will return! Master always returns,
to make poor Kreacher’s life a torment –“
together the pieces he had heard en route, and slowly asked, “Kreacher, did you
send Sirius to wherever he went, to his death?”
with sending him,” Kreacher mumbled. “Kreacher sent him, but not to his death.
Master will return, always Master comes back to haunt poor Kreacher – “
“He directed Harry
to where Voldemort was waiting,” Lupin put in, barely controlled rage still in
his voice. “Sirius was still safe then, but Voldemort used a vision of him
being tortured as bait. This –“ here he gestured in Kreacher’s direction
– “prevented Sirius from assuring Harry that the vision was a fraud and sent
him haring off to the Department of Mysteries and Voldemort and a dozen Death
Eaters. Sirius joined the rescue party and was killed where he wouldn’t have
been if Kreacher hadn’t told Harry he already was.”
Phineas looked at
the old elf coldly. “I see. You are bound to serve the House of Black, elf, are
you not? And you insist that the House of Black still lives. Well, what is that
bond telling you?”
his head and frowned, concentrating. Then his face went white as the enormity
of what he felt sank in. “Come back, Master!” he wept, running aimlessly
through the house and up the steps. “Come back! Kreacher will be a good
house-elf! He will not mention the Mudbloods and half-breeds and scum! Only
come back, please!”
In front of what
had been Sirius’s master bedroom he finally collapsed, sobbing. It took some
minutes before he could collect himself into a semblance of composure.
“Kreacher is an elf who betrayed his master to death,” he said shakily.
“Kreacher is – Kreacher is an oathbroken elf.” His voice firmed; however
horrifying this status was to him, which horror Phineas could well imagine, the
mere fact that there was something required of him helped give him an anchor. Phineas
knew what was coming, having heard of elves who broke oath if not seen any
before; judging from the consternation on Lupin’s face, he had not even that.
Kreacher went on. “Kreacher must find a way to die in serving the master he
betrayed. Let’s see, let’s see, what can Kreacher do? Master left no body for
Kreacher to attend to – typical Master, never thinks of poor Kreacher – so
Kreacher must…” Kreacher’s eye alit on the Hippogriff in the bedroom. “Kreacher
will feed Master’s pet!” And with that, he ran headlong into the master
bedroom, arms pinwheeling at his sides.