Disclaimer: I'm just playing around in the wonderful world created by JK Rowling. She's not to blame for anything I make her characters do in this story.
Author's Note: As was rather inevitable from the start, my Horcrux destroying story has now turned into a Horcrux destroying series. This is the sequel to The Wand, though it's not really necessary to read that story first.
My brilliant beta readers Jo Wickaninnish and Whimsy deserve plenty of Pumpkin Pasties and Chocolate Frogs for helping me with this story.
Harry looked up just in time to see Hermione slam her book shut with a sigh. Next to him, Ron had also stopped reading and was looking at Hermione with a worried expression on his face.
“He’s dead!” Hermione exclaimed, her voice full of frustration. “Raymond Bowley died over sixty years ago, even before Voldemort went to Hogwarts.”
Even though he hadn’t really been expecting success, Harry felt his mood darken at this news. Yet another day had been wasted at research on a wizard who wasn’t R.A.B. after all.
“This just isn’t working,” Hermione said, staring hopelessly at the stack of books in the middle of the table. “Books aren’t going to help.”
Harry raised his eyebrows; Ron’s jaw dropped. Hermione stood up and started pacing the room.
“R.A.B. was probably just someone with a personal grudge against Voldemort, not famous at all. So he won’t be in any book.” She made a sharp turn at the end of the room and started to walk back. “What we really need is a list of all wizards who lived in Britain in the past sixty years, not just the famous ones.”
“Well, you could ask at the Ministry, but I doubt they’ll give you access to it,” Ron said with a yawn. He, too, rose from his chair.
Hermione turned to him incredulously. “Ron – what are you –?”
“Just stretching my legs,” Ron answered. “They’re getting stiff.”
“No, I mean – the list – there is such a list?”
It was Ron’s turn to be surprised. “Of course there is, Hermione, the British Registry of Wizards. But as I said –”
“Why didn’t you mention that before?” Harry cut him off.
Ron looked blankly from him to Hermione and back. “But surely – everyone knows about the Registry – you two don’t?”
“I should have realised, of course,” Hermione said, speaking very fast. “How else would they keep track of everyone? Where they live – who gets the Hogwarts letters – I assume that it all works magically? I should go there right away – where’s my cloak?”
“Hermione!” Ron said loudly. “Listen! You won’t get access to the Registry, I’m telling you! They won’t even let you know the age of your next-door neighbour, I’m serious.”
“That won’t be a problem,” Harry said heavily. “Just tell them you’re doing it for me, and it’ll be fine. They’ll do anything to show that they’re supporting me.”
Hermione smiled sadly at him as she put on her cloak, and she left without wasting another moment.
Just as Harry began to wonder whether he should go back to the book he was searching or concentrate on something else, an owl arrived.
“It’s from Professor McGonagall,” he told Ron after he had untied the note. “Urgent Order meeting, she wants me to be there. I think I’ll go – Hermione won’t be back for a while anyway.”
Ron nodded. “I’ll check the catalogue of the antique shop in the meantime, to see whether they have any golden cups.”
Less than half an hour later, Harry closed the door of number twelve, Grimmauld Place behind him. There had been an attack on one of the Order members, and even though he had been rescued soon, secret information might have leaked. As always, the Order had agreed very quickly on the steps that had to be taken, which was the only reason Harry granted the frequent requests to attend the meetings at all. He didn’t think he could stand being inside the Headquarters for longer than an hour – even now, he was overwhelmed by memories of the weeks he had spent inside the gloomy building during the summer before his fifth year.
While they seemed to think now that no important decision could be made without him being present, two years ago cleaning had been the only thing they considered him useful for. He remembered one particular sombre morning squirting Doxies out of tapestries in the drawing room. Sirius had joined them after a while – Sirius, the only one who had felt just as misunderstood as Harry.
As Harry turned a corner, he thought back on the painful conversation they had had in the drawing room that day. Sirius had told him about his brother, who had joined the Death Eaters, and Harry hadn’t been able to believe it at first. Now it seemed to Harry that he had been so naïve. The world wasn’t fair or ideal, and younger brothers of nice people could just be Death Eaters.
Regulus Black must have been about Harry’s age when he joined the Death Eaters, Harry suddenly realised. He might have had an idealised view of the world, too, without realising what he really was getting in to. He had thought he was doing the right thing. Oddly enough, Harry felt a tiny bit of sympathy with Sirius’ brother.
What had made Regulus leave the Death Eaters? Had he even realised it was impossible to back out? Maybe his time with the Death Eaters had taught him a few tough lessons, maybe he knew he was going to die ... and thought it was worth it.
Harry checked whether there were any Muggles in sight and prepared to Disapparate. And then it hit him.
I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, you will be mortal once more. R.A.B.
It was a good thing Harry had been Apparating very often during the last several months, because the routine was the only thing that saved him from splinching himself. He landed on all fours on the hard, wooden floor.
“Harry! Are you all right?” Hermione still had her coat on – she must just have arrived.
“Do you have the list?” Harry asked as he straightened up.
Hermione held up a roll of parchment. “Yes, I have. It’s pretty long, but I think we can cross off plenty of names right a—”
“Is Regulus Black on there?” Harry cut her off.
Hermione frowned and unrolled the list. Ron looked over her shoulder.
“Regulus Arcturus Black,” he read aloud. Both he and Hermione looked up to Harry, who nodded grimly.
To be continued...