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: Lots and lots of thanks to my amazing beta readers Whimsy and Jo Wickaninnish.
The house was empty and silent when they entered; the Order meeting was apparently over. That suited Harry fine: he wanted to keep his hunt for Horcruxes as secret as possible, even within the Order.
“Let’s try Regulus’ bedroom first,” Harry said, as they were standing in the hallway. “Do either of you know which one was his?”
Ron and Hermione shook their heads, and Harry frowned.
“Well, then we’ll just do all of them.”
They started on the first floor in the bedroom Hermione and Ginny had occupied two summers ago. Ron checked the wardrobe, while Harry looked behind the curtains and under the bed and Hermione cast revealing spells everywhere. It was of no use. The bedroom was bare, the wardrobe as good as empty, and there didn’t seem to be any concealed spaces.
They walked up the stairs and repeated the process in the next bedroom, with the same result. After an hour and a half, they had searched all the bedrooms and found nothing interesting at all.
“The dining room,” Harry said, ignoring Hermione’s do-you-really-think-this-is-going-to-work look.
But even the dining room was bare. There was a large table and comfortable chairs, but the dressers and cupboards contained nothing but dust.
“Can’t remember we cleaned it this thoroughly,” Ron commented, sinking into one of the chairs.
“We didn’t,” Hermione replied. “We only threw away the dangerous stuff; I’m quite sure we left the cutlery and the silver goblets –”
“Mundungus nicked it, remember?” Harry said bitterly, pacing the room and casting another revealing spell every now and then, even though he knew Hermione hadn’t skipped a single inch. “He stripped the entire place.”
“D’you reckon he took the locket, too?” Ron asked wide-eyed.
“If he could find it, yes,” Harry answered.
Hermione stood up so suddenly that Harry stopped his pacing to look at her.
“I know one place Mundungus might not have looked,” she said. “Kreacher’s cupboard.”
Heart racing, Harry followed Hermione out of the dining room down into the kitchen. She crossed the kitchen with a few determined strides and pulled open the cupboard in the corner. As she stuck her head inside it, Harry couldn’t see anything, but a moment later Hermione sighed in resignation and moved out of the way for Harry and Ron.
The rags Kreacher used to sleep in were still there, but all of his precious possessions, saved from the rubbish sacks, were gone. Mundungus had even raided this smelly cupboard.
Harry sank down onto the floor, trying very hard not to lose hope. “Right. So maybe Mundungus nicked the locket and sold it to one of his fishy friends, or maybe it ended up with the rest of the rubbish when we were cleaning. If we’re lucky, though, it’s still here.”
“Harry, surely that’s not possible,” Hermione said in a strained voice. “Everything has been cleaned, and then Mundungus went through it – there’s no way the locket could still be here.”
“Yes, there is,” Harry said stubbornly. “It could be –”
He broke off. The front door slammed shut.
Harry pulled out his wand. Even though the visitor could only be an Order member, he didn’t feel comfortable being unarmed until he knew the identity of the visitor.
The kitchen door opened and Alastor Moody appeared. His magical eye zoomed around to take in his surroundings, and he nodded approvingly when he noticed Harry’s wand.
“Constant vigilance,” he murmured.
“Who took a bit out of your nose?” Harry asked, keeping his wand trained on Moody.
Moody raised a bushy eyebrow. “Evan Rosier, but that’s a long time ago. How do you know that?”
“Because I fell into Dumbledore’s Pensieve once, and you told him during a trial.”
Moody chortled. “That sounds like the real Harry Potter.”
Harry grinned, too, and lowered his wand. Then a sudden stroke of inspiration hit him. “Can I ask you a favour?”
“Sure you can,” Moody replied, limping towards the table and sitting down.
“Have you ever noticed any secret rooms in here?” Harry asked. “Or even small concealed spaces?”
Moody kept his normal eye fixed on Harry, while his magical eye started swivelling. For about ten minutes, all that could be heard was the slightly nauseating sound of Moody’s eye rotating.
“There’s a pretty big room behind the desk in the drawing room,” he finally reported, “a small space – can’t be any bigger than a book – at the end of the ground floor corridor, and one in the ceiling of the attic.”
“Thanks!” Harry said, smiling. Ron was already hurrying out of the kitchen, and Hermione also stood up, an amazed expression on her face.
“Why do you want to know, anyway?” Moody asked. “Anything important?”
“No, not really – I mean, yes,” Harry said, quickly inventing an excuse. “Just some personal possession of Sirius’ I’m looking for.” He surprised himself by keeping his voice steady as he said that.
Moody nodded. “You haven’t seen Nymphadora here, have you? I wanted to ask her something, but if she’s not here, I’ll be off again.” Harry shook his head, and Moody got to his feet to leave. Harry walked with him to the front door, and as soon as it had closed, he turned and ran to the end of the corridor, where Ron and Hermione had already managed to open the secret space.
The content, however, was disappointing: several sticky, dirty sweets.
“Who would want to hide their sweets?” Hermione wondered, earning incredulous looks from Ron and Harry.
“It’s clear that you don’t have any siblings,” Ron said, shaking his head in exasperation. “You really don’t want to have your sweets lying around where your brothers can find them, Hermione.”
“Nor where your guardians can find them,” Harry added, “if they’re anything like the Dursleys.”
Hermione didn’t seem convinced, but Harry didn’t want to waste any more time on it and gestured towards the stairs. “Let’s head to the drawing room.”
The desk in the drawing room was heavy, but it was moved aside easily with their wands. Behind it, however, was just solid wall. Hermione confidently started to rattle off a series of revealing spells, but the wall stayed wall. The spells became steadily more obscure, until Harry couldn’t even remember ever having heard of them.
“Commonstrare latebrosum!” Hermione said, her face reddening with the effort. “Er – Ostentatio! What else – Potrahemus!”
As she took a few seconds to draw breath and think of yet another spell, Harry impatiently pointed his own wand at the wall and said, “Reducto!”
The wall was blasted apart by the spell – when the dust had cleared up, a large round hole appeared in it, big enough for them to crawl through.
Hermione was coughing up dust, having been closest to the wall when Harry had blown it up. Ron grinned as he passed her. “See, we’ve always been right that there was no point learning textbooks by heart. A few simple spells is all you need.”
Hermione looked highly offended.
Harry crawled through the hole after Ron, his heart beating fast in anticipation. A secret room that was closed so securely surely must contain something really valuable, something the owner had wanted to keep secret at all costs, something like the Horcrux.
When he straightened up and looked around, however, his heart sank. There was nothing at all in the room. There even wasn’t any dust or dirt, except for a few crumbs of wall near the hole they had just created.
Ron was no longer grinning. “Looks like we are the first to get in here.”
Harry nodded silently. That was exactly what it looked like. Without a word, he turned around and crawled back through the hole, almost bowling over Hermione, who had stopped coughing and was just trying to get inside the secret room. It was a mark of how well they were able to read each other that she didn’t ask any questions and simply turned to follow him to the attic.
The secret space in the attic was ridiculously easy to find. One of the boards in the ceiling was obviously loose, and it fell out the moment Harry touched it. The first thing he noticed inside was a thin book, which he handed to Ron while he ignited his wand to get a better view of the dark space. Unfortunately, the bright light of his wand showed clearly that there was nothing else there.
Feeling as though a heavy brick had been placed upon his heart, Harry turned to Ron, who had opened the book and was gaping at it.
“You’ve got to see this,” he said, a mixture of awe and disgust in his voice. “This is Regulus’ journal.”
To be continued...