[Fanfic] Out of Shadows – Chapter 23

Out of Shadows

CHAPTER 23

Writter: fall shadow

Summary: Harry has been raised to follow a path of darkness, but when he meets Hermione things start to change and he finds out everything he has been led to believe is a lie. Now, with a strengthened resolve, he must do whatever it takes to stop the one he once considered his master.

Source: here

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A few days later, they were exploring the house when they found bedrooms on the top floor with name plates on the door. One read ‘Regulus’, and the other said ‘Sirius’. Harry froze, rooted to the spot. Why was he so shocked? This was the house where Sirius grew up; he should have expected some mementos from his godfather’s life. He felt Hermione glance at him from where she stood at his side. The memories flooded back to him and caught him in a torrent of destructive emotions.

Sirius was welcoming them to his cave with a smile and open friendliness upon realizing who they were. They were sitting around in the cave, laughing and listening to Sirius as he told them of his adventures with Harry’s parents and their other friends.

Wrestling with a snake, pain, struggling. His godfather’s voice.

A flash of green.

The light leaving his eyes as Harry felt darkness closing in on him.

He felt something on his upper arms, and when his eyes came back into focus, he saw Hermione right in front of him.

“Harry…?” she said his name softly. Her tone told him that she knew what was going on in his head. He couldn’t decide if that was comforting or frightening.

“We can wait to go in there,” she suggested, “if you want. Just… take your time.”

She knew the wounds were still fresh. While her arm and the damage to their bodies were healing, the pain of losing an ally and shouldering their burden still wore on them  heavily.

Harry simply nodded, not yet ready to face the room of the only family he had thought he had left, after losing him so recently. The guilt tearing at him made him unsteady and he had to fight to keep himself in control. Years of practice helped him fall into the stiff walk, focusing on the hollow feeling he as he pushed back his pain and fear, putting on the stoic expression, the mask.

And this time, Hermione let him. She sat with him at the table after getting them some food, not commenting on how he hardly ate  anything. Then she cleaned up their plates, and she didn’t say a word at how unusual it was that he didn’t offer to help. He accepted the book she offered him, and she pretended not to notice when he hadn’t turned the page in over half an hour. She sat in the room with him, reading herself, and letting Harry’s thoughts turn inward as he tried to deal with what had happened.

Sometime later, when the fire was dying down, Hermione looked up from her book and over at him. “Harry, are you alright?” she asked.

Apparently she had decided that he had had enough time for reflection and introspection, which was really mostly brooding and self­ criticism.

When he didn’t answer, she spoke again.

“Harry, it wasn’t your fault.” She didn’t need to explain what she was talking about. “Please stop blaming yourself. If I had just been able to…” her voice trailed off and she sighed. “He sacrificed himself so that we would have a chance to finish this… We will honor him by continuing to fight.”

He could tell that Hermione was trying to sound sure and give him confidence, but he knew she must be scared, too. A talented wizard with much more experience had died right in front of them­ it made them both realize how easily it could have been them. Plus there was the fact that she had almost died from the snake bite.

There was no denying now the danger of their mission and that neither of them might survive. He knew she must feel it, too, but she was trying to be brave, for him.

His eyes found hers and held them. Part of him realized that she might be able to discern his emotions, but he let it go and the mask slipped from his face. Guilt, fear, sadness and the little sliver of hope he was trying so desperately to hold on to showed through.

She reached over and took one of his hands in hers. “I’m right here,” she assured him, “and we can do this.”

Despite feeling so down, the corners of his lips tilted up ever so slightly.

The seasons were rapidly changing. They noticed it even though they were cooped up in 12 Grimmauld Place (which they had learned from Dobby was the address of the House of Black). Death Eaters seemed to know that there was a hideout in the area, as Harry and Hermione often saw them lurking around the street outside. Thankfully, the house was hidden and heavily protected; though they weren’t confident it would stay that way forever.

One day sometime in spring, they didn’t know what day, since they had long­since lost track, Harry felt an odd sensation in one of the bedrooms. It was on the higher floors, across from the room that had belonged to Sirius. The name on the door read: Regulus. Harry had briefly looked in and scanned the room before, but he had been much more interested in his late godfather’s old bedroom. He had been exploring the room further, finally, when he felt something dark and haunting. Immediately, the hair on his neck stood on end and he felt a shill shoot up his spine. He had felt this like before, but it was strange­ this is normally how he felt when he was near a Horcrux.

A wave of fear and excitement coursed through him. Surely there couldn’t be a Horcrux here, could there? Rushing over to the nearby  drawers with his heart now hammering in his chest, Harry began to open and search them frantically. In the bottom drawer, Harry found it, wrapped in some sort of blanket Harry quickly discarded: the next Horcrux. It was a golden locket on a chain. Harry’s scar throbbed  painfully as he first picked it up.

Running out of the room and down the stairs two at a time, Harry felt a surge of emotions: confusion, triumph, excitement. After weeks of nothing, he had found a Horcrux right under (or above, really) their  noses.

“Hermione!” Harry breathed out, winded.

She turned away from what she was doing, cleaning out a cabinet on the ground floor, and looked startled. “Harry, what is it?”

“Hermione, I’ve found a Horcrux!”

“What?” she asked. Harry wasn’t sure he had ever seen her face look so shocked and   confused.

Panting slightly from adrenaline and the trip down several floors in record time, Harry answered, “I found another Horcrux­ in a drawer up  in the room that had ‘Regulus’ on the door. I was just looking around the room and I felt strange, like I do around Horcruxes­ and it was in a drawer, all wrapped up.”

“There was a Horcrux right here the whole time?!” Hermione asked. “Apparently,” Harry answered, still not able to get over the surprise himself. “Here, look,” Harry instructed, holding out the golden locket for Hermione to see.

She scrutinized it from every angle, sensing the dark magic radiating from the cursed object. “I think you’re right,” she declared at last, “This is a Horcrux.”

“Yeah, now if only we knew how to get rid of it…” Harry muttered, thinking of the cup still sitting in Hermione’s bag, harboring a piece of the Dark Lord’s soul.

“We could try everything we can think of on this one, too,” Hermione said after a moment, “but I doubt it would do any good… if nothing worked on the other one, I don’t think this would be any  different.”

“How would Regulus have gotten a Horcrux? Sirius said that his whole family was into the Dark Arts, but do you think You­Know­Who would have entrusted one to them…?” she asked.

Harry thought on this for a minute.

“I don’t know… Bellatrix had one. You­Know­Who doesn’t seem like the trusting type, though. I doubt he would have given all of his Horcruxes to Death Eaters. I doubt Bellatrix even knew what it was she was hiding for him. Who knows if Regulus even knew what he had. Either way­” Harry stopped short, realizing that there might be someone who  knew.

“Maybe the elf knows,” Harry suggested  suddenly.

“Oh, yes, he might know how that got here!” Hermione sounded excited that they might find out more information. “Let’s go and ask him.” “I’m sure that will be pleasant,” Harry muttered, following Hermione to the  kitchen.

Harry leapt back as Kreacher lunged at him, reaching for the locket in his hands. “You must not touch Master’s things! Nasty, filthy­”

“Kreacher!” Hermione shouted in surprise.

“Get away from me, you crazy elf,” Harry said, holding the Horcrux out of his   reach.

To the great surprise of everyone in the room, Kreacher stopped pursuing Harry and backed up. There was a pause in which everyone glanced at everyone else  silently.

“No!” Kreacher yelled, “No! Give me the locket! Master Regulus’s locket!” Despite his continued loud protests, the elf no longer moved toward Harry.

Hermione was watching the scene with a frown. “Kreacher, shut up!” Harry shouted.

Almost instantly, Kreacher stopped and stood there quietly, gesturing in frustration. “What happened…?” Harry asked, looking confused.

“Harry, I think you might be his master,” Hermione said, thinking quickly. “If Sirius was before…” she trailed off, not wanting to bring up what happened to Sirius.

“Kreacher, who is your master?” she asked, turning toward the house elf. He glared at her but said nothing.

“Kreacher,” Harry asked in an annoyed tone, “who is your  master?”

Kreacher looked as though he was struggling with himself before he answered tightly, “Harry Potter.” He went on to mumble something about how Harry had escaped the Dark Lord and loved  Mudbloods.

Harry looked to Hermione in confusion.

“That must mean Sirius left him to you, Harry,” Hermione explained. “So, he has to serve you   now.”

Returning his eyes to the elf, Harry didn’t feel very lucky to have him. However, if might help them get the information they wanted.

“Kreacher,” Harry asked in a more forceful tone now, “How did this locket get here?” Although he didn’t look like he wanted to answer, the elf  spoke.

“Master Regulus told Kreacher to bring it here.” “Where did he get it?”

“In a cave far away.”

Harry thought he saw a pained look quickly cross the old elf’s face. “Do you know what this is?” Harry asked  him.

“Kreacher knows it is a dark, horrible thing. Kreacher knows.” The elf eyed the locket warily, as if it haunted him. “What happened to Regulus?”

“Master Regulus… died in the cave. He told Kreacher to bring the locket here and destroy it.”  “I guess you couldn’t destroy it, then?” Harry asked.

“Kreacher tried many, many things. But Kreacher could not do it. Kreacher could not fulfill his master’s wish,” the house elf shuddered and  for a moment, Harry felt sorry for him. “So Kreacher hid it in his cupboard. But then that other elf came here and Kreacher had to move it so that he would not see it.”

“It’s not your fault, Kreacher,” Hermione told him, trying to make him feel better about not being able to destroy the locket.  “It is Kreacher’s fault! It is!” the old elf  grieved.

“Kreacher, look, we need the locket,” Harry interrupted. “We want to destroy it, too.” He hoped that maybe the elf would understand. After talking with Kreacher, he and Hermione went back  upstairs.

“I don’t think he took it very well,” Harry said as he sat down on the  couch.

“He may not like it,” Hermione agreed, sitting next to him,” but at least now he knows why we took the locket and that we want to destroy  it, too. I think he respects that. And he did tell   us that to destroy it, he thinks we need to open the locket.”

“Which we don’t even know how to do,” Harry brought up again, referring to both opening the locket and destroying it. “Yes, I know. But we still   have others to find, and eventually we will come up with a way to destroy them.”

She paused, thinking back to the other Horcruxes they had. “What if Bellatrix isn’t the only one he gave a Horcrux to hide for him?” Harry looked at her with interest, waiting for her to  continue.

“Well, who are his most trusted followers?” Hermione prompted. “Bellatrix, the Malfoys, and I know Snape is in his inner circle,” Hermione said bitterly, “after what happened with Dumbledore.”

“Who was it that he put in charge of discipline at Hogwarts? They’ll be at the top of his list, too, I bet” Harry   suggested.

“Of course,” Hermione agreed. “Aberforth said that the Carrows were handling discipline and Snape was acting as the Headmaster.” The expression on Hermione’s face told Harry that she was troubled and it wasn’t difficult for him to guess   why.

“Hogwarts will be alright,” he told her with as much confidence as he could. “I bet you want to be there, helping them out, but doing this… hopefully we can end it,” Harry said. “But if you ever want to go back… I’ll understand,” he added, part of him doubting she would just go, but still afraid that she would change her mind and  leave.

She moved closer to him and said in a firm tone, “No, Harry. I’m not going anywhere unless you are coming with me. I’m just worried about them.”

Harry nodded, trying to recall the faces of those she had introduced him to: Luna, the blonde who had been taken and kept in the Malfoys prison with the strange earrings, Ron, the tall, red­headed boy and his sister Ginny who had equally fiery hair, and Neville, who was also pretty tall, with dark hair, and had been covered in minor injuries when they saw him a few months   ago.

Having met Neville first and been around him the longest during their unexpected trip to Hogwarts, he stuck out the most. There was something else nagging him about the guy, but Harry couldn’t place what it  was.

“Your friends looked like they were safe and had things under control, though. Neville seemed to be pretty optimistic,” Harry noted, “though maybe that was just because you showed up.” The cheerful smile and hug Neville had given Hermione upon seeing her quickly came to  Harry’s mind. “What, with all the hugging,” Harry said before he thought it  through.

She narrowed her eyes at him questioningly and Harry wondered how his comment had come across.

“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked with a hint of a challenge in her voice. Harry immediately found himself regretting saying anything about Neville and tried to figure out how to back  track.

“Err, nothing,” Harry started lamely. “I just… noticed that you two seemed close.” Harry cringed a little on the inside; it was a sorry excuse and he knew it.

“Well, we are in the same house and have known each other for years. He had trouble with some of his classes so we would study together fairly often.” It seemed like she was going to leave it at that but something in Harry was telling him there might more to it that than being study buddies.

“And…?” he prompted before he could stop himself.

“‘And’ what?” she asked in an annoyed tone. “We are friends. My first few years at Hogwarts, he was my only friend, until I met Luna and became friends with her and Ginny. Neither of us really fit in; I was a muggle-­born, who was top of the class, and he was awkward and had trouble with some of our classes, and some of the other students picked on him a lot.”

“Is there anything else you want to know?” she huffed, clearly irritated at whatever his questions seemed to   imply.

To Harry’s surprise, he realized that there were other things he wanted to know… Did she like Neville? How close were they really? Did she hold Neville’s hand like she did his sometimes? Did she talk about the things they talked about with her other friends?

His suddenly spiked interest and desire to know more about her relationship with her friends threw him. Why did he suddenly care so much? He had always liked hearing about her past, Hogwarts, her friends, and her family, but this was   different and it bothered him.

 

Hermione, for her part, had been ignoring him after making it apparent that she was annoyed with him. Did she get annoyed with Neville? Would she be happier back at Hogwarts with  him?

“Ugh…” Harry groaned, frustrated with himself for getting so worked up about this all of a sudden. Neville was just another guy, just one of her friends. So what if they had hugged and chatted happily upon reuniting? It had happened months ago­ why was he worrying about it now?

Hermione looked over at him.

“What is bothering you, Harry?” she asked, not sounding nearly as annoyed as she had just a minute ago. “Nothing,” Harry told her a little too quickly.

This is stupid; I’m not about to tell her what’s going on in my head. It doesn’t even make sense. I just got   curious.

She gave him a look, but decided that maybe it was best to just drop it for now. So over the next few days, Harry tried not think about the odd things that he had suddenly wanted to know so  badly.

For the majority of the time, he was completely  unsuccessful.

One evening, Harry had made them eggs as a late dinner, since he was in the mood for something different instead of having to tell Kreacher to cook like usual. Thankfully, the elf had somewhat gotten over his hate for them in the past weeks. Hermione insisted that it was because they were treating him nicely and had explained why they were taking the locket.

As she finished eating, Hermione commented on how Harry was a good  cook.

When Harry’s first thought was to wonder if Neville could cook, too, and if he ever had cooked for her, he knew his maddening curiosity wasn’t going to just go away.

“Were you and Neville really just friends?” he asked without warning, not giving himself a chance to think about it and lose his nerve. He winced inside at her surprised expression and began to fidget, feeling as though this conversation could be risky.

“Excuse me?” she questioned, not knowing at first how to handle his unexpected bluntness and the random change of topic. “I’m not sure if that is any of your business.” Her tone sounded reserved and a little defensive.

Unfortunately, her answer only made it seem more likely to Harry that there was something she was hiding. He tensed up a bit.

“Since when am I not allowed to just ask you a question if I’m curious?” Harry realized as soon as he spoke that his words came out more harshly than he had intended.

“Since when are you so curious about this?” she challenged. “Since now,” he responded, his voice raised slightly. “So?”

“I don’t have to tell you anything,” she said in a haughty tone, “especially if you are going to ask like that.”

Harry snorted in frustration and was about to tell her to forget it when he realized that wouldn’t get him an answer and that it would still be on his mind.

“Fine,” Harry said, trying to push the frustration out and calm down. “I’m sorry if it isn’t any of my business. You don’t have to tell me anything. I just… wanted to know. Usually you tell me whatever I want to know about your past.” Harry looked at her nervously, hoping she wasn’t mad and that she wouldn’t get the wrong idea, whatever that was.

“I’m sorry I overreacted. It was just really sudden, and you seemed to imply something about it before, so I wasn’t sure what you were trying to say,” she sighed. “A lot of the other students would talk about it at school, or tease us about being a couple.”

When she paused, Harry’s heart sunk inexplicably. “But we weren’t.”

“You weren’t?” Harry repeated unnecessarily.

“No, we were never a couple. I think of him as just a good friend. He’s more like a brother to me than anything romantic. And even then I don’t know if we are close enough to be considered siblings, since I’m an only child. We mostly studied together or talked about schoolwork.”

Harry felt immensely relieved, which in turn made him feel incredibly uncomfortable and confused.

“I think you and I have talked about more personal things than I have with Neville, even though I have known him  longer.”

This gave Harry a strange feeling of nervousness, and his lips curved into a small smile of their own accord. Hermione hesitated, as if only then realizing what she had said, and quickly spoke  again.

“So, why did you want to know, anyway?” Hermione asked, looking at him with curious expression. He didn’t miss that her voice was purposefully casual. Maybe she just didn’t want another  argument.

“Oh, err, don’t know really. Just… we’ve talked about stuff before, and you said to ask if I was curious about anything.” Feeling like that wasn’t a good enough reason, Harry added, “And, last time we talked about it, you said how neither of you fit in, but you became friends with each other, so I thought, maybe… well, you  know…”

The way Hermione was looking at him made Harry feel as though he was being studied under a   microscope.

I wonder if this is how Hermione’s books  feel…

 “Well,” Hermione said a little bit hesitantly, “I would guess you have never had a girlfriend being stuck at the Malfoys, right?” Harry tried to gauge her question, but she didn’t seem overly  interested.

“Hah, the only people I usually got to see were irritable Death Eaters and poor, stuffy, old prisoners. Whenever the Malfoys had younger guests or Draco brought friends over, it was almost always guys. Not that I would have been interested in anyone they had over   anyway.”

Hermione nodded and decided to change the subject, asking him about when they next needed to get supplies. “Hang on,” Harry interrupted, “you asked me. You have been around guys your age, so, have   you?”

“Have I what?” Hermione asked, not looking at him  directly.

“Er, you know, had a… boyfriend?” he asked, now not sure if he wanted to know the   answer.

I’m only asking to be fair. Besides, she asked me first. Harry tried to reason with himself as he awaited her   response.

“Well… no. I haven’t.” Harry could see a light blush cross her  cheeks.

“Really?” he asked, genuinely surprised if it was true, but not positive she was telling the truth.

“Yes, really,” she said sharply, “now why don’t we talk about something productive like who else You-­Know­-Who might have given Horcruxes to hide or how to destroy  them?”

He could tell by her tone that the topic of relationships was closed and he accepted it willingly, feeling comforted for some reason, though  he wasn’t sure why she seemed embarrassed.

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