Chapter IX - The Locket
Severus woke up from a very vivid dream in which Harry... Slytherin's beard! Severus hastily cast a cleaning spell on himself. In his dream, Harry was stroking himself, but Severus could feel the warm, lithe hand of the boy sliding up and down his cock, the thumb rubbing his most sensitive vein and smearing the pre-come over the tip... Just by remembering the dream, Severus almost got hard again. But then his intellectual curiosity overcame the sexual desire destined to remain unfulfilled, making him wonder: did Harry have the same dream? Could that be an effect of the magical empathy? Would Severus feel every time Harry wanked, even when they were more than 15 feet away and with a door between them, as they were? If that was the case, he was doomed.
Lupin opened the kitchen door, waking him from his musings, and Severus went to the bathroom.
Half an hour later, they were all having breakfast and discussing what to do about Slytherin's locket. Surprisingly, there was a consensus that the next step should be to interrogate Kreacher.
Harry was curious about why Kreacher had to obey him even though Black was still alive. Black explained that before he left for the Department of Mysteries, on the day of his faked death, he had written a magical will bequeathing 12 Grimmauld Place and Kreacher to Harry. It was this will that - after being approved by the Ministry - constrained Kreacher to serve Harry.
"You just have to call his name and he will appear, whenever and wherever you want," said Black.
"Then why don't we call him here and now?" asked Harry.
"It's not a good idea to call him right here, because he shouldn't see Sirius or Severus," Lupin answered. "But you could go to the shed and interrogate him there."
"Why didn't we do this before, if it was so easy?" Severus asked himself aloud.
"Because we were busy searching for rings, killing dragons and looking for esplumeors." Black shrugged. "Yeah, I know, we spent a week reading books. But that was what Dumbledore asked us to do, wasn't it?"
Severus couldn't think of a crushing reply, mostly because it was true.
"Speaking of Dumbledore," said Lupin, standing up, "I hope you don't need my help with this task: I have to spend the day with my kind, to make up for not having showed up yesterday."
"No problem, Remus," said Black. "Snape and I will be here for Harry, if he needs us."
Severus arched an eyebrow. Coming from Black's mouth, "Snape and I" was one of the most unusual expressions he had ever heard.
They took the dishes to the kitchen and put them into the dish washer. Lupin kissed Black, said goodbye to Severus and Harry, and left.
"So... I'm going to the shed," said Harry to Severus and Black.
Severus nodded; Harry walked to the back of the house.
"Listen, Snape..." said Black, contemplative. "I have an idea. Wait for me here."
Severus, who was planning to go after Harry and discover if there was a way to eavesdrop on the conversation inside the shed, felt a bit annoyed, but waited as Black climbed the stairs three steps at a time.
In less than a minute, Black was back, flying downstairs with a pair of Extendable Ears.
"Have you been to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes?"
"No. I stole one of these from the twins in Grimmauld Place, and built the other myself, by following the model."
Black handed Severus one of the strings and hurried to the back of the house, with Severus behind him. Black stopped in front of the shed door and inserted the end of the string into his ear. Severus came close to the door and imitated him.
The flesh-coloured strings wriggled like long skinny worms and snaked under the door.
Severus heard the house-elf voice saying, "... took Kreacher into the cave. Young Master had to make a cut in his finger because the cave didn't let anyone inside without a blood sacrifice. Then Young Master helped Kreacher enter a boat into the cave, and the boat took Young Master and Kreacher across the icy lake to a small island where there was a stone basin. Kreacher doesn't want to speak to the brat, but the brat is now his Master, so..."
"Kreacher, continue your story. What did Regulus do?" asked Harry impatiently.
Regulus? Severus looked at Black, who looked more surprised than he.
Kreacher sighed loudly. "Kreacher will do whatever Master wants... Kreacher will tell him that Young Master Regulus made Kreacher drink the liquid from the basin with a goblet. There was a locket at the bottom of the basin. Young Master put it into his pocket and replaced it with another one. The basin filled itself again with the potion. Then Young Master took Kreacher back into the boat and out of the cave."
"What happened to the locket?"
"Young Master gave it to Kreacher to take it home. Kreacher has never seen Young Master again. He was a good Master. He has never disappointed Mistress like his filthy brother did."
"Enough, Kreacher," said Harry. "Where is the locket now?"
"The nasty blood traitors were messing up my Mistress's house, oh my poor Mistress... They were going to throw the precious jewel away. Kreacher took it to Mistress Malfoy."
"When was that? Was it when we were in Grimmauld Place, a year ago? You took it to Narcissa? But why?"
"Kreacher had to obey Young Master Sirius Black, as now he has to obey Harry Potter, but Kreacher would much rather be the servant of the Malfoy family. Mistress Malfoy recalls my Mistress in her nobility and manners."
Severus's heart missed a beat. Things were taking a strange turn and he, Severus, would have to act. He still didn't know exactly what to do. He knew, however, that he would have to use Occlumency to prevent Harry from suspecting what Severus was planning to do. It wouldn't be easy to block his mind from Harry. Severus wished he could have left before Harry could see him, but it was too late. Harry had already sent Kreacher back to Hogwarts and was opening the door.
"Oh, you're here... Right... I see I don't even have to tell you anything."
Severus entered the shed immediately, opened his trunk and started to choose his weapons. He distributed a few strategic potions among his pockets and the false linings of his robes. He had to have many alternative plans in mind. This was exactly the kind of scenario Severus most hated: when anything could happen and he had to be prepared for everything.
Harry was looking at him with a concerned face.
"Harry, I shall go to 12 Grimmauld Place and talk to Dumbledore. If I don't come back tonight, don't worry."
"Don't worry," Severus repeated, and Apparated.
Dumbledore received him in his office in the attic - a room crammed with the paraphernalia of instruments the Headmaster had brought from Hogwarts. A few portraits - among them the one of Phineas Nigellus - gave life to the naked walls.
Severus sat in one of the armchairs while Dumbledore sat down on the window bench.
"To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"
Severus told him what Harry had extracted from Kreacher. The old wizard's eyes twinkled sharply.
"So Regulus betrayed Riddle!"
"Regulus?" The sound of the name of his descendant made Phineas wake up. "I had my suspicions..."
"Regulus must have found out that the locket was a Horcrux and decided to destroy it..." Albus scratched his beard, thoughtful. "He must have been spying on Riddle for some time. The potion Kreacher drank would probably have very unpleasant effects on a wizard. Regulus was clever to take Kreacher with him. Poor elf... Maybe that potion had disturbed Kreacher's mind and left him as he is now."
"That's very likely. Ah! I remember: Nefaserum. A potion that makes the wizard relive all their past traumas and sins."
"You were the one who prepared it?"
Severus lowered his head. "Another item on my list of crimes."
"Severus, we had this discussion before. Looking back will not help us. Do you realise that these facts we have just discovered change everything? Do you realise the potentialities of this situation, in the light of what you told me last week, about the mission Riddle assigned to Draco?"
"It seems a big coincidence that these two facts point to the Malfoy family. I don't believe in coincidences, or in fate."
"A genuine Slytherin," said Phineas, approvingly.
"And yet fate seems to be conspiring in our favour," Albus replied.
"Always the Gryffindor optimism! Why do you say that, Albus?" asked Severus.
"We have in our hands the possibility of obtaining the fifth Horcrux and protecting Draco Malfoy at the same time."
"How would we do that?" asked Severus.
"You will talk to Narcissa and propose a pact to ensure the safety of Draco. I believe you are creative enough to find a way to locate and rescue the locket."
"I knew you were going to suggest I do something like that. It's too dangerous. What if Narcissa proves to be loyal to the Dark Lord?"
"You know Narcissa better than I do. Don't you think that she values her family above everything else?"
"Yes... I believe she does. But how can we grant Draco's safety without raising the Dark Lord's suspicion?"
"It won't be easy. Perhaps... if we make Riddle believe that you are using Draco Malfoy as a Trojan horse?"
"Sometimes you are more Slytherin than any member of my House could ever be," said Phineas, puzzled.
"Phineas, I'm having a serious conversation with Severus here. Why don't you go and talk to your colleagues at Hogwarts?"
Phineas grumbled something under his breath and left his portrait.
"Let's see if I understand," said Severus, as soon as Phineas disappeared. "I shall tell Narcissa that you are willing to protect Draco if he comes to you, and that this way Draco will be able to kill you."
"The first - but not the worst - problem I see in your plan is that the Dark Lord is not really expecting Draco to fulfil his mission."
"Do you really believe so?" Albus asked.
"I have to admit that the idea that he might be testing me passed my mind."
"I find it highly probable. I believe he will be delighted to know you have found a way of transforming Draco into a Trojan horse."
"That is where I see a second problem in your idea. What shall we do with Draco?"
"We shall use him to set a trap for Riddle."
Severus narrowed his eyes at Dumbledore. "It's too risky. For him, for you and for all of us!"
"My time is running out, Severus. We shall be careful, in every move we make."
"Supposing I agree with your plan... How can I convince Narcissa of the sincerity of my intentions?"
"Make an Unbreakable Vow with her."
"Albus... This is highly dangerous. What if she asks for something I cannot do?"
"I don't know. That, if Draco fails, I kill you in his place, for instance."
"That is exactly what I am expecting her to ask from you."
"You know very well that I have few days left, Severus. Why not take advantage of that?"
"You are taking too much for granted. Maybe I won't agree to play your game any more."
"It's the best plan that we have to save Harry's life."
Severus sighed. "Then please tell Harry that I had to go to my house to solve an urgent problem, and that I shall spend the night there."
Albus winked at him. "Is that true or are you asking me to lie to cover for a, let's say, illicit rendez-vous?"
Severus rolled his eyes, deeply annoyed. "I do intend to sleep in Spinner's End. But I am no prophet, I cannot foresee what will happen. You know very well that I shall have to rescue the bloody Horcrux. The means are secondary, the end is vital."
Severus threw a pinch of Floo powder into the fireplace of Albus's office and called the Malfoy Mansion in Wiltshire - the Headmaster had insisted it was safe. Luckily, Narcissa appeared, and she was alone.
"Severus! What a coincidence! I've been looking for you. I want to talk to you."
"Are you all right, Narcissa?"
"I'm very worried. I wish we could talk."
"Can I come in and talk to you now? Are you alone?"
"Not exactly. Draco is in his bedroom, and the house-elves, however discreet they are, are always a nuisance. Anyway, if you Apparate directly to my suite in half an hour, we should be able to talk without being disturbed."
"As you wish, Narcissa. See you in half an hour."
Women. Bah. He was ready, but would have to wait half an hour.
Albus returned with a smile on his face and a small box in his hands. "How lucky that she asked you to wait half an hour. I had an idea."
Narcissa looked exquisite, wearing a dark green dress that highlighted her blond hair and slender silhouette. When Severus arrived, she greeted him with an embrace and a kiss on his face, as she always did when they were alone.
"Severus, I'm glad that you've come. I was anguished."
"He told you."
"Yes. I believe he's doing that to punish Lucius, and he told me so that Lucius will know too."
"I suspect you are right."
"Have a seat, Severus. I shall bring you your favourite drink."
Every time he went to visit the Malfoys, Severus would drink straight Ogden's Old.
The couple's suite in Malfoy Mansion was composed of a big bedroom, a bathroom and the lounge with three armchairs and a bar where Severus had Apparated. Narcissa handed him a glass of Firewhisky, poured a glass of elf wine for herself and sat in the armchair at an angle from his.
"Draco thinks it's a great honour for him. He's so proud and agitated. My God, he's so young!"
"I know. I am very worried too, and that's why I came to talk to
Severus stared firmly at her. "You know of my absolute loyalty to the Dark Lord."
There was a look of helplessness on Narcissa's face. For a moment, Severus thought she would start to cry. Then the helpless look changed into a determined one, and she came to kneel in front of Severus's armchair. "Please, Severus. I shall do anything to protect my son. There must be a way to save him."
Severus should have been prepared for it, but her reaction disturbed him. Narcissa had rested a hand on his chest, and he held it between his.
Tears ran down Narcissa's face. "My son... my only son!"
"If he succeeds, he will be honoured above all others."
"But he won't succeed!" Narcissa sobbed. "How could he? If the Dark Lord himself..." She looked at Severus with a gleam of panic in her eyes. "Severus, please! Can't you speak to the Dark Lord?"
Severus shook his head. "It would be useless. I have already tried it, with no luck. But calm down, Narcissa." Holding her hand, Severus stood up and helped her to stand. Then he guided her to the armchair and made her sit. "Drink your wine and calm down."
She recomposed herself and sipped her wine with trembling hands.
"It might be possible for me... to help Draco," said Severus, pacing the lounge.
Narcissa set her glass down and stood up again, coming near Severus. "Oh, Severus! Will you protect him?"
"I can try. I have an idea. But I must ask for your secrecy."
"Of course! It's in my utmost interest!"
"I believe I can persuade Dumbledore to offer protection to Draco."
"Dumbledore? But... haven't you just said that you are loyal to the Dark Lord?"
"Exactly! If I can persuade Dumbledore to offer protection to Draco, Draco will have every opportunity to fulfil the task the Dark Lord assigned him. You can see that... we wouldn't be going against our Master's will?
Narcissa's eyes lit up, but just for a moment. "Oh, yes. But... it's still too dangerous."
"I would be always by his side to protect him."
"In that case... Would you make the Unbreakable Vow?"
"The Unbreakable Vow? But there is no one else here... Perhaps Draco might agree to come and...?"
"No, I shall speak to Draco later. I... I can ask Bellatrix to come and be our Bonder."
"All right, Narcissa, if that's what you wish. I just want to emphasise that... our plans have to be kept a secret between the two of us."
Narcissa nodded, clearly relieved. Smiling, she rested her hands on Severus's chest again. "Thank you, Severus. You are amazing."
Severus tenderly brushed aside a lock of hair that had fallen in front of her eyes and stared at her. "Oh, I had forgotten." Severus put his hand into an inner pocket in his robes and produced the small box Dumbledore had given him. "I have brought you a present."
"A present?" Narcissa took the small box in her hands with an expression of curiosity, and opened it. "Oh, Severus! What a magnificent necklace!" Narcissa held the diamond necklace in awe. "Come with me, Severus." She pulled him by the hand into her bedroom, where there was a dresser with a mirror.
"Let me help you," said Severus, taking off the pearl necklace Narcissa was wearing. "Do you have a jewel case?"
"That wooden box with an engraved basilisk."
Carefully, Severus opened its lid. The box was full of jewels, but Severus soon found Slytherin's locket from the description Albus had given him. With quick hands, he put the pearl necklace into the box and cast a non-verbal spell to send the locket into his pocket. Then he calmly closed the jewel case, held the diamond necklace and put it around Narcissa's neck.
Narcissa looked into the mirror. "It's marvellous! You shouldn't have..."
"Oh, it's just a souvenir," said Severus, with a gallant smile. Not that he knew exactly how to smile gallantly, but he was doing his best.
"Thank you, Severus, I'm delighted. Now if you excuse me... I'm going to call my sister through the Floo."
Severus let out his breath, relieved. That part of the plan, at least, had gone smoothly. He wouldn't have to resort to more drastic steps, like slipping a few drops of Sleeping Draft into Narcissa's wine, or even casting a nasty spell on her.
In a few minutes Bellatrix arrived. They exchanged curt greetings.
"You must not disobey the Dark Lord," Bellatrix said, looking fixedly and sternly at Severus.
"Do not be concerned, Bellatrix," said Severus. "We shall not do anything against his will."
Bellatrix continued to stare at him distrustfully.
"Bella, please... We have already talked about this!"
"All right, Cissy. I don't trust him, but I shall do it for you. What about Draco?"
"Don't worry. I shall talk to him later," said Narcissa, determinedly.
Severus knelt in front of Narcissa. He wanted to get this over with as fast as possible. He was tired and tense, and Bellatrix's presence irritated him to a dangerous level. Narcissa knelt too, and they clasped their right hands together. Bellatrix gazed at them, bewildered.
"Can we go on?" asked Severus, looking at Bellatrix.
Bellatrix took off her wand, approached them and touched their hands with its tip.
"Will you, Severus, watch over my son Draco as he attempts to fulfil the Dark Lord's wishes?"
"I will," said Severus.
A tongue of flame issued from the wand and touched their joined hands.
"And will you, to the best of your ability, protect him from harm?"
"I will," said Severus.
A second tongue of flame shot from the wand and interlinked with the first.
"And, should it prove necessary... if it seems Draco will fail..." whispered Narcissa, making Severus's hand twitch, "will you carry out the deed that the Dark Lord has ordered Draco to perform?"
That was exactly what Severus most feared. Severus would have to destroy everything he had taken so long to build. Severus would have to kill his best, his only friend. His mentor. It was too terrible, but Severus had promised Albus, and couldn't betray him.
"I will," said Severus.
A third flame shot from Bellatrix's wand, twisted with the others, and bound itself thickly around their clasped hands, like a rope.
Severus went from Malfoy Mansion to Spinner's End, just because it wouldn't be wise to go directly to Grimmauld Place. In his house, Severus extracted the Horcrux from the locket. At least that part of his mission had been successfully completed. From Spinner's End, Severus took the Floo to Albus's office.
Albus beamed at Severus's report. According to him, everything had gone perfectly well.
"Albus..." Severus couldn't even express his despair.
The old wizard approached and embraced him. Severus was paralysed by the horror of what awaited him.
"You did exactly what I asked you to do. Don't torment yourself."
Severus knew that if he were himself right now, he would have been enraged at his mentor. But he couldn't muster the energy to be enraged. "I will not kill you," was all Severus managed to say, between clenched teeth.
"You are more important than I in this war. You must have this clear in your mind."
"No," Severus replied resolutely.
"At any rate, I believe you will never have to make this decision. I believe Draco's life will never be put at serious risk."
Severus shook his head in disbelief.
Albus insisted: "Let's not argue about this now. We still have some time. Now you need to get prepared to convince Riddle to use the young Malfoy as we planned. Go home. Take a rest. There's no use torturing yourself over possibilities."
Severus returned to Spinner's End. There was nothing for him in the ugly house he had inherited from his father, just bad memories. The walls covered in books bound in old black or brown leather reflected his sombre mood. He sat on the threadbare sofa, exhausted and crestfallen.
He didn't want Harry to go through the same agony Severus was feeling now. He had to leave Harry, or Harry would end up hurt.
Severus couldn't stand the idea that he had just made a vow that would force him to kill his friend and mentor. After all these years fighting to redeem himself, attempting to make up for his past errors, trying to drown the remorse that tortured him, everything would crumble down.
Severus felt defeated.
Harry had been a spark of happiness in his life, and for a few months he had dared to believe that there could be a future for them. Nonsense. If he stayed with Harry, he would destroy him. There wasn't any possibility of a happy denouement. Severus was and would forever be a marked man.
Anyway, Severus still held a secret from Harry, and he knew that when this secret came out, Harry's view of him would change completely. Harry would know exactly how low Severus had sunk.
Albus had insisted that everything would be all right, but Albus wasn't infallible. Maybe he shouldn't have trusted Albus so much. But if it weren't for Albus, Severus would probably have killed himself a long time ago. Seventeen years ago, to be more accurate.
The Dark Lord was waiting for him in the great hall of the mansion they were using as the headquarters for the Death Eaters, in the suburbs of London.
"What devious thoughts are running through your poisonous mind, Severus?" he asked, a cynical smile on his face.
"Master, I have devised a plan to infiltrate the Order's headquarters and murder Dumbledore and, why not, Harry Potter."
Under the sparkling red eyes of his Dark Master, Severus detailed his plan. A strong nausea overtook him, but he went ahead, knowing he had to do this for Albus's and Harry's sake.
"So you think the old codger is fool enough to welcome Draco Malfoy in the Order's headquarters."
"That is Dumbledore's greatest weakness: he has to believe the best of people. He believes in second chances..."
"He has never stopped trusting you, it's true... But, Severus, do you seriously consider Draco Malfoy apt to the task?"
Severus swallowed dry and managed not to vomit. "Master, if he fails, I would be honoured to perform the task. If it's your wish."
The Dark Lord's lips curled into a pleased smile. "Oh, Severus, my most treacherous serpent... Let Draco try first. I don't want you to blow your cover as a spy. Should Draco fail, you will do it."
"As you wish, Master."
Severus went to Grimmauld Place to make his report to Albus after his meeting with the Dark Lord.
Albus became even more enthused and tried to cheer him up. "Everything is going perfectly well. Now you should go back to Remus's and see Harry. The boy is worried about you. He needs you."
"You know who I am, Albus. You know what I did and what I shall have to do. I don't know how you can think that Harry might need me. I shall go back to Spinner's End. I don't intend to ever see Potter again."
"You are making a terrible mistake. You must not try to break the bond between you and Harry now. Besides, the four of you were working perfectly together!"
"Really? How will they react when they discover what I have done in the past, and what I shall have to do in the future? Show them that memory you keep in a bottle. Show them and you will see their reaction."
Albus was going to say something, but Severus Apparated to Spinner's End before he could do it.
Being in Spinner's End was like being in a tomb. Which was exactly where Severus would like to be now.
Ptyx, January 2006