The Tonkses lived in a nondescript house in muggle Birmingham. It was relatively small, with just two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a bathroom, but it was different from anything owned by the Blacks and to Andromeda Black, that was what mattered.
Ted’s bedroom was also functioning as Andromeda’s bedroom, which made sense since they were dating. Ted’s parents, however, didn’t seem to understand that the two of them were happy with the arrangement and kept suggesting that they sleep in separate rooms.
“One moment you’re sharing a bed with your boyfriend,” Annie Tonks, Ted’s mother, nattered on “and then the next thing you know, you’re pregnant.”
Andromeda nodded along half-heartedly as she sipped at her tea. She liked to think that both she and Ted were more responsible than that, especially since neither of them were interested in having sex.
A tapping sound came upon the kitchen window and Annie leaned across the kitchen counters to open it. An owl flew in, barely avoiding banging into Annie’s head.
It was Regulus’ owl, Andromeda realised, as it perched on the table and extended its leg. Andromeda reached out to untie the letter and summoned the owl treats from across the kitchen with her wand.
The letter read:
Dear Cousin Andromeda,
I do believe that I’ve had a breakthrough in the investigation. I managed to find out a word that my mind has been trying to stop me from finding out. The word is ‘horcrux’ and Sirius and I are going to try and find it in the books in the Black library. However, we know that you are very clever and might already know the word. If you don’t know the word then it’s fine, we’ll find it ourselves.
There’s another matter concerning the investigation that I’d like to talk to you about, concerning a name I saw in one of my dreams, and I was wondering if you knew the name. It’s ‘Tom Marvolo Riddle’. I found out yesterday that he is (was? I don’t know if he’s still alive) a halfblood, and Narcissa’s going to send me a photograph from the Hogwarts student registry when she goes back so I can add it to the corkboard.
We’re still not sure how he’s connected, but Sirius and I think he might be a muggle/muggleborn activist, since he’s a halfblood. I think I should send a letter but Sirius said it would be strange since he doesn’t know me.
Goodluck on your new job with the muggle scientists (and if we can find a date when mother and father are both out, then could you come over to look at the corkboard? You’re really clever so I think you could help a lot), and I hope to hear from you soon.
Andromeda set the letter down on the table tiredly.
She was glad (and a bit smug) that Regulus and Sirius had become so supportive of muggles, but she couldn’t help but think that she’d set the two of them in a dangerous position.
And how exactly am I meant to get inside Grimmauld Place without Kreacher, or a portrait, telling aunt and uncle?, she groaned internally.
She could send Regulus a camera by owl; ask him to take a photograph of the corkboard for her. It would work. But then, it wasn’t what she wanted to do.
Andromeda Black – hopeful to be Andromeda Tonks someday – was a curious person. There were things that she wanted and she wouldn’t stop at anything to get them, it was why she was a Slytherin. What Andromeda wanted was to study science, and her recent studies in it had lead her to become curious about the make up of magical objects.
If Andromeda went over to Grimmauld Place then she could pick up any manner of dark artifacts. Something small, or something liquid, to put on a petri dish and observe under a microscope. For a lot of dark curses there wasn’t a cure and that was because no one understood what made them work. If she could discover what made the curses through a scientific view-point then maybe she could discover how to un-make them.
Regulus was clever for a seven-year-old, but he wasn’t clever enough to know exactly what Andromeda wanted from that house. He was young and would get himself hurt, riffling through the attic, searching for something to relieve Andromeda’s curiosity.
She would have to go in person.
“A ghost?” Sirius asked, eyes squinting at Regulus suspiciously.
Regulus nodded, a serious look about him. The two of them were sitting on Regulus’ bed at opposite ends, looking very much like little children holding a meeting. This made since because that was exactly what they were.
“Yes,” Regulus said “a ghost. It’s been speaking to me and that’s why I’ve blanked out a couple of times. It saved me from a nightmare last night.”
“Right…” Sirius muttered. He was sceptic.
“We can’t tell cousin Andromeda.” Regulus informed him “She’ll tell Ted, and then Ted will think I’m mad and stop sending me books.”
Sirius’ eyebrows rose up his forehead.
“Reggie, we all no you’re not mad. Well, you are mad, but not that kind of mad.”
It was a very Sirius thing to say. This way he could reassure Regulus and then make it seem like he wasn’t reassuring Regulus by insulting him.
“We can’t tell Andromeda.” Regulus said.
“Uh, but we can though.” Sirius scoffed “I’m usually against telling adults, but Andy isn’t like other adults. She’s still eighteen. And she’s heard out all your weird seer stuff so far, and she’s the only one who hasn’t thought that you might be going crazy.”
“Okay, we’ll tell cousin Andromeda.” Regulus huffed with a roll of his eyes. Sirius looked very pleased at that. He was just about the say something when a knock came at the door.
“Please don’t be mum.” Sirius groaned.
It was their mother. She stood at the door, looking just like she had the day before.
“Take it down.” She ordered.
“Take what down?” Sirius asked moodily, though they both knew what she wanted taken down.
“That foul board,” their mother spat “I will not have that halfblood’s name besmirching my house.”
“Too bad!” Sirius barked “We need that board and we’re not taking it down!”
“Sirius!” Regulus hissed warningly, reaching across the bed to grab at his arm.
“What? We need it!” Sirius said.
Their mother stormed into the room to look down at the two boys. She was intimidating.
“And just what do you need it for?” she asked, fury lighting her words.
Regulus did some quick thinking and slapped his hand over Sirius’ mouth before he could say anything else incriminating.
“We want to get back to the roots of what it means to be a Black!” Regulus exclaimed hurriedly “I heard father talking about this Tom Riddle and he didn’t seem to like him very much, so Sirius and I thought – since he’s a halfblood and a stain on wizardkind – we might try to do a homicide!”
Sirius shoved Regulus’ hand from his mouth and nodded agreeably.
“Yeah, we want to do our first murder,” he said “as Blacks it’s important to start this stuff young.”
Their mother sniffed and eyed the corkboard with disdain.
“Alright then,” she conceded “there are worse ways to spend your time.” She turned around with a dramatic flare and left the room.
“That was a close one.” Sirius muttered.
“Uh huh.” Regulus agreed with a nod. His hand was still wrapped around Sirius’ arm so he let go and moved back across the bed as if he had touched something diseased. Sirius scowled at that.
Much as the two brothers tried, they couldn’t seem to find a date to smuggle their cousin into the house. Throughout the week they peppered hints in wherever they could that their father should join their mother at aunt Druella’s house for tea, but nothing seemed capable of convincing him. Sunday came and went and Regulus was really getting annoyed.
“It’ll be September soon,” Regulus complained to Sirius on Sunday morning “and then cousin Andromeda will be too busy with her muggle science job to help us.”
“This is so annoying.” Sirius groaned.
“We’ll have to try and make our own progress until she gets here.” Regulus decided.
“How are we gonna do that?” Sirius asked. Regulus slumped.
“I’m not sure.”
They both sat in silence for a few seconds, thinking.
“How about…” Sirius started.
“Hm?” Regulus asked.
“That ghost saved you from your nightmare, remember. It probably knows something.” Sirius said.
“I…I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.” Regulus admitted. Sirius’ face wrinkled up in annoyance.
“Why not?” he asked.
Regulus frowned “That nightmare was kind of scary.” He said.
“What are you? A girl?” Sirius sneered.
“You don’t need to be a girl to be scared of something!” Regulus snapped “Look at cousin Andromeda. She’s not scared of anything.”
“I guess.” Sirius muttered, looking suitably cowed.
That night Regulus was dreaming again.
He was shorter than he usually was in dreams, but taller than he was in real life. Regulus was sitting before a large lake (and his mind supplied him with the words ‘Great lake’), a sketchbook on his lap. There was a giant squid in the water, splashing any students that dared to come too near.
“It wouldn’t kill it to stop moving.” Dream Regulus mumbled grumpily as he scratched his pencil across the paper.
This was a nice dream, Regulus decided, because nothing potentially life threatening was happening.
There was a bark of laughter behind him and Regulus turned around to see Sirius, older than he’d ever seen him. This reminded him of what Sirius had said earlier in the day, about the ghost probably knowing something.
This wasn’t a scary dream, so Regulus didn’t think he’d mind trying to lure the ghost out.
“What do you want?” dream Regulus grouched, glaring up at his brother.
“What?” Sirius grinned as he plopped down on the grassy bank next to him. Regulus’ eyes caught on his red and gold tie “Can’t I come to see my own brother?”
Dream Regulus elbowed him and hissed, “Go away, you pest.”
“Haha! No way! What’re you drawing, tiny Tim?” his brother exclaimed, scooting closer and leaning over his shoulder.
“My name isn’t Tim.” Regulus spat out, snapping his sketchbook closed.
“Yeah, but there’s no alliteration in tiny Regulus.” Sirius complained.
“That’s a big word for you, isn’t it?” Regulus sneered. He’d said something similar to Sirius the week before and it was all very nostalgic. Regulus had to admit that he was getting distracted by the dream.
“Raging Regulus, maybe?” Sirius said thoughtfully “Or rage-bent Reggie.”
Both Regulus’ fumed at this. It wasn’t funny anymore, Sirius was being annoying.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” both Regulus’ fumed, a scowl taking over their face.
Sirius let out a booming laugh.
“Is it that time of month again, Reggie?” Sirius snickered. Regulus’ blood boiled.
“I’m not a girl, you dummy!” he shouted. He realised belatedly that he hadn’t really said that. Instead, the words that had come out of his mouth were, “Wow, Sirius. All these years and you still haven’t noticed that I’m a boy, your stupidity must be very hard to deal with.” They were much more mature than anything Regulus had said before and were surprising because of that.
Still, they had the intended effect.
Sirius’ smiling face twitched, suddenly looking angry. Regulus didn’t understand it. It was Sirius that had started it.
“At least I’m not as stupid as you!” Sirius spat “Only dark wizards go into Slytherin!”
Regulus let out a shoked breath. He looked up at his brother with wide eyes “There’s nothing wrong with being in Slytherin, nor with dark magic.” He said “We’re part of The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, things like that are to be expected!”
“Thing is, Reggie,” Sirius scowled “you’re not dark. You’re just soft.”
Regulus’ fingers trembled against his pencil.
“At least I’m not hanging out with mudbloods and blood traitors.” He murmured.
Sirius’ fist collided with his face without warning. Regulus’ head snapped to the side and he felt shock come over him. Sirius grabbed onto his tie and forced him to look at him.
“You’re disgusting, Reggie.” He sneered.
I don’t like this, Regulus thought desperately. His dream self was saying mean things about people like Ted and Andromeda, and Sirius was saying mean things about him. Regulus deserved it. He knew he deserved it for saying awful things like that, but it still hurt to hear Sirius call him disgusting.
“Not as disgusting as you.” Dream Regulus hissed.
Regulus wanted to cry. This argument was beyond awful.
He knew how to go past it though, he’d sped past bits of his dream the other week.
I have to go forward, Regulus told himself, to somewhere nice.
Somewhere nice. Where was somewhere nice? His surroundings blurred as his mind tried to work it out. Go forward and find somewhere nice.
“Going forward won’t get you anywhere.” A voice spoke from beside him. Regulus looked over to it.
Where Sirius had been sitting there now sat someone else. Older, more tired, longer hair. A Black if Regulus ever saw one. There was something familiar about him…
“Are you the ghost?” Regulus found himself asking.
The person looked a bit startled at the question.
“I…suppose I must be.” He said reluctantly. He didn’t seem all too happy to be called a ghost.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t work out what you were saying.” Regulus told him. The ghost nodded. They sat in silence as the world continued to speed by.
Regulus stared at the ghost.
“Hey,” he said “you said that going forward won’t get me anywhere. Why’s that?”
The ghost looked scared and sad and tired all at once. He looked almost as if there was water dripping off of him.
“There’s nothing good that way.” He admitted.
The blur around them began to smooth out into something clearer. The ghost looked startled.
“You must be wrong. Whatever this is, my mind thinks it’s good.” Regulus told him. The ghost frowned.
“I’ve lived it, I should know if something good happened.” He said.
“Huh?” Regulus said, startled “What does that mean?”
But there was no one beside him, and he was no longer sitting down. Regulus walked down one of the staircase inside Grimmauld Place, yawning. He’d stayed up late today, had gotten enraptured by a book. He held a silver lantern in his right hand, his left trailing the banister of the stair’s railing.
The real Regulus was interested in the dream but it was frustrating. The ghost had said something weird and he wanted to know what it was.
Finally, Regulus was outside his bedroom door. He raised his hand to the knob and turned, walking into his bedroom. Regulus padded across the room and put the lantern on his bedside table before collapsing onto the bed.
Regulus’ brow furrowed when he felt something soft brushing across the top of his head. He raised his eyes slowly and looked up to see a mass of black fur. Regulus blinked, his tired mind uncomprehending.
Two beady eyes were staring down at him, and attached to those eyes was a dog. A big dog. The biggest dog Regulus had ever seen.
Regulus stiffened. The dog also stiffened.
Maybe if I don’t move it’ll forget I’m here and go away, Regulus thought helplessly, his heart beating wildly, breath refusing to leave his lungs. It seemed that the dog also had a similar thought and it lay there, stock still, furry belly pressed against the crown of Regulus’ head. Regulus could feel it’s heart beating just as fast as his.
“Oh, you’re scared too.” Regulus murmured. He felt himself calming slightly.
Regulus slowly sat up and looked down at the dog. His eyes caught on his paint tubes, next to the dog’s head. There were dents all over them, as if they’d been chewed up by something.
“Ah.” Regulus said flatly “That’s why you’re scared. You didn’t think you’d get caught, did you, dog.”
Suddenly there was no fear in him. Regulus was just annoyed. And of course, somehow, this had to be Sirius’ fault.
Regulus collapsed back onto the bed with a huff, his head brushing against fur again.
“Where did Sirius even find a dog like you.” Regulus murmured, bringing a hand up to pat at the dog’s head. It watched him suspiciously. Regulus raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t like dogs.” He muttered, drawing his hand away.
The dog barked once and licked at his face.
“Ew.” Regulus complained, his face drawing up in disgust, as he elbowed the dog’s head away. The dog seemed to take this as a challenge and pawed at his arm, pinning it down against the bed so that it could have another go at licking his face.
Regulus pressed his free arm against the dog’s nose, pushing it away.
“This is definitely Sirius’ fault.” He decided.
But then the dog started to blur. Regulus blinked as the world disappeared again.
He was still lying down, just not on a bed. There was nothing underneath him. Regulus turned his head to the right and saw the ghost, who was also lying down. The ghost looked happy and sad at the same time.
“I suppose it wasn’t all bad.” He said.
And then Regulus woke up.
He was tired for the entire day and even his father seemed to notice. The man made no comment on it, though his mother did say that he would find attempted murder difficult if he was so tired all the time.
Later, Sirius asked why he was so tired, but Regulus didn’t know.
He dreamed again, that night, but the ghost didn’t show up. He didn’t show up the night after that either.
“Maybe he doesn’t know how to talk to you.” Sirius theorised on the third day without contact from the ghost.
“Maybe.” Regulus agreed. He thought back to all his interactions with the ghost. At first it had seemed like the ghost wanted to talk to him everyday, shouting desperately over the high-pitched noise, but the high-pitched noise came less often as days went by, like the ghost was giving up.
The ghost hadn’t tried to talk to him for over a week before they’d met in Regulus’ dream.
But surely meeting in my dream would have given the ghost hope again, Regulus thought. It was weird that the ghost wasn’t trying harder now that they’d had a conversation.
“Do you think ghosts sleep?” Sirius asked, breaking the silence that had fallen over them.
“Huh?” Regulus asked in bewilderment.
“The ghost kept trying to talk to you, right?” Sirius asked, Regulus nodded “And then it started talking to you less and less until it stopped talking at all?” again, Regulus nodded. Sirius narrowed his eyes at the corkboard.
“Do you think that maybe it took a lot of energy to talk to you and that now the ghost needs to sleep?” though it was phrased as a question, it came out more like a statement. Now that Regulus had put the words out there, he looked very convinced that he was right.
And, well, it was a good theory.
“Huh.” Regulus said, staring at Sirius as if he was the strangest thing he’d ever seen “I guess you are smart afterall.”
Sirius practically preened under his words and Regulus immediately wanted to take them back.
Finally, eventually, the end of August came. And with the end of August there came a chance.
Aunt Druella had caught a cold about a week ago and had slowly begun to grow feathers. Regulus was sure that she must have come across one of the nicer cursed objects in the family vault but his suspicion hadn’t been confirmed.
This was all very badly timed because uncle Cygnus was on a business trip in Germany and Bellatrix was busy working, which was probably a synonym for terrorising muggleborns in her eyes.
Naturally, their mother was going to be staying with their aunt for a few days (and this only deepened Regulus’ suspicion, because a lot of cursed objects were illegal), so it fell on their father to get Narcissa to the Hogwarts express on September the 1st.
Their parents weren’t too concerned with the idea of leaving Regulus and Sirius alone in the house while all of this happened.
So on the 31st of August their mother and father left through the floo for one of the many Black Manors at 8pm.
“Sirius, do your best to distract Kreacher.” Regulus commanded, an hour later. Sirius nodded seriously and ran through the hallway, into the kitchen, to torment the old house elf. Regulus felt bad for Kreacher, but this was necessary.
Once he was sure that Kreacher was suitably distracted (and their mother was going to be really mad when she was told what Sirius had done to the venomous tentacula), Regulus walked up to the front door and opened to it. He looked out into the dark of the night, squinting his eyes in an attempt to if there was anything out there.
A shadowy figure moved from the darkness and Regulus knew immediately that it was Andromeda.
“Ah, you got my letter.” Regulus commented, a smile forming on his face.
Andromeda started up the front steps and lifted the hood of her muggle coat from her head.
“Yeah,” she said “a bit short notice, but I got here alright.”