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Into the Black

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It was late when Regulus and Hermione finished talking. After a quick shower, Hermione returned to her bedroom, exhausted from everything she had learned. She was just pulling back the covers, getting ready to climb back into bed when Regulus knocked on her door. "Come in," she said.

Regulus poked his head in the doorway. "I just wanted to make sure you took some more potions. Some pain potion for your aches and pains," he walked in and reached to the table housing various vials of potions. Grabbed one and handed it to her. She drank it down. "Also another nutrient potion," he handed her another vial. She swallowed it too, and handed back the vials. "I really don't want to give you anymore dreamless sleep, it's highly addictive. Do you think you'll be okay without it?" He looked at Hermione, waiting for her response.

She nodded. "I think so, yes." She looked at the potion table a bit closer. There were numerous potions waiting in stasis; waiting for someone to need them. "Sure have a lot of potions here," she said, making eye contact with Regulus.

He looked at his feet braking the eye contact, half smiled and responded, "I didn't want to ever run out of potions again. Not if I could help it. It also keeps my mind sharp, being out here."

"Have you remained all alone out here for almost 20 years?" Hermione asked, shocked.

Regulus shook his head. "I have a running supply of polyjuice potion…and some hair from an old muggle man and a few others that I stole from a while back. I go into town, or Diagon Alley as different people," he smiled at Hermione. "That's a story for another day though, you need your rest…so do I," he turned, wished her goodnight, and softly closed her door.

Exhausted, Hermione slipped into bed, and was out before her head hit the pillow.

...


...

Hermione woke to a knocking on her door. "Hermione, time to wake up. There is someone here who'd love to see you," Regulus called through the door.

"Okay, I'll be there in a minute," Hermione called out. She quickly got out of bed. Reached into her beaded bag and pulled out a change of clothes. She finished tugging on her shirt as she opened the door of her room.

Hermione could hear hushed talking from the living room, and walked down the hallway in that direction. On the couch there were two men sitting, chatting with each other. One Regulus, the other someone Hermione hadn't seen since the summer.

"Remus!" Hermione cried out. She rushed to him as he stood up, and engulfed him in a massive hug.

Remus hugged her back just as enthusiastically. "Hermione," he rasped. "How have you been? Are you feeling better? Harry and Ron and the others are worried about you," he smiled down at her.

Hermione beamed. "I am doing better, yes. Still sore, but my headache is gone now. Which is nice." She looked at Remus critically, with narrowed eyes. "Have you gotten over yourself and gotten back together with Tonks?"

Remus nodded, looking ashamed of his behaviour. "Yeah, I got the picture eventually. Our baby is due any day now," he replied, looking both terrified but excited all the same. Hermione gave him a short nod.

Regulus smiled at them, then stood up from the couch and walked down the hallway to her room. He returned holding three vials of potions for Hermione.

She looked at them quizzically. "Three?" she asked.

"I'm going to give you a double dose of nutrient potion. The quicker you'll get better and up to strength," he smiled at her. "We can't stay in hiding forever. I'm starting to get tired of it," he winked at her.

Hermione laughed in response, and downed the three vials.

Remus was watching the interacting between father and daughter, smiling. "Harry and Ron want to know where you are, Hermione. What did you want me to tell them?"

Hermione looked at Remus, nodding. "Tell Harry that I am with my father. He knows about me obliviating my parents – the Grangers – and finding out that they weren't my biological parents. That they'd been obliviated before." Remus nodded. "But can you tell Ron that I am at a safe house?" she looked at Remus questioningly.

Remus looked at her – wide-eyed – and slowly nodded. "Ron knows that I obliviated my parents, but he doesn't know anything else about it. He left us for a few months. Walked out of the tent, and left me and Harry alone to fend for ourselves. I trust him, he is my friend, but I want to keep it close to my chest right now. He really hurt me. He really hurt us – both me and Harry. I want to have a talk with him alone, about some of the stuff that has happened in the past. But not right now," said Hermione. She looked down at a spot on the floor between the three of them.

"Does that make me a bad person? To keep this from him…for now?" Hermione asked, looking between Remus and Regulus. "I honestly think he is going to over-react. That he'll demand to know who my father is. Harry will know to give me time. He knows I'll tell him who, when I am ready and I know that he is okay with that. I know that he will understand," she looked back up, making eye contact with Remus and Regulus.

"Are you ashamed of me?" asked Regulus. "I mean…I agree that no one can know the identity of me right now. But are you ashamed I am your father?"

Hermione was already shaking her head as soon as he started talking. "I am not at all ashamed. I am quite proud actually," she smiled at him. "But, I have a feeling once everyone figures out who my father is, Ron will freak out. He'll explode. I want to talk with him before that happens. To set some ground rules about how he treats his friends." Hermione squished her eyebrows together in thought. "I wanted to talk to him before we were captured – when he came back to us – but, I didn't know what to say without angering him. Harry was so happy he was back…I didn't want to be the Grinch." Remus nodded in agreement.

"The Grinch?" Regulus asked. "What's a Grinch? I mean I can guess what you mean…" he tapered off.

Hermione smiled at him. "He's a character from a muggle story book." Regulus nodded in understanding, smiling at his daughter.

"Did you want to tell Harry about who your father is?" Remus asked them both. "I think he would probably take it pretty well."

"NO!" Hermione exclaimed. "I think there is something with his scar…You-Know-Who can get in his head, give him false memories…that's how Sirius died. I don't want You-Know-Who to be able to see this thought from Harry. I mean, he hasn't been in Harry's head since fifth year, as far as I know, but I don't want to take any chances. Harry still sees into his thoughts from time to time, when You-Know-Who is really emotional." She looked at Regulus. He was looking at Hermione, putting pieces together. "Now that I know who my father is – the identity of my father – I want to keep it a secret the longest I can. I think I want it to be a surprise for everyone when the time comes. Our 'ace up our sleeve', if you will." Hermione finished with narrowed eyes.

Regulus was smirking. "How very Slytherin of you." Remus tried to hide a laugh, and ended up getting smacked in the arm by Hermione.

"Well, what can I say, my father was a Slytherin. I must have picked up a few things from him." Hermione responded as she sat down on the couch.

Regulus and Remus sat on either side of her on the couch. "What is the plan now with everything?" she asked them. She looked to Remus. "Has Harry said anything about what we were doing on the run?"

Remus shook his head. "Bill said that he refuses to say anything, both him and Ron. They are being very hush hush with everything. Bill said that he keeps talking with Olivander, asking him about wands – myths about wands. Which reminds me…" Remus reached into his jacket pocket, and pulled out Hermione's wand and handed it to her. "Narcissa gave it to Harry as she let them out of the dungeons. She gave them all of their wands, plus Draco's, Bellatrix's and Greyback's."

Hermione beamed at him and slid the wand into her pocket. She looked to Regulus. "Do you think we should tell him what we were doing on the run? Dumbledore said to keep it a secret, that it was just for the three of us to know…but what do you think?" she asked.

Regulus pushed all the air out of his lungs and looked at Remus. He took a deep breath and said, "I think Remus needs to know…but I don't think everyone in the Order needs to know. Bill's probably safe. He might actually be able to help as he is a curse breaker. But I am not sure about anyone else." Hermione nodded in agreement. "Why don't you tell Remus. I'll fill in the blanks if need be."

"Okay," said Hermione. "Harry, Ron and I were searching for horcruxes, You-Know-Who's horcruxes." She looked to Remus, "Do you know what a horcrux is?" she asked him.

Remus raked through his brain, going through everything he knew about the Dark Arts. "They are pieces of souls, aren't they? Objects with bits of soul in them? They are really Dark Magic…" he looked to both Regulus and Hermione.

"There is dark magic, then there are horcruxes…they are beyond what one would consider to be Dark Magic or Dark Arts. They are the darkest of dark, blackest of black. I had trouble finding information in the Black Family library at Grimauld Place, and that's saying something." Regulus responded. "I've done a lot of horrible things as a Death Eater, but what one would have to do to create one of those, is far beyond anything most loyal Death Eaters would do."

Remus nodded in understanding.

"So Harry, Ron and I were hunting these horcruxes down." Hermione continued. "Yes, horcruxes, plural. You-Know-Who made more than one. They are what is keeping him alive. What kept him alive when he went after the Potters in 1981." She stopped, making sure Remus was still following along. "We've destroyed one – Slytherin's Locket – the one that Regulus found in 1979. Harry destroyed the diary in his second year, in the Chamber of Secrets. The diary that Lucius Malfoy gave to Ginny Weasley. The diary that possessed her. It was a piece of You-Know-Who's soul doing that."

Hermione stopped to gather her thoughts. "When Bellatrix was torturing me, she thought we had been in her vault. She kept asking what else we took out of there." She looked to Regulus, "Regulus and I think there is another in the Lestrange vault in Gringotts."

Regulus interrupted, "It was a goblet, a cup. Hufflepuff's cup I think." He looked to Hermione, "I wonder if there is something of Ravenclaw that he has put a horcrux in…it'd make sense. Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. We need to ask a Ravenclaw or someone with knowledge of the Ravenclaw legend."

Hermione gasped and reached for Regulus' hand, "Luna! Luna is a Ravenclaw, I bet she'd know something. Is she still at the Order safe house with everyone else?" she asked Remus.

"Yes, she is still there," he answered. "I'll ask her if there was anything that Ravenclaw had that went missing, or had some sort of legend behind it, and we can work from there," he nodded.

"I need a quill," Hermione said, as she stood up and went to Regulus' desk. She grabbed his quill, ink well and a piece of parchment. She walked over to the bookshelf and grabbed a book to write on and sat back down on the couch. Regulus took the inkwell from her, opened it and held it for her as she began to write. Hermione started a list of the possible horcruxes, and those that were already destroyed. "Slytherin's locket – done," she said. "Diary – done; Gaunt ring – done by Dumbledore; Hufflepuff cup, Ravenclaw thing…what else?" she looked at Regulus.

"Narcissa said that snake follows him everywhere…it could be that too…" he hesitated. "What about Harry?" He asked Remus and Hermione. "He shouldn't be able to see into the Dark Lords head without being with him. It sounds like Legilimency without being around him, which should be impossible unless there was a connection."

"I was thinking something along those lines too…it makes the most sense. He is also a parseltongue; it's how he opened the Chamber of Secrets," Hermione looked at Remus. "Do you agree? Or are we out to lunch?" she asked him.

"How do we get rid of the horcrux in Harry? Assuming there is one. It makes sense, yes. But how do you get it out of him without killing him? Without hurting him? Is it possible?" Remus questioned them, not wanting to know the answer.

Regulus spoke softly. "How about we deal with that one last, maybe we will figure out a way to remove it when the time is right…"

They all nodded in agreement.

"We can destroy the horcruxes with either fiendfyre or basilisk venom. The latter of which is in the Chamber of Secrets. We need to get to that snake. Does Harry have the sword of Gryffindor, or was it left behind at Malfoy Manor?" Hermione asked Remus.

"Yes, he has it still. Narcissa gave it to him when she gave them their wands back," said Remus.

"So fiendfyre, basilisk venom, and the sword then, will destroy them," Hermione said, writing her notes on the subject.

"How are we going to get the cup out of the Lestrange vault?" Remus asked them.

"I have an idea…stupid idea, but it is there," Regulus said slowly. Hermione and Remus looked at him, waiting for him to continue. Regulus hesitated. "I can get my contact with the Death Eaters to get some Lestrange hair. Narcissa is my contact," he said to Remus, who looked surprised. "I can see if she can get some off Rabastan or Rodolphus, and I can go in to get it."

"We can go in to get it," Hermione corrected him. "Horcruxes react badly to people, you are not going in alone. We need two people there." Regulus went to interrupt her, Hermione put up her hand stopping him. "Rabastan or Rodolphus, that is – you, can go in and I can go with you pretending I am a new recruit or something. Someone from Eastern Europe. I need a disguise, but we can do that; get in, get it and walk away before they even know we've taken it."

"What about Griphook? The goblin that was brought to Malfoy Manor with Dean," Remus asked them. "Would he be of any help?"

"I don't know why he would help us, there is nothing in it for him. He'd need something to help us and I wouldn't give him back the Sword of Gryffindor," said Regulus. "We will probably need that."

Hermione and Remus hummed in agreement.

"How long will it take for Narcissa to get the hair from one of the Lestranges?" Remus asked Regulus.

"It'll take a bit of time. I have to contact her, and then the Lestranges have to be at Malfoy Manor for her to get it. She is not really allowed to leave the place. The Dark Lord appears to be holding her and Lucius hostage in a way. They are not in good standing with everything that has happened in the last couple of years. With the escape of everyone, he is extremely angry at them. He is taking it out on them by holding them hostage…among other things," Regulus looked troubled. "But she will get the hair. Narcissa wants him dead and gone just as much as everyone else." He nodded to himself.

"How do you get in contact with her?" Hermione asked him.

"The same way I get into contact with Remus," Regulus smiled at her. "Sirius made a couple more of those two-way mirrors he and James used during their separate detentions. He gave me a few before he died. It's safer than sending an owl or calling via floo. They've been updated though. Instead of having to call out to get their attention, I can send them a sort of vibration through the mirror and it lets them know I need to talk to them. She'll get back to me when it is safe for her to do so."

Hermione looked in wonder at the genius of it all. "Why haven't the mirrors been mass produced? It is so much easier to communicate with anyone, instead of floo calling or owling." She shook her head. "Sirius and Mr. Potter would've made a killing selling those."

Remus smiled and nodded in agreement.

"We need to train you Hermione. Harry needs training too, and Ron I suppose. All the kids at the safe house need to be trained how to duel properly. Just in case. We need to be prepared in case we can't get out of Gringotts without someone noticing," said Regulus. "I'm not talking about classroom dueling either. The Death Eaters will fight dirty, you all need to learn how to do that too."

Remus nodded to him. "I'll get right on it. Maybe get Bill to teach them, Fleur too. I may be able to stop by a few times. But Dora is really close to giving birth. I need to be there, too."

"Absolutely," said Regulus. "You need to go back to her. Spend time with her. Hermione and I got it on this end. I'll keep you informed of what is going on via the mirror. I'll let you know when we will be going into Gringotts, so we are all prepared in case it goes wrong." He stood up, Hermione and Remus following suit.

Hermione reached up to Remus and gave him another hug and a kiss on the cheek. "You're going to be a great father, Remus. I am so proud of you," she smiled at him.

Remus smiled shyly, a bit of colour in his cheeks. "Thanks, Hermione. That means a lot." He nodded in goodbye to Regulus. Remus turned and grabbed a pinch of floo powder, stepped into the fireplace, and disappeared in the green flames.

"I need to talk to Narcissa," Regulus said to Hermione. "Why don't you get some breakfast and I'll meet you in the kitchen in a few minutes."

"Okay. Please thank Narcissa for me. For everything she has done. She saved my life," Hermione said.

She walked into the kitchen, and started chatting with Susan.

Regulus walked to his bedroom down the hallway. He reached into the drawer of his nightstand beside his bed and took out his mirror. He sent a vibration to Narcissa's mirror and waited sitting on his bed.

Almost instantly Narcissa responded. "Regulus," she said. Regulus looked at her in the mirror. Her bottom lip was swollen and cracked. She had a swollen eye and bruises of what looked like hand prints wrapping around her neck.

"Narcissa, what did they do to you?" He looked at her with pity.

"You know Death Eaters, Regulus. You know what the Dark Lord orders them to do to people who have displeased him. I'll be okay. I have an elf getting me some healing potion." She said in response, calmly. Looking every bit the Black – one who never forgets who wronged her. "What did you need?"

Regulus nodded at her, admiring her response. "Rabastan or Rodolphus' hair. I need it for polyjuice potion. Is there a way for you to get out of the manor to get it to me with no one noticing?"

"I've lived here a lot longer than the Dark Lord. I know my way around. Know my secret passages out of this place better than him that's for sure. Last I heard Rabastan and Rodolphus were out of the country getting more followers and sympathizers for the Dark Lord. He's trying to build up a bigger army. I am not sure when they'll be back. But I will get the hair for you no problem. Any preference of Lestrange brother, dear Regulus?" Narcissa asked, half a grin on her face.

"Probably Rabastan...Rodolphus tends to stick by Bellatrix when they are together. She can't catch you," Regulus looked at her through the mirror pointedly.

"Do I even want to know what you need it for?" Narcissa asked him, waving his concern off.

"I'm going to break into Gringotts," Regulus smiled at her.

Narcissa put her hand to her lips in a move to stop her laugh from erupting. "Boys," she shook her head. "I'll let you know when it's done. I've got to go. Talk to you soon." She signed off.

Regulus placed the mirror back in his nightstand drawer. He stood up and walked to the kitchen. It was time for breakfast.