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A Door Closes, A Window

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By some miracle, Greta is out of the house and no one particularly magical has yet appeared. The witch cat is nowhere to be seen. It isn't until nearly noon that they hear anything.

They've all gone into the garden. Harry is stomping around on the grass, occasionally falling over. He's about to tumble again, Sue can tell, between one step and another, when Kreacher appears just in front of him. Harry doesn't so much as blink, only grabs the house elf's shoulder and continues his determined path around a brick-ringed shrub.

Kreacher allows this indignity. He nods to Peg and Sue, raising an eyebrow at the strung bow at Sue's side. "Master Regulus sends his greetings. Perhaps you will join them for dinner on the hour."

Peg glances at her wristwatch. "We haven't got any other plans, have we, Sue?"

Sue nods back at Kreacher. "Our thanks. Please tell Regulus that we gratefully accept, and will arrive promptly."

Kreacher waits for Harry to let go before vanishing again, which Sue is beginning to think is indicative of a vast reservoir of soft-heartedness when it comes to Harry. It makes her feel quite warm toward Kreacher.

"Dinner," Peg repeats once he's gone. "They are posh, aren't they."

"Mmm, and a bit unmoored from time, I think," Sue agrees. "Come on, Harry. Let's get you changed into some less smudged trousers. And a new nappy as well, phew. Peg, would you get his bag?"

It feels more than a bit odd, to be walking down the street with a baby and a bow, but Sue's done odder things in her two lives. No one is out to see them, anyway.

 

The Polkiss house is excruciatingly normal on the outside. Petunia and her horrible husband would approve, Sue suspects. The instant Kreacher welcomes them in, however, it's clear that something is off. Peg bobs her head back outside one or two times to check that, yes, there is space inside where there is none outside. An entire extra room opens up next to the front door where there ought to only be a wall. Sue adds this to her internal list of The Way Harry's World Works.

Inside, it's easy to distinguish between Iris's furnishings and Regulus's. It's less obvious which choices were made by Regulus and which by Kreacher. The modern burnt-orange modular sofa: Iris. The claw-footed side table next to it: Sue suspects Kreacher. The towering glassed-in shelf of books: probably Regulus.

Kreacher eyes Sue's bow, more pointedly this time.

Sue eyes Kreacher.

"Welcome, welcome, thank you for coming," says Iris, coming down a small staircase that appears to, but probably does not, lead to the house next door. "There's a coat rack by the door, Kreacher would you take—thank you. I've just put Piers down for his nap, but he's been fussy, so I don't think he'll stay. Reg is in the dining room. I'll take them, Kreacher."

Kreacher gets all their jackets onto the rack, bows, and vanishes.

They all troop into the dining room. Iris makes no comment when Sue leans her bow against her chair. Regulus is already seated at the head of the table. Iris sits at the foot, Sue to Regulus' right with Peg across from her. There are two highchairs, but Peg pulls Harry onto her lap.

"Thank you for joining us," Regulus says stiffly. "There are things you should know."

"Maybe we can wait until after we've all eaten, Reg?" Iris smiles. "Otherwise we'll starve."

This makes the following meal agonizing, although the food is all delicious. It's all English food—or rather, it's all food of this world. There is more of what Lucy used to call "coozeen" on the table than Sue is used to. It's none of the newer, simple food that she and Peg have enjoyed on their occasional weekend trip to the continent, but the stuffier sort of dish she remembers from advertizements in her youth. There is beef with périgueux, buttery potatoes and asparagus, smoky sweet quail and pear and endive. Sue chooses the bean soup. Peg valiantly contains her wrinkled nose as she selects a bowl of turtle soup, offering a spoonful to Harry. He politely accepts, but most of it ends up on his face. He's more interested in watching Kreacher vanish and appear in different places around the table. He giggles and claps soup-stained hands together every time, which is fortunate, as the rest of them are oppressively silent.

Finally the last of the meal is cleared away. Kreacher brings out mille feuille with a dish of strawberries and cream. There's a delicately scented pot of tea, and a cup of very fine china in front of each of them. Sue's is painted at the bottom with red begonias and sage. She studies the pattern with mounting alarm.

"So," says Peg, "we've eaten. Thank you, it was very fancy. What should we know?"

Sue remembers fondly a time, when they first met, when Peg knew the meaning of the word delicacy.

Regulus declines a piece of mille feuille. "You are being watched. I think you know."

Sue nods. "The professor. MacGonagall. And her associate, Dumbledore."

He inclines his head. "They are deeply concerned with the location and status of your ward. Yesterday I was not yet certain why, but today I believe I understand. It will not be pleasant to hear, nor easy to tell."

"Because of your curse promise," says Peg, jiggling Harry a bit.

"Because of my vow, yes. Kreacher?"

Kreacher glances slantwise at each of them in turn. "Master Regulus is certain?"

Iris puts a hand out. Regulus touches it lightly. "I am certain."

Kreacher bows. With his signature pop, he vanishes and reappears holding a blackened, twisted locket. "Master Regulus is finding horcruxes."