The bright light of day caused Harry to squint as he emerged from the train station onto the tainted limestone of the plaza. Muggles, and more than a few wizards and witches, interwove as they went about their business, hardly looking up at each other or even at the stone obelisk with the cross that signified the station. Having ridden the train and being here at King's Cross made Harry miss Hogwarts station all the more. Simply thinking of Hogwarts gave Harry an added boost, and he quickened his step as he crossed the plaza, mindlessly avoiding the throngs of people. Emerging from the plaza onto the street, he turned away from the river and walked toward 12 Grimmauld Place.
Harry's strides were long and purposeful, and he soon found himself crossing Grimmauld Place's square and stepping onto the pavement as he approached The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. As many times as he had run through this moment in his head and tried to convince himself otherwise, Harry still ached at this reminder of the loss of Sirius. There was no getting around it, so Harry raised his head, threw his shoulders back and took a deep breath as he walked up the stone stairs that brought him to the weatherworn black door.
The coiled snake that was the door's knocker as well as a recurrent motif within the house perfectly represented the great conflict that tore through the Black family. There was such good as well as such evil within the very same branches of the family tree, and much pain and anguish had resulted from that. Members of the family had felt it, innocent victims had suffered for it, and Harry's loss was even greater for it. All the ironies were not lost on Harry as he surreptitiously drew his wand out from underneath his jacket and gently touched it to the door.
Musty air and oppressive darkness greeted Harry as the door quietly swung open. Harry stepped across the threshold into the solitude and despair that was the Black House, and no amount of sunlight streaming through the door could change that. If anything the contrast intensified the expectations of what lay ahead. The light felt like nothing more than a false hope as the door swung closed, and Harry had to light the lonely candles of the candelabra by wand. No one should have been here since the Order abandoned 12 Grimmauld Place as its headquarters.
Harry glanced down the entrance hall as it danced in the flickering light of the flames. At the end of the hall was a wide but steep stairwell that led down to the kitchen and beyond that his target. Before Harry would head that way, he wanted to be certain that all was as he remembered it. A mistake in memory now was a risk he did not want to take, so he turned and headed up the stairs.
The banister felt smooth under Harry's hand as it slowly inched its way upward, and his feet nestled into the gentle grooves worn into the stairs by years of use. Each floor was as it should have been, from dusty neglected bedrooms all the way up to Buckbeak's den in Mrs. Black's old bedchamber. Satisfied that everything was as expected, Harry made his way back downstairs into the dining room.
Habit made Harry glance around one more time before he descended the final staircase into the large kitchen. Mixed memories greeted Harry once again: bright warm fires, important people, conflict, pain, Snape.
Had Sirius still been alive, this was a house he could have loved, but now his heart was filled with loathing. That disgust was only accentuated by the knowledge of many deeds yet undone - acts of vengeance and acts of necessity all standing in Harry's path. Harry reached into his pocket, grasped the DA Galleon once again and sent a message.
Within moments, two house-elves appeared out of nowhere. Dobby was dressed in an orange and brown checked shirt, green woolen socks and a blue knit hat that almost certainly had been made by Hermione. The sight of Dobby could not help but bring a brief smile to Harry's face. Harry already knew of the other house-elf, Rekky. Carefully chosen by Dobby for his trustworthiness as well as his youth and skills, Rekky was dressed in more normal garb for a house elf, even one from such an enlightened institution as Hogwarts. Harry had been very careful to impress upon Dobby that this was all business, and he appreciated their help and considered them virtual equals. It took a direct order even then, but the two house-elves accepted Harry at his word.
Thus, with plans already in place, nothing more than a nod of acknowledgment needed to be exchanged among the three. Harry lit his wand, walked to the door of the boiler room and entered with Dobby and Rekky close behind. Carefully and deliberately, Harry walked to the doorless cabinet along the wall, crouched down, and reached over to the filthy rags below the pipes that Kreacher, Harry's inherited house-elf who was now assigned to Hogwarts, once called home. Harry lifted one corner of a rag, revealing the edge of a picture frame. This was not at all a surprising sight considering Kreacher's penchant to preserve all things Black, particularly objects related the nastier side of the family.
As the rag was lifted, more and more of the red frame was revealed until, at last, Harry could see the face of Arcturus Black. Tension made the silence even more overbearing, but it was broken the moment light from Harry's wand touched the eyes of the figure in the picture. At that instant Arcturus Black let out a loud call of alarm which was immediately echoed by a blood-curdling scream from upstairs. Mrs. Black had picked up the alarm, and her shrill voice filled the entire house and beyond.
Harry, Dobby and Rekky all stood up and looked around out of sheer habit. In that moment of weakness, they heard a 'pop' behind them, followed by a familiar sneer. Harry, Dobby and Rekky spun around only to see the back of Kreacher as he disappeared into a secret door in the wall behind his rags. Surprised but not unprepared, Rekky dove through the secret door with all the intensity of equal purpose.
What Rekky saw was so unlike a house-elf that he had to put his amazement aside and concentrate on chasing Kreacher. The path wound through the walls of the house, lined by old curtains and bedsheets discarded over the years by the family. Looking ahead, Rekky scampered through the twisting turns, barely able to keep Kreacher visible. As Rekky emerged onto the first floor, the wall opened up into a small sanctuary hidden somewhere between the rooms.
The floor of Kreacher's hideout was covered with old clothes, many from eras of days gone by but all tied together by threads of the Black Family Tree. With Kreacher nowhere to be seen, Rekky raced through the opening at the other end and continued his pursuit upward. The second floor sanctuary was lined with repaired pieces of the Black Family china, all the seams expertly and lovingly sealed together once again. The chase continued with the third-floor hideout covered with more clothes and the walls lined with knives and swords dating back hundreds of years. As Rekky sped upwards, there was no way for him to know that one particular dagger had been removed from its perch. . .
Harry and Dobby raced up the main staircase of the house, Dobby actually in the lead as he sensed the location of Rekky and followed it as best he could. When it appeared to Harry that the two house-elves might be heading to Kreacher's old lair in the attic, he raced to the top room and waited, both he and Dobby on high alert.
. . . nor could Rekky have foreseen what was awaiting him on the fourth floor. He flew out of the tunnel and emerged into a brightly lit room, the walls covered with Black family portraits and jewelry everywhere. Nearly blinded, Rekky raised his hands over his large protruding eyes, needing a moment to adjust. That hesitation, along with the element of surprise, was all that Kreacher needed against the agile young house-elf. Instantly, a dagger was sent flying through the air, and it found it's target in the chest of Rekky, driving him backwards and pinning him to the wall. Rekky looked down in pain and shock as the cross guard of the dagger was firmly against his chest. The handle of the dagger, composed of a snake with emerald eyes, was the last thing Rekky ever saw as his head slumped forward.
Kreacher cackled, grabbed a golden object off the wall and bounded through the tunnel up to the attic where Harry and Dobby awaited. As he emerged from the tunnel and stood up, Dobby gave him no chance whatsoever as he shot out both his hands, fingers curled forward, and two green sparks shot straight into Kreacher's chest. The look of surprise was frozen on his face as he died on the spot, slumping to the floor. Dobby, knowing that Rekky was dead, walked over and stood above Kreacher, glaring but saying nothing. Harry realized it too, and a tear fell from his eye as he walked over to Kreacher and removed the golden locket from his hand.
Harry placed the locket on the table, aimed his wand, and said "Soulus Exctinctus." A teal light shot from his wand and enveloped the locket, causing a vacillating glow that lasted for nearly a minute as it destroyed the Horcrux within. Slowly, the light dissipated as the locket returned to normalcy. Harry found the light entrancing while it went bright and dim, and also perversely satisfying as it did its job.
Somewhere, Lord Voldemort was gripping the edge of a table in a rage as his one-seventh soul screamed in silent agony at what had just occurred.