A Key in the Kitchens
We, as readers, fans, mad-cap theorists, obsessives and devotees, have been given a clue to the possibilities of Book 7 in the form of three initials: R.A.B. While none of can be certain what Regulus Blacks middle name was, we have several clues to point us to the note in the locket being from him. (As well as a recently posted essay here on MuggleNet).
The fact that a character we have only heard of once before in OotP was mentioned three times in idle conversation in HBP seems rather telling. Canon states that Regulus tried to leave the Death Eaters and was killed because of his attempt at desertion. According to Lupin’s memory that, Regulus only survived three days after said defection (HBP, pg. 106, American edition). Sirius states that his brother was murdered either by Voldemort or on Voldemort’s orders (OotP, pg. 112, American edition). Of course, Sirius cannot think of anything that Regulus could have done to have been important enough to be killed by Voldemort himself. But we, as readers, know differently now.
Voldemort states in the graveyard scene in GoF that his Death Eaters “knew the steps [he] took, long ago, to guard [himself] against mortal death” (pg. 648). We may very well be able to assume that the Death Eaters (including Regulus Black) were aware of the existence of at least one of the Horcruxes, if not more. While the individual Death Eaters may not have known the objects used or the locations, who better to know of the Slytherin artifacts than a Slytherin raised in a blood-line obsessed household full of books like Nature’s Nobility?
According to the Black family tapestry, Regulus died 15 years prior to the events of OotP. This timing would place Regulus’ death after the prophecy had been spoken and possibly close in time to Harry’s birth, but before the attack at Godric’s Hollow that killed Lily and James and deprived Voldemort of his powers. These facts could mean that Regulus was aware of the two children who were targeted by the prophecy. We may never know if Regulus harbored feelings of sympathy toward either the Potters or the Longbottoms, but, if he did, these feelings may have helped him to decide to betray Voldemort. This information is important and must be kept in mind as this mystery is investigated.
Listed below are the steps that would have been necessary to follow in order for someone to steal the locket Horcrux and replace it with the fake that Harry and Dumbledore retrieved. I believe that anyone who had stolen the Horcrux would have taken pains to leave the scene just as he or she had found it. This lack of disturbance would allow the thief the longest possible time to escape the wrath of Voldemort, as well as reducing the chances of Voldemort discovering that the Horcrux had been stolen.
Steps needed to steal the locket Horcrux and replace it with a fake:
- Learn of the Horcrux and its whereabouts
- Learn of the enchantments surrounding the Horcrux
- Discover the boat and its limitations
- Discover the potion, its contents, and its effects on the drinker
- Brew a batch of the same potion to replace that which is in the basin
- Find an accomplice to assist in drinking the potion
- Find a way to get said accomplice across the Inferi-infested lake
- Drink the potion
- Steal the locket
- Replace the locket
- Get back across the lake
We already know that Voldemort told his Death Eaters about the existence of the Horcruxes, and that Regulus could have known of the existence of the locket. How Regulus found the locket may be up for great debate. But Voldemort is prone to egotistical ramblings when he has a rapt audience, and so the discovery may not have proven that difficult at all.
Once the cave was found, then there would be the matter of discovering the enchantments. The would-be thief would then have had to take the boat across the lake to the basin. He or she would then become aware of the potion that covered the locket.
Here is the first issue that the thief would face. If the scene was to appear untampered with should the Dark Lord check in on his locket at some point, the potion would need to be replaced with another batch of the same composition.
Previous books state that Slughorn got Regulus as a Slytherin and therefore also as a Potions student. Regulus, assuming he passed his O.W.L., would have learned the Specialis Revelio spell that reveals the caster of the spell what a poisonous potion contains. This spell would have allowed Regulus to recreate the potion in the basin in the cave, and produce an antidote if one existed.
This spell would also have allowed Regulus to know completely what would happen to the person who would drink the potion. And here is the crux of this argument. Regulus would have to have known that it would take two people to retrieve the locket. There would need to be another person there to force the potion down the drinker’s throat. If Dumbledore, the greatest wizard of all time, could not drink the potion on his own, then it is very doubtful that Regulus was able to do so without some kind of assistance. Regulus would need to find an accomplice.
The question now is: Who was with Regulus?
Our first guess may be to look to those who were also adept at Potions, as Regulus may have needed help recreating the potion. We know of others who had outstanding abilities in Potions: Lily and Snape. Both of these individuals would have been close in age to Regulus and at Hogwarts at the same time. Regulus would have known about their abilities. Regulus Head of House and Potions Master also could have come to his aid. But each of these choices creates a problem.
Before leaving the Death Eaters, would Snape have participated in such an obvious betrayal? Snape defected after the deaths of James and Lily Potter, therefore, he was still a Death Eater when Regulus was killed. Snape may have been wavering in his loyalties after having overheard part of the prophecy, but we know that Snape delivered that information to Lord Voldemort, so Snape was obviously still loyal to Lord Voldemort at that point. Snape, therefore, is a highly unlikely accomplice, as are the other Death Eaters. Regulus could trust no one who might have turned on him and alerted Voldemort.
The timing of Regulus’ death also eliminates our other star Potions student, Lily. If she was involved, would she have not told Dumbledore about the Horcrux and its replacement? She would have had time to do so, because she was not killed until a year after the Horcrux was stolen. No doubt that a member of the Order of the Phoenix and the mother of the possible Chosen One would have given Dumbledore any tiny bit of information that would have helped bring about Lord Voldemort’s downfall. If Dumbledore had known that the Horcrux was a fake he certainly would not have take Harry on a dangerous mission to retrieve it. This same reasoning eliminates any other Order member as a possible accomplice, as well as “Snape as Order Spy.”
Horace Slughorn is another possibility, but he does not seem the type to stick his neck out for such a dangerous mission. Slughorn would have had to swim in the cold sea and leave his study as well as doing without sweets and drinks for some time. Slughorn is adamant that it is best to stay under the radar at times like these. So Slughorn probably would not have assisted Regulus in the brewing of the potion, and it is very unlikely that he would have helped in the drinking of it.
So we need to find an accomplice for Regulus who had no connection to Dumbledore and would not have let slip to either side what Regulus had done.
The other obstacle that we face in picking an accomplice is that of the boat. All the above possibilities were of-age wizards or witches at the time that the Horcrux was stolen. The boat would not have carried two of-age witches or wizards across the lake. Could Regulus have trusted this journey to an underage witch or wizard? This conjecture is highly doubtful, as even Harry has difficulty holding his resolve in the face of the task presented. The other question is what underage wizard would have kept this secret all these years, and in the face of a second war? And again, surely no budding Death Eater would have gone through with this type of betrayal.
Perhaps the second person in the boat with Regulus may not have been a person at all.
The being in the boat with Regulus would have to have followed Regulus’ orders as closely as Harry followed Dumbledore’s. The being would have to have forced the potion down Regulus throat despite his protests and pleadings. Or possibly, the being would have had to drink the potion instead of Regulus and endure the pain and desperation that it caused. The being would have to have been one that the boat would not have sensed, and who was small enough to fit into the boat with a full grown man. The being would have to keep the secret of the fake Horcrux from everyone on both sides of the war. If this being had not kept the secret, it would have been either dead at the hands of Voldemort for its treachery, or under the protection of Dumbledore after telling him of the Horcrux.
What being is bound to follow a master’s orders and keep his master’s secrets? What being could have fit in the boat with Regulus? What being’s magic has long been underestimated by all witches and wizards, including Voldemort, and would therefore most likely not been recognized by the boat? What being can Apparate where no witch or wizard can, even if the boat did sense his presence? What being would have forced the potion down Regulus’ throat at all costs to obey an order, or even drink it if told to do so?
Regulus remained on the Black family tapestry until the end; therefore, Kreacher would have been happy to follow the orders of his mistress’ favorite son. Kreacher could have fit in the boat with Regulus or Apparated directly to the basin if the boat would have even registered his presence. Kreacher would have followed his master’s orders to force the potion down Regulus throat or even drink the potion himself if he was told to do so. Kreacher would have followed the order to take and replace the locket. Kreacher’s powerful magic would have protected his master on the trip back through the lake. He may even have been able to conjure the water his master would have so desperately asked for after drinking the potion, eliminating the need to fend off the Inferi. His powerful magic could have returned his master to 12 Grimmauld Place, and possibly even administered an antidote, the potion had one. Kreacher would have to keep his masters secrets and tell no one what Regulus had done.
Kreacher has no problem, it seems, trying to follow the orders of long-dead family members. His hoarding of family heirlooms may not only be nostalgic, but duty-bound to the orders of a long-dead favorite son. Kreacher’s great reluctance to pass into the possession of Harry Potter and leave 12 Grimmauld Place may have another dimension. One of the glinting objects in his nest may very well be Slytherin’s locket and a piece of Voldemort’s soul.
The key to the Slytherin locket Horcrux may very well be in the possession of the person who needs it most. It may very well be that Sirius least favorite possession is Harry Potter’s most fortunate inheritance. The key to what may be Harry’s first task might very well be working in the Hogwarts kitchens. The key may be Kreacher.