"Apparently so," said Regulus, letting out a breath he hadn't known he was holding. "Although I've only cut the wrapping."
The package was lumpy and lopsided, like someone had prepared it in a hurry without regard to appearance or functionality. Who would have planted a package in his room? Could someone be trying to frame him? If so, for what? It had been just more than a week since he killed Richard Thomas, and Regulus had thought that Voldemort suspected nothing about his disloyalty.
He peered inside the wrappings and saw several pieces of parchment bound with twine. They were of varying sizes and shapes, some smooth and some wrinkled, which accounted for the variance in appearance from the outside. Regulus tipped the package on its side and the papers fell onto the table.
"Paper? That's it?" asked Liam. "I was hoping for something more interesting."
"Well, we haven't read them yet. Let's not discount their value until we've determined what they say," countered Regulus. He used the knife to cut the twine and separated out five distinct documents.
Liam grabbed one of the wrinkled ones and read, "Dear cousin, I understand your decision, but I strongly believe it is a mistake. You've gone too deep into this. Even if you decide to leave, you'll still bear the mark of our work. I hope you know what you're doing. D.D."
Liam nodded. "I guess. The cousin must be Callum. What else do we have?"
There was a photograph of a middle-aged Desmond with his arm around a young man sporting Slytherin robes, whom Regulus assumed to be Callum. He had Liam's curly blonde hair and soft features, and looked to be about the same mid-range build.
They also found a description of the potion Regulus had discovered during his research about Desmond; however, it was written in a different hand than Desmond's. It described the potion as liquid fire to drink, but the fire was just a simulation. The writer was surmising that it might be a good way to conceal objects the owner did not want stolen.
There was a personal note at the end of the description. "This is what the potion will do, Des, but I'm not sure I want you to have all of the instructions. I don't like where you're taking our research group. You need to sort out your priorities, and think of your family, before I'll consider sharing more of my research with you. We may be related, but you're slipping too deep into the Dark Arts. Be reasonable. There are things worth more than living forever. Cal."
"There are things worth more than living forever? What does that mean?" asked Liam. Regulus shook his head and took out the fourth sheet, a newspaper clipping from some ten years prior.
"POLICE SHOULD END SEARCH FOR MISSING MAN
27 October 1969
Callum Donnelly has been missing for more than a month, but the police are no closer to unravelling the secret. Donnelly, an 80-year-old resident of Fanore, was reported missing by his daughter, Kathryn Merric, on 15 September. No foul play is suspected and, while the search certainly has sentimental merit, police investigators have turned up no leads.
"We're at a standstill," reported Chief Nicholas O'Brien. "I want to give this family closure, but nothing has turned up at his house. Everything is normal and nothing is missing. I can't produce a man out of thin air."
O'Brien believes that Donnelly probably took a fall from the Cliffs of Moher, a place he frequented for long walks. This is a more common fate than most people realise; the cliffs can be quite foggy and slippery, especially late at night and early in the morning.
While Merric should have the opportunity to know how her father died, at this point the investigation is taking up personnel that could be used for other investigations.
Donnelly is survived by Kathryn Merric and her family, including four children.
Christopher Devon, Guest Writer, Ballyvaughan"
Liam looked stunned. "That's a bit harsh. Someone actually wrote an article about the police taking up too much time to investigate my grandfather's death? What a calloused prat."
"Liam, look at the writer's name," urged Regulus. He watched as Liam examined the article again and his jaw dropped.
"CHRISTOPHER DEVON?! What on earth has he to do with how much time and resources the police spend on trying to discover how my grandfather died?" shouted Liam. "That makes me ill. He acted like he knew nothing about my family's connection to the Donnellys and here we have proof that's not the case!"
Regulus thought for a moment before responding. For one, Devon was a community member that had a substantial interest in safety. After all, he had told Liam that he was concerned with keeping his family safe from Desmond Donnelly. Was it possible that this was all he meant by the letter? At the same time, they already suspected Devon wasn't telling them the truth about the whole affair. Had he concocted some story about his relationship to Desmond and Callum that was false? What else could he know?
He took a deep breath. "I understand your frustration, Liam, but let's think about this. For one thing, this was more than ten years ago. It's absolutely possible that he's forgotten the details and wrote that letter on a whim because he was tired of reading about it in the paper. At the same time, we already suspected that Devon knew more than he was letting on. This confirms that suspicion. Also, he doesn't directly mention your family's names, except for your mother. You said that he's mostly interacted with your father and Silas; could it be that he hasn't made the connection?"
"I mean, I suppose," offered Liam, grunting.
"And if he hasn't made the connection, we'd probably be all right to ask him about it and see if that might help him unlock more memories for us, possibly?" asked Regulus.
Liam leaned forward into his hands, not responding right away. Regulus said nothing; he knew it was a lot for his mate to process. The whole affair had simply been a family mystery, nothing of major consequence, until the previous week. Liam was used to Ireland being magic-free, but suddenly, it wasn't anymore.
Liam sat up again and replied, "Even if he has made the connection, I'm still asking him about it. It's time to get the real story. What's the last slip of paper?"
Regulus had almost forgotten about it, but it didn't take him long to realise that it was the most important part of the package.
"Black, I know why you're here. The Dark Lord gave me the same mission. We need to figure out where Callum's secret laboratory is if we're going to get the results of the experiment. I've already interrogated Devon for information, but he wasn't very forthcoming; he did give me the enclosed papers, though, after a bit of persuasion. I know the Dark Lord told you to work alone, he told me the same thing, but I don't think we can succeed without working together. You know how much he needs this potion. I have to go home for the holiday, so we'd better be done by then. If you're still devoted to the Dark Lord meet me at the front of the inn at noon as soon as you can. I'll keep going until you show up, but I have to leave on 22 December. B.C. Jr."
Neither of them spoke for a full five minutes. Regulus' mind was exploding with the implications of this note. The present date was 21 December; Barty had presumably been waiting for him for a week without any sort of response from Regulus, but the Dark Lord had told Regulus to keep the mission secret from everyone. Perhaps this was a test? But then why would Barty have gone to all the trouble of interrogating Devon and getting the information from him?
"Well, which mystery-ridden situation shall we tackle first?" joked Regulus, laughing about the absurdity of their predicament.
"I don't think you have a choice," stated Liam.
Regulus shook his head. "You always have a choice. I could wait and claim ignorance of this note when I get back to England because I was staying with you, but then the Dark Lord will know we renewed our friendship, and that may not be in our best interest. I could also choose to ignore Barty and tell the Dark Lord I didn't want to betray him if he questions me about it, since he told me not to discuss the mission with anyone. There are a lot of things I could do. The question is which one causes the least amount of damage to the smallest number of people."
Liam was just staring at him quizzically, so Regulus continued.
"Barty is toying with me in some way because that's the kind of game he plays, but I don't know what kind of game we're playing yet. I'm not sure if he's trying to trap you or me, or if he's testing my loyalties to the Dark Lord on his orders, or if he's just trying to figure something out for himself.
"One thing is for sure, though: Barty has information we need. He said he got these documents from Devon; what else could Devon have given him?"
Liam nodded. "Devon is our place to start, I think. Let's hope he didn't tell Barty everything. What are you going to do tomorrow?"
Regulus folded his arms and stared at the floor. He was cornered no matter what he chose to do. He wished that there was enough time to talk to Devon first and decide if talking to Barty was necessary, but there wasn't. He wished he knew whether or not Barty was testing his loyalties, but he didn't. He wished it wasn't late evening so they had time to talk to Devon that night, but he couldn't turn back the clock. He had to make a choice, and he had to make it quickly.
"We're splitting up," resolved Regulus. "You'll go see Devon tomorrow, and I'll go see Barty. Devon doesn't know about me, and Barty shouldn't know that I've been with you. I'll tell him that I switched inns because I saw you outside and didn't want you to see me, since it would have compromised our mission, but went back recently to check on my mail since I had given the address to my mother."
"Okay, I'll tell Devon that Aislinn and I were looking through the historical record and found the article and question him about his motives, since he had acted like he didn't know Callum. Hopefully I'll be able to get him to share with me," agreed Liam. "But I'm telling Aislinn what we're doing. Someone should know in case things go wrong."
Regulus nodded. "Fine, that's a decent idea. Let's meet back here by three o'clock in the afternoon. If one of us isn't back, we'll know something has gone wrong."
Aislinn wanted to go with Liam, but he drew a line in the sand. She was unable to do magic if something went wrong, and both Regulus and Liam needed a safety net if their missions were to go awry. She wasn't happy about it, but she agreed.
At half-past eleven, he wandered over to Silas' desk at the warehouse. "Silas, I have some last minute Christmas shopping to do. I know this is our last day before the holidays, but I really need to get things done. It's for Clare. Do you mind if I cut out a bit early?"
Silas nodded without looking up from his paperwork. "Sure, little brother. I would never deprive my daughter of a good Christmas. I'll see you on Christmas Eve."
Easiest task of the day, thought Liam glumly. This was not going to be a happy venture. He could not seem to calm down from the revelation that Devon had to know more than he let on. He knew that it probably would be better to wait until he felt steadier about the affair, but they needed answers quickly. He walked the length of Ballyvaughan to Devon's warehouse and went in a side door. Devon was alone in his office. This was his chance. He strode right in without knocking and opened his mouth to speak.
Devon looked up. "Liam! Good to see you. Your boats are almost done and I was actually about to ring you to come down and take a look."
Liam threw the article down on the desk. "Explain."
At first, Devon simply looked confused, and Liam started feeling angry once more. He crossed his arms and started counting the seconds until Devon would speak again, hoping it would serve as a way to calm himself.
"Where did you get this?" asked Devon, his hand shaking as he continued to stare down at the article.
"Aislinn and I decided to go through some historical records to see if we could find any sort of link between Desmond and Callum, figured death notices might be a good place to start," explained Liam, pleased that his voice was not breaking. "What did you mean by it? You acted so surprised when we mentioned that it was our mother's maiden name, and you know perfectly well what our last name is. How do I know you were telling me the truth?"
Devon sputtered, "I ... I understand why you're angry, I would be, too, if I found a newspaper article about someone thinking my family member should be abandoned to the sea. I'm tracking with you on that, but there's a lot more to this than you know. Until you both told me that you were related to the Donnellys I didn't think the rest of the story was important."
Liam narrowed his eyes. "And yet you didn't see fit to tell us straight away, once it became clear there was a connection? Why?"
"I needed to think. Lately all of this has been thrown back into my lap and I've been trying to stay away from it for so long, but I can't seem to anymore," explained Devon, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes, sweat starting to bead on his forehead. "Look, I need you to make a deal with me. I'll tell you everything, give you everything I have, but I need you to promise that you won't kill me, or turn me in to any type of law enforcement, Muggle or wizard. This needs to stay a secret. Please, I have to protect my little girl."
Law enforcement? What did he do? It was all Liam could do to keep a straight face.
"All right, I promise I won't kill you. I don't know if I want to remain party to some sort of crime you may have committed, but I won't kill you myself. You have my word on that," consented Liam.
Devon nodded. "I suppose that's fair. It's not that I committed a crime; rather, I concealed one. Possibly several, actually. Do you mind if I lock the door? I don't want anyone breaking in during this conversation. I've been stalked recently by someone and I'd really rather he didn't hear us."
He had to mean Barty, but it was possible that Devon was just trying to put him off and escape from the situation. Liam moved so that Devon could not get by him and countered, "Actually, I'd prefer that you stayed where you are. I'll cast some spells to keep others out. Sound fair?"
Devon looked crestfallen, but nodded, and stared at the floor while Liam magically locked the doors, placed a shield around them, and muffled their words. He performed a spell to see if anyone was hiding in or around the warehouse for good measure, even though he knew that Barty should be with Regulus and not there. As he expected, the spell returned nothing. They were alone.
"There we are, full magical protection, nothing to worry about. You were saying?"
Devon remained quiet and Liam wondered if he was going to have to start counting again, but soon the older man spoke his mind.
"I shouldn't have kept it a secret, but I was so frightened and I didn't know what to do. My wife had just passed away when it happened and I was worried that Desmond would come after me since she was no longer around, even once I discovered that he was actually dead," started Devon.
"Dead? I thought you said you were still concerned with him coming after your family, even now."
Devon laughed shortly. "Well, that's part of the ruse, you see. No one knows what really happened to Desmond and Callum except for me, and I'd like to keep it that way, but I don't think I can anymore. The short version is that Desmond had performed this really Dark magic that kept him from dying when his workshop exploded, something about concealing part of his soul in an object, really ghastly. Callum knew about it, which is why he kept to himself, but he was secretly trying to find a way to destroy Desmond as he looked for the object.
"Eventually, he came around to where Desmond had lived, where my wife and I were living, and explained to us what he was looking for, saying that he could put a final end to Desmond if he could destroy the object. We were panicked, but we let him search the house. He showed us a secret passageway to a basement laboratory, found the object, and took it with him. I never saw it again, but I know that he must have destroyed it somehow."
Liam's mind was reeling, so he asked a question to make sure he was staying on track. "Because ... you saw Desmond dead?"
Devon nodded. "Yes, I'll get there. I went back down to the basement laboratory several times after Callum left. Something about it bothered me, and I couldn't place it for several weeks until I realised that everything was clean."
"Desmond was still coming there to work. Imagine what I thought! He'd been using a hidden basement underneath the family house for a laboratory for more than thirty years and no one had detected him."
Devon paused and shook his head, laughing shortly. "I was wrong, of course. Desmond had only begun to reuse the laboratory, when he believed it was the safest place for him to store information. He thought Callum had given up trying to expose and defeat him, which I knew was not the case.
"I ran into him once when I was down there, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. He almost killed me, until I reminded him that I was his daughter's husband and promised to keep his secret if he spared my life and left my family alone. He agreed, and we had an uneasy relationship from that point forward."
This is way more than I ever thought.
Liam asked, "How long was it from that point until Desmond died?"
"Just a few months," answered Devon. "My wife was ill, and she died soon after I came upon her father by accident. I wasn't sure how long Desmond would keep me alive, or if he would want me to leave the house, so I went to Callum and told him about my discovery."
"Is that why Callum died? Because he started trying to defeat Desmond with you?"
Devon affirmed, "From a certain perspective, yes. He had been trying to defeat Desmond anyway; I just helped him figure out where to find him. At that point, though, I lost control over the situation. I tried keeping up with both men, trying to figure out a way to help Callum without Desmond realising what was going on, and it became too much. Callum was hesitant to let me in on his plans because he didn't trust me, and I wanted to avoid Desmond as much as possible."
Devon paused for a moment and crossed his arms, looking down at the floor again. It seemed to Liam like the man was having an internal debate about how much more to reveal, so whatever was left had to be important.
"Go on, I know there's more," stated Liam. "Please don't leave this story half-told, when the answers I need could be right in your head."
Devon sighed, but continued, "Callum had a laboratory, too. I heard Desmond muttering to himself about it on occasion, but Callum never said anything to me. The man who has been stalking me is trying to find at least one of the laboratories because he's trying to access some of their research. I've managed to hide the existence of Desmond's lab by giving him some information that I had and promising that nothing more exists, but he might have found Callum's. You need to be careful as you move forward."
"Yes, I know that much," assured Liam. "We've found so few magical links at Callum's house that Aislinn and I have known for a while that he must have done his work somewhere else. Can you tell me what you know about their deaths? How can you be sure Desmond is gone?"
"Callum told me enough that I knew the magical object was destroyed, so Desmond could be killed," explained Devon. "We usually met near a particular outcropping of rocks by the Cliffs of Moher. I was going one day to tell him about something I had heard from Desmond when I found them."
Liam's entire body went numb. "Them?"
Devon nodded, white-faced. "I have no idea what happened, but I found Callum and Desmond, lying next to one another, dead. I promise that I checked their pulse. There wasn't any blood or anything else that would denote how they died, but they were definitely dead. Both of them."
Liam's mouth had fallen open in shock. That was how his grandfather died? In a struggle with Desmond?
"What about the rumour that he was lost at sea? It seems to be a rumour that you perpetuated through this article," accused Liam, brandishing the paper. "Were you just trying to cover your tracks?"
"Yes, I'm sorry, Liam, but I was frightened and didn't want anyone to accuse me of murder if I brought their bodies to the attention of local authorities," explained Devon. "In a way, it's sort of true. I threw their bodies over the edge of the cliffs. Your grandfather wasn't reported as missing for several days, and by then they both would have been washed away. I'm a coward, I know, but I just couldn't bear to bring any attention on my family. I'm sorry for this mess."
Liam wanted to be angry with him, but Devon looked so helpless and lost as he finished his explanation. His hair was sticking up in odd directions where he had run his hands through it several times, and he was visibly sweating. Liam still wasn't sure that Devon had told him the whole story, but the new information did fit.
He placed a hand on Devon's shoulder and said, "Thank you for telling me. It can't have been easy for you. I'm not going to tell anyone, as you asked, but I am curious about the man who has been stalking you. What does he want?"
"He said he came to the house because it was where Desmond had lived. He was convinced that he could find a secret laboratory there, and I wanted to placate him, so I told him the laboratory had been destroyed when Desmond died and gave him some papers and notebooks that had belonged to Desmond," explained Devon. "He's still following me, though. Those papers do make reference to Callum's laboratory, so I think he's expecting to find it if he follows me, but it won't do him any good. I haven't any idea of Callum's side of the research."
"I don't want to get caught up in all of that, honestly," admitted Liam. "But I would like to ask you for a small favour. Could you show me where my grandfather died?"
"Absolutely," agreed Devon. "I'd want to know also. I'm going to finish up here, but could you meet me on Fisher Street in Doolin tomorrow afternoon? It's an easy walk down the Burren Way from there, and I'm meeting my daughter for dinner tomorrow night anyway, so it's a good time for me."
Liam reached out to shake Devon's hand. "I'm really thankful that you opened up to me. I promise, I'll do whatever I can to keep you safe. Please let me know if you need help with this bloke."
Devon shook Liam's hand and gestured toward the door. "See you tomorrow, then. Please remember to remove your enchantments so others are able to enter.
Liam did so as he left, mind racing with the new information. Grandfather ... murdered trying to defeat Desmond. Devon ... the only man privy to the real details of what happened ten years ago. Desmond ... a man who had hidden his soul in an object so that he could not die.
It was that last piece of information that piqued Liam's interest even more. What sort of magic could that be? It was nothing he had learned in his Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, but it seemed to be something that Regulus would be interested in knowing. It had sounded like Devon might have access to other information belonging to Desmond, that he hadn't given everything to Barty. Perhaps there would be some explanation of this Dark magic, but he would only learn about it if he could convince Devon to give him the materials.
It seemed fitting that Callum had died on the Cliffs of Moher, where Liam had first displayed his magical ability and Callum had been so close when Silas and Liam were trying to figure out what had happened. Callum had always taken walks down the Burren Way to the cliffs when Liam was a child, and often stopped by the house to take Liam with him. They had many secret places and caves that they liked to visit together, and it was always a place where Liam felt a strong connection to his grandfather. It would be good to bid him a final farewell there, even if he was no closer to finding Callum's laboratory.
Hopefully Regulus' afternoon with Barty had proven to be just as effective.
This is going to be a disaster, thought Regulus as he approached the inn, five minutes before noon, and saw Barty leaning against the wall, one foot popped up to support his weight, while reading a newspaper and smoking a pipe. He stopped ten feet short of the other man and waited, his hands in his pockets.
Barty noticed him when he was turning a page and paused while looking over the top of the paper, moving the pipe back and forth with his tongue. He looked down at the ground, shook his head, and seemed to laugh slightly as he folded the paper, then checked his wristwatch.
"Black, you'll be the last person I ring if I'm ever in an emergency," he quipped, folding his arms and looking back up.
Regulus felt his cheeks burn. "Um, sorry? It took a while for me to get your message."
"I left it right on the bedside table, it's not like it was a huge mystery," Barty pointed out.
"Come on, you know I haven't been staying at this inn," replied Regulus. "I'm guessing you've been here every day and you haven't seen me once. Didn't you start wondering about that?"
Barty smiled and took the pipe out of his mouth, twirling it in his fingers as he spoke. "You know what? That is an excellent point. Where have you been staying, then? I'd be very interested in knowing that information, as would You-Know-Who."
"I've been moving around, trying not to arouse suspicion," explained Regulus. "I cycled back to this inn last night because it was the address I gave to my mother in case she needed to contact me. You'll recall that my father passed away several weeks ago."
Barty moved away from the wall and closed the distance between them. "Yes, I do recall. My condolences. You've not met up with your mate Merric, then? Wasn't that something he asked you to do when he gave you your assignment?"
Yes, it's a disaster. I've got to find a way to make Barty believe that I'm trying to protect the Dark Lord and not myself. He wanted secrecy, and Barty is trying to goad me into working together. He has to be checking on my loyalties, otherwise, why would he know the specifics of my assignment?
Regulus narrowed his eyes and decided to go on the offensive. "Whatever goes on between him and me isn't your concern. He asked me to work on my own, and I'm sure he asked you the same thing. I came because your note seemed urgent enough, and I figured that if you were still waiting for me it would be worth my while to meet up with you, but I'm trying to figure out what game you're playing at. We're supposed to work alone."
"Don't you find it odd that he told me what you were doing, but he didn't tell you about me?" asked Barty. "He doesn't trust you, Regulus. You've put yourself in some precarious positions over the past few months, what with the mystery surrounding Nicolai and your hesitancy with Thomas. From where I'm standing, it feels like you're pushing back. This isn't a game; this is our future."
It's your future, not mine. Pushing back is the only way for me to make a good future now. It's the only chance I have.
"What do you want, Barty?" he asked simply. "I've been searching for information my own way, as I was asked to do. It appears that you were able to find more than I was by talking to Devon, so, congratulations for that. I can spend more time here, so I'm happy to pick up where you've left off and say that you contacted me when you realised you had to leave so that the Dark Lord's request would not be abandoned. Would that satisfy you?"
"Are you really working for him or not?" asked Barty. "Just tell me. I've had a lot of time to wonder this week. You realise your life is forfeit if you turn against him."
It's forfeit anyway. My life doesn't matter anymore.
The clarity had come – if he was going to fight the Dark Lord, he had to fight him all the way. Inching away from the Dark Lord's missions wouldn't be enough to cover up for murdering two people, or helping with the murder and injury of others. Even in fighting back, he had a choice.
His choice was to fight back with every ounce of strength he possessed. Quietly. Carefully. Playing the kind of game the Dark Lord played best, but on his own terms.
If I'm going to go down in flames, I may as well fan them as big as I can.
"His will is my life," replied Regulus. "If it will help you trust me, the reason I stopped going to this inn was because I saw Merric and his sister outside one day, frequenting the pub nearby. My presence here is supposed to be secret, and I didn't want to jeopardize the mission. I've been moving around so I could avoid them, especially because their father has a boating company in town."
Barty stared at him, still twirling the pipe. Eventually, he shrugged and folded up the newspaper, but still didn't say anything.
Please believe me ... I'm no good to anyone if I can't fight back with a straight face.
"I'm not letting go of my suspicions, but I'll concede your points and let you keep your secrets for now," answered Barty. "Devon didn't give me much more than I gave you, but I'm going to take it back to the Dark Lord. It's enough that he can at least think about what he needs for the potion. If I were you, I would try to get on Devon's good side. I didn't exactly do that."
"What do you mean?"
Barty scratched his chin and waved a hand dismissively. "He's a right skittish chap, and I think I may have frightened him a bit much. I've been trying to get close enough to question him again, without much success. You may need to meet up with your mate, though, because I did sneak into Devon's office and found out that he does repairs on the Merrics' boats. He might be able to provide you with an introduction."
Surely he can't suspect Liam and me? He would be going about this completely differently if that were the case. Regulus started to breathe easier. Perhaps Barty had done his research on Devon so quickly that he hadn't put all of the pieces together, and had ended up focusing more on his girlfriend than on his missions. Perhaps it was all going to be all right.
"I'll work on that, then. Thanks for the information," said Regulus, silently praying that Liam's meeting had gone well and they would be able to get the information from Devon easily.
Barty nodded. "Good luck. I'll see you back in London. Happy Christmas."
Regulus tried not to snort as he had a hard time thinking of anyone who he would consider less welcome to wish him a Happy Christmas. Probably the Dark Lord. Maybe Severus. Maybe ...
Barty tipped the pipe at him, turned around, and walked away. Regulus slumped against the wall of the inn and watched people walk by for a while, not thinking, not planning, not even really comprehending his surroundings. Eventually he realised that it was close to three o'clock and he found a dark corner to Apparate back to Callum's kitchen.
"How was your afternoon?" asked Liam, who was sitting at the dinner table.
"Puzzling. Frightening. Overwhelming. Yours?"
"Enlightening. Maddening. Promising."
Thank goodness. "Good," replied Regulus. "I needed some hope in my day. What's the plan?"
Liam told him everything that Callum had revealed, and Regulus grew more and more shocked as each secret was revealed. He told Liam about his exchange with Barty, pleased that he would be able to show some actual results since Devon had promised to give them the rest of the materials.
"Should I go with you tomorrow?" asked Regulus.
Liam considered this and replied, "I think you should follow from a safe distance. Devon is still really worried about being followed, but I want you to know where I am in case there is trouble. I wish we had some way to make you invisible and come directly with us, but there aren't many options as far as that is concerned, I'm afraid. The cliffs can be really dangerous, and I doubt that Devon means me any harm, but I'd still feel more comfortable with you being there in some capacity."
"I'll work it out," assured Regulus. "I'm more worried that Barty is going to show up, even though he's supposed to be gone. I guess I can consider myself the rear guard."
Liam laughed, then said, "I'm glad that I'll get to see where Grandfather was found. I don't know if I'll find anything, but I think I'll feel closer to him because of it."
It was at that moment Regulus realised how valuable family could be. He had had to grow up so much on his own that he never considered what he had missed, but he felt like he finally knew why Lily had wanted him to reconcile with Sirius.
Maybe, just maybe, it could actually happen. If we're fighting on the same side, and I've been made the official head of the household, why can't we work together?
Fisher Street was a major thoroughfare of Doolin, running through the centre of the town, all the way down to the water, and bisecting several walking trails, among them the Burren Way. Devon had accurately reported that it would be an easy walk for them to the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, though most visitors to the area saw the cliffs further down the coast.
As they walked along the sea, Liam recalled the many walks he had taken with Callum along the same route as a child, more and more just the two of them after he had shown his magical ability. He remembered one day in particular, just before his seventh birthday, when Callum had made a bigger deal of it than usual.
"Liam," he started, smiling down at the little boy. "Can you keep a secret?"
Liam's eyes widened and he nodded emphatically. "Yes! What kind of secret?"
Callum pointed to a cave. "We've been coming to this cave a lot, haven't we?" Liam nodded in agreement. "I think we should call it our cave. I won't bring anyone else here, and you won't bring anyone else here either. Some day I'm not going to be here anymore, but this will still belong to you, the place that we made just for ourselves."
Poor Liam was confused. Why wouldn't his grandfather be with him at their cave? "Where are you going to go?"
Callum laughed and ruffled Liam's curls. "Everyone has a time, lad. Mine might come sooner than you think, but I need you to promise me that you won't tell anyone else where this cave is. It's just for us, you and me, and I need to know from you that you'll be able to find it again. There may come a day when you'll want to remember me, and this would be a good place to start."
Liam looked around and took in the scene. It was rather like the rest of the Burren: rocky, barren, with some tide pools and animal life. But there were some distinguishing features, like how the rocks swept out over the sea, hiding the entry into the cave, and a rock just inside of it upon which they had carved their names. The entire area was set below some smaller cliffs, so you had to climb down to find what you were looking for. He could find this place again, especially if it meant that much to his grandfather.
"Okay, I'll remember, and I'll keep it a secret. No one else will know," promised Liam.
Callum smiled. "I know you will. Remember, you can never tell anyone where the entrance is. As long as you do that, no one will be able to find our special place."
"Here we are." Devon's sudden break in the silence jolted Liam back to the present, but to the same scene exactly.
Liam felt a knot in his stomach and almost choked as the reality settled in his mind. He died at our special place? The pools were there, the climb into the tiny valley of rock, and the rocks that swept out over the sea, hiding the entrance into their cave.
He asked, "Here? This is it?" His voice cracked, but it seemed that Devon pushed it aside as understandable emotion, as he didn't ask about it.
"Yes, they were lying there, on that shelf over the sea." Devon walked down toward the entrance of the cave, looked right at it, but ignored it completely, staring at the rocks in front of it instead.
He continued, "Desmond was lying closer to the ocean, and Callum was lying next to this wall." As he said wall, Devon gestured toward the opening of the cave, not seeming to realise that it was an opening.
"Liam, can you keep a secret?"
He thought back to Charms class, trying to remember something that Professor Flitwick had talked about toward the end of his last year at Hogwarts.
"There may come a day when you'll want to remember me, and this would be a good place to start."
There was a charm – one that could hide a secret location in someone's soul. They were the only one who would be able to find it, unless they told someone else where it was. What was it called again?
"Remember you can never tell anyone where the entrance is. As long as you do that, no one will be able to find our secret place."
Liam stepped back from Devon and slipped, catching himself on the rocks before he fell.
"Liam!" Devon reached out and grabbed his arm. "Heavens, I'm sorry. This is a lot for you to process. Here, let me guide you toward safer ground."
Devon took hold of his arm and they walked back toward the road, but Liam felt triumphant.
He knew where Callum's laboratory was, and no one else would ever know unless he told them. Callum always knew what he was doing.
Author's Note: I'm so excited for you to read this chapter. It took me a long time to write because there were a lot of loose ends, but I'm so glad that you know who Callum really was now!
Thanks a million to Arnel and Utterly Absurd, as well as those of you who left reviews and reminded me that you've been waiting! Your enthusiasm is what has kept me going through this slump of working everything out!
This chapter belongs to Utterly Absurd. Thank you, dearest, for reading through my 52 pages of notes and spending an hour on Skype helping me process my thoughts. We're all indebted to you.