Magic Never Dies - Chapter 2
current mood: calm
current song: Human Love - Dirty Vegas
Title: Magic Never Dies
Word Count: 3,816
Rating:R (future chapters)
Summary: This Fic won Portkeys' Felix Felicis Fiction Competition and garnered over 2,500 positive reviews. This is a completed alternative version of Book 7 for the Determinedly Delusional H/Hr shipper.
Action/Adventure/Romance/Humor - a bit of everything.
Harry was dreaming. Not the old, wretched dreams where Voldemort would bring all his worst fears to vivid life; these were the new and improved version. Funny how it turned out that Harry’s own conscience could churn out horrors that would do Voldemort proud all on its own. He was tied up; Harry deeply hated any hint of being trapped, he’d spent too much time locked up already. He knew somehow that his wand lay on the floor just beyond his reach, cracked in two and forever broken, but he could not see it. It was cold and dark; he was shivering, sightless in the pitch black. No one knew where he was, no one would come looking for him. He had so much left to do… but he was going to die cold, forgotten, alone.
Except for that voice calling him. Harry… Harry…
The voice that made his heart leap with hope. The voice that had always meant rationality and rescue from himself. The voice he probably should have listened to about that bloody potions text… He opened his eyes to find a blurry figure that could only be Hermione sitting on the end of his bed, watching him. He fumbled quickly for his glasses to make sure.
“Yes, Harry. It’s me. Relax,” she said.
He pushed himself upright, rubbing his bleary eyes beneath their frames and yawning.
“What time is it?” he asked curiously.
“Er… what day is it?”
“Monday. See, this is why you have to go back to Hogwarts, Harry.”
“Mmmhmm. I mean, no. I’ll be fine. Here’s a question, though. What are you doing here?”
“You said this is where you’d be. We need to start planning our Horcrux strategy. I could make you some breakfast if you like, as a sort of housewarming.”
“No offense Hermione, but how about I make breakfast for us and you do the talking bit?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Fine. I’ll meet you down in the kitchen. Take your time. I can at least make coffee you know,” she said, and flounced from the bed out the door.
“Just not so as anyone would actually want to drink it,” Harry muttered to Hedwig in her cage atop the dresser. She hooted her agreement and hid her head back beneath her wing.
He found a pair of jeans and a clean t shirt in his trunk, brushed his teeth in the Ancient and Most Filthy Bathroom of Black (Kreacher had never been much of a housekeeper. Something would have to be done in there and Harry himself was not looking forward to it) and padded down stairs. Mrs. Black snored behind her curtains, and Harry slipped past, careful not to wake her.
Hermione was waiting in the kitchen with a mug of coffee for him and tea for herself. Harry put his years with the Dursleys to good use, starting the bacon and tomatoes and eggs from Mrs. Weasley.
“Where’s Ron?” he asked.
“On his way. He went on to Diagon Alley first to drop off some of the wedding leftovers for the twins. He had breakfast at the Burrow, his Mum wouldn’t let him go until he did, but he’ll be hungry again. You’d best make enough for him too.”
Harry doubled his quantities; Ron could still easily put away what he and Hermione might finish between them.
They were about half way through their meal and enjoying a rare, companionable silence when Ron apparated into the kitchen. His hands were over his eyes and he took a balancing step on landing, banging his head into a heavy cast iron pan dangling from the ceiling with a hollow, gong-like sound.
“Ow! Bloody hell!”
Hermione sighed. “He still apparates holding on to his eyebrows. I thought passing the second test would cure him of it.”
Ron spun around. “It’s not funny! That bloody hurt!”
“We’re not laughing,” Harry said, although he had to work a bit to make it true. “Take it down, I’ll put it somewhere else. You’re a lot taller than Kreacher, or Sirius when it comes to that. Come and have some breakfast.”
Ron sat down beside Hermione, who was already loading his plate, and brightened considerably.
“Thanks. Fred and George send their best. Not sure what that’s going to mean in the long run, but you might duck if you hear any loud noises and don’t eat anything out of the fridge you aren’t sure you put in it first.”
“I’m not totally stupid,” Harry said. “I took them right off the apparition wards when I added you two.”
Harry noticed that Hermione waited until Ron’s mouth was quite full to start in. “So, Harry. We’ve decided we’re with you. Even if it means not going back to Hogwarts next term.”
Ron made a vaguely dissenting noise but kept chewing until he could swallow. “Even though we think you’re crazy, she means. How’d you think we’ll get away with it?”
“No one can tell me what to do anymore,” Harry pointed out, “Not legally, and there’s no one else to care. It’s you two that need to worry. I can’t see your Mum and Dad being happy about it, Ron, and I should think Hermione’s parents would have kittens. That’s why I never planned on you two coming with me.”
“We’re all seventeen now. They may not like it, but they can’t exactly stop us either, can they.” Hermione said.
“So now I’ll be the Boy-who-kept-the-Brightest-Witch-of-her-a
“Of course, Harry,” Ron said. “No question. We’re with you, we just aren’t sure this is the best way.”
Hermione seemed to bristle, but said nothing.
“If we went back to Hogwarts – assuming of course there’s a Hogwarts to go back to – there’d be nothing but rules, more than ever, I’d wager. We’d spend so much time in detention we’d never get anywhere. Besides, you don’t honestly believe that rubbish about being safer there?” Harry asked. “Not anymore.” The familiar wrench of Dumbledore’s eternal absence reared up and stabbed at him; he concentrated hard on his coffee mug until it began to slip back down toward bearable.
Ron chewed thoughtfully. “No. And you have a point when you put it that way. It’d be hard to pull off. I’m just thinking of how to explain to Mum that I’m not going back to Hogwarts, and oh, by the way, I have to go Horcrux hunting with Harry tonight – don’t wait up. It’s not pretty.”
Mrs. Weasley’s wrath hung between them, a palpable presence.
“Come live here then. Both of you. No parents, no rules. No one to ask where you’re going.”
Harry could see Ron grasping the finer points of the idea. Hermione’s eyes lit up, then took on a look Harry couldn’t quite identify. She was throwing him for a loop these days; he’d always had a fairly good idea what was going on inside her head but just lately there were whole stretches where he felt lost even sitting right beside her. He’d written it off to her getting together with Ron at first, but he was fairly certain now that it was something else and that knowledge, or rather lack of it, vaguely disturbed at him. He wanted them both to be happy, he was sure that he did. Didn’t he? It was just that he’d thought their arguing would die a natural death and things would even out between all three of them, something that had yet to happen. If it didn’t, Harry had a feeling he’d actually start to welcome old Phineas’ company more. Maybe even Mrs. Blacks’.
“This place has got to be safer than Hogwarts anyway, it’s unplottable and it’s still under a fidelius, isn’t it?” Ron asked.
“I don’t think so. I’m not sure, but when Dumbledore came to the Dursley’s to collect me last year, he was concerned about whether the house would allow itself to be owned by someone who wasn’t a Black. He was afraid it would go to Bellatrix, and Kreacher as well. How would Bellatrix have even found the house again unless there was a way around it? I don’t really understand, but it must have been linked to the ownership of the house somehow.”
“But Kreacher obeyed you…” Hermione said slowly, and Harry could see her mind working bits of information over and shuffling them into place. He loved that particular look, the way her eyebrows drew together and her eyes took on the soft opacity that meant she was entirely caught up within her thoughts. At least that was still the same.
“And I sent him to Hogwarts to work with the other house elves so they could make sure he didn’t run off to Bellatrix or Malfoy’s mum. Unfortunately, Aunt Petunia actually remembers the whole thing. I think it stood out so much because she’d never had anything quite as filthy as Kreacher at Privet Drive, actually, but the bottom line is she told me she wanted all of my Mum and Dad’s gold to keep it quiet, so that she could take Dudders somewhere safe.”
Hermione’s face abruptly lost its dreamy thoughtfulness. “That… woman,” she sputtered, “wants all your parents’ money after what she and that awful family of hers did to you? You didn’t say she could have any?”
Harry nodded sheepishly. “She has no idea how much is in there, Hermione. I barely do. And now there’s Sirius’s as well. It’s just gold, after all…”
“And you’re not going to live long enough to need it?” Her eyes met his and he felt the full fury of her magic then in a way he’d never known before, pulsing off her in powerful little waves. Holy crap, was that what coming of age had done to her? Why was he just now noticing it?
“That’s not what I…”
“Oh, it may not be what you said, but you know it’s true. And in part it’s true because of that woman and that family. You grew up thinking you were worthless because that’s what they taught you. You were so grateful to be ‘saved’ when Dumbledore sent Hagrid for you that you took on the baggage of the Boy-Who-Lived as if it was fair somehow. It wasn’t Harry, it didn’t have to be like that. They abused you, for pity’s sake, it’s time you accepted it.”
Harry blinked in surprise; Hermione’d never been shy about speaking her mind about the Dursley’s, but she’d never actually given her opinion of the whole situation either, just sympathized that he’d had to return there and welcomed him back after. He felt suddenly…
“And don’t go getting all broody and embarrassed by it either, no one’s blaming you, but Harry… you can’t give her your parents’ money. You just can’t. If you’re going to be a total pig about it and live as if there’s no tomorrow, at least do something worthwhile with it. Leave it in trust to start a decent place for magical orphans so there’ll never be another Tom Riddle. Fund a retirement home for house elves, or werewolf research, anything but the Dursley’s. Honestly.”
She’s right, Harry,” Ron chimed in.
“I am not being a pig…” Harry heard himself sputter. Hermione’s gaze felt as if it were literally burning him with its intensity. And once again, he knew it wasn’t really about the money, there was some subtext he was forever not getting and he wasn’t a step closer to understanding it.
“Not about that bit, Mate. You can’t give Aunt Petunia that money. It’s just… like… I dunno. Cosmically wrong or something.”
“Thanks for channeling Luna Lovegood there, Ron. Just what I need. Look, I could convert a quarter of it to pounds and I reckon it would be more than enough to move them somewhere safe. She’s no idea what’s in there, she’d be happy enough with that. I just can’t let them die because of me, no matter how awful they’ve been. Nice or not they kept me for sixteen years. Voldemort will kill them before he ever finds out how much they have in common.”
“Okay,” said Hermione, suddenly far too agreeable. Harry’s eyes narrowed. She smiled sweetly. He sighed.
“I expect you’re going to want to come to Gringott’s with me, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question. She nodded. “And you’re going to want a little time alone with the money before they deliver it?” She nodded again. It was fair, really. He would appease his conscience, and she would appease hers as well. “Nothing too disfiguring?”
“Just leave that to me. You don’t actually have any residual fondness for them or anything, do you?”
Harry shuddered. “Er, no. But she is my Mum’s sister, after all…”
“I’ll remember that,” Hermione told him, carefully neutral. “That’s that settled then. We need to talk Horcruxes now.”
Harry rose and began retrieving their dirty plates.
“Sit,” said Ron firmly, and muttered, flicking his wand. The dishes flew to the sink, which began to fill itself with a sputter and a squirt of dish soap. “You two need to remember you’re not Muggles sometimes. You can do magic all the time now, no one’s going to come take you away. Make the most of it.”
“Thanks,” Harry told him, bemused. He had a point. Harry could out-duel Ron more or less based on sheer nerves and reaction time, but Ron thought like a wizard because he’d always known and accepted he’d be one. As had most of the Death Eaters. And Snape. Harry really needed that perspective.
“So Dumbledore thought there were seven?” Hermione asked, steering them back on topic.
“Based on what Tom asked Slughorn. He’d always thought there might be more than one, but he never thought that many. To break your soul in seven pieces… there can’t be much left. But it’s only six horcruxes, really. The seventh bit is what’s inside Voldemort now. ”
“Explains a lot, really,” Ron said. “One-seventh of a soul.”
“We know Dumbledore already destroyed one of the six; the ring had a crack right down the center of the stone and he told me he’d done it. That’s when he hurt his wand hand. He told me that if it weren’t for Snape’s timely action when he returned to Hogwarts after destroying it he might never have lived to tell the tale. He was always going to tell me the whole story, he just never had… time.” Harry told them grimly. “That’s probably when Snape told Voldemort that it was Dumbledore that destroyed it. And Voldemort decided to set his pet ferret a new task.”
“I wonder what old ferret boy’s up to these day?” Ron wondered aloud.
“Probably running so fast and hard he’s nothing but a blur. He’s likely moved up to just below me on Voldemort’s ‘to AK’ list.” Harry laughed bitterly.
“The diary that possessed Ginny was another, wasn’t it?” Hermione asked, pressing on. Harry nodded. “Well, we know that one’s destroyed as well. That leaves us four more.”
“Dumbledore thought the snake that bit Ron’s Dad fifth year, Nagini, was one too. He said that he thought Voldemort planned to make one when he killed me but when that backfired he was too weak for awhile to do anything about it. He thinks Voldemort used Nagini when he killed the Riddle’s old caretaker three years ago.”
“Eww,” Ron said, thoroughly grossed out. “He put his soul in a snake?”
“It’s not like putting a piece of yours in a spider, Ron,” Harry pointed out. “He likes snakes. They’re some of his best friends. Maybe his only friends, come to that.”
“Three more,” Hermione counted.
“Well, Dumbledore reckoned he liked to use significant objects. He showed me a memory of when Voldemort worked for Borgin and Burkes after he left Hogwarts…”
“Voldemort worked at….” Ron started.
“Shh! Let Harry finish,” interrupted Hermione.
“The point is, he had access to lots of questionable artifacts, but two in particular Dumbledore knows he saw and probably murdered their owner to steal were a cup that belonged to Helga Hufflepuff and a locket of Salazar Slytherin’s that had belonged to his mother’s family, the Gaunts. She sold it before he was born.”
“That’s the locket that’s not the one you and Dumbledore found, right?” Ron asked.
“Right. So Dumbledore’s theory…” Harry noticed Hermione’s deep-thought furrow appear again and her eyes glaze over distractedly. She motioned with her hand for him to continue, though, so he did. “was that he was looking for something from each of the four Founders. He had Slytherin and Hufflepuff, he needed Ravenclaw and Gryffindor. Dumbledore was pretty confident that he never got anything from Gryffindor, because the sword’s still safe in his office. That’s why he had to use Nagini. We just don’t know if he found anything of Ravenclaw’s.”
“Harry…” started Hermione thoughtfully. “Do you remember fifth year, when we spent so much time helping Ron’s Mum cleaning here?”
“Unfortunately without any visible effect for all that work. Of course I do. Doxycide at five paces.”
“Do you remember cleaning the drawing room in particular? There was all this horrid stuff in a glass cabinet; Sirius helped us. There was a music box that made us all really sleepy, and a creepy mechanical spiderish thing that crawled up your arm and tried to bite you?”
Harry absently rubbed his arm as he sorted through his memories of that day. Sirius had indeed been helping them; he’d flattened the thing with a copy of Nature’s Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy. Beyond ironic, that. There’d also been an Order of Merlin First Class that Sirius figured his grandfather had bought by giving a load of gold to the Ministry and some old Black family seals… and a heavy locket none of them ever managed to pry open.
Harry locked eyes with Hermione. “Regulus Black. Sirius’ younger brother. Sirius told me that from what he was able to find out after Regulus died, he’d joined the Death Eaters but only got in so far before he panicked about what he was being asked to do and tried to back out. What if he found out about the Horcruxes and that’s what panicked him? Herms… do you remember what happened to it? Merlin, didn’t Sirius throw it away?”
“He tried to,” Hermione said. “But Kreacher kept stealing all the family stuff back. He’d put it somewhere else in the house, Sirius would find it again…”
Ron groaned. “What are you two talking about?”
“But at Christmas you’d got him that quilt…” Harry started.
“And Sirius told me where he slept, and you and Ron and I went to deliver it…” Hermione finished for him. Light dawned on both their faces.
“I was there?” Ron asked.
Harry and Hermione crossed the kitchen as one and threw open a dingy door in the corner opposite the pantry. There, no less smelly or repulsive, was the jumbled nest of rags Kreacher had called home. The small glinting objects Harry’s minds’ eye had remembered in the far corner were still there, testimony to Kreacher’s fierce familial loyalty and magpie tendencies. And there among them was…
“Don’t touch it!” Hermione insisted, grabbing both Harry’s hands in her own. “Not until we figure out how to destroy it at least. Remember Dumbledore’s hand?”
Harry pulled Hermione close without thinking, filled with an elation unlike anything he had ever known. He had no idea what he was actually feeling, but it was primal and powerful to the point it almost hurt to contain. Three more. And then… Voldemort. And one way or another, it will be over! Finding them had seemed, despite his determination, hardly possible; the task beyond him without Dumbledore’s help… but Hermione was still there. Hermione had been there all along. They’d found the first already! And right now he rather fiercely wanted to do something with her that was thoroughly frowned upon when done with the girlfriend of your best friend. Especially when he was staring at you like you’d grown horns and a tail from across the room right over there. Harry could vaguely feel her clinging to him as well; possessed, he was certain, by some entirely innocent intent.
Or, umm, was it? She was holding on so tight he could feel every inch of her. And she was sort of trembling.
Harry took a step back, turning toward Ron, which really would have been more effective if Hermione had let go, but would have to do for now. “She’s done it, Ron! Look. Kreacher saved it. It’s still here.”
“What is? What the ruddy hell are you two on about?”
“One of the Horcruxes! RAB must have been Regulus Black. He stole Slytherin’s locket from Voldemort’s hiding place and left it here before the Death Eaters caught him. Hermione remembered that we’d come across it when we cleaning the drawing room fifth year, only we’d no idea what it was then. We all tried to open it, but no one could. Sirius put it in the trash, but Kreacher stole it back and kept it in his nest all these years. We’ve already found a Horcrux, Ron. Only three more to go.”
Ron came across to the door and peered past them at Kreacher’s domain. “Phew. You’re telling me part of Voldemort’s soul is in there?”
Harry moved again to pick up the locket, only to find Hermione still holding tight. “Hermione, really, I think it’s okay. If I remember right, last time Sirius used his teeth and Ginny tried banging it on the edge of the fireplace. Nothing bad happened. I’m sure Dumbledore had to use a spell to destroy the other one.”
She looked up at him somewhat dazedly and slowly loosened her grip. “Oh. Right.”
Harry stepped carefully over the amassed rags and gingerly picked up the locket. He felt nothing in particular; no jolt or spark. It looked so ordinary to contain something so deeply sinister. He came out of the boiler-closet and extended it toward Ron, who shook his head.
Hermione took it and examined it more closely, running a finger along the engraved “S”.
“Well, I found it. Which one of you is going to find the spell to break it? I can’t do everything, you know.” She looked up and grinned at them both. “We can do this, can’t we?” she said.
“We’re going to do this. We have to.” Harry told her.
“Alone?” Ron asked.
“Together,” Harry said.