The Unexpected Horcrux
Chapter the First
Chapter the First
I know that Harry expected that we’d find and destroy the Horcruces on our own, just the three of us, but I knew from the beginning that we’d need more help. Confidence is one thing, but I knew that two just-turned-adult wizards (and one fabulous witch) were in way over our collective heads. Harry explained ad nauseam his pledge to Dumbledore to keep this secret; which made sense, given Harry’s somewhat selective, but very fierce sense of honour, but I always believed we’d need to call in help. I suppose from my years at school that I should have expected that help would come when we called, and from unexpected sources, but never in my life did I expect what happened.
We found the locket, of course, once we figured out who “R.A.B.” was – the most-wretched Kreacher finally being useful for once. The cup was a bit more effort; but “the team” as Harry called us was equal to that task. Finding Horcruces, however, isn’t the same thing as destroying them, and we were fresh out of Basilisk fangs.
After a week of stewing about solutions that went nowhere, Harry finally broke down and suggested that we contact Professor Lupin. That was a good thing, because I wasn’t sure that I could stand biting my tongue any longer.
We arranged a meeting near Penzance, walking for most of a day to get to the rendezvous point so as to not generate any detectable magical signatures. Professor Lupin had done the same, but unbeknownst to us, he’d been spotted by a relatively minor Death Eater who decided to trail him on a lark. The rendezvous turned into an ambush. Harry was scuffling with a large, but stupid Death Eater when he was stunned by yet another Death Eater a moment before I petrified the large one as well as the one that had just stunned Harry. Ron and Professor Lupin were holding their own nicely against four Death Eaters, when another six showed up. I tried to be brave, but at the moment the only two things that I could think of were first that I didn’t want to die, and second that I certainly didn’t want to wet my pants.
Harry chose that moment to revive somehow, clutching a dagger that he’d wrestled away from the large, stupid Death Eater in his right hand, and his wand in his left hand, blasting away with both until there were no Death Eaters left standing. He flicked his hair out of his eyes and then called out, “Nice of you to show up, RJ, but if you don’t mind me saying so, you look like hell.”
Professor Lupin turned pale – really pale, which was saying something, because we were just a couple of days past the Full Moon and he already looked peaky. “Lily?” he called out, his voice just above a hoarse croak.
Harry nodded, placing a hand on his hip. “You were expecting the Easter Bunny?”
The first thing we did after that was truss up the Death Eaters like so many postal bundles. Harry wanted to kill them all, but Professor Lupin talked him out of it, and then we sat down and watched the most amazing conversation between Harry and Professor Lupin, the latter asking questions that could only be answered by Harry’s mum. Harry answered them all. It turned out that it was exceptionally fortunate that Professor Lupin was there, because Harry didn’t recognize Ron or me, which was a big surprise.
The even bigger surprise was finding out that Lily Potter was alive and well (after a fashion) buried somewhere deep within the mind of her beloved son.
After cleaning up from the ambush, we relocated to another place, one that we knew was safe, a place I still won’t disclose to just anyone. Professor Lupin spent hours interviewing Harry-channelling-Lily, muttering to himself when he took a break that the whole thing violated any number of the known rules of Arithmancy, not to mention his tidy world-view.
To me it was rather creepy to watch my best friend look at me as if I were a new acquaintance, speaking with very different speech patterns, his face and body language animated with clearly effeminate patterns that would be more appropriate to a twenty-something witch, rather than a newly-seventeen wizard.
Lily certainly didn’t mince words.
“So, who are you?” Lily-in-Harry asked.
“I’m Hermione, Hermione Granger,” I replied.
Lily extended her hand, a gesture that I responded to without thinking.
“I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. What are you to my son?”
“Uh, I’m, uh, one of his best friends?” I stammered in reply.
“Best friends as in chums, or angling to become the next Mrs. Potter?” Lily asked.
“Best friends – I have a boyfriend, thank you very much,” I replied frostily.
“The red-haired chap that looks like a Weasley?” she responded.
“Right in one,” I said.
“Good choice. I assume he’s one of Arthur and Molly’s brood?”
“I’m sorry if I’m coming on a little strong, but I’m as taken aback by all of this as you are, if not more so. The last thing I remember before today was staring down the wrong end of Voldemort’s wand, hoping that James’ crazy, demented experimental spellwork would do something to protect Harry, and now I’m here, inside my son’s body, sixteen years later. It’s enough to make anyone a little crazy,” she said, leaning back into her chair, running her fingers through Harry’s hair.
She smiled. “Even this, it’s a lot shorter than I’m used to,” she said.
“I know, I’ve seen your pictures. You were very pretty,” I replied.
“So, what happened, after I died that is?” she asked.
And so we began retelling the saga that is Harry’s life, starting with the details that every good little witch and wizard knows about the Boy-who-lived, segueing into the less glamorous story that was Harry’s life before Hogwarts. It wasn’t an easy story to tell, as there were frequent interruptions.
“Dumbledore put him with Petunia and Vernon?” Lily screeched. “I’m going to kill him – I made myself quite clear on that point when we set up the will and the trusts.”
“You’re too late - Dumbledore died months ago,” I interrupted, noting the look of disbelief on her face.
“Keep on with the story, I’ll be a good little witch and try to not interrupt you,” Lily said.
We finished with the saga in the early hours of the morning.
“You need your sleep, dear,” Lily said after a long moment of silence. “I’ve got lots of questions, but you can answer them when we’re both awake.”
I woke the next morning to the smell of breakfast coming from the kitchen. I’d thought that Professor Lupin must have started breakfast, but when I entered the kitchen I found it was Harry, or at least it looked like Harry.
“Harry?” I asked timidly.
“Yessss?” he answered in a high falsetto, turning his head over his shoulder, batting his eyelashes furiously.
It was Harry all right.
“Good to see you again,” I said, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Harry smiled. “Good to be back. Lupin filled me in on what happened. Kinda weird, huh?”
I took the mug of coffee that he offered.
“You’ve talked to Lily,” he said, shuffling toast, eggs and bacon, all in varying stages of completion. “But as far as I’m concerned, I got knocked out during a fire fight with Death Eaters. How was it, talking to Mum?”
“Weird,” I replied.
“Yeah, well, welcome to my life. Everyone gets to meet my mum but me,” he said quietly before placing the rashers of bacon on a pile of paper towels.
Lupin didn’t come back until almost supper time, so it was just Ron, Harry and me in our little hideaway. During the day Harry had pumped both of us for meagre scraps of information we had on his mum, and then retreated to his room.
He doesn’t know that we both know what he does when he locks himself in the bedroom. In a turn-about to our usual roles, it was Ron who’d tipped me off about it, several months ago. I was so used to Harry being withdrawn and sullen; I’d never noticed that he’d made a pattern of withdrawing at least once a day.
“Off to write some more,” Ron muttered a few months ago when we’d come back from scouring a field in Wales, in the rain. We were back in the multi-room tent we were using as our base of operations at the time.
“No, actually,” I replied, “I’m going to finish the book I’ve been reading on Runes.”
Ron smiled the lopsided half-smile that had the power to melt things inside me.
“Not you,” he snorted, “him.”
“What’s he writing?” I asked.
“Letters, to her,” he replied, searching for his towel before he stomped off to take a warm shower.
I waited patiently, trying to not think about him while the hot water was coursing over his pale freckled skin. Who says it’s only boys that have problems with randy thoughts?
When Ron came out of the now-steamy bathroom, rubbing his shoulder-length hair with a towel, I resumed the conversation.
“Who’s Harry writing?” I asked.
Ron stared at me, apparently incredulous that I was asking this question.
“My sister. He writes a letter every day. He doesn’t post them – he said that would be too dangerous for her. He does something with them to make them disappear. I think he’s charming them, or maybe transfiguring them into beads or something. You didn’t know?” Ron questioned.
“No,” I replied. “I just thought he was being moody again.”
“Well, he is – what he really needs is a ripping good snog session, as much as it pains me to say that,” Ron said.
“They were happy together,” I pointed out.
“Don’t say it in the past tense,” he objected.
“They’ll be happy again, when this is all over,” I said.
“That’s the ticket,” Ron said. “C’mon over here, woman, this tent isn’t big enough for two moody teenaged boys.”
Lupin came back with a healer, a black-haired woman I’d seen at Grimmauld Place when an Order meeting had let out -- it must have been the same year that Ron’s dad was bitten by that snake. The minute she opened her mouth I remembered her accent, unmistakably Ulster. I had a great-Aunt from Ulster who was a college librarian; until I discovered magic, she lived the life that I wanted; but I digress. Clarissa O’Neill gave Harry a most thorough examination and then began running diagnostic tests that I couldn’t begin to fathom. The last test involved what looked like a miniature tea-kettle, which poured a shiny vapour from its teeny little spout. She frowned at the stream of vapour as if that were the wrong answer, until she lit her wand, bathing the area in an odd blue light. The vapour was now green in colour; two different shades of green. She smiled triumphantly, slapping the table with her palm. A minute later all of her tools and gadgets were tucked back into her oversized purse and she made like she was leaving.
“Well, Mr. Lupin, I’ve never seen such a thing, but there are two souls in this lad and nary a sign of possession. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions,” she said before she turned to Harry. “Keep your chin up, lad, there’s more people rooting for you than you know.”
Harry smiled and nodded, the polite smile leaving soon after she’d closed the door.
That evening was spent with experiments, stunning Harry, spelling him to sleep, even an attempt at putting him into a hypnotic trance, all of which worked after a fashion, but none of these techniques yielded anything other than a sleeping, stunned or entranced Harry, who began to lose his patience with this after Professor Lupin began the second iteration.
“Give it a rest, Moony, wherever Mum is, she evidently doesn’t want to talk to you right now,” Harry said after being Enervated. “I know you miss her, but what’s the big deal?”
A cascade of emotions rippled across Professor Lupin’s face, but he said nothing until he’d had a chance to take a breath.
“Lily was to me what Hermione is to you, Harry, but that’s not why I’m trying so hard. Before they were murdered, your mum and dad were doing war-related research – it turns out that they were studying Horcruxes,” Professor Lupin said with some dignity.
I didn’t bother to correct his word choice. Everybody knows it’s one Horcrux, two Horcruces, but I’m trying really hard to not be a swot this year.
“Oh,” Harry said as he stood up and pushed his chair into place at the table. “Well, I’m still going to bed.”
Professor Lupin nodded, murmuring goodnight before he went back to jotting down notes on his portfolio pad. I had a hunch, so I decided to act.
I stunned Professor Lupin and then stunned Harry in the back as he was opening the door. Ron jumped off of the kitchen counter where he’d been watching things.
“Blimey, Hermione, have you lost it?” he shouted before I laid down a band of fire, separating him from the others. I then laid down a second band of fire, between Harry and the door. If this didn’t work, I was going to have a lot of apologizing to do.
Harry pushed himself up from the floor, shaking his head before he grabbed his wand, with his left hand, moving to extinguish the flames.
“What are you doing, girl-child?”
I smiled. “Good to see you again, Lily.”
Lily, it turned out, knew a lot about Horcruces. Apart from the fact that the thesis would most likely have been classified as a state secret by the Ministry of Magic, it would have made an excellent Mastery project in Charms. During the First War, Dumbledore had intelligence to the effect that Voldemort was working on that area of magic, so he’d assigned the area for research to his favourite pair of newly-weds. Lily had done the bulk of the basic research before Harry was even born, and then, once they went into hiding, experimented with ways to detect and destroy them, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.
“Miss Granger, what were you trying to do?” Lupin roared, after he’d been revived.
“What you couldn’t do, RJ,” Harry as Lily drawled.
And thus began a conversation that went on into the wee hours of the morning, fortified by a couple of pots of coffee.
It turned out that Lily had been toying with the notion of using a Horcrux as a device for protecting Harry. She’d tinkered with the basic Spellwork, creating what she called a “coating” for the Horcrux, allowing it to lie dormant. Normally a Horcrux will attempt to dominate a living host – ask Ginny if you want proof of that. Lily figured out a way to make it go dormant, but left a kernel of magic that would sense when the host was facing a threat to life and limb and unable to defend itself. I’d figured that out sometime that evening, but didn’t want to speak up until I’d had a chance to think about it some more. I guess being Ron’s girlfriend has rubbed off a bit on me – the old Hermione would have never tried something that impetuous, guided only by guesswork and intuition. At Lily’s request, we nullified the outermost layer of the magical kernel before she finally went to bed at 7:00 the next morning. Remus had a journal and a half filled with very detailed notes. Me, I had a full journal filled with questions and notes to my self. I’d grown used to sleep deprivation as a way of life during exams, but I reckoned that certain things would be clearer when I was operating on something approximating a full night of sleep.
Harry was a bit cranky when he finally woke up the next day, dazed and more than a bit disoriented.
“Good morning, sunshine,” I said cheerily, pouring a mug of coffee to go with the toast that I was going to eat myself before Harry stumbled into the kitchen. Harry grunted something unintelligible, grabbing the mug and cradling it with one hand while gnawing on the first slab of toast. “Sleep well?” I asked.
Harry gave me a glare that could have blasted the tarnish off of a school cauldron. He went back to munching on the toast.
“Not particularly – my head seems to be a little full right now,” he said after finishing the toast.
I didn’t say anything – something I’d learned living cheek-by-jowl with Ron and Harry – they loved me both in their own ways, but they didn’t particularly want to talk all of the time.
“It seems that Lily is dreaming now,” he said.
“How do you know it’s Lily’s dream?” I asked.
He pantomimed a pair of breasts on his chest, cracking a wan smile as he did so. “Different equipment,” he said. “Really weird to be nursing a baby boy that I know to be a younger version of myself. Kinda nice, though – snugly. Something to look forward to.”
“For you?” I asked.
“No, I meant for you,” he said. “Weasleys being fertile and all.”
“We’re not at the sprog hatch phase yet, and Grangers aren’t particularly fertile,” I said.
“I’ll put my bets on the Weasley magic winning out,” he said, draining the coffee mug. “Resistance is futile, you will reproduce.”
“I’ll take it under advisement,” I responded.
“So why is Mum in my head now?” Harry asked.
“Professor Lupin removed part of the coating that kept her from integrating with your mind,” I explained.
“Isn’t that something that I should have had some say in?” Harry asked irritably.
“A bit hard, Harry, I had to put you into a life-threatening situation to wake Lily up last night. We need the knowledge that’s in her head – she knows how to destroy Horcruces,” I said, hoping that I wasn’t going to push him over the edge.
“Oh, well,” Harry replied before rolling his eyes. “Thanks, Mum.”
“I don’t think she can hear you right now,” I said.
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Harry said dourly.
Copyright © 2007 – J Cornell – all rights reserved
Author’s notes: Horcruxes/Horcruces – you’ll see it spelled two different ways in this story – that’s not a mistake. Hermione uses the correct Latin form – one crux, two cruces, which is why the town in New Mexico is called Las Cruces, not Las Cruxes – everyone else in this story uses the more conventional (but wrong) spelling. It’s the issue that first got me in trouble at PhoenixSong.net, so it’s a bit of an inside joke with me. According to plan, this should be a two or three chapter story, but I’ve been wrong about those things before. As always, thanks to my betas, Runsamok (who I hope is feeling better) and GardenGirl (who should have her tomatoes in by now).