The Unexpected Horcrux
Chapter the Last
The Unexpected Horcrux
Chapter the Last
Bill had been displaying something from an Omniocular – with some effort I recognized it as an aerial view of the Carrow’s house – or what the Carrow’s house had looked like less than ten minutes ago when it still had a roof.
I looked around the room, saw Ron, saw Ginny, and then looked for Harry
“Where’s Harry?” I heard someone asked.
Then I realized that I’d been the one to ask it. I think the shock wave from the explosion had me a bit rattled.
This led to another random thought – would ‘Where’s Harry?’ look at all like ‘Where’s Wally?’
Yes, I was definitely rattled, but if you realize that you’re out of it, you’re still okay – at least that’s how I think it’s supposed to be.
There was a sudden silence in the room, which had been quite loud and confused.
“Wasn’t he with you, George?” Bill asked.
“He left to visit your post,” George replied.
“He did, but then he went back to your post,” Bill said.
“Nope, never returned,” George said.
The room returned to cacophony, many people speaking or shouting at once.
I looked to Ginny, who had a look of horror on her face. She made eye contact with me. I mouthed “can you find him?”
She nodded, and then twisted her head, looking towards the stairway leading to the upper level.
“If you’ve got some way of tracking Harry, this would be a good time to pull it out of your purse, Ginny,” I said urgently.
A look of panic washed over Ginny’s face and then she pulled herself together.
“Get me a glass of water, some salt and something sharp – a needle or a knife or something,” she said.
“Don’t you want to do it downstairs?” I asked.
“No – just do what I ask for once, Hermione,” she said, wrapping her arms around herself. Her eyes were brimming, but no tears were flowing yet.
I hurried down the stairs and pushed through the crowd, aiming for the kitchen sink, filling a glass of water. I had a needle in my bag, along with all the other supplies I’d been carrying around for months, and if push came to shove, a pen knife in my pocket.
“Is Ginny okay?” Tonks asked.
“She’s trying to pull it together,” I answered truthfully.
I pushed my way back to the stairs. Ron tried to catch my eye, but I mouthed “later” and went back upstairs. Ginny was sitting on the windowsill of the bedroom we’d shared the past few days, looking out onto the grounds. I doubt very much that she was seeing anything outside.
She took the glass from me without a word, taking a small sip from it before setting it down on the windowsill. She took the needle from me and pricked the pad of her left ring finger, squeezing a drop of blood into the glass. The drop of scarlet hovered on top of the water before fading into invisibility. Once she had a handkerchief wrapped around her pricked finger, she passed her wand over the glass. The water inside swirled for a bit and then turned a bright scarlet.
Ginny let out her breath with a big whoosh.
“He’s alive,” she whispered.
“Well, that’s half the problem solved,” I said. “Where is he?”
“Just a mo,” Ginny said, reaching for the salt.
Ginny sprinkled a pinch of salt on the surface of the water in the glass. To my surprise, the salt didn’t dissolve, but instead congealed into little golden blobs on the water’s surface, moving about until they formed a little inverted v with three lines underneath the mouth of the v. Ginny then looked out the window, apparently trying to get her bearings.
“He’s about thirty miles away from here, north by north-east,” she said with some finality. “Get Remus, we need to go after him.”
I went downstairs without argument.
I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how neatly people line up into two categories: in a time of genuine crisis, there are those who will fall in line to meet the crisis, and then there are those who want to ask questions and argue.
Remus, Ron and Tonks fell into the first category, while Bill Weasley, bless his cursebreaking soul, fell into the second. After explaining that Ginny had a line on Harry’s whereabouts, and that we needed to mobilize to his aid, Bill demanded to know the nature of the magic involved. Ginny gave the name of the charm (I assumed that it was a charm) which meant nothing to me. Remus flinched a little, but Bill got agitated and began asking a string of questions.
“Bill, do we really care about this charm if we know where Harry is?” Ron asked, exercising what for him amounted to tact and diplomacy.
“It’s a blood-bind, Ron, the Warrior Kings of Sumeria bound their servants with this before they’d go out into battle,” Bill explained. “It made the Kings easier to find when wounded, and boosted their power.”
Ginny’s temper flared.
“Bill, I knew the risks, all of the risks, before I agreed to this,” Ginny explained.
“Did he explain that he now has a direct tap into your magic, and that if he’s killed, the tap may kill you too?” Bill snarled.
“Yes, Bill, and I thought it was worth it,” Ginny hissed.
She didn’t bother to explain that it was Lily who set this up, not Harry. Bill wasn’t cleared for any information on the Horcrux hunt, including the unexpected Horcrux we discovered.
The charm in question was a variety of Blood Magic, and if Bill’s reaction was any gauge, it was just over the line from Necromancy. Remus took charge, assuring Bill that we could sort it all out later, but that for the moment, finding and aiding Harry was the priority.
Bill put whatever discomfort he was experiencing about Ginny and the trace into a mental box and then pulled out a rather detailed map of the area. We found our own location and then measured out thirty miles, north by north-east. Llandrindod Wells was the nearest town of any size, but Tonks dismissed the notion that we’d find him there.
“There’s an old manor house outside the city – the Aurors have raided it a time or two in the last two years, but we never find anything but cold trails,” she explained. Pointing to a orange blob on the map she added, “There’s a bird sanctuary here – probably the best place for Apparation – if there are any Muggles about, they won’t care – they don’t care about anything that’s not a bird.”
Tonks, Kingsley and the other Auror took off on business – apparently there was a need to coordinate with the official forces, if after the fact. Fleur went back to Shell Cottage for supplies. When the dust settled, it was Remus and Bill, holding down the “adult” contingent, and three students – Ron, Ginny and me. We Apparated to the corner of the bird sanctuary closest to the manor house. It didn’t take a Ravenclaw to figure out that Tonks’ guess was spot on – the manor house had smoke pouring out of a broken window at one end, and ghastly flashes and explosions were heard from the other end of the house. The morning mists had burned away, so we approached the house in full daylight.
Bill did a quick scan and determined that there were only two people alive in the house. We drew closer with caution. The end of the house where the fighting was taking place contained some sort of great room with a huge window fronting onto a large pond. Ginny looked like she was going to sprint to the house, when Bill checked her. He made an intricate pattern with his wand that included several flicks in the direction of the house. A shimmering sheet appeared which seemed to cover the house.
“Containment field?” I asked.
Bill shook his head. “No, not that,” he said. “Something like Anti-Apparation, but it’s different."
“Yes, I’ve seen it before,” Remus said, nodding knowingly at us.
“Is it dangerous?” Ginny asked.
Remus looked at Bill before answering. “If you were to pass through the field right now, you’d collapse it, which might distract Harry. You can’t shoot anything through it, either way, so it appears that Harry, or Lily, hoisted the field to keep Voldemort contained.”
“So we just watch?” Ginny asked incredulously.
“We watch for an opportune moment,” Remus replied. Bill nodded in agreement.
We drew in close.
I’m not a big fan of fighting of any sort – my own history makes me want to avoid fights, and if I’m in a fight, I want it to end as quickly as possible. This fight, however, was a macabre thing of beauty.
Voldemort was lean and powerful, moving like a dancer. His clothing was in shreds; he was bleeding and burned.
Harry was moving quickly, a wand in each hand. It was close to impossible to determine whether Lily or Harry was directing the fighting, as he (she?) was adept with both hands. He would advance and retreat, lunge, parry and feint, all the while driving Voldemort backwards. It became plain to see that Voldemort was tiring, and was desperate to escape. It became equally plain that Voldemort was dueling two people, Harry and Lily.
Harry caught my eye and nodded, acknowledging our presence for a fleeting moment. He then exploded in a flurry of attacks, most of which were successfully parried by Voldemort, all except for the last, which left a gaping slash along the left side of Voldemort’s ribs and down his thigh. The wound didn’t slow him down much, but he was bleeding freely, and no one can bleed at that volume for very long.
Harry then advanced to his right, forcing Voldemort to retreat, crablike to his right, until Harry’s back was to the window. He then crossed his arms in front of his chest. Whether this was a tactical move gone badly, or was intentional on Harry’s part, I couldn’t tell, but Voldemort used that instant to strike with the Killing Curse.
I expected Harry to dodge or counterstrike, but he just stood there. Time seemed to slow down or perhaps reverse as the sickly green light filled the room. When the light hit Harry, the room filled with a flash of golden light. I heard Ginny scream and then everything exploded.
This time it was Bill pushing me down to the ground.
The routine of getting blown up and shoved into the dirt was getting old. My only consolation as I picked myself up from the damp ground was that Ginny appeared to have been pushed down the slope, picking up more dirt and grime than I’d just collected.
Ginny sprinted up the rise leading to the manor, vaulting over a flowerbed to jump into the house through the now-shattered window. She gave the smoldering corpse on the far side of the room a quick glance before racing to Harry’s fallen form. Ron vaulted over the window ledge, stopping only long enough to help me over.
Ginny was pressing a handkerchief to Harry’s forehead, which was bleeding freely, while checking him over with her free hand for injuries. Without turning her head to face us she stated, “We’ve got to get him out of here.”
“Shouldn’t you make sure he’s stable first?” I asked.
Ginny turned to face me, grimaced, and then pointed to the ceiling.
When Voldemort tried to kill Harry, there was some sort of backlash – we saw it as a golden flash and an explosion. In addition to blowing out the windows, the wall nearest to where Voldemort had been standing was gone too. The ceiling above was shredding as it rippled and churned. Ginny hauled Harry onto her lap, cradling his head while pushing down with one hand on his forehead. A determined expression settled her face and she looked back out through the window – and disappeared with a sharp crack.
“Time to get out of here,” Bill announced.
“What about Voldemort?” Ron asked.
“Remus is securing what’s left of his body – we need to scram,” Bill said, raising his voice to be heard over the groaning joists and beams.
I took a quick look around this scene of destruction, trying to commit as many features to memory as possible, and then decided that I’d had enough of explosions and shattered buildings for one day. I hopped lightly over the windowsill, distracted for the moment with a question of why getting out so much easier than getting in. I then waited with Ron by a willow that was standing majestically in the lower garden. The house continued to groan ominously while the fire from the far wing of the building spread quickly.
Bill put his head next to Remus, who nodded in reply. They Disapparated from the house, reappearing next to us in twin cracks.
“Is it over?” Ron asked.
Bill put a grimy hand on Ron’s shoulder. “Yeah, it is.”
“Back home then?” Ron said, looking to me.
I nodded, but I wasn’t quite sure where home was anymore.
Home, it turned out, was a series of transitions. When Ginny disappeared, it turns out she’d performed a Side-Along Apparation to evacuate Harry to our cottage. I wasn’t aware that she’d ever performed that bit of magic, being underage, but I had no doubt that she had determination and deliberation to spare for such work. Harry had a serious flash-burn on his face and a collection of scrapes, scorches and lacerations consistent with a no-holds-barred firefight with an accomplished dark wizard. The signature scar on his forehead was now gone, an angry gouged furrow being left in its place. The bleeding from that laceration was quite showy, and that’s what Ginny had been applying pressure to when she pulled him from the soon to be collapsed manor house. Harry was drifting in and out of the conscious state at the time. Some part of him, however, recognized Ginny, and he had a death grip on her hand for most of that day.
Shell Cottage was the next step – although Fleur wasn’t a healer, she was a quite accomplished witch with a fair amount of experience in healing burns (from Charlie’s visits) and curses (from Bill’s injuries on the job). She was the one who spotted that Harry was apparently blind, noticing that he was totally unresponsive to light during the moments when he was lucid. Shell Cottage became a bit of a madhouse that day, with various Weasleys and members of the Order popping in and out. We managed to keep the more obnoxious members of the Ministry of Magic away, but we were all individually and collectively debriefed by either Kingsley Shacklebolt, or Tonks, acting in this instance in their official capacity. Our testimony was eventually made part of the official inquest, proving, I guess, that Voldemort was really most sincerely dead. Sometimes the obtuseness of government amazes me.
Healer O’Neill came to Shell Cottage before lunchtime and spent most of the day hovering over Harry, healing the superficial wounds, regrowing the burned flesh, and using various diagnostic charms on his eyes, which were still unresponsive. I noticed a few other diagnostic charms that I’d seen before, but Healer O’Neill said nothing about the results. Towards dinner time, Harry came to consciousness and stayed there, although when I asked how he was, instead of answering “Fine” he said “Not too well, actually,” before smiling in my direction.
Ginny was steadfastly at his side, although when he was finally awake, he did manage to relax his grip on her hand. She excused herself before dinner, and after a quick bite to eat and a shower, looked far more presentable than when we’d arrived at the cottage. Healer O’Neill smiled when Ginny came back into the room, slipping into the chair beside the bed as I vacated it.
“So, what’s the word?” Ginny asked as O’Neill began to pack up her bag of supplies.
O’Neill put a finger to her lips and motioned towards the door. Ginny slid out of the chair and followed her, noiselessly into the hallway.
“She doesn’t want to say how I’m doing, does she?” Harry asked, turning his head towards where I was sitting.
“I suspect that she feels it would be inappropriate to discuss in front of you,” I guessed.
“So, how bad am I?” he asked.
“I’ve seen you worse at the end of a Quidditch match,” I said evasively.
“Right,” he replied. “I’ve still got bones in my arms.” He raised one arm and then the other, shaking his hands in the air.
“Do you remember what happened?” I asked.
“Some of it,” he said. “Mum and I were switching back and forth, which made it a bit of a madhouse.”
“What happened at the Carrows’?”
“Something tipped Voldemort off, maybe it was Snape, maybe the containment field going up, I dunno,” Harry said wearily. “He used Bella to punch through the containment shield and then did a runner.”
“How do you know that?”
“She splinched as she popped through the field – it wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t reversible,” Harry said, a macabre smile passing his lips briefly. “I slapped a tracer on Voldemort when he did a runner and followed after him.”
“Remus says that you can’t trace someone who’s Disapparating,” I blurted.
“Always the swot, Hermione, but I love you for it,” Harry said. “Yes, the Ministry knows of no way to trace someone who is Disapparating, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.”
“Yeah, Mum never took ‘no’ for an answer – even when confronting the laws of Magic,” he said proudly. “Scary-smart woman, Mum is, reminds me of you, actually.”
“Thanks, I think,” I replied.
“I meant it as a compliment,” he said. “So we followed him to a house deeper in Wales, and then it was a matter of going after him, hammer and tongs. The blighter wanted to get away, can you believe it?”
“Did you know that Lily put a blood-bind on you?” I asked.
Harry pulled a sour face. “Not really, but I figured it out – she had a plan, it seems, that she hadn’t told me about,” he said, touching he edges of his face tentatively with his fingertips. “Did you know that I was a Horcrux?”
“Of course, you had a bit of Lily in you,” I answered.
“That wasn’t all it seems. I had a bit of Voldemort in me as well. Having Mum in my head seemed to shield me from the side effect of my other personal Horcrux. You know how bad we felt when we were carrying the other Horcruces?”
I nodded, silently pleased that he was using the correct form of the noun and then, realizing that he couldn’t see me, said aloud “Of course.”
“If I hadn’t had Mum in me from the day I lost Mum and Dad, I probably would have been a nutter,” Harry said in a matter-of-fact manner. “You know, of course, that when you break a Horcrux, you rip open a powerful bag of energy.”
“Yeah, we saw that with the Horcrux smashers.”
“When Mum saw that you were in place, she stopped fighting, hoping that Voldemort would throw the Killing Curse. Very predictable lad, that Tom Riddle,” Harry explained.
“Do you remember that part?”
“Yeah, very clearly,” Harry said. “I saw Voldemort across the room, heard him invoke the curse and then I saw the green flash. It was kind of like what I used to see when I was with the Dementors, but instead of hearing Mum scream, the last thing I heard today was Mum shouting ‘I love you, Harry’ and then there was a big flash – I felt like I’d been plowed by a Bludger.”
“Anything after that?” I asked.
“Not really – bits and snatches. I heard Ginny, I felt her hand. I knew if Ginny was around, I must be okay,” Harry said.
“And don’t you forget it, mister,” Ginny said, pushing the door to the bedroom open.
“How much of that did you hear?” Harry asked.
“Most of it,” Ginny admitted.
“Good, I’m tired, I don’t want to repeat it,” Harry said.
“Healer O’Neill says that there’s nothing wrong with your eyes, and that your vision should return within a few hours, a day at most,” Ginny said authoritatively.
“For that she had to take you out into the hallway?” he asked.
“Nothing mysterious, Harry, she just had to use the loo,” Ginny explained.
“Right – another one of those mad girl things – going off to the loo to chat,” he said.
I tossed a pillow at him. To his credit, he snatched it before it hit him.
So that’s the story, the real story, of how the Second Rising ended a week before Easter, in the year 1998. We left Shell Cottage to go back to 12 Grimmauld Place, and then on to the Burrow. Kreacher was solicitous of his new master, obsequiously so when he learned that Harry had once again prevailed over Voldemort.
Harry leased Grimmauld Place to the Lupins at the princely sum of one galleon per year, payable in advance on New Year’s Day. I went to Australia to retrieve my parents, and when I returned, I was surprised at what had changed, and what had not.
A purge was underway at the Ministry of Magic – Scrimgeour finally had the auspicious combination of low opposition and high popularity. The vacuum in Wizarding society caused by the simultaneous elimination of the top echelon of Death Eaters had an oversized impact on Britain’s small Wizarding population. A trial was quietly held for the collaborators and the few low-level Death Eaters who’d somehow failed to make the meeting on that fateful day.
Harry spent the balance of that year and the summer at the Burrow. Ginny, with some protest, went back to Hogwarts after the Easter holiday. She was home every weekend, and many evenings as well. If anyone objected to this arrangement, they had the good sense to keep it to themselves. Shortly after she’d started up again at school, an Apparation license was Owled to the Burrow with all of Ginny’s pertinent information filled in, except for the date of birth, which was inexplicably left blank – imagine that.
When September arrived, we were all back at Hogwarts, joined by a number of our classmates who’d withdrawn from, or been expelled from school during the prior year. Harry declined the offer of Prefect, Head Boy and Captain of Gryffindor Quidditch, although he did keep his spot on the team as Seeker. Headmistress McGonagall offered me the Head Girl position, but I also declined. I had a year of study to make up, and didn’t want to take on the extra work the position entailed. At this point in my life, I didn’t particularly care if I had “Head Girl” on my resume. Ginny was offered the position, but she declined as well, so Amanda Sackett took the job, much to the delight of Hufflepuff.
After living on the run for almost a year and then ending the adventure with a bang, (or a pair of bangs, if you want to be particular) the normality of just being students without conspiracies or looming threats was quite a novelty for all of us. By All Hallows Eve, Ron and I mutually concluded that we would pack it in as boyfriend and girlfriend. I loved Ron, but I wasn’t in love with Ron, and vice versa. As breakups go, it was amiable, much better than many of the dramatic screaming matches that I’ve witnessed in seven years at Hogwarts. Would we ever try to pick things up again? Maybe – but I wasn’t in any hurry – I have a whole lifetime to explore, and I didn’t want to be tied down yet.
Harry was different back at school, which isn’t all that surprising, given the fact that he was now no longer hosting the two Horcruces he’d carried for most of his life. Without them he was different – calmer, more open and friendly, less of the mercurial temper we’d all endured over the years. He was doing much better in all of his classes, doing what he could to avoid fame, spending a great deal of time playing Quidditch and when not on the pitch, spending time with me, Ron and Ginny – particularly Ginny. By Christmas I was fairly certain that Harry was going to propose to her. It turns out that I was off by one week – Harry proposed on New Year’s Day. To absolutely no one’s surprise, Ginny accepted.
Harry bequeathed Lily’s notebooks to me as a long term loan. What I could understand was fascinating – there was enough material there for years of research, as well as some very well documented dead ends. I read through them and then put them into my trunk, promising myself that I’d get back after finishing my N.E.W.T.s.
I never really met Lily – what I’d lived with for less than a week last year was just an echo or sliver of her essence. That didn’t matter to me, though; because she was such an oversized personality that I believed that she couldn’t possibly be dead. I’d had similar thoughts about Dumbledore, so this wasn’t a new feeling. I think some part of me expected to see her leaning against the kitchen counter again, dressed in a yellow bathrobe.
I dismissed that as folly until the very last week of school, when I was studying for my final N.E.W.T.. I was sitting in the Common Room with Ron and Harry and Ginny.
Ginny was revising her notes from Advanced Potions, holding the book in her lap with one hand while twirling her wand in the other. It was a dazzling, distracting display with her wand tumbling over and under her fingers.
The wand was tumbling over the fingers of her left hand.
Copyright © 2009 – J Cornell – all rights reserved
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Thanks for reading, thanks for reviewing.
Thanks also to the people who have served as trusted, thoughtful readers over the years: MrIntel, FullPensieve, MadderBrad, Amulder.
Thanks also to a series of betas over the years at various sites: Aibhinn, Musings, HDiFranco, PirateJenn, Runsamok, GardenGirl and Aaron StVines.
Ideas come from a lot of places. I don’t think that JKR plays fair with her interviews; my recollection is that in one interview she says that Harry’s not a Horcrux, and then in book seven it turns out that he is.
So if he was a Horcrux, how did he maintain his sanity, given the negative effects of being close to a Horcrux?
This pondering, along with JBern’s The Lie I’ve Lived (a Harry/James fusion) sparked me to thinking about Lily as a Horcrux.
The whole Horcruxes/Horcruces nomenclature is a bit of an inside joke with me – as fighting about that nomenclature got me in deep kimchee at one of my prior archives. Don’t write reviews saying that I have to defer to JKR on this point – if the word follows the rules of Latin, it’s one crux, two cruces.
Well, thus ends my last unfinished story in the HP fan fiction universe.
It’s a small world, but you’ll probably see me again, sometime.
I have three teenagers under my roof right now, so I’m putting writing on the back burner. God willing, I’ll get back to it someday – or not – who knows?
Until then, may God bless you all.