The Unexpected Horcrux
Chapter the Second
The Unexpected Horcrux
Chapter the Second
I normally didn’t think of myself as an eavesdropper, but some conversations are simply too riveting to ignore. The day started with me noticing Harry eating breakfast in the sun room with a bandaged left hand. I slipped into the kitchen, desperate for coffee. Remus Apparated into the foyer while I was rooting around in the kitchen, trying to find the coffee filters.
“Lily?” he asked.
“Right in one,” Lily-in-Harry responded.
“What happened to your hand?” Remus asked.
“A fit of immaturity,” Lily responded.
“Oh, come now,” Remus protested.
“Oh come now, yourself, RJ. I broke the frigging mirror because I’m tired of seeing my husband’s face every time I look in it!” Lilly shouted. “He’s dead, I’m as good as dead, I’m screwing things up for my son, and we’re back in the middle of the war again. All of the old crowd are gone, except for you, RJ, and I think I’m losing what’s left of my mind! There, are you happy now?”
I didn’t hear Remus’ response, aside from a murmur as Lily cried on his shoulder a while. I finally managed to find the coffee filters, which, inexplicably, got put away with the onions and started a pot brewing, trying to make as little noise as possible.
“Hermione?” Remus called. “Could you join us?”
In retrospect, I’m glad the pot of coffee was still brewing, because if I’d brought a cup of coffee with me, I would have dropped it for sure.
Remus was sitting at the table in the sunroom, and there, bandaged hand and all, was Lily!
Not Lily-in-Harry, but a red-eyed, blotchy-cheeked, twenty-something redheaded woman, wearing a light green sundress.
“So, what do you think?” Lily asked. The voice was different – a higher-pitched voice with a pleasant lilting quality to it.
“Glamour?” I asked.
Lily nodded. “Voice shifter too – Remus always had a good ear. I’m still in Harry’s body under all this magic, but this is nice,” she said.
“So, how is it, being a girl, trapped in a boy’s body?” I asked, still shocked at seeing my best friend transformed into his mother.
“Well,” she began, gesturing with her hands, “it has its up and downs.”
“What’s the up-side?” I asked.
“I don’t have to wear a bra any more,” she said with a knowing smile.
“And the down-side?”
“I have to be very careful how I sit down or cross my legs. Now I finally understand why men are always adjusting their trousers,” she said.
We all laughed a bit.
“RJ, could you be a dear and fetch me something I can sketch with?” Lily asked pleasantly.
Lupin nodded and withdrew from the sun-room.
“Harry doesn’t need to know about my little outburst,” Lily said.
“So, I’m supposed to lie to him about how his hand got hurt?” I asked, incredulously. “If there’s one thing that will surely set Harry off, it’s keeping secrets from him.”
Lily looked pensive, and then resigned.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t put you in that position,” she said.
Lupin reappeared, bearing a sketch-pad and a fistful of drawing papers.
“Will these do?” he asked.
“Admirably, RJ,” Lily replied.
Lupin moved into the kitchen, opening and closing cupboard doors. Once he finished his reconnaissance, I’m sure he’d start cooking something, which meant that I was off the hook.
Lily flipped open the sketch-pad, looking at the blank sheet of paper before closing her eyes. She barely opened her eyes as she began to sketch out a face with a charcoal pencil. It was a fair picture of Ginny, leaning forward, her characteristic smile reaching her bright eyes.
“So, who is this girl?” Lily asked.
“That’s Ginny,” I said. “Ron’s sister.”
“And, apparently, Harry’s lover,” Lily said with some distain.
I didn’t quite know how to respond to that statement. “I rather much doubt that – they were in a relationship when we were in school, but they broke that off months ago.”
“Does he still have strong feelings for her?” Lily asked.
“I want to meet her,” Lily said.
Lily’s eyes flashed. “I have a right to meet her,” she growled.
Lupin entered with a tray of breakfast foods.
“No one is disputing that, Lily, but Harry broke things off with her to protect her while he was hunting Horcruxes, and you can’t exactly go about in public without setting off a firestorm,” Lupin said soothingly. “She’s in school now.”
“Students have been called home on the weekends,” Lily protested.
“I’m not saying ‘no’ Lily, I’m just saying that the logistics are a bit complicated and I’m not going to snap my fingers and produce her, no matter how much you pout. If you remember, it was James who was putty in your elegant fingers, not me,” Lupin said.
Lily made a face at Lupin and then brought her emotions under control. “Thanks, RJ,” she said.
“So, why all the interest in Ginny?” Lupin asked, spreading marmalade over toast.
“Harry was dreaming about her this morning,” Lily said.
“So, it was one of those dreams?” Lupin asked.
“And you feel no shame looking in on his dreams, uninvited?” Lupin asked, looking a bit scandalized.
“Harry says he’s seeing Lily’s dreams too,” I volunteered.
Lupin gave me an odd look.
“Indeed,” he said with a harrumph.
The discussion over breakfast changed to less emotional topics – having gathered up a number of the Horcruces, we were now making plans for destroying them. According to Lily, the primary danger from destroying the little monsters came from the energy backlash as the vessel containing the soul fragment was broken; the secondary danger was from the soul fragment itself, which, if given the chance, would attempt to re-host itself before dissipating. Lily had generated a laundry list of mechanical items that we needed to procure. As all of the items were Muggle, I was the obvious candidate to go scrounging.
With Harry’s reserves at Gringotts, budget wasn’t much of a problem, but growing up with two academic parents had given me a keen appreciation for not paying retail for things, especially if we were likely to blow them up the first time we use them.
Later that day, Ron and I, appropriately dressed a Muggles with glamours changing our appearances, went shopping, visiting a series of iron-mongers, salvage yards and industrial supply houses. By the end of the day, I had a purse that contained a nice supply of fifty-tonne hydraulic jacks, cutting tools and a press, all magically shrunken in size and lightened so that I could actually carry said purse.
I set the purse down with a bit of a clunk when I got into the kitchen, which woke Harry, who’d been dozing, a journal and an open book in front of him. Ron disappeared into the loo.
Harry cleared his throat. “So, you must be the floozy that my mate’s been carrying on with,” he said, extending his hand to me. “Harry Potter.”
I shook his hand, trying hard to figure out the joke, when it hit me that I still had the glamour engaged, and I was a thirty-something platinum blonde with very straight hair. “Uh, yeah, right,” I stumbled. “Croft, Laura Croft.”
“Laura Croft’s not a blonde,” Harry said, scowling.
“Sorry, it was the first name I could think of – when I was out today, I was Carmody Gaba,” I said.
“Who’s that?” he asked.
“A distant cousin,” I replied.
“So, how’s Mum?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Sad, I’d say,” I answered.
“About what?” Harry asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I replied sarcastically. “She’s a widow, all of her friends are dead, and she’s trapped in the right hemisphere of her son’s brain, but she can’t talk to him.”
“Yeah, well, other than that, what’s she sad about?” Harry asked.
“You’re impossible,” I replied.
“Thank you. Why don’t you cancel the glamour – I’d rather talk to my friend than some ditzy bottle blonde.”
“Harry, just because a girl’s hair is blonde, it doesn’t mean that she’s stupid,” I said, peevishly.
“So, why aren’t you a blonde then?”
“Well, for one, Ron likes me just fine the way I am, and for another, I’d have to be constantly touching up my roots.”
“Are you a witch or not?” Harry asked.
“Point taken – the fact is, I don’t care – I was born a brunette and I don’t see that as anything other than an accident of genetics,” I said, wondering where this was going.
“Ron doesn’t care for you being a blonde,” he said.
“What?” I said, rather shrilly.
“Think back to last year – low point in your relationship – certain blonde roommate who was trying to suck Ron’s tongue out of his mouth in the common room on a regular basis,” Harry said.
“Oh,” I said, the light suddenly dawning. I did look like an older version of Lavender Brown. No wonder Ron was so distant today. With a few wand flicks, I was twelve years younger, ten pounds lighter, and a frizzy-haired brunette again.
“Much better,” Ron said as he exited the loo.
“Hermione, next time Mum is around, could you make sure she gets this?” he asked, handing me an envelope.
“Sure,” I replied, shoving it into my purse.
I was starved – it was time to do my kitchen thing, and then have a chat with Ron. It was time to kick the last ghost of Lavender Brown out of our relationship.
Speaking of ghosts, I didn’t see Lily again until breakfast, and even then, the envelope in my purse slipped my mind until I’d almost finished my tea and toast. Lily had been explaining the difference between a true Horcrux, namely the items we’d collected, versus the magical construct that James had developed sixteen years ago. It seemed that the principal difference was that a true Horcrux was bound to a physical object, whilst the Horcrux that James invented was bound to a bit of magic, instead of a physical object.
“So, you don’t have to stay in Harry’s body?” I asked.
“No,” Lily answered, “but it’s not like I have a lot of other places I could go right now. James saw this as a last-ditch line of defence, rather like a life-boat.”
“So what was the plan?”
Lily sighed, wiping her mouth daintily with a napkin before answering. “He figured that our chances of dying were greater than Harry’s chances – prophecy or no prophecy – so if we were facing death, we were to encapsulate bits of our souls and stash them somewhere safe until we could then be reconstituted.”
“The easiest solution would be the body left after a Dementor’s kiss,” Lily said with a measure of distain. “They were rather easy to come by during the first war.”
“What did you think of the idea?” I asked.
“I thought it was mad – and even if it were to work, I thought it was only a step above necromancy,” Lily replied.
“But it saved your son’s life,” I said.
“Yes,” Lily said thoughtfully.
“Which reminds me, Harry left me something for you – I think it’s a letter,” I said, my cheeks burning as I belatedly remembered Harry entrusting it to me.
Lily slit the envelope open with abandon, flattening out the pages inside with one hand while summoning a cup and saucer from the kitchen. I recognized Harry’s messy scrawl and was frankly amazed – he’d written what looked like six pages, twelve if you counted the back side of the page. I’d never received a letter from him in the seven years I’d known him that exceeded a page in length, but then again, I’m not his mother. I considered leaving to let Lily read in peace, especially as she started to sniffle a bit, but she waved at me with her now free hand, motioning that I should stay.
I got up, went to the kitchen to pour my own cup of tea, and then sat across from her again as she made her way to the last page. Lily wiped her face with her hands and then rubbed her palms on her skirt.
“I suppose I look a fright,” she said.
“We all do after a good cry,” I replied.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not particularly – do you know if there’s a typewriter in this house?” she asked.
“Not a chance – why do you need one?”
“Harry’s written me a letter full of questions, and I want to write a proper reply,” Lily said with a smile.
“Wouldn’t a dictation charm work just as well?” I asked.
Lily slapped her forehead with one hand.
“Yeah, I know, you can take the witch out of the Muggle world, but you never do manage to take all of the Muggle out of the witch,” I volunteered.
“That’s not an entirely bad thing,” Lily countered.
“I never said that it was.”
Lily rummaged around until she found a fresh pad of paper and then went up to Harry’s room. I could hear the murmur of her dictation through the closed door. By dinner time she’d assembled a quite fat letter that she entrusted to me for Harry. She volunteered to let me read Harry’s incoming along with her reply, but I shook my head – some things were not for my eyes.
The next day at breakfast, I passed the note to Harry, who nodded at me and then went back up to his room. By that time we were on a day-on, day-off cycle, in which Lily alternated with Harry on the even and odd days – it was odd arrangements, two people sharing one body, but surprisingly, it was fairly workable. It was lunchtime before I saw Harry again. I hadn’t seen him this happy since he’d been with Ginny last year.
“I take it that your mum is quite the letter writer,” I said.
“Yeah, I’d say,” Harry replied.
We spent the afternoon tinkering with the rig that Lily had designed for destroying the first Horcrux we’d found. Without going into too much detail, it involved three bottles of MAPP gas and a hydraulic press. The flames from the MAPP bottles would soften up the Horcrux, then the press would crack it like a very dangerous walnut. The controls for this contraption were all mechanical, which, once I saw the rig in operation, I finally understood. We tested it without flames a couple of times until Remus was convinced that it would work ‘under duress.’ The next day, on Lily’s watch, we blew the first Horcrux.
We started with the cup; from what we could discern, it didn’t have any nasty surprises or defensive mechanisms. We all took cover behind a lovely barrier we’d built yesterday, and then started the two torches. MAPP gas burns hotter than propane, a fact not lost on me when I’d helped my dad with household plumbing task a lifetime ago, before I’d started Hogwarts. I was surprised that the cup didn’t melt under the torrent of heat the torches were producing, but the cup did start glowing, a nice cherry red I might add, after five minutes or so. Per Lily’s instructions, we torched the cup for a nice even twenty minutes before turning the torches off and then starting the hydraulic press. I knew from the dry runs we’d conducted the day before that the press could crush a brick into grit and pebbles with a few strokes of the lever. We were on stroke ten before we heard a groan and a crack, and then the third bottle of MAPP gas opened, just as the Horcrux finally split and yielded its foul cargo. I pulled the string that triggered the final spark, the one that lit the cloud of MAPP gas that had pooled about the now shattered cup, immolating the lost bit of soul as it circled about the rig. The ease with which we dispatched the first Horcrux was misleading; the next one we destroyed, the broach, went up with a tremendous explosion, destroying our equipment.
We’d reckoned that we might need spares, so I had extras of almost everything, but that still didn’t make me happy that I had to build a new rig from scratch. The annoyance of building a new rig, however, was tempered by the notion that it’d worked, we’d destroyed two of them without being killed or maimed in the process. We had a celebratory pizza that night, drinking a light May wine while Lily and Remus told stories and sang songs. The house we were using had an old upright piano, which Remus could play a bit, but Lily could make the instrument sing, alternating between formal, classical pieces and a stride piano style that I’d always associated with pubs and jazz.
The next morning, I tried to repeat, verbatim, some of the stories that Lily had told the night before, only to be waved off by Harry as he drank tea and ate toast.
“Mum wrote that story out for me, it was one of the questions I’d asked her in my first letter,” he explained.
I then gave a blow-by-blow account of the destruction of the Horcruces, which he listened to avidly, without interruption.
We blew the locket that day, after lunch. It, too, went with a bang; the final fireball incinerated our equipment, melting yet another twenty-tonne hydraulic press. That was a part that we didn’t have a spare for, so we had to wait until the next day, when the ironmongers were open again, before we could destroy the next Horcrux, a ratty looking tiara that supposedly belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw.
“You know what this means, don’t you?” Harry asked, his face alight with something I hadn’t seen in a while.
“What?” I replied, not wanting to guess.
“We’re almost done,” he said, giving me a quick hug before retreating back into the house again.
That night at dinner, Remus looked up from his pudding when a smoky Patronus, shaped oddly enough, like a Welsh Green Dragon, passed through the back door and into the kitchen. Remus tilted his head while listening to something that only he could hear, and then smiled cryptically. “If you will excuse me,” he said. “I have to attend to some Order business.
Remus went to the front of the house – we all heard the front door open, but it didn’t close. A few minutes later he called in to us.
“Harry, could you come help me bring in some supplies?”
“Sure,” Harry said, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “We were expecting supplies?” he asked me.
“No,” I answered.
The kitchen door opened with a bang.
“How about a surprise then?” asked a beaming Ginny Weasley.
Harry stood, frozen, a happy grin on his face before Ginny launched herself at him. Nodding to Ron, we slipped out to give them some privacy.
Ron and I went for a walk on the grounds, taking care to stay within the defensive borders. It was a beautiful night under the stars, and we didn’t let it go to waste. Because I knew we’d be out early in the morning again, I turned in at a reasonable time. There was a spare bed made up in my room, but I didn’t expect anyone in it.
As sometimes happens, I was wrong on that guess.
Ginny pushed the door to my room open as the clock struck eleven.
“I didn’t expect to see you here tonight,” I said, turning the light up a notch higher.
Ginny deposited a small valise on the guest bed and then ran her fingers through her hair.
“I didn’t either, but Moony chased me out of Harry’s room,” Ginny said with a conspiratorial smile.
“So, are you going to wait until they’re all asleep before you sneak back?” I asked.
“That’s a lovely thought, but honestly, I’m knackered and sleep sounds really good right now,” Ginny said with a yawn. “Harry and I will catch up tomorrow.”
Probably not. I said to myself.
Tomorrow was Lily’s day. While that promised to be quite interesting, I too needed a good night of sleep. If I started telling Ginny about things (being certain that she and Harry had better things to discuss than the unexpected Horcrux we’d found inside of him) we’d never get to sleep.
Copyright © 2007 – J Cornell – All rights reserved
This chapter is being released unbetaed, as my betas seem to be focusing on some event touching 7/21/07 - fancy that...
As a reminder, yes, I know, JKR thinks it's one Horcrux, two Horcruxes, but that's not proper Latin. Hermione (who knows her Latin) believes it's one Horcrux, two Horcruces. Don't argue with me, argue with her.
Disclaimer? I don't need no stinking disclaimer - this is an exercise under the American Copyright doctrine of Fair Use as a non-profit endeavor.