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The Unexpected Horcrux

Chapter the Third

When I woke the next day, Ginny was still sleeping the sleep of the just; the only evidence that she was actually in bed at all was the small swatch of scarlet hair peeking out from under the covers.  I shuffled across the hall to the loo and after doing what needed doing, felt competent to find the kitchen, hoping that someone had made coffee already.  I was in luck - Lily was up, and from the debris strewn about the kitchen, she had been up for a while.  I smelled something baking in the oven, and saw that the coffee pot was two-thirds full.  The day was looking up already.

“Scones will be out in about a minute,” Lily said.

“Bless you,” I said, scrubbing out a mug that looked like it had been previously cleaned according to teenaged-boy-standards-of-cleanliness. 

“Don’t mention it,” Lily replied.

We sat in satisfied silence – Lily cleaning up the counters where she’d been working, me sipping the first coffee of the day.

“May I impose upon you, Hermione?” Lily asked, breaking the silence.

“Sure,” I replied.  “What can I do for you?”

“I’d like to use a Pensieve to look at your memory of Ginny arriving last night,” she said.  “It’s much less invasive than Legilimency.”

I didn’t say the first thing that came to mind, namely that she should mind her own business on the topic of Harry and Ginny.

“You’re a Legilimens?” I asked.

“I’m not an expert, but yes, I can do that,” Lily said, shrugging her shoulders as if that was nothing.

“Harry had the most difficult time with Occlumency,” I volunteered.

“Was Albus his teacher?” she asked.

“No, Professor Snape,” I replied.

Lily snorted in derision.  She twirled Harry’s wand in her fingers like a miniature twirling baton before summoning a teacup from the cupboard.  Several transfigurations later it was the size of a soup bowl and filled with a swirling, pearlescent liquid.

“Think of Ginny last night,” she said.  I complied, trying to remember the scene as I saw it.  Lily murmured something softly and I felt the tip of her wand leave my temple, drawing a gooey strand of memory from my head as it moved.   I felt mildly dizzy, but otherwise okay.  I tried to remember the event that I just recalled – it was still there.

“It doesn’t remove your memory, Hermione, it’s rather like a copy,” Lily explained.

“So you could replicate someone’s memories?” I asked.

“It’s not a trivial task, but yes – several generations ago, witches with too much time on their hands crafted enchanted diaries that way, which is why magical diaries need to be carefully examined before chatting with them,” she said.

“Ginny was possessed by Voldemort through a diary,” I said.

“Yes, I remember you telling me about it,” Lily said.  “I never figured Riddle as the diary-keeping type, but given his love for seduction, it’s a perfect fit.”

“Did you find what you wanted?” I asked, motioning towards the newly-created Pensieve.

“Yeah, pretty much – I wanted to see Harry’s response as Ginny arrived,” Lily answered.

“And?”

“She appears to make him happy,” she said cautiously.

I nodded.  As much as I love Ginny and heartily approve of her relationship with Harry, I wasn’t getting in the middle of this particular cat-fight. 

“Ginny is eager to meet you,” I volunteered.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Lily said, fishing the thread of memory from the stone bowl.  “Let me put this back where it belongs.”

Receiving a memory back again was as disorienting as yanking it out in the first place.  My vision blurred for a moment, but after blinking madly for a bit, I was back to normal.

I heard a rustling down the hallway – my bet was that it was Ginny, as I thought we’d be lucky to see Ron before lunchtime.  A minute later I was proved correct – Ginny pushed open the door with one hand, the other arm wrapped around her middle as if she were cold.

“You must be Ginny,” Lily said warmly.

“And you’re Harry’s mum,” Ginny replied warily, a disarming smile on her face.

“Let’s go for a walk, I think we have a lot of things to chat about,” Lily said.

Ginny looked at me pleadingly, before smiling again. 

“Sure, I’d like that,” she said, picking up her cloak before heading outdoors.

I finished cleaning up the kitchen, which mainly amounted to filling the sink with cooking tools and soap, and then prepared breakfast for myself – it didn’t look like anyone would be joining me soon, and I wasn’t polite enough to wait for them.  I was finishing my quickly scrambled egg when I saw a glimpse of something in the hallway.  I grabbed my wand and coffee cup and went to the doorway.  A silvery wolf was pacing the hallway as if trying to figure out which door it wanted to go through.  It sat down and then scratched its ear with its hind leg – correction, her hind leg, if a wolf-shaped messenger Patronus can be said to have gender at all.

“Professor Lupin, there’s a Patronus here, looking for you,” I called, not particularly caring if I woke Ron with the noise.

“I’ll be right up, Hermione,” he called.

I moved into the sunroom, followed by the silvery she-wolf.  Although I’d seen a number of patroni, I still find the messengers fascinating.  Lupin came thundering up the stairs and entered the sunroom beside me.  The wolf stopped pacing and stood, looking at both of us before speaking in a familiar voice.

“Wotcher, Remus.  It seems we nabbed an old school-chum of yours and we’re trying to keep him away from the other players.  Can we Portkey a package to you?” Tonks voice asked through the mouth of the wolf.

Lupin looked to me – I nodded – the rest of the Order didn’t know where we were, and I intended to keep it that way, but I thought we could trust Tonks.

The wolf circled twice and disappeared.

~+~

The school chum – whoever he or she might be – was wrapped up like a mummy when a Portkey deposited the neatly wrapped package in the sunroom.  Lupin hustled the package into our last remaining bedroom before commandeering the kitchen to prepare what I recognized as a healing poultice.  Tonks arrived by Portkey as the poultice came to a boil, standing on tip-toe to kiss her husband before greeting me with a “Wotcher, Hermione.”  With that marvellous sense of timing he’s famous for, Ron padded into the kitchen.

Ron appreciated the breakfast I’d made – it was, after all, prepared, hot, and plentiful. 

“Oi! Tonks!” Ron called as Tonks walked out of the kitchen. 

She stuck her head into the kitchen, crossing her eyes before turning her nose into a prehensile snout.  “Yeeessss?” she said in a goofy fashion.

“So, who did you bag today?” Ron asked.

“What makes you think that I bagged anyone or anything today, Ronald?” Tonks asked, shrinking the nose back into her face before turning the left side of her face into a credible replica of Ron’s Aunt Muriel.

“Oh, I dunno,” Ron replied.  “The fact that you’re playful, the fact that you’re here at all, the fact that you Portkeyed into our bolthole while my beautiful and brilliant girlfriend was fixing breakfast, you know, that sort of thing.”

“Is she still brilliant and beautiful on the mornings she doesn’t fix breakfast?” Tonks asked.

Ron pondered that.  “Yeah, pretty much,” he replied.  “But on the mornings that I make breakfast, she’s fiendishly brave, too.”

“She’d have to be, to eat anything that you’d prepared,” Tonks quipped.

She then walked away without ever answering Ron’s question. 

Smart girl, that Tonks.

“Where’s Ginny?” Ron asked.

I replied that she was out walking the grounds with Lily.

“Wouldn’t you like to hear that conversation?” he asked.

I could feel my face warming a bit.  “I’m not that much of an eavesdropper, Ron, and besides, you’re going to get yours soon,” I replied.

“Whatcha mean?” he asked.

“Sooner or later, after all of this is over, you’re going to need to meet my parents,” I said sweetly, savouring the brief look of panic that crossed his face.

Then I kept him busy, thinking about something else. 

~+~

Ginny came back from her walk with a very smug smile on her face – both women (for I now thought of Lily-in-Harry as such, notwithstanding the fact that her femininity was rather ephemeral) having the bright red cheeks that come from walking in the winter wind.

Tonks and Lupin were in the parlour opposite the kitchen.  (It made things too confusing to think of them as ‘Lupin and Lupin.’) They looked at each other before Mr. Lupin pushed up off from the couch and then bent down to whisper something into Lily’s ear.  Lily looked surprised, and then whispered back to Lupin.  It quickly became a very animated discussion.

“I don’t agree, RJ,” she said before turning to me.  “Hermione, we’re going to be interrogating a prisoner today.  Mister Lupin wants you to be off the premises while we do it.”

“What, you going to torture him or something?” I asked.

“Or something,” Lily replied.

“Who’s the prisoner?” I asked.

“Severus Snape,” Tonks replied, getting up from the couch.

~+~

As much as I resented being shunted out of things, yet again, by the Order, I made myself busy in the cellar, rebuilding Mark III of the Horcrux smasher.  Ron provided a useful second pair of hands, and Ginny asked questions throughout.  After the “adults” had been at it for a half hour upstairs, Tonks came into the cellar to borrow a canister of MAPP gas and a torch head.  Ron  held his tongue until Tonks left the stairwell.

“They’re not going to burn him, are they?” he asked, his eyes wide.

“I don’t think they need the torch for warming their tea cups,” Ginny responded drolly.

I didn’t say anything for a long while, concentrating on bolting two pieces of angle iron together.  On the one hand, Severus Snape was a despicable, disgusting excuse for a human being; while on the other hand, I found the notion of our side stooping to torture to be equally despicable and disgusting.

“Ron, please hand me the 7/16 spanner,” I said, hoping that my internal struggles weren’t showing on my face.

~+~

We finished building the Horcrux smasher in time for lunch – and once we tumbled out of the cellar, there was no sign of Tonks, Lupin or Snape.  We didn’t hear any screams, bloodcurdling or otherwise, and there weren’t any strange smells in the house, but when we went up to the hallway outside of the guest room, we all sensed the dead zone caused by multiple silencing charms.  I shrugged and turned around, deciding that I wasn’t going to get any answers until after the “adults” made an appearance, and maybe not even then.

~+~

Tonks and Lupin made an appearance as we were drying the dishes from lunch.  Tonks pulled leftovers  from the refrigerator, while Lupin made tea.

The Weasleys weren’t being any help, so I broke the ice.

“Where’s Lily?”

Remus pulled a face and then smiled.  “She wasn’t hungry – or so she said.”

“Can I have my MAPP torch back?” I asked.

Tonks looked at me quizzically and then with a flash of understanding.  “Is that what that yellow can is called?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I replied.  “Plumbers like it because it gives a much hotter flame than propane.”

“Didja read a book on plumbing, Hermione?” Ron asked.

“Actually, no, Ron.  I used to help Da at the surgery, everything from going over the books to fixing the pipes after they froze.  Da couldn’t get a particular joint to solder correctly until he switched from propane to MAPP,” I said, giving Ginny a wink.

Tonks gave me an appraising look, and then said, “it’s still full.”

“You could use it all, I’ve got another,” I said, trying to stifle the queasy feeling in my stomach.

“It was a prop, Hermione,” Lupin said gravely.  “We had to convince Severus that we were deathly serious.”

“Did it work?” Ginny asked.

“He sang like a nightingale,” Tonks replied.  “Whether any of it is more than tosh and rubbish will take some checking, but if he was telling the truth, we may be able to ambush a Death Eater meeting two days from now.”

Lily took that moment to make an appearance through the back door.  Her cheeks and ears were flushed with the red and white colours a body gets when going out in the cold and wind without protection.  Lupin handed her a mug of tea, which she cradled in her hands appreciatively.

“It all checks out, RJ,” she finally said, looking first at Lupin and then Tonks.  “We’ve got a bit more than 36 hours to set everything up.”

“Another operation?” Ginny asked.

“Two days from now, it may all be over,” Lily said.

“You’re not going, are you?” Ginny asked.

“Sorry, dear, but I have to,” Lily replied.  “I was there when it began; I have to be there when it ends.”

She then pulled out a pad of paper and began writing furiously.  She filled out sheets and sheets of paper with her slender, slanted script.

My sheet of paper was a shopping list – it appeared that I was going out to the ironmongers again.  

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Copyright 2009 – J Cornell – all rights reserved.

Kokopelli20878@yahoo.com


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Author Notes:

No, I'm not dead  yet - this is probably the last HP story that I'm going to finish.   Thanks, as always, to Runsamok for betawork.