Harry groaned and turned over in his comfortable bed, trying to shake the dreams that had been plaguing him all night. “No…” he murmured as he pulled the large quilt over his head and accidentally uncovering his feet.
A low, growling voice spoke next. “Ungrateful master doesn’t care if Kreacher has been digging in rubbish bins for weeks, nor that we’ve found what he wanted.”
Sitting bolt upright and squinting through the mid-September sun, Harry saw two small house elves waiting for him at the side of his bed. Sure enough, Dobby had a banana peel hanging from one ear and a bit of gum stuck to his shirt. Trying to fight away the last vestiges of sleep, Harry spoke, “You’re back.”
Dobby nodded his head and the peel slipped from his ear to the floor with a soft thump. “Yes, Harry Potter, sir, and we’ve found it!” He held up his hand and the huge locket trailed down from his fingers.
Kreacher glared defiantly up at Harry. “Dug through filth and-”
“All right!” Harry held up a hand to end his tirade. “I get the point and thanks for finding it for me.” He took the locket and felt the weight of it settle on him. It wasn’t a particularly heavy necklace, but the markings on it were just as Harry remembered them from the pensive. If only they had kept it the first time… instead of throwing it out while they were cleaning up Grimmauld Place.
“What does Harry Potter want us to do now?” Dobby asked excitedly as he hopped happily from one foot to the other.
Harry grinned and shook his head. “You two have earned a rest. Go back to Grimmauld Place, clean yourselves up and get something to eat. I expect that we’ll be there either tonight or tomorrow. Kreacher, wait for me there.”
“Yes, sir!” Dobby popped out a second before an obviously perturbed Kreacher did the same.
Harry held the locket in his hand and examined the distinctive “S” that was Slytherin’s trademark. “So… did Regulus actually get rid of the soul or is it still in here?” He didn’t know but from R.A.B.’s note in the locket, he thought it might be. Harry’s instincts, however, were not so sure. Standing slowly, Harry felt the cold bite of the hardwood floor on his bare feet as he stretched up. He went to his bag and dug out the other locket before throwing on a pair of jeans and pocketing both of them.
He opened his door and padded downstairs, avoiding one of the noisier steps. His thoughts were completely consumed with all of the research that they had done over the past few days since the attack at Hogsmeade. They hadn’t found anything to indicate that there was another relic from Gryffindor, besides the sword, and there was no hint about Ravenclaw anywhere. Of all of the founders, Rowena Ravenclaw was the most mysterious of them. Her life, both before and after Hogwarts, was a large blank.
The Quibbler, along with the Daily Prophet, had provided a wealth of information about Voldemort’s past activities. They had compiled a rough estimate of deaths that were probably linked directly to him. The most prominent were Susan Bones’ grandparents. If a Horcrux was made then, however, they didn’t know what it would be.
On the bottom step he stubbed his toe on a shoe and swore loudly, receiving a reproving shout from Mrs. Weasley. He walked in and smiled sheepishly before apologizing. “That’s all right, dear. Sit for some breakfast.” He sat awkwardly after having to favor his throbbing toe, and dug into the filled plate that she set before him. “So what are you up to today?”
Harry swallowed hastily, choked, and coughed when she slapped him on the back. “Uh…” his eyes were watering. “We’re probably heading out today.”
To her credit, she didn’t immediately begin crying or reproving him. His surprise must have shown on his face because the Weasley matron smiled kindly and explained. “When the three of you decided to live with the Muggles, we knew that something was going on and although I don’t like it, I have to respect it. You were with Dumbledore when he died, Harry. That can’t be coincidence. You are doing something important, something that Dumbledore was doing.” She reached up to cup his chin affectionately as tears pooled in her eyes. “I may not like it and I may not completely understand… but you have always been special and I’m trying to accept that I can’t coddle you any longer.”
Harry tried to speak, but the words stuck in his throat. Instead he nodded and she went back to fixing breakfast. Ron and Hermione came down to join him eventually; he listened to them bicker a bit while they ate.
“I still think that they should have at least-” Ron began, but shut his mouth when Hermione shot him a warning glance. Ron shoved a piece of toast in his mouth and kept quiet.
Harry had completely lost the thread of the conversation. He had been so engrossed with thinking about the object in his pocket that he had just let their diatribe melt over him, not taking a word in. Harry had other things to figure out today, and his best friends’ relationship wasn’t one of them. Unfortunately, for that he was going to need Hermione’s brilliance and to be out of Mrs. Weasley’s kitchen. “I think we should head out today.” He kept his tone matter-of-fact and Mrs. Weasley pretended to be clearing the table, and not listening to them.
Ron studied him for a long moment. “Right. Well… I’ll just go pack.”
“Me too,” Hermione agreed as they both stood.
Mrs. Weasley cleared her throat and all three of them froze. “If you give me half an hour, I’ll have a hamper made up for you. It should last a few days.”
Ron grinned and marched over to his mother, kissing her cheek. “Thanks, Mum.”
They packed quickly and were downstairs in the requisite thirty minutes to pick up a large, very heavy, hamper from Ron’s mother. “We’ll be in touch,” Harry promised quickly as she pulled his head down to her level and planted a kiss on his cheek.
“I know and… be safe, dear,” Mrs. Weasley bit at her lip, the lines around her eyes deepening and Harry was shocked to realize that a few gray hairs were beginning to poke through her red hair.
He met her gaze and said firmly, “We’ll be as safe as we can be.”
She hugged him tightly to her and whispered, “That’s all I can ask, then.”
After giving each of them another hug they went to the fireplace and got out a pinch of floo powder. “Number 12, Grimmauld Place.” The flames turned green and Harry walked in, feeling the flames licking pleasantly at him. Here goes nothing.
He arrived in the kitchen and found that Remus was sitting at the kitchen table with Dobby, both drinking a steaming mug of hot chocolate. The kitchen was decidedly chilly, but not because of the occupants. Both of them smiled warmly at him.
“I shall go sleep now,” Dobby told him as Harry noted the bags underneath his eyes as he wobbled out of the room.
“I told him he could sleep in one of the spare rooms upstairs,” Remus informed him as Ron and Hermione came through the fire.
“Good,” Harry replied and sat down as Ron set the bulging hamper on the table. “Listen, Remus, I’m glad you’re here. I have some questions about my mum.”
If this surprised Remus, he didn’t show it. “Fire away, Harry.”
So Harry explained to him what he had relived when he was with the Dementors. “What do you think it could mean?”
Remus sat in silence for nearly five minutes before shaking his head. “I don’t know. Your mum was a great witch but I can’t see why he would be excited about any symbolism connected to her.” He glanced shrewdly between them but they didn’t explain further. Their silence was very telling. “Right, well if that’s the case then I’m afraid I can’t help you. I don’t know what you are referring to and I can’t think of anything that would have made your mother stand out besides her brilliance at magic.”
Hermione gasped as they all spun around to look at her. “I think I-” she stopped mid-sentence and closed her eyes. “I need to look through the drawing room and maybe at all of the books that remain in Sirius’ room.”
“Speaking of which, Kreacher brought back a bunch of things from a junk yard that must have once been here.” Remus’ eyes were amused. “He tried to hide them in his room but they wouldn’t fit. I told him to put the things in the library upstairs, but he didn’t seem to hear me.” Rather than looking put out, Remus seemed pleased. “So you might find some of the books that you are looking for in there,” he pointed over towards the door that led to Kreacher’s lair and Hermione was hopping to her feet.
“Thanks Remus,” she told him as she sprinted over to the door and went inside, nearly tripping on a pile of junk. “Oh dear.”
“We’re going to go upstairs, Hermione. I’ll see you in a bit,” Harry told her as she nodded vaguely. He and Ron went to the kitchen door while Remus offered to help sort through the pile. Kreacher came out to protest, but Harry glared at him and told him that they could have whatever they wanted and he wasn’t to hide anything from them. The little house elf’s face went purple but his orders were clear.
Harry and Ron exited the kitchen, crept silently past the portrait of Mrs. Black, and went up the stairs as Harry pulled both necklaces from his pocket. Harry handed them to Ron as he whispered, “Yeah, I thought that they’d found them and that’s why we were coming back here. I couldn’t believe Mum didn’t go ballistic on us, though. She’s been on edge since that last attack.”
“We… had a talk this morning, before you came down.” Harry wouldn’t meet his eyes and Ron didn’t press the issue as they entered the drawing room. Harry took the lockets and placed them on the table. Taking the hand written note from the one, he opened it and placed it next to the others. “Now the question is, did Regulus actually destroy the Horcrux?”
Ron snorted. “I’m more than a little amazed that he is the one who took it. I mean, Regulus was a Death Eater.”
“Yeah, but he decided to back out,” Harry reminded him. “His note indicated as much.”
Ron shrugged and picked up the locket. “All I know is that Sirius didn’t think much of his brother and that it didn’t surprise him that Vol-Voldemort had killed him.”
Harry smiled to himself at Ron’s use of the name but didn’t say anything. “What I can’t believe is that the same man that Sirius looked down upon was able to get through the enchantments in the cave alive. It nearly killed Dumbledore.” The ache that had been living in his chest for several months gave a painful jolt but subsided quickly.
Ron’s eyes widened at the same time as Harry’s. They had stumbled upon the real mystery to this particular Horcrux. “If he had been the weak, stupid person that Sirius thought he was…” Harry began.
Ron picked up his train of thought. “Then he wouldn’t have ever figured out what Voldemort was up to and he wouldn’t have been able to steal the Horcrux and make it out alive. Which would mean that he probably wasn’t killed by the Death Eaters for deserting.”
“Well damn!” Harry burst out as he stomped across the room, more than a little frustrated, although he couldn’t pin down exactly why.
“Your language is getting worse everyday,” Hermione said primly as she entered the door, carrying an armful of books. “Honestly, you two! What’s so bad that you…” her voice trailed off at the look on Harry’s face. “Uh oh. What happened now?”
“Sirius’ brother wasn’t smart enough to steal the Horcrux,” Harry told her.
Her expression was puzzled as she set down the books. “Well, of course he was! I knew practically from the beginning that Sirius must have been biased about him. I mean, if he got past an enchantment that nearly killed Dumbledore then-”
“No!” Ron stopped her. “This means that Voldemort probably killed him! If he was that smart then it would have taken more than just the Death Eaters to get him.”
Hermione’s eyes moved between them. “I still don’t see why you’re upset.”
“If Voldemort killed him then he probably knew that Regulus had found the Horcrux!” Harry bit out, frustrated. How could she not see this!?
Her mouth formed a perfect O and then she smiled reassuringly. “No, I don’t think he would have. You see if he had found out about the Horcruxes being discovered, Voldemort would have moved them.”
Harry and Ron froze before blushing furiously. “Well why don’t you share these things with us, then!” Ron groaned as he slumped onto a dusty couch. “I feel like a right idiot, you know that don’t you?”
Hermione sat down gingerly next to him. “There’s no need to worry about it. I read about Regulus’ death in an old Daily Prophet article nearly a week ago and from the way that he died, I didn’t really believe it was Death Eaters. He was found at his home, but there was no dark mark above him. However, he was burned badly.” She looked at Harry who was resting back against one of the cabinets. “I think he died while trying to destroy the Horcrux. They were never able to determine the cause of death.”
“Then why was the Horcrux here and not at his house?” Ron asked before saying, “I am assuming that he didn’t live here, right?”
“Right,” Hermione answered. “I do believe that Mrs. Black had Kreacher move everything out of the house and back here, but she didn’t examine it. I asked Kreacher about it, just now while Remus was using the loo, and he pretended not to hear me but from the startled look in his eyes, I would bet anything that I am right.”
All three of them slowly shifted their gazes to the locket, staring at it nervously. This was not going to be easy.
Three hours later they had been shocked, received minor burns and Ron was thrown across the room by a powerful jolt from the unassuming locket. At the thud on the floor and Hermione’s scream, Remus came running into the room, wand drawn.
In the end, they had to give him an abbreviated version of what they were trying to do.
“We have to open it…” Hermione looked surreptitiously between Harry and Ron. “At least… well I think we have to open it, and it doesn’t want to be opened, but we if we can’t open it then we need to destroy it.” She fidgeted nervously, twisting her hands in her lap.
Harry shook his head and sighed. Hermione was a truly horrible liar when her life wasn’t in danger. “We just don’t know how to destroy it.”
Remus frowned and sat heavily on the couch next to Hermione. After running his hand through his graying hair, he finally spoke. “I don’t know what you are doing and even worse, I doubt that I really want to know.” His eyes were shadowed when he spoke his next words. “I also know that I can’t help you. You will need someone who is trained to open dark and dangerous objects… and you need to be able to trust that person implicitly.”
Ron pushed off from the table he had been leaning on and looked gobsmacked. “Oh course! Why didn’t I think of him before?”
“Who?” Hermione asked instantly.
“Bill!” Ron told her and looked to Harry.
It made sense. The eldest of Ron’s brothers was a curse breaker and from all that they’d heard from Mr. Weasley, he was damn good at his job. Harry nodded once to Ron and his best mate left the room calling out that he would ask Bill to visit alone when he had a chance.
“I think that is a wise idea,” Remus assured him as he stood and placed a calming hand on Harry’s shoulder. “Now… I am going to practice my Occlumency and try to forget what I have learned today.” He gave Harry a small, tight smile. “After having been friends with James and Sirius, I have had a lot of experience with that.” Harry was only slightly amazed that his father’s old friend knew Occlumency but he was thankful.
With that, Remus left the room, closing the door softly. Seconds later, however, Ron was opening the door and carrying a note with him as he slammed the door shut. His face was purple and his posture rigid. “This just came!” He shouted and threw the balled up paper to Harry who caught it deftly.
Harry smoothed the paper out as Hermione glanced over his shoulder to read. It was a short missive from Luna.
I just learned from your sister that she is staying with Theodore Nott. I have learned this from her as she wrote to me to tell me she was safe and that she wasn’t going to speak to her family again. Could she be infested by Gullywomps because it did not really sound like her. Anyway, I thought you would want to know, as everyone has been worried about her safety.
For a moment Harry saw red. Ruddy Nott!? How could she move in with Theodore, my dad’s a Death Eater, Nott!?!
Then Hermione’s voice interrupted his mental tirade, along with his and Ron’s silent plans to kill Nott, when she said, “OH! Well that makes sense!”
Both boys gaped at her stupidly. “How can this make any sense?!”
Hermione shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Why would Ginny move in with that berk?”
“He’s got her under the Imperius Curse!” Ron said with horror.
Harry was thinking the same thing but Hermione simply glared at him. “Do you honestly think that your sister wouldn’t be able to break that curse? She’s got more determination in her than Fred and George combined. Not to mention she knows what possession feels like and she knows how to fight it.” Rolling her eyes, she marched to the door. “If it was a struggle for Voldemort to possess Ginny, then Theodore Nott, who is an idiot by the way, has no chance. When you two have gotten over being thick over everything, I think you will agree.”
With that, she slammed the door and left a ringing silence behind her.
They maintained it for nearly a minute before Ron said, “Let’s kill him anyway… for the principle of it.”
Harry nodded, feeling more hatred for the bloody git than he had in a long time. What the hell was Ginny doing, living with that wanker? “Agreed. Do we hunt him down or wait for a chance encounter?”
“NEITHER!” Hermione shouted from behind the door before throwing it open to glare at them. “If you do anything you will get Ginny killed! Leave it alone!”
“But Hermione-” Ron began but she cut him off with a sharp glare.
“No Ron! Listen carefully to me.” Her eyes were almost manic now. “Ginny is not stupid and you’re the one who said we should trust her. Leave it alone and let her do whatever it is she has set out to do. She’s done the same for us and the least we can do is not get her killed for her effort!”
“But-” this time she cut Harry off before he could say more than that one word.
Then with another slam of the door, the conversation was ended.
Write a Review Harry Potter and the Final Flame: Chapter 13: The Locket's Secret