Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, or anything or anyone from his world, they belong to JKR. All I own is my plot.
Brilliant Pic by Cat Lover
Beware so long as you live, of judging people by appearances.
Chapter Twenty-Three: Dumbledore's
It seemed to take forever for them to finish the memories. Harry paced up and down the room nervously. He didn't know what they would think after they saw those memories for themselves; would Neville be angry that Harry hadn't told him about the prophecy? Would Ginny look at him differently? Would Ron still want to help him? He just didn't know.
Before the others had emerged from the pensieve, Harry slipped another memory in with the others, a duplicate of his memory of the failed retreating of the locket. He didn't feel like being interrogated about it again, and the memory was pretty much self-explanatory.
Hermione was the first to resurface, she was as pale as a sheet, and without hesitation she pulled him into a big hug. Ron gave Harry's shoulder a supportive squeeze. While Neville looked like he was trying to process everything he just learned, and Luna looked even more surprised then usual. Ginny on the other hand had a look of pure determination etched on her face.
"This is one bad mess," Neville said frowning "where in Merlin's name do we start?"
"I managed to get the locket, but I've got no idea how to destroy it," Harry said irritably.
"By viewing how I destroyed the ring," Dumbledore's portrait said somberly.
As if this was his queue, Dobby snapped his figures and each memory returned to it's vile, and the new memory filled the pensive. Knowing that the others would be uneasy about re-entering the pensive, Harry stepped forward and touched the memory.
He immediately found himself in the familiar ruins of the Guants home. Dumbledore was examining the house with great interest, his hand still undamaged. The others entered the memory just in time to watch Dumbledore make a cut in his own hand so as to pass an invisible barrier.
"As if that wasn't bad enough the first time," Hermione muttered under her breath.
Dumbledore led them into the Guants home, it was just as filthy as ever, but there was a new addition to the room; a pit in the middle of the floor, filled with a roaring green fire.
They watched closely as Dumbledore circled the pit, holding his wand high, as though ready to strike at any moment.
"Ever lasting fire; Godric's element guarding Salazar's ring," Dumbledore murmured quietly to himself "He's modified it to serve his purpose, of course. The ring should have melted, interesting, very interesting."
"That doesn't fit," Hermione echoed quietly watching Dumbledore earnestly. "Voldemort hates anything to do with Gryffindor, why would he have the Gryffindor element guarding the Slytherin locket? And in the house of Slytherin' last decedents, this doesn't fit at all."
Harry moved closer to Dumbledore, he looked at the fire from his angle, and he noticed a shape hidden beneath the flames, it wasn't the ring, as it was rectangular in shape.
"Still as crude as ever Tom," Dumbledore said almost pityingly "Fawks!"
With a flash of fire that made them all jump, the phoenix appeared inside the shack. It was full grown and in the height of his beauty, yet there was a blood red slash on its wing, as though it too had to give a sacrifice to enter the house. The Phoenix let a few tears fall on his own wound, and it vanished instantly. Dumbledore stroked him silently, as though comforting him.
"Alas there is no other way, my friend, sacrifices must be made." Dumbledore said sadly rolling up his sleeve. The phoenix gave a small squawk of protest. "None of that now, you know what to do,"
He cast a silent spell over his wand arm, and without warning, he plunged his wand arm into the roaring fire, and he let out a moan of pain. Yet he persistently removed the rectangular box, Fawks swooped down on his injured hand and let a few choice tears fall, but the hand did not mend, it only seemed to stop the burning from spreading. Dumbledore held onto his wing, the box stuffed in his pocket, and with a flash of fire, Dumbledore and all of them were transported to Hogwarts, the potions dungeon to be precise.
Laying Dumbledore gently on a desk, Fawks disappeared once more and returned with an extremely agitated Snape, who looked like he wanted to complain, but on seeing Dumbledore he ran wordlessly into his storage and returned with a large cauldron filled with an assortment of jars.
"What happened?" Snape asked as he quickly levitated the jars out of the Cauldron, and started a fire.
"Tom..." Dumbledore managed.
Snape examined Dumbledore's hand worriedly "Fiendfyre mixed with another curse, perhaps a poison, I don't know what, and what's this?" Snape asked looking bewildered "He's mixed it with Gubraithian fire!"
"Do…w…what…y…you…Ccan…" Dumbledore murmured weakly .
Snape shut up immediately and started dumping several ingredients in at once, he looked around for something to stir the concoction with, but finding nothing he summoned a nearby broomstick and charmed it to stir by itself. While Snape threw more and more ingredients into the cauldron; turning his storage room upside down, in search of more ingredients. And all of a sudden he stopped.
"I apologize Albus," Snape said quietly, he then plunged a vial into the cauldron, then forcing Dumbledore's mouth open, he poured it all down as Dumbledore let out a faint moan of agony.
The group watched their mouths hanging open. They had, only minutes ago, watched Dumbledore being murdered by Snape. Why on earth was he saving Dumbledore's life? He could have just let Dumbledore die then and there. Voldemort would have won the war in a matter of weeks, and he would have probably given Snape his own continent in reward.
Dumbledore's eyes closed and he seemed to fall instantly asleep. And they were left to watch as Snape worked tirelessly, brewing potion after potion and after what seemed like hours, Dumbledore opened his eyes once more, to find an obviously half asleep Snape on a stool.
"What happened?" Snape demanded as soon as he realized Dumbledore was conscious.
"That is, my friend," Dumbledore said quietly "Irrelevant."
"I've just saved your life and you won't tell me what happened?" Snape asked snarling.
"It's not that I don't trust you Severus, but it's not the time for such a thing," Dumbledore said kindly but firmly. There was an odd look in his eyes, it wasn't exactly sad or angry, but it was accepting. "Now, I'd like to know how long I have left, perhaps over a nice bottle of brandy."
Snape stared and so did they, Dumbledore was talking as though he and Snape were casually discussing the weather not his chances for survival. None of them was sure if Dumbledore was out of his mind or if one of Snape' potions had had a bad side-effect.
"You know I'm right Severus, whatever that poison was it's taken it's toll on an old man, I doubt if Fawks hadn't been with me, I'd never have made it here intact, so tell me how long do I have to live?"
"A year at best," Snape said "Whatever the other poison was, it can't be removed from your system. I've subdued it as best as I can."
"Liar," Harry snarled under his breath. Snape had to be a liar. He had to.
"I see now this fits in quiet nicely," Dumbledore said with a smile, his eyes shown in a way that told them that the wheels in his head were turning. "I assume it will be a painful and less than dignified death?"
"Yes," Snape confirmed slowly. His beetle black eyes weren't as cold or narrowed with dislike as usual; they were wide open, displaying complete and utter inner panic, disputing the calm and steadiness of his voice.
"Then I'm afraid I'll need your assistance Severus," Dumbledore said gravely, and with some enormous effort, the old man forced himself into a sitting position.
"Lie back down, you're not strong enough," Snape advised Dumbledore, but not daring to push him back down.
"I'm fine for the moment Severus," Dumbledore said firmly "But I need you to make me a promise."
"And what would that promise involve?" Snape asked carefully.
"Saving young Draco from what Tom wants him to do. You know as well as I do that Draco is not cutout for Murder, and so does Tom. I need you to do what he can not." Dumbledore said sensibly.
"You can't possibly ask me to do that!" Snape yelled angrily "I can't kill you!"
"I'm already going to die, Severus," Dumbledore said slowly "You might as well be the one to kill me, so you could save Draco, and save your position as spy, besides that way, no one will ever suspect you, and you could provide far more information for The Order,"
"The Order? You are the order!" Snape exclaimed looking angrier than any of them have ever seen him "You're not expendable, the war will go to hell if you die!"
"And this war will go to hell if you die," Dumbledore said calmly "I am already dying; you need not die as well, Severus please
Harry felt like he'd been kicked in the gut, he knew that pleading tone, and then the significance of what he was seeing hit him like a tone of bricks. Dumbledore hadn't been pleading for life, he'd been pleading for death.
"No," Harry said in horror, watching wide eyed as Snape thought it over and said in a half whisper "I'll do it,"
"Thank you Severus," Dumbledore said relieved.
"Once it's done," Snape said quietly, looking to the floor. "No one will trust me, spying will be no good, no one will take any information I have."
"It will be taken care of," Dumbledore said reassuringly "But do I have your word Severus?"
Snape looked up into Dumbledore's face and said slowly in a hateful voice "you have it."
"Good," Dumbledore answered looking at him appraisingly "Now if you excuse me Severus, some arrangements will need to be put into place, I assume you'd like to return to your own home until the start of the school year, Phawks if you would,"
Without a word Snape grabbed hold of the phoenix and they disappeared in a flash of fire. The expression on his face was that of utter misery mingled with hate and disgust, that expression would be imprinted onto their minds for the rest of eternity.
Once they were gone Dumbledore plunged his good hand into his pocket, he pulled out the small metallic box. He tried to open it, but it would not budge, he waved his wand over it repeatedly, but still no result no matter what spell he tried. His brow frowned for a moment, and then he seemed to come to a conclusion.
He placed the box securely next to him, then taking out his wand, he vanished the remaining potion in the Cauldron, just as Phawks returned, in his usual blaze of fire.
"Aguamenti" Dumbledore said pleasantly filling the cauldron with water, and dropping the box carefully into the water. The effect was instantaneous, the box opened and sunk to the depths of the Cauldron, while the ring rose to the surface.
"Of course," Hermione said excitedly.
"What?" Ron asked.
"This is why Voldemort used fire to protect the box," Hermione said as though that cleared everything up.
"Huh?" Ron voiced watching Dumbledore who was examining the ring floating on the water.
"Didn't you think that it was odd that Voldemort would use Gryffindor's element to protect a Slytherine' relic?" Hermione asked.
"His own twisted version of it you mean," Neville said irritably.
"Yes, but that didn't make sense, until now." Hermione explained.
"And it makes sense how?" Ron asked annoyed.
"Because water opens the box, he never thought anyone would guess that Slytherine' element would open the box." Luna explained "Most would guess he'd use water to protect his relics, like in the cave, it would take someone perfectly brilliant to figure it out."
They stared at her dumbstruck, to which Luna just shrugged and said "Well, I am a Ravenclaw, you know."
"It was all just a confusing tactic then," Ron said seeming finally to get a grip over what Luna said.
"Pay attention you lot," Ginny said pointing at Dumbledore.
Dumbledore was now pointing his wand at the Cauldren, and sending what looked like a jet of very hot fire straight at it. The water began boiling dangerously hot. The ring was letting out black smoke. The black stone in the ring broke in two and the shadow of a large dark something left the Horcrux.
"Destroy the container, destroy the soul within," Dumbledore said simply "Now I think I'll have to get some bed rest Phawks, Merlin knows I'm going to have a job of convincing Slughorn to come back next week, I think I might take Harry with me."
And with that, the memory faded, and they returned to the room of requirement. Something about Dumbledore's last comment seemed odd, and it made Harry
wonder if Dumbledore was already considering leaving them this memory.
"Well, that was enlightening, precious stones can only be destroyed by applying heat." Luna said quietly. "Voldemort must have somehow made the ring immune to fire, but by boiling it, the stone broke and the soul was destroyed."
"Yeah, at least we know how to destroy those things now," Ron said attempting a pleasant voice.
"And we know Snape is innocent." Harry said hatefully to Dumbledore's portrait "You ordered him to do it."
"Yes," The portrait said simply, "Now that you know I think you ought to go collect the information he has now, I'm sure it's starting to pile up, now."
"Doesn't anybody else know?" Hermione asked horrified.
"No, this memory was too dangerous to leave to anyone else, you are to be Severus' contacts with the order, you take his information and pass it on, it's a simple enough job, and now there are six of you, I think you'll be able to tackle it."
Harry looked at him venomously, the memory was irrefutable evidence that Snape was innocent of Dumbledore' murder but he was still responsible for his parents death.
still gave my parents to Voldemort on a silver platter," Harry said angrily "How did he
become your spy? How could you
even let him
become your spy?"
The portrait looked sadly at him and said "Ask him, and he will tell you, it's not my place to. But I assure you, that you will understand, everything
Harry felt enraged, but he kept quiet, he had made a promise to his parents to get Voldemort. He needed Snape to achieve that now, but latter, he would pay. No explanation would suffice. A long silence fell over them.
"Dobby," Harry said finally to the elf who was standing at the other end of the room, trying not to intrude.
"Yes, Harry Potter Sir!" Dobby said relieved to have something to do.
"I want to ask you something," Harry knelt down next to the elf so that they had direct eye-contact "If you work for Hogwarts, does that mean that if McGonagall asks you what happened here, do you have to answer?"
"No Harry Potter Sir," Dobby said with a sad smile "Dobby and winky worked for Professor Dumbledore, not Hogwarts, Professor Dumbledore's secrets is safe even in Death!"
"How would you and Winky like to work for me?" Harry asked "We might need your help, and I'll pay you as much as Dumbledore paid you here, Winky as well if you can get her to accept."
Dobby's eyes light up like a Christmas tree, he jumped at him, nearly knocking him down by the force with which he used to hug his knees.
"Dobby is honored, Harry Potter Sir." Dobby said tearfully "Dobby must go tell Winky. Winky be ever so pleased!"
Ron gave Dobby the location of the house and then Dobby rushed excitedly to the kitchen to tell Winky, promising to keep his new allegiance quiet for the moment.
"How do we get in touch with Snape?" Hermione asked the portrait.
"Your first meeting will be today, at the forest where the Quidditch world cup was held, you meet with him at midnight, but for now I think you have work to do." The Portrait explained "I can be of no more help to you; the information I was to deliver has all been delivered, you are on your own now. But I ought to remind you to try the places Voldemort was known to frequent. It is most likely there that you will find the remaining Horcruxes."
They nodded, the portrait smiled and said "Good Luck" Then it vanished abruptly on the spot leaving them in an empty room.
"There's no going back to the house now," Harry said firmly "I suggest we finish the locket here, there's nowhere safer to do it."
"I think you're right Harry," Ron said thoughtfully, and no sooner had he said so had a table appeared in the center of the room.
Harry put his hand in his pocket and extracted the locket, when he was at home it was always locked securely in a cleverly devised hidden compartment Hermione had made. But today he had stowed it, safely, in his pocket. He stared at the thing, wondering how such a little object could become such a black hole of despair, he felt like a dead weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"Let's get started, shall we?" Hermione asked timidly.
"So how do we destroy the container?" Neville asked.
"It's a locket, we have to break it in two, the soul has to be inside," Ginny said simply. "Remember at Grimmauld place the thing wouldn't open?"
They sent as many smashing and opening jinxes they could think of at it, but nothing came to them until Harry had an idea. He tried to open it in Parseltounge, but it wouldn't budge. It must have been hours, and they had tried every curse jinx and spell they could recall. They had grown so tired that they had requested sofas and armchairs from the room.
Harry was sprawled on a Sofa by himself, while Ron and Ginny sat on a two-seater going over what spells they had tried. Hermione had requested several books from the room and was sitting on a beanbag chair, her books opened on all sides, and she examined them all with all the concentration she could muster. Luna was sitting on a blue arm chair curled up with a book Hermione had asked her to read. Neville on the other hand was the only one on his feet, and was pacing the room relentlessly.
"Harry what exactly did you ask it to do when you spoke to it in Parseltounge?" Hermione asked for the fifth time.
"For the last bloody time Hermione," Harry said "I told it to open up."
"What if you said something else to it in Parseltounge Harry?" Neville asked.
"It won't exactly open if he told it to pretty please open up so we can destroy it," Ron said scathingly.
"What did you have in mind Neville?" Harry asked.
"Well from what I can understand this locket belonged to Slytherin not Voldemort, so opening it wouldn't just require saying "Open up" like the chamber of secrets, Slytherin would have given it a password." Neville said thoughtfully.
"But that could be anything," Hermione said her voice panicky. She clearly wasn't taking well to the stress of their job.
"No it would have to be something simple, so that his heirs could figure it out for themselves." Luna said calmly getting out of her chair and helping Hermione into it "Besides, Slytherin was too arrogant to think that a priceless family heirloom could belong to someone outside his family."
Harry got up, and they all got to their feet once more, and slowly they started giving Harry words to try out, nothing seemed to work and they were just about ready to give up once more but Ginny put her foot down.
"We're here we might as well keep trying!" Ginny said heatedly. "Now think what haven't we tried yet?"
"The simplest one there is "Pureblood"" Neville pointed out.
"It can't be that, anybody could figure it out." Hermione dismissed.
"Worth a shot," Ron said tiredly.
Harry focused all his energy on visualizing a large slimy green serpent where the locket was.
"Pureblood" Harry hissed in Parseltounge.
The locket to their extreme shock began to hiss and send out black fumes, as they had with the ring, it opened and an evil scream escaped from it. They scrambled for their wands, sending spell after spell at the black mass, but it wasn't working, it was obviously immune to their spells.
They were all attacking the locket, whose fumes were starting to take shape, and they didn't doubt that what happened to the diary would happen with the locket if they didn't hurry.
Out of nowhere Neville charged forward into the black smoke with something heavy in his hand. There was a loud "Bang" and the smoke began to thin. Revealing a victorious Neville standing next to the remains of the table with a victorious grin plastered on his face.
Ginny looked at him dumbstruck and asked "What the hell did you do?"
Neville pointed to a hammer on the floor next to the locket which was smashed and broken in two revealing a miniature of Slytherin himself on one half and a woman who must have been his wife on the other. Neville grinned at their looks of disbelief and said "I smashed it, and then I pried the two halves apart, simple."
Ron went up to Neville and gave him a big pat on the back. "Mate, you're a bloody genius!"
They all laughed and before they knew it, they were all tangled together in a group hug gone badly.
"Guys I hat to break up the fun, but we've got to go meet Snape." Harry said trying to break free from the hug.
"You just had to kill the mood," Ginny said giving him a light punch in the arm.
They untangled themselves, though the thought of Snape had dampened the mood, they still couldn't help but feel good about jumping one more hurdle, only three more to go, but then there was only the hardest and most difficult task of all if they wanted to complete Dumbledore's Leagcy.
A/N: I know in need of some fixing up. I'm working on it, the next chapter will be submitted Wensday after next. If you want to help me fix this mess, please give me some Constructive Criticism.