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Hello, Stranger by xxSorcereSSxx
Chapter 17 : Chapter 17: Discovery
 
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A/N
While reading this chapter, be sure to remember everything in books 1-6 is valid here, but not book 7. Because the Horcruxes were made before book 7 they exist in my story.
I want to say thank you to some of my faithful reviewers: dobbysgirl, Tigermusic, rowenaravenclaw94, and other various fabulous HPFF comrades.

Within a week, a plan had been agreed upon. They would spend some time doing research on Tom Riddle’s life, as Dumbledore had done, then they would go in search of the Horcruxes when they thought they had found as much of a lead as they could muster. Hermione thought that one of the best places to start was, in fact, the Black library. When Ron asked what in the name of Merlin’s saggy left buttock would the library be able to tell them about Riddle, Hermione pointed out that many aspects of Voldemort’s life and the reasons for some of his actions could be recorded as historical events. For example, his ancestry would most definitely be recorded, as he was descended from Salazar Slytherin. And the Blacks were Pureblood maniacs; they would surely have some genealogy records. Anything to do with Salazar Slytherin could very well have something to do with Voldemort.

So, they began their search. Hermione instructed the crew to search for books on genealogy, Hogwarts, and wizarding history. After the Black library had been perused, they would of to look for sources of information outside of Grimmauld Place… something that hung ominously over their heads as they pulled book after book off of the shelves, flipping through each looking for pointers on Tom Riddle, his inspirations, and his aspirations.

Hermione started in the history section, while Harry and Malfoy flipped through the Blacks’ numerous genealogy books and Ron searched for books on Hogwarts.

About half an hour later, none of them had had any sudden revelations or hints as to Tom Riddle’s past. As the grandfather clock in the foyer chimed midnight, Harry firmly suggested that it was time for bed. Hermione dragged an armful of books up to her room to peruse until she grew sleepy.

Malfoy stayed back a minute to finish combing through Black Genealogies: a Cornerstone in Pure Bloodlines. He was just starting to skim through one of the more recent family trees when he came across a ragged fragment of parchment that was covered in neatly lettered writing. Curious, Malfoy pulled it out and smoothed some of the creases that had been made by being folded up in the heavy volume. A name was printed at the top: Regulus Arcturus Black.

The rest of the parchment read:

If you are reading this, you are doubtless trying to defeat the Dark Lord… or cover up the path I left behind to defeat him. If the latter, I wish an untimely end upon you and all others who claim that they can defeat death. I hope that the Order of the Phoenix may discover this before the Dark Lord or his followers.

What you need to know to defeat Tom Marvolo Riddle exists partially in the pages of this text. Read here, and you may be able to solve the Riddle. I dare not disclose too much information for fear that a Death Eater may be trying to cover my tracks. I have discovered Tom Riddle’s secrets.

* * *

At the kitchen table, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were standing over Malfoy’s shoulder, looking over the note from Regulus. Harry plunked down in a seat next to Malfoy. Hermione continued to mouth the words of the letter to herself, while Ron gripped the top of a chair tightly.

“R.A.B,” croaked Harry suddenly. Three pairs of still-stunned eyes followed him as he raced to his room, opened his trunk, and brought the locket and note inside it downstairs to the kitchen.

Hermione slapped her forehead loudly, making Ron jump. “It was Regulus!” She gasped. “Oh, he’s left behind a trail of clues to help us find out how to kill Voldemort- oh, sorry, Malfoy.”

Malfoy rubbed his left shoulder. “Continue.”

Hermione took a seat also, then stood up again and began to pace around the table. “So Regulus is a Death Eater, right? And he was killed for deserting Vol- Riddle. He’s left us the answer, but it’s going to be difficult to figure out because he didn’t want the Death Eaters to find it. But why did he leave one of the clues in that book?” She hefted Black Genealogies: a Cornerstone of Pure Bloodlines and examined the page that was marked by Regulus’ note. “What made him think we would find it there?”

“But Hermione,” Harry cut in suddenly, “The secret that Regulus is talking about is the making of his Horcruxes. And we already know all about that, so what’s the point of going on a wild goose chase for these clues?”

“Look Harry.” Hermione put the note from the locket and the letter of the book side by side. “In the note from the locket, he says, I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. But here,” she said, indicating the letter, “he says, I have discovered Tom Riddle’s secrets; secrets in the plural.”

“How d’you know that he wasn’t talking about the multiple Horcruxes?” Asked Malfoy.

“Because,” said Hermione impatiently, waving both of Regulus’ writings in the air, “he says, your secret, singular, in the locket note. And the locket was or is a Horcrux, depending on if he destroyed it or not. He says secrets, plural, in this letter, so he’s talking about several different secrets. Two different categories of secrets. Do you see what I mean?”

“Okay, so say you’re right,” said Malfoy. “What I want to know is, what was his clue to finding this book in particular? There are hundreds of genealogy books in that library.”

Hermione picked the book up again. “It has to be something obvious, something that an Order member would be able to identify it by out of those thousands of books. It has to be the color of it, or the title.”

“Black Genealogies: a Cornerstone of Pure Bloodlines…” Hermione studied the front of the book. “Keywords are cornerstone, and pure bloodlines….” Suddenly, she stopped pacing. A vacant expression passed over Hermione’s face, and disappeared a moment later. She suddenly rushed off up the stairs.

Malfoy raised a brow quizzically at Harry, who said, “I think she’s found it out… that’s how she gets.”

The three boys made their way up the stairs, calling Hermione’s name. They found her in the room where the Black family tree was displayed on the walls, all of the names a dark green color, as if sprouting from the tree. She was hurrying about the corners of the room, looking for something.

“Hermione?” Called Ron, sounding a bit concerned.

“Help me find some sort of cornerstone,” she ordered.

“Hermione, cornerstones are always on the outside of a house, you know…”

“Yes, I know,” she snapped. “But what if means corner stone, literally? Aha!”

“What is it?” said Malfoy.

“Help me… lift up this plank…” said Hermione, grunting in an effort to lift up a loose floorboard.

Malfoy, who was closest, pulled the plank loose and studied it while Hermione reached into the hole that was left behind. “Why this plank, Granger?”

Hermione pointed to the top of the wall. “See that it says Black Genealogy, right there? And the paint from the ‘y’ from Genealogy dripped down the wall… some of it is on that plank of wood. See, it looks like a little black stone.”

There was indeed a small lump of thick black paint on the edge of the plank where wood met wall. It almost looked like a rock because it was so large and irregularly shaped.

Hermione flourished a scrap of parchment and began to read it aloud.

“I am Regulus Arcturus Black. I am the only one who knows the Dark Lord’s secret, and his weakness. He will indeed defy death if they are not found out and destroyed. I cannot reveal them yet… see the Cornerstone.”

Hermione handed the parchment off to Harry and studied the wall. “See look, there’s where the Black line and the Gaunt line connect…” she pointed to a couple on the wall; Frieda Black and Xerxes Gaunt, who gave birth to Marvolo Gaunt. “Look, Regulus underlined Gaunt’s name in black.” She glared at the wall disapprovingly. “It’s rather obvious; anyone could’ve noticed all of the black paint that practically highlights the entire clue.”

Ron snorted in the background. “We wouldn’t have figured it out if we hadn’t found the book first.”

Hermione cocked an eyebrow challengingly. “Oh, you think so, Ron? This place is probably one of the most accurate family trees in the house; I’m sure we would’ve looked here after going through the library.”

Harry grabbed the book off of the floor. “We need to find out what’s important in here…”

As the grandfather clock chimed one, the three headed off to Malfoy’s room, where the bed was the largest, and began to study the book called Black Genealogies: a Cornerstone of Pure Bloodlines.

* * *

They woke up to the sound of an alarm. All four had fallen asleep in Malfoy’s room; Hermione was still asleep, curled up at the foot of the bed. Ron appeared to have fallen out of the bed and not returned to it, and Malfoy had retreated to the floor sometime during the night. Harry wasn’t in the room at all.

Malfoy turned off the alarm, which was shouting, “Get out of bed, sleepy head!” over and over, and shook Hermione awake.

Hermione almost fell off the end of the bed herself before she was able to bring herself to consciousness. “Where’s the book?” Was the first thing she said after clearing her eyes.

“Dunno,” mumbled Malfoy blearily.

Hermione left the room to search for it, Ron trailing along behind her, while Malfoy changed out of yesterday’s jeans and t-shirt and into a fresh set of clothing. He popped into the bathroom to start a shower, but found Harry curled up on the floor, asleep, the book sitting on the ground beside him.

“Potter?” Malfoy nudged Harry’s leg with his foot. “Wake up.”

Harry sat up quickly, and upon seeing Malfoy standing above him, drew his wand and pointed it straight at Malfoy’s nose. He was rather pale, and his glasses were sitting by the sink.

“Hey, hey, put that away, it’s only me!”

“Oh.” Harry stowed his wand and picked himself up off the ground. “Sorry.”

“What were you doing in here?” Malfoy handed Harry his glasses.

“Nightmares,” muttered Harry. He attempted to pass by Malfoy and exit the bathroom, but Malfoy blocked his path.

“What kind of nightmare?” Said Malfoy sharply.

Harry glared at Malfoy. “A… a Voldemort nightmare.”

“Tell me, then.”

“He killed someone… I don’t know who. I think he was a wizard, but he didn’t have a wand with him. Quit ambushing me while I’m being sick in the bathroom.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Do you think it’s important?”

“I don’t know.” Harry looked like he might keel over, so Malfoy grabbed the book and led him out of the bathroom and into Harry’s room.

“Get some sleep. Look, Potter, you’ve got to tell us what he’s doing, alright? Even he if it’s not important.”

Harry nodded.

Malfoy shut the door behind him on his way down to breakfast, while Harry tried to catch some much-needed sleep in his room.

* * *
“Where did you find that?” Asked Hermione loudly when Malfoy appeared in the kitchen.

“Potter had it.”

Hermione snatched it from him and set it down on the table. “We’ve been frantic.”

Ron yawned.

“Alright.” Hermione flipped to the page they had left off on last night. “So far, we haven’t found anything that might unlock a series of sudden revelations about Voldemort’s so-called secrets. I suggest we skip to the part about Frieda Black and Xerxes Gaunt; it’s sure to have some information on Frieda’s marriage into the Gaunt family.”

Malfoy waved his toast at Hermione. “You have fun with that.”

“You’re helping, Malfoy,” said Hermione forcefully.

“Not until I’ve got a decent breakfast, I’m not.”

Hermione glared at Ron, who was suddenly overly interested in his breakfast. “How you can you be so indifferent?” She snapped sharply. “It’s as if you don’t care!” She stood up abruptly, knocking her chair over loudly, scooped up the book, and stormed out of the kitchen.

Malfoy sighed heavily and righted Hermione’s chair. “Get off your bum, Weasley,” he said, stalking out of the room after her.

Ron threw his remaining toast at Malfoy, but it missed. Grumbling, Ron followed him out.

* * *

Malfoy found Hermione on the floor at the back of the library, where she was- naturally- looking over Black Genealogies: a Cornerstone of Pure Bloodlines. She ignored him completely, even as he sat down next to her and tried to appear interested in reading with her.

“What do you want?” She finally inquired coldly when Malfoy had started tracing his reading with a finger.

“To help.” Malfoy cocked an eyebrow.

Hermione took in the ridiculous scenario and burst out laughing. She quickly recovered, apparently doing some thinking that sobered her up a little. “Sorry.”

Malfoy regarded her warily. “Are you sure you’re not going into hysterics?”

Hermione punched him playfully on the shoulder. “Stop it. Fine, you can help. I’ve found Frieda, look,” she said, suddenly eager and excited.

Her finger traced the line of Blacks that led to Frieda, who was connected to Xerxes Gaunt. “There’s usually a little paragraph or two about some of the marriages. I imagine there’s one over their wedding and children; I don’t see how we could discover as much as Regulus hinted at without it.”

The flipped over the page just as Ron appeared in front of her. Taking in the scene of Hermione sitting cross-legged, book in lap, with Malfoy leaning over her to get a good look was quite the catalyst for his anger.

“Could you be any more obvious?” He snarled at Malfoy.

Malfoy shushed Ron patronizingly and looked back down to the book.

Hermione’s sharp intake of breath as she found the said passage only made Malfoy lean closer to get a better look, and Ron grow redder.

“‘Frieda Black and Xerxes Gaunt were bound by matrimony in Little Hangleton, England. Xerxes Gaunt gave a ring of great size and age to the Black family. The ring was a carving of elm wood; two serpents entwined each with studded with emerald eyes. Frieda and Xerxes had one child, Marvolo Gaunt. Frieda died in childbirth. The Black family attended the funeral, placing gifts of sentimental value on her grave. Xerxes died seven years later, just one month after arranging his son’s marriage.’”

That was the end. Hermione stared at the words but didn’t see them. Suddenly she snapped her head up to stare up at Ron, who was reluctantly choosing to ignore Malfoy’s presence.

“We’ve found another Horcrux.”

* * *

“So,” said Ron at the kitchen table, slapping an open palm down on the table to emphasize the word. “Regulus Black leaves the cornerstone clue- although I still can’t see how anyone could possibly find that anyhow- because he wants to betray You-Know-Who without getting the Death Eaters onto his scent. Somehow he expects that someone will see the word Cornerstone and think, oh, there’s a book in the library like that. So he leaves the note in the book and we find the page he supposedly meant us to find, which is supposed to tell us about another Horcrux.”

“Yes, that seems about right, Ronald.” Hermione examined the locket note from the cave, the note from the book, the note from the plank, and the entry on Frieda and Xerxes all side by side. “I still don’t see what the other secret is though. The elm ring horcrux is the one secret, but what’s the other…? I suppose it’s most likely his connection to the Blacks, but I don’t see how that could be monumentally important to his defeat.”

Harry, who had gotten over his queasiness and emerged from his bedroom, supplied, “His connection to the Blacks isn’t especially surprising though. Maybe it means something different for him.”

Hermione went on as if she hadn’t heard him. “Something else I find surprising is Regulus’ sudden change of heart. What made him want to splurge?”

Malfoy started suddenly. “Oh….” He looked momentarily speechless.

A/N
Wow, I guess that was a slightly hectic chapter. Just a warning: none of this is really planned ahead of time *looking guilty*, so if I slip up and do something silly, please tell me.

To help you understand a little bit about my writing (because I’m always guessing about other writers), I live in the U.S., I’m fifteen and a freshman in high school, and I lived in Ireland for about a year when I was seven. So I’m not completely ignorant about British custom and all that jazz.

Anyhow, thanks bunches to reviewers. I love how this story is coming along, and I’m sorry for all of the confusing stuff that happens in this chapter. I think I can sum it all up for you right here, and maybe the beginning of the next chapter, just to avoid utter confusion.

Pretty much, the four are living in Grimmauld Place for a few days when they discover semi-accidentally that Regulus is somehow more involved with Voldemort than they’d ever guessed. (Also, the whole R.A.B. revelation had to come in somewhere, I know that was somewhat unsurprising for you all that have read book seven. If you haven’t… shame on you.) They find out that Regulus knew about the horcruxes and knew the connection between the Blacks and the Gaunts, and that both facts were important to Voldemort’s coming demise. That’s pretty much all, but they’re about to find out a little bit more, then I’ll be done with all the twisted surprises for the time being.

Just on a random note, how old is Voldemort? When Harry gets sucked into Riddle’s diary, he goes fifty years back, to when Voldemort was Head Boy (I think, he was at least a prefect) which makes him sixteen or seventeen at that time. So he’d be 66 or 67 in Harry’s second year, making him 71 or 72 at present. Interesting, and slightly strange. I guess age is irrelevant in his case, because of the freakish and unnatural tearing about of his soul, and all the unicorn blood stuff.


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