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Chapter 26 : Winning Over Hedwig
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But now he needed the hawk, not the human, and so he became Freedom. As soon as he had shed flesh for feathers, he sprang into the sky and was airborne in two wingbeats. Catching a thread of wind, he glided above the cottage, searching for the snowy owl. Instinct told him that Hedwig would not stray far from the house, a familiar tended to want to stay close to her chosen wizard and then too, she was in unfamiliar territory and would stay near a safe place to roost.
Sure enough, he spotted the distinctive white and gray speckled plumage after about a minute. Hedwig was sleeping in the crook of a large rowan, dozing away the morning, as was her wont if she had been hunting all night. Freedom hesitated, waking up Hedwig was always a chancy thing, you never could tell if she would wake cranky or not. Still, this was an emergency, and he dared not delay breaking the curse over Severus.
Filled with determination, the red-tailed hawk slipped silently down a windstream and landed next to the snowy upon the branch. Hedwig? Please wake up. I need to talk to you.
The snowy owl stirred, fluffing her feathers and her head rose several inches from her downy breast. Whoo-oo?
Hedwig, it's me, Freedom. I need to talk to you, it's really important. He kept his tone low, owls had excellent hearing and there was no need to screech like an ill-mannered crow or a maldecorvae.
One great yellow eye opened and slowly Hedwig shifted, until she was looking right at Freedom. Yes? What is it? What has happened now?
I finished it finally. The potion.
Hedwig's other eye opened and now she stared at him with both orbs. What potion?
The potion to destroy the dagger. The Curse Dissolving Elixir.
What about Severus? How is he recovering?
Freedom hesistated, then replied sadly, He's not. He's under a stasis spell for the time being, until I can destroy the dagger and break the curse over him before it destroys him. It's the only way for him to get better.
The dagger's curse has affected him as well, Hedwig said darkly.
Yeah, I guess so. How come it hasn't affected you?
It has started to, Freedom. Though I did not touch it directly, I carried it to the stone cairn long enough to hear its voice in my mind and feel it try to snap the bonds that bound me to you. It did not succeed, but it made me feel upset and uneasy and that is why I have not come to you recently. I wished to be sure that I acted of my own free will.
Oh. Are you sure you're okay?
Yes, fledgling. I am fine. This potion you made, will it be strong enough to destroy the Dagger of Discord once and for all?
Yes. I made it exactly the way Sev taught me back in Sylvanor. Freedom began to nibble and preen his feathers nervously.
Have you been Occluding your mind?
Yes. Every night, only it doesn't help with the nightmares.
The ones of Severus dying.
Ah. It would seem you have regained your conscience then. Will you not tell me what happened to make you attack your mentor like that? The wizard I once knew would have rather cut off his right hand than harm a friend, much less his guardian.
Freedom hesitated. This was the moment he had been dreading. I was . . .possessed by the dagger, Hedwig, and I never knew it. It came to me in dreams, making believe it was a little girl running away from some evil wizard. I didn't know that at the time of course. All I thought was that she was a little kid in trouble. She asked me to protect her and I agreed.
Thus ensnaring yourself, Hedwig hooted.
Freedom shuddered, recalling how persuasive the dagger disguised as the helpless little girl-the damsel in distress-he thought derisively-had been. He had fallen neatly into its trap. But I didn't mean to, Hedwig! I don't even know how it managed to get inside my head. I was shielded when we found the damn thing.
The snowy owl thought for a moment. From what I understand about the dagger, it works its evil best when you touch it flesh to metal. That was why I never allowed my talons to touch it, but picked it up with the cloth Severus put about it. Was there ever a time when you touched the dagger with your skin?
I . . .can't remember. Except when I picked it up just before I . . .stabbed Severus, Freedom admitted, able to say the words in hawk form better than he would have as a human. As a human he would have been overwhelmed by guilt and tears, but hawks do not feel guilt like a human and hawks have no tear ducts either.
There was no time before that when you touched the dagger? Think!
I'm trying! Quit yelling at me! Freedom snapped irritably.
Think harder! ordered the snowy owl imperiously. This is important. Do you wish to save Severus or not?
Of course I do! How dare you suggest otherwise?
How dare I? If I recall, I saw you standing over him holding a bloody dagger. How do I know you're still not under its influence?
I'm not, okay! If I were, would I have wasted time brewing that potion? You're just going to have to trust me, Hedwig.
That is easier said than done, the owl said sadly. Do try and remember, fledgling. Her tone was now less abrasive and more encouraging. She loved the young wizard with all of her being and it had nearly broken her heart to see him the way she had that fateful night, lost to darkness and committing one of the worst crimes, killing one's mentor. She had suspected the dagger had sunk its talons into him, for she knew he was not an inherently evil person, nor one driven easily to anger and violence. Even so, she had acted to preserve the life of her comrade, though hurting Harry had been something she had to steel herself to do. But that was not Harry that night, that was the dagger's creature. How can I be sure this is not some trick? How can I trust him again?
Freedom knew that Hedwig was wary of his motives, and that made him sad, for once the snowy owl would have trusted him implicitly. The dagger truly had sown discord among the three companions, as its name had warned. Could the trust they had shared ever be whole again? Freedom thought back to the day they had discovered the dagger in the orphanage. The day the inferi had attacked in a surprise ambush from beneath the floor, making him spill the precious Curse Dissolving Elixir. He recalled the battle and how the inferi had all converged upon Severus, because he was holding the dagger, and they were bound to guard it. Then Harry had told Severus to throw him the dagger, to try and draw some of the inferi away and Severus had tossed the dagger overhead and he had caught it . . . but something had happened in the instant he had caught the dagger . . .
But my hand slipped, a little, because of my gloves, and the dagger . . .it cut my face . . .just a little cut, no big deal . . .I barely felt it . . .but even a shallow cut was enough to give it access to my mind . . .oh Merlin!
Freedom jerked his head up. Hedwig, I remember now! It was when we were fighting the inferi in the orphanage . . . he quickly related the events to his familiar.
So . . .that was how it did it. From what I can figure, perhaps the dagger meant for you to slip, it would have sought the first person available to use for its own evil purposes and you were there waiting.
Like a goose ripe for the plucking, Freedom said bitterly.
Don't be too hard on yourself. You are not the first the dagger has ensnared. But perhaps you shall be the last.
Will you bring me the dagger then? Please, Hedwig. I have to destroy it. Only then will I save Severus. He can't die, Hedwig. Not after all we've been through. I won't have it. Please help me. Freedom pleaded, though begging was not something the proud raptor did easily.
Hedwig was silent for several long moments. I . . .don't know about this. I believe you did not willingly stab Severus, but the fact remains that the dagger influenced you to a great degree and even though you claim you are free of it, how can I know that is true? How do I know that this is not a ruse to get the dagger back into your hands and use it to finish the job you started? The Dagger of Discord is legend even among owls. We call it the Cursed Golden Talon and every owlet knows to beware of it.
Freedom hung his head. I swear to you, by all I hold dear, that I am not the dagger's servant anymore.
Ah, Freedom. If only I could trust you.
You can, dammit! I think the dagger's affected you too, and made you suspicious of me. It loves to create problems between friends. Trust me, Hedwig. You always did before.
Hedwig gave him a grave look. That was before you nearly killed your mentor with a cursed dagger. I need time. Time to think.
We don't have time, Hedwig! I don't know how long Sev can stay under the stasis cloak and I want the damn dagger destroyed as soon as possible.
I am sorry, but I cannot risk you getting possessed by that thing again. If I am to fetch it for you from its hiding place, I must have no doubt in my mind that you will destroy the blasted thing. Completely, utterly, and irrevocably. And right now . . .I am not sure if I trust you.
Look, if you won't trust me, will you at least listen to one of the Witherspoons? They've been with me the whole time I've been here, watching me make the potion.
Hedwig looked unconvinced. Will they vouch for you?
Yes, I think so. Let me go and ask. With that, Freedom flew down out of the rowan and circled the cottage before landing and going inside to talk to Jace and his mother. Grace was an Animagus, a kestrel, and she might be able to talk Hedwig into fetching the dagger, and Jace had watched him brew the entire potion from start to finish and could vouch for his determination and dedication in making it.
But he halted upon the threshold of the cottage, realizing that neither Witherspoon knew the truth behind what had happened that night. He had been too ashamed and afraid to admit the truth, fearful that once they found out what he had done, they would throw him out, unwilling to harbor a murderer in their home. Or an attempted murderer.
For one instant, he panicked. How can I tell them? They'll hate me. They won't understand. How can I admit that I was possessed and nearly killed Severus, that there was no Death Eater that got away?
For several long moments he stood there upon the porch, his hand gripping the doorknob, feeling his stomach churn with renewed anxiety and fear. I have to tell them. I have no choice. Gathering all of his vaunted Gryffindor courage, a pale and shadowy thing when compared to his dread and fear, he turned the door handle and went inside the cottage.
He found Grace sitting at the kitchen table, sipping a cup of coffee and reading the Prophet. Jace was yawning and just finishing a large bowl of porridge and he could hear Jasper reading to Jilly in the den. He had passed them on his way to the kitchen, but they had been so engrossed in their book they hadn't even noticed and he had been so focused on finding Jace that he had barely paid attention to them either.
He stopped just inside the kitchen and remained standing there, shifting from foot to foot. He felt like a hawk faced with a hunter's gun or a deer caught in a car's headlights, paralyzed with fear and unable to think.
With that uncanny intuition readers possessed, both Witherspoons looked up at the same moment.
"Harry, is something the matter?" Grace asked, her eyes filled with compassion.
"Did you find your owl?" Jace asked. "Is she all right?"
"Yes, she's fine. She's why I'm here." He released the breath he had been holding. "I . . .have something to tell you. You aren't going to like it and you'll probably hate me after, but please, hear me out."
"Why don't you sit down?" Grace invited.
Harry moved towards a chair, though he felt as if his legs belonged to someone else. He sat down. Then he began to speak, quickly, before his nerve failed him. "You know how I told you that the dagger was what stabbed Severus and almost killed him? And you all thought a Death Eater had done it? Well, that wasn't true. The truth is . . .that it was me who attacked Severus with the dagger. It was controlling me . . .I never would have done it else . . .it got inside my head and took me over in my dreams, and then in real life as well. While I was . . .under its influence I . . .nearly killed Professor Snape."
He waited for the gasps of outrage, for Grace to stand up and order him out of her home, for Jace to call him a filthy murdering traitor.
Instead there was silence.
Slowly, Harry raised his eyes and looked at the two wizards. Grace did not look revolted or disgusted or even angry. Her blue eyes were dark with sorrow. And Jace . . .Jace looked almost relieved. Harry could not fathom why. He was still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
At last Jace spoke. "I know, Harry. I've known for a few days now."
"How? You promised you wouldn't read my mind," Harry cried defensively.
"And I haven't." Jace said evenly. "You talk in your sleep. Especially when you dream. That night . . .you dreamed about what happened . . .and it woke me up. You kept apologizing to Professor Snape over and over . . .and you said you didn't mean it . . .that the dagger made you . . .that was when I knew."
"And you didn't say anything to me?"
"No. I didn't know what to say. And . . .I'm a Slytherin. We don't pry into each other's business and readers even less so. I figured if you wanted me to know you'd tell me."
Harry was flabbergasted. Had it been Ron or Hermione who had overheard him saying such things . . .both of them would have been all over him the next day, demanding to know what was going on. They would have never been able to keep their curiosity or their silence for so long. He told Jace as much and the Slytherin laughed. "That's because they're Gryffindors. Most Gryffindors can't keep a secret to save their life. But Slytherins can go to their graves with a secret if necessary."
Harry nearly smiled at that. Severus was a prime example of that trait. Who knew how many secrets the Potions Master clutched to his heart? He looked at Grace. "You don't look surprised either. Did Jace tell you?"
"He didn't need to, Harry," Grace said softly. "I could sense you carried a great burden within you. I could see it in your eyes. The eyes are the windows of the soul."
"And you saw a murderer in mine, didn't you?"
"No, Harry. I saw a young boy drowning in grief and guilt and yet determined to help someone he cared for very much. When you mentioned the dagger, I could guess what had happened. As I told you before, the Dagger of Discord has a long and bloody history of subverting innocents. I am an enchantress of the first rank, I learned of the dagger long ago during my apprenticeship, as do all who have my talent, so that we never attempt to create such a thing. Through all the souls it has corrupted, the dagger has become, in a way, self-aware. It knew what it was doing when it chose you to be the vessel for its murderous desire, child. It loves corrupting innocents best, taking what was pure and destroying it with greed and resentment and hate. But it didn't succeed, Harry."
He blinked. "But . . .how can you say that? I took the dagger up and I stabbed Severus."
"But not killed him." Grace pointed out. "Had you been the dagger's catspaw fully, Severus would have died that night. But something in you resisted and the dagger could not make you kill your mentor. And as soon as you realized what you had done, you rejected the dagger's poisoned words, didn't you?"
"Hedwig made me drop the dagger. I couldn't let it go."
"And what did you do then, Harry Potter? Did you immediately try and grab the dagger? Or did you try and save your mentor?"
"I . . .tried to save Severus. But I'm still tainted by the dagger, Grace."
"Yes, but not the way you would be if you had succumbed fully. Evil touched you, but it did not mark you for its own."
"How do you know that?" Harry cried in anguish. "How can you be sure? I don't even know myself."
"Because of Jilly," Jace answered. "When she crawled in your lap and hugged you, she empathically read you. And if you were what you say you are, she wouldn't have come within ten feet of you. She might be only two, but she knows a bad person when she feels one. You can't hide evil from an empath. They always know."
Harry looked skeptical. "When did she ever meet anyone who was evil?"
"On Platform 9 and ¾'s, at King's Cross. My parents brought her along to say goodbye to me and because they couldn't leave her alone. And we bumped into Lucius Malfoy on the platform. Jilly took one look at him and started to scream. She called him a bad man and wouldn't even look at him. Jilly never reacts like that around people, she was laughing a few moments before, waving at all the people, until Draco's father banged into us. And you know what he is, don't you?"
"A Death Eater."
"He claims not, but I trust my daughter over anything that slick-talking viper says any day of the week," Grace said, her blue eyes stormy. "When I asked Jilly why she was crying and screaming, she said the bad man scared her, made her feel all cold and dark. That's as accurate a description of the aura of a dark wizard as you can get from a two-year-old. But not you, Harry."
"But the dagger possessed me!"
"Yes, but only for a few moments. And it had to trick you into hurting Severus, you didn't agree willingly. And that made all the difference."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. Were you the dark wizard you think you are, my wards would have stopped you from entering my house. And you walked right in."
For the first time since that dreadful night, Harry felt a seed of hope begin to sprout within him. "You . . .really believe that?"
"Not believe, Harry. I know. Evil cannot live in the unwilling heart."
"Will you . ..tell Hedwig that? Because she won't give me the dagger until she trusts me not to fall under its spell again."
"Of course. Where is she?"
"Outside, in the rowan."
Grace shifted into her kestrel form and flew out the window.
The two boys followed.
The kestrel had reached Hedwig by the time they got outside and though Jace could not understand avian speech, Harry had no trouble and translated what the two were saying.
Hello, Hedwig and welcome to my home. I am Dawnfire.
Well met, Dawnfire. Forgive me for not introducing myself before, Hedwig said.
You have had much to think about.
Yes, after what has happened, it's a miracle I am not molting.
I have come to speak with you on behalf of your wizard.
Has he told you what he has done?
The kestrel bobbed her head. Say rather what the dagger has made him do.
He wishes me to fetch the dagger from where I have hidden it and let him destroy it. But . . .I am afraid. What if it influences him again?
You don't trust your wizard?
I . . .did once. But now . . .I do not know. Hedwig sounded lost and confused. He claims the dagger no longer has him in thrall, but how can I take that chance?
I shall vouch for him. Listen, winged sister, and you will see why. Dawnfire told Hedwig what she had told Harry.
Those are all valid points, but still, I am uneasy. Hedwig admitted. Once I never would have doubted his heart, but now . . .
His heart is still as it was. Steadfast and true. My daughter has looked into it and has found no darkness.
The owl made a chuffing sound of disbelief. You would trust a child with this?
There is no better judge of character than an empath. Dawnfire answered serenely.
Hedwig considered for a few minutes longer before at last nodding and saying, I shall fetch the dagger, tell Harry to have the potion here on the lawn when I return. I think the best way to ensure he does not succumb to the dagger again is for me to destroy it myself.
I do not think- the kestrel chirped, but Hedwig had already taken flight. Dawnfire gave a soft screech and flew down and became Grace once more. "Harry, Hedwig has agreed to fetch the dagger. She wants you to bring the cauldron with the elixir out here."
"Because she wishes to destroy the dagger herself."
"No!" Harry exclaimed. "It's my task and I'll do it. I have to do it. Otherwise I'll never be free of it. And I'll never know . . .if I was strong enough to break its hold over me. I can't live like that, Grace. The dagger almost destroyed me . . .almost destroyed Severus . . .and whatever relationship we had . . .No, if anyone destroys the Dagger of Discord, it will be me."
He drew himself up to his full height and in his eyes was a determination and pride she had seen in few adult wizards. "I'm nobody's pawn. Not ever again." He Summoned the cauldron with the potion inside it with a wave of his hand. As soon as the cauldron settled to the ground, he walked over beside it, then he summoned yet another article from his bag.
His Curse Breaking Gloves soared into his outstretched palms and he pulled them on. There was no hesitation in his actions now. He knew that what he was doing was exactly right. Hedwig meant well, but she did not comprehend the depth of his guilt and his need for redemption. Nor his need to lay to rest for good and all the ghost of the dagger.
Jace goggled. "You can do wandless magic?"
"A little bit. Severus promised he would teach me more when we got home . . ." he trailed off, feeling himself choke up. If I still have a home after all this is over. If he still wants me. Don't think about him, Harry. Don't think about what he looked like, with blood all over the ground, or how he looks now, trapped in time. Don't think about it. What matters now is destroying the dagger. You need to focus on that. He closed his eyes, and took three deep cleansing breaths. In his mind's eye he saw again the little princess, with her ruby tiara and gold tissue dress. And then he deliberately erased her from his mind. Goodbye princess, I won't be used ever again. I am finished and done with you. No more sinister tricks, I see you for what you are, and I won't be manipulated by your lies. He carefully raised his Occlumency shields. Then he opened his eyes.
Grace eyed him knowingly, and so did her son. "Have you put on all your armor then?" she quipped.
"Yeah," he replied, giving her a half-smile, for in a way he had. The shields and his determination were like armor against the dagger's wicked thrust, protecting his psyche from its bite.
Now there was nothing to do but wait for Hedwig's return.
Merlin, but he hated waiting! The minutes seemed to drag on endlessly, becoming hours in an eyeblink. He rocked back slightly on his heels, feeling his palms begin to sweat inside the gloves. He forced himself to be calm. He could do this, he had to do this. The dagger must be destroyed by his hand.
Beside him, Jace scanned the sky for the snowy owl, but the sky remained empty of all save clouds. Wait, was that a cloud moving? Yes . . .Hedwig was returning, holding a flat wrapped package in her talons. She flew slowly but with purpose towards them.
Harry had seen her as well, and he pointed a finger at the cauldron and conjured a minor shield over it. Then he waited until Hedwig was overhead before calling, "Hedwig, bring me the dagger. I'm the one who has to throw it into the cauldron."
The snowy hovered, hissing in agitation. No! That was not the plan, Harry. I dare not let you have the dagger. What if it takes you over again? Let me do this.
"It's not your task, Hedwig. It's mine. Remember the prophecy. A steadfast and true heart shall overcome all? I need to do this, Hedwig. Trust me. It's not like the last time. I know now what to beware of."
But the owl stubbornly remained clutching the dagger. She could feel it vibrating beneath her talons, it realized its peril and urged her not to let it go. Harry, let me destroy it. Before it wakes fully and entraps you again.
"Trust me, Hedwig. You said before I would have never knowingly harmed Severus. I know what the dagger is capable of. And I know what I'm capable of. In order to break the hold of the dagger on him and myself, I need to be the one to destroy it. The hand that held the weapon must be the one to unmake it."
"He is right," Grace said suddenly. "That is how the worst curses are broken."
He held the dagger once and look what it did with him. Do you really want to chance that happening again, Mistress Witherspoon? What if he runs mad and tries to kill your son? Or your daughter?
"He won't. Trust your wizard, owl. He was seduced into darkness, he did not choose it."
Hedwig screeched in frustration.
"What if we shielded him too?" Jace said. "We're readers and that dagger mind controls people, sort of like the way the Mind Lords used to, centuries ago. But readers defeated them because they couldn't get past our shields. Because we knew how to combine them. Right, Mum?"
"My son is correct. If we combine our shields and weave them with Harry's, the dagger will not be able to penetrate his mind." Grace said.
Harry opened his mouth to protest. Hush, child. We will only do so if you are in danger of the dagger possessing you. Until then we shall monitor you only, Grace sent.
"Okay," he said aloud. "That'll work."
Hedwig considered. It was a difficult decision. Did she dare put the object that had sowed so much dissent within reach of her wizard again? She did not want him hurt and did not want to be responsible if he hurt others because he could not fight off the dagger's command. But perhaps with the aid of the readers . . .Oh, Harry. I trusted you once. Dare I trust you again? She peered deeply into his emerald eyes, which were gazing directly at her.
In them she saw an iron determination, sorrow, regret, and a strength of purpose that overrode everything. They were the eyes of a warrior intent on overcoming all odds and wining the field. There was no trace of longing or evil within them.
A true and steadfast heart. Trust me.
She could feel the dagger stirring, and it began to urge her to take it and fly away, far away. Hide me. Save me. Do not give me to him.
It was that last which decided her. The dagger was afraid, and trying to influence her as well. But she was no more of a pawn than her wizard. She shrugged off the urging. Very well. I will do what you wish. Catch!
She released the dagger and it tumbled through the air.
Harry snatched it up with his right hand, then canceled the spell over the cauldron.
As soon as his fingers closed about the dagger, he could feel the evil presence within it awaken and scrabble at his shields, whimpering and begging to get in. Don't leave me alone! Please, Harry! It's cold and dark and I'm scared, cried the dagger in the voice of the little girl of his dreams.
Harry flinched, then tightened his shields. That won't work this time. Now shut up and get out of my mind! You're not some helpless child, you're evil incarnate.
Am I? But you promised to protect me, Harry, the dagger sobbed. You lied! You lied to me!
No, you lied to me! he thundered silently. You tricked me into almost killing my mentor.
Huh. That dried up professor with all of his rules and regulations? Who needs them? He's so stiff with discipline it's like he's got a stick up his arse! He only took you in because he had to. Do you really believe he loves you? The son of his rival? A Gryffindor brat? Do open your eyes and see the truth, Harry. You're nothing but a burden, something he is forced to endure. As soon as you're of age, out the door you'll go. Good riddance, Potter!
You're wrong. Severus loves me.
Has he ever said so? No. And what do you think he will say when he wakes up? Will he forgive you, do you think? After you nearly killed him?
Harry trembled, sweat beading his brow. The dagger was bringing out all of his old inadequacies, all of his doubts and fears. Among them the fear that Severus would reject him and he would be as he was before-without a true home or a family.
Don't listen to it, Harry, Grace sent.
Severus will understand. He would never abandon you. Trust him, Jace sent comfortingly.
Harry recalled all of the times Severus had risked his life for him, and all the times he had been there for him when no one else even had noticed he was in need. He recalled Severus calling him his child in Italian and saying he would always have a home with him, no matter what. Yes, Sev might be angry with him when he woke up, but he would never cast him aside. Not after all they had been and done to each other.
This is the dagger . . .doing what it does best. Trying to split apart the ties that bind. But I will not let it. Never again! I know you, I see you for what you are-deceiver, trickster, liar with an innocent face-and I reject you! You're nothing but a scared soul hiding in the shadows, afraid to face the light, incapable of understanding what truly binds people together-love, loyalty, and trust. But love most of all.
He gathered up all of the love he felt and threw it at the dagger and the spirit within it shrank back and withdrew, wailing, into the dark.
Then Harry lifted the dagger and flung it into the cauldron.
The potion frothed and turned a deep black, bubbling with the force of the cursed object, and Harry could swear he heard the dagger howling in agonized fury as the potion dissolved it. The stench from the cauldron was so awful that all three wizards staggered away, coughing and retching and even Hedwig flew up to perch high in the rowan's crown.
Billows of greenish black smoke emerged from the cauldron and it began to gyrate wildly.
Tensely, Harry watched, for this had never happened before with any of the other Horcruxes. Then again, none of the others had the same level of evil within them at their core.
The cauldron shivered and some of the potion, which was now a foul black sludge, slopped over the edge and landed on the ground with a hiss.
The cauldron had split in two.
"Great Merlin!" Jace cried.
Coughing, Harry shifted into Freedom and flew above the remains of the cauldron, trying to see through the thick acrid smoke.
Grace summoned a breeze and as the smoke drifted away, Freedom could see the remains of the potion slowly soaking into the earth and not a glint of gold or a flicker of ruby could be seen. The Dagger of Discord was no more.
The curse about Severus was broken.
Freedom flew high in the air, straight up into the rising sun.
Then he spun and closed his wings, diving at a tremendous speed down to the earth, shrieking a victory cry.
Next: Severus may be free of the curse, but he still has a long road to recovery and so does Harry, who must learn to forgive himself and hope that Severus forgives him.
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