After the week-long Horcrux-high it seemed that they were slipping back into the inevitable state of despair. And they were too far in to back out now. Not that Sirius wanted to, but it had once been a comforting thought. It was not any option anymore, with Snape as Voldemort’s most-wanted, and the Hunt no longer a secret. There were only two Horcruxes left, but they had no idea where to begin the search as they didn’t know what they were.
The four of them spent most of each day sitting around their usual table in the Hog’s Head, throwing ideas around.
“We could go back to Dumbledore,” Lily suggested for the sixth time. “He might know something more, or at least be able to point us in the right direction.”
Sirius shook his head. “I think if he knew something, he’d tell us. There’d be no reason not to.”
“It’s a better idea than sitting around here drinking all day,” Snape said bitterly.
“Yeah,” Lily agreed. “That’s a fair point. We haven’t got anything done here for the past two weeks—”
“Week and a half,” Sirius corrected.
“Fine,” she sighed. “Week and a half. It’s still a waste of time.”
“And money,” Snape added.
Sirius looked to Remus then, knowing that he could tie the vote.
His old friend raised his eyebrows at him. “Don’t look at me like that; you’re not going to guilt me into siding with you.”
Sirius mirrored his expression. “Can I threaten you into siding with me? Or blackmail you, perhaps?”
Remus rolled his eyes. “Very funny, Padfoot, but we both know that I have a lot more dirt on you than you have on me.”
An insuppressible smile broke on Sirius’s face since he knew how true that was.
“Anyway,” Remus continued, “I don’t think it could hurt to swing by Hogwarts and pay a visit to Dumbledore. It wouldn’t be completely counterproductive.”
“Not at all,” Sirius said sarcastically before he could stop himself. “Let’s just waste time somewhere else, why don’t we?”
Remus, elbows on the table, massaged his temples.
“Wondering how it is we put up with him this long?” Snape asked.
Sirius clenched his fist under the table, but refrained from reacting. Wouldn’t want to give them another reason to antagonize me… Then he had a sudden idea. A smug look of knowing something the others didn’t came across his face. He crossed his arms and reclined again, rocking back onto the back legs of his chair.
The other three apparently had little patience for him at this point.
“Sirius, just wipe that grin off your face and tell us what you’re thinking of.”
He smiled wider still, but obliged with the other half of Lily’s order. “It’s not that I object to spending all this time with you three and I certainly don’t mind consuming vast amounts of firewhiskey, but… the secret’s out now. Voldemort knows that Snape took one of his Horcruxes. He’s probably checked up on the others now, and knows that four of them are gone. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s making sure the last two are extra safe at this point. It’s crunch-time now.”
“Is that your big revelation?” Lily asked sardonically. “That we’re absolutely screwed?”
“Weren’t you just advocating wasting even more time?” Remus added.
“If you’d let me finish…” Sirius waited until he had their undivided attention once more. “Dumbledore could possibly be of some help, but the more people we involve in the Hunt at this point, the better.”
Remus and Lily exchanged a doubtful look. Sirius did not appreciate this as he was usually the one exchanging glances. Finally, the two turned back to him.
“What are you getting at?” Lily asked.
The easy smile returned to his face. “I just thought that our old friends from the Order might be helpful.”
* * *
“Alright,” Lily began, looking over the familiar faces gathered in the Hog’s Head. She hadn’t seen most of them since the funeral, which seemed so long ago—a previous life. “For the past few months, we—” she gestured to herself, Severus and Sirius, “—have been on a special… mission. And now we need your help.”
Alice Longbottom smiled warmly. “We would love to help you, Lily.”
“What’s this mission?” Mad-Eye Moody asked suspiciously.
“Killing Voldemort,” Lily answered. The surprise registered clearly on each of their faces, before it morphed into anxious excitement. “There are two Horcruxes left,” she continued. “But we don’t—”
“Wait, wait,” Moody interrupted. “Two Horcruxes… left? How many did he have to begin with?”
“Six. He had six Horcruxes.”
The room hushed and the silence rang in her ears. They were all staring at her in obvious awe.
“So… you’ve destroyed… four Horcruxes?” Sturgis Podmore asked, his eyes wide. He laughed nervously. “What do you need us for?”
“Because,” Lily said, “we have no idea what the last two Horcruxes are.”
And again with the silence. Though it was tenser and a little awkward this time.
“No, of course not,” Frank Longbottom said pleasantly. “But do you have any leads or anything?”
“Sort of.” Lily glanced to Dumbledore unsurely.
He straightened up in his seat and cleared his throat. “I have reason to believe that one of the two is something that once belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw and that the other was Godric Gryffindor’s.”
“So this is a brainstorming session,” Moody said slowly.
“More or less,” Lily agreed. “Any ideas?”
* * *
After an admittedly disastrous first brainstorming session, they trudged upstairs and split into the three rooms. Hopefully tomorrow would bring more success, once they had all been refreshed by a good night’s sleep.
But it didn’t. The day crawled by with absolutely nothing added to the discussion. Lily could tell that everyone was starting to feel frustrated, and they’d only been in the Hunt for a day and a half. She hadn’t missed the opportunity to slip in how long she had been in the Hunt, dealing daily with how frustrating the whole ordeal was. Then Sirius joined in, expressing his own frustrations with a less bitter and more humorous tone. It wasn’t too long before Severus began telling of all the danger he’d been subjected to and the brainstorm had turned into story-time. And, at the end of the day, no progress had been made, whatsoever.
Lily, lying in one of the beds in one of the rooms, was having considerable difficulty falling asleep. She listened to Sirius’s steady, deep breaths from the bed next to hers.
“Remus?” she whispered.
The man on the floor stirred and rubbed his eyes. “Yeah?”
“We have to do something.”
“Easter Holiday begins tomorrow.”
“Yeah. I was thinking… no one is going to come up with something off the top of their head, right?”
“Well, as long as the castle will be empty, I thought… we should go to the library and do some research—see what we find, you know? There’s so many books there, there’s bound to be something helpful. I mean, it’d be more productive than sitting around here, recounting our misadventures for days on end… What do you think, Remus? Am I making any sense? Remus?”
Lily squinted through the darkness and saw that he had dozed off, his mouth slightly open and his chest rising and falling gently. She giggled softly and rolled over, pulling the blanket up to her chin.
* * *
The next day, they all made the trek from Hogsmeade up to Hogwarts, and into the school’s library. The sight of the rows of shelves holding stacks of old books brought back a flood of memories. Lily recalled the countless hours she had spent among these shelves and tables and books studying—and all the times when James had distracted her from studying. She remembered stubbornly hiding a smile when he stole her quill or parchment. Then, in more recent history, the two would sit in a secluded nook and James would take it upon himself to help her “relax” before an exam…
Lily had trouble refraining from reliving these memories as the Order set about their work. They systematically made their way through the library, shelf by shelf, searching the indexes for mentions of Rowena Ravenclaw or Godric Gryffindor. At the close of the first day, they had assembled a daunting mountain of books. That night, they retired in Gryffindor tower, the House in which most of them had been at Hogwarts.
The next morning and the days following brought an even more tedious task. Over breakfast (and lunch and dinner), they skimmed through the books, looking for any information on what might be a Horcrux. There were at least two false alarms daily. Everyone would get really excited, the air would grow tense and tight, until the theory was shot down by Dumbledore’s unquestioned wisdom. Then they all would let out a collective sigh and slump back down at the tables. After each false alarm, it took a little longer to get back to work.
For some reason, it was a tiring task. It was monotonous and frustrating and just plan exhausting… There used to be pleasant conversation at each table as they worked, but now the library was silent, except for the constant, crisp sound of pages flipping.
After four excruciatingly long days, full to the brim of crushed hopes, something happened. Something small.
Alice, across the table from Lily, paused a second too long before turning the page. That was testament to how long they’d been at this, that Lily noticed a change in Alice’s rhythm. She still hadn’t flipped the page about a minute later, so Lily looked up to her.
Alice’s brown eyes were circles as she stared at the book. A delicate hand flew to her parted lips.
“What is it?” Lily whispered. The rare sound of a voice drew everyone’s attention. Lily felt eyes on her and heard the scrape of moving chairs and the rustle of moving people. The entire Order of the Phoenix had congregated around their table in a matter of seconds.
“It’s probably nothing,” Alice said cautiously, but there was hope in her voice. “Only… has anyone mentioned Ravenclaw’s diadem yet?”
Heads swiveled to Dumbledore. Lily suppressed the excitement threatening to bloom in the pit of her stomach.
Dumbledore smiled tentatively. “This is a lot of pressure…”
Nervous laughs escaped the members of the Order before they all quieted, urging him to continue with only the desperation in their eyes.
“It’s the best suggestion we’ve had for the past four days, but there is one problem: the diadem is lost. No one’s seen it for… Merlin knows how long.”
Lily frowned, feeling much like a deflating balloon. “So the diadem can’t be a Horcrux, then.”
“Or, if it was, we’d never find it,” Sirius added glumly, scuffing at the floor with the toe of his shoe.
“No, no,” Dumbledore said. “I will not allow a pity-party. Not yet, anyway. If you’ll excuse me, I have to speak with someone to either confirm or negate our suspicions.”
And with that, the Headmaster spun on his heel and the left the library.
After a moment, Sirius asked, “Is anyone else really confused?”
There was a murmuring of agreement before everyone sat back down at the tables, to anxiously await his return and the news he would bring.
* * *
Dumbledore came back a worryingly long time later. The great, lofty library hushed as he strode toward them, his robes swishing behind him softly. Then he paused, a smile, almost hidden by his white beard, on his face and a twinkle in his eyes.
“I’ve just been to pay Ravenclaw Tower’s resident ghost a visit. And she was moderately difficult, as I expected, but she did confirm our theory. The diadem is indeed one of the Horcruxes.”
No one thought to question this revelation as they exchanged awed and relieved glances with one another.
“And, better yet, it is located within the castle.”
Lily could scarcely believe her ears. But there was a part of her telling her that this was almost too easy…
“As to where specifically to find it,” Dumbledore continued, “she provided us with some rather cryptic advice: ‘It is in the place where everything is hidden.’”
Lily frowned, racking her brain for any ideas. “Well, if it’s in Hogwarts, that narrows it down substantially, but… the place where everything is hidden? Any guesses to what that could mean?”
She looked from face to face, each equally confused in appearance. Then her gaze fell upon Sirius, who had a distinctly different expression. It was a look that Lily recognized with a jolt.
“Sirius! Do you know what that means?”
“I’m not one-hundred percent sure…” he said slowly. “But if it’s the only idea we’ve got…” He looked around at the blank stares aimed at him. “Well, then. Let’s go.”
A/N: This is not the best chapter, definitely in my pre-climax-slump, but it gets better! I've finished the story at this point, and it's 21 chapters and I do love the last two, so please stick with me! And please leave your thoughts in a review :)
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