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Chapter One Hundred and Thirty—No Holding Back
Harry tightened his shields and forced himself to sit still as Severus's blast of Legilimency came sailing in to hit them. Learning this aspect of battle Occlumency was difficult. Harry was better off when he could either move or make mental movements, the way he did when he turned his shields into giant spoked wheels.
This time, Severus cracked one of the shields, and a trickle of memories about running from Dudley's gang leaked through before Harry blocked them. He opened his eyes, the beginnings of pain thundering through his head, to see Severus kneeling in front of him and looking grave.
"You must get stronger at this," Severus intoned quietly. "I use much less force than Voldemort will."
Harry nodded. "I don't think it's what it is before," he said. "I mean, when I didn't want to hurt people," he added, as Severus raised an eyebrow.
"Oh? Then what is the cause of your persistent weakness?"
Harry bristled at the word "weakness," but managed to speak calmly. "I'm used to moving when I'm defending myself. Either dodging spells or dodging Bludgers. Sitting behind my shields and waiting for something to happen is—boring."
Severus paced slowly back and forth in front of him for a moment, then nodded. "I can definitely understand why that would be a problem for you. Very well. We will switch our focus from battle Occlumency to battle Legilimency for the moment. That is an art of motion—hardly anything but."
Harry curled his fingers into his hands, and then pictured Voldemort attacking Hogwarts and slaughtering his friends. Slaughtering Draco.
That went home like an arrow to the heart. Harry exhaled slowly and said, "All right. I've been reading that book you got me, but I'm still not entirely sure what the best thing is to begin with. What is it?"
Severus spent a moment casting spells on the door, and Harry waited as patiently as he could. They were back at Hogwarts now, the Christmas season ended, and there was always the chance that a Slytherin student who needed their Head of House might interrupt them otherwise.
Severus turned back to face him. "Battle Legilimency is an art of anger and hatred."
Harry frowned a little. "The book only mentioned that in the first chapter. If it's so important, why keep the information back?"
"Because many people find it disconcerting. They would rather learn battle motions first and battle emotions later. I do not think that will work for you." Severus stared him dead in the eye. "You must let go of your unwillingness to hurt others in order to make this work, however."
"I can do that." Harry ignored the skeptical look Severus gave him. He knew that it didn't look as if he could do something like this, but he had made his peace, as much as possible, with the notion that he had to kill Voldemort.
Anger and hatred would be harder, admittedly. Harry had had to push down those emotions all the years that he lived with the Dursleys, and then again when people made fun of him here, because he kept thinking that the other people who hated him were just kids and could he really hate them for being scared of him when they thought he was the Heir of Slytherin or something?
Harry breathed out slowly. "I can hate Voldemort. I can feel fury at him. I kind of wish Dumbledore was still alive, so I had another target, too, but this is a good beginning, right?"
"If Dumbledore was still alive, we would never have advanced to this point in our training. He would have stopped me and trained you himself, if he even thought that you needed to learn Occlumency."
Harry nodded in acknowledgment. "Can I meditate for a little while? I need to dredge up some emotions towards Voldemort."
"You won't have the chance to do that in battle," Severus said, but he was already raising the silencing spells that he always used when Harry asked to do this same thing in his quarters.
"I know, but that's why I'll do it this way the first time only," Harry answered calmly, and shut his eyes, sitting down on the stone floor. It felt a lot more comfortable than the first time he'd done it.
Of course, the minute he dipped beneath the surface of his mind, he encountered his bond with Dash, who swam up towards him and said cheerfully, I can offer you all the hatred of Voldemort you need!
Thanks, Dash, but this is something I need to do on my own. I need to pull up all the things that I pushed down through the years.
Dash sent the equivalent of a nod down the bond and retreated a little, hovering at a distance as Harry went down, and down, into the swarming snarls of his mind that he hadn't organized yet. Severus had focused a lot more on surface emotions and conscious thoughts, which made sense. It wasn't like a lot of people would have the chance to look at this part of Harry's mind in the first place.
He found memories that he grimaced at, times in the cupboard when he'd been cold and hungry and shivering and convinced he was going to die, loneliness during second year, keen pain from first year when he'd lost all those points trying to rescue Norbert and his House had shunned him. But he didn't hate the Hogwarts students right now, and hating the Dursleys was pointless when he would never see them again. Down and down he delved.
And he found it, in the scrap of memory that he'd always assumed was tragic rather than rage-inspiring.
His mother's scream. Voldemort's laugh. A flash of green light.
If it wasn't for him, I would have grown up with my parents. They loved me. Unconditionally. They would have loved me even if I was a Parselmouth and had a basilisk and got Sorted into Slytherin.
He thought of the other people who loved him unconditionally, people that Voldemort would try to take away from Harry the minute he regained consciousness. Ron. Hermione. Severus.
Harry felt as though a barrier inside himself had been shoved away, and a flood of cool, bright emotion filled him. He hovered above it much as Dash was hovering above the bond for a moment until he recognized it.
Harry rode it back to the surface of his mind, feeling as though some limb that he'd never known he had was waking up and stretching. Oh, he'd been angry before, of course. But that had always been a quick flash of temper that burned itself out a few minutes later, or maybe an hour, at once. This was cold anger. He could use it.
He opened his eyes, and Severus nodded slowly. Harry wondered for a second whether the emotion was so visible in his eyes, and then noticed that the stones he was sitting on felt rather slick and uncomfortable. He glanced down and stared. A puddle of ice surrounded him, creeping away until it almost touched the walls.
Well done. Dash sounded delighted. I knew you could access this kind of power if you wanted, but I wasn't sure how to make you want.
Harry blinked and then took heart. If his anger could affect stones that way, then it would affect Voldemort even worse when he got it properly trained and used it for his battle Legilimency.
"I'm ready," he told Severus.
Severus didn't give him any warning. This time, the stroke of force that came for Harry was keen and painful. Severus wasn't trying to read his thoughts through his Occlumency shields this time, but to rip his mind open and give him the kind of crippling headache that Harry used to get all the time from the mere practice of Legilimency.
Harry whirled the rage up against it.
It was a darting, quicksilver thing, and Harry pictured it as a serpent, because he more or less had to. It grabbed Severus's force strike and shook it hard. Severus tried to withdraw, and Harry pursued, darting around all over his mind and catching a quick glimpse of memories here and there, but mostly focusing on making the one who had hurt him like this dead.
Or the nearest equivalent.
He pulled back only when he heard a shout from Severus, and opened his eyes to find the man kneeling on the floor, his hands to his neck. Harry immediately rushed over to him. He could see a series of red punctures around the edges of Severus's throat that looked remarkably like the wounds left behind by a snake's fangs.
Harry had already opened his mouth to apologize when Severus looked up. He immediately stiffened and thrust out his hand as if he was trying to force Harry away from him. "I am well."
"You don't look like it," Harry snapped.
For an instant, Severus blinked, as though he didn't think the rage would still be lingering near the surface of Harry's mind, and then he began to smile. "You did it."
"I did," Harry muttered, wishing he could feel happier about his victory. He had never once thought Legilimency could cause physical wounds like that, at least unless the person who was defending their mind cut the attacking Legilimens off from their own mind and left their body a vegetable.
"Do not dare regret it," Severus said, with a harsh tone to his voice that Harry doubted was due to the wounds. He stood, swaying for a moment, and then caught hold of the edge of his desk before Harry could offer to support him. "You did something extraordinary. I was practicing Legilimency for a year before I could do something like this."
Harry frowned. "I don't really think I'm more talented at the mind arts than you are, Severus."
Severus looked at him. "Of course not, but you may indeed be more talented at offensive Legilimency. You are right that you need an art of motion. That may be a way to compensate for your lack of talent at using your shields as weapons."
Harry nodded. He could do it, but this was a lot more effective. "How good do I need to be at this to take on Voldemort, sir?"
"Better than you are now." But Severus smiled at him, and Harry knew that the words weren't bitter. At least he had managed to find his way past the block and the boredom that learning offensive Occlumency was giving him.
Hermione frowned at her Horcrux-detecting machine and turned it off so that the spirals went still. She had tested it every day, and still it told her that one of the Horcruxes in London was leaping around all over the place. It didn't make sense. Why would someone who had a Horcrux in their possession move like that? They should still either be living in one place—or lying dead in one place, if the Horcrux had killed them—or they should be moving in a certain direction.
Harry had told her about the diary Horcrux wanting to unleash the basilisk on the rest of the school. Could this Horcrux have a goal, too? Something that made it move its owner all over London?
Hermione blanched as she thought that maybe this Horcrux had managed to possess someone and get a body back. She didn't want to think about that, either, but she had to.
All right. She scribbled some conclusions down on the piece of parchment the Room of Requirement had given her and turned her attention to the other Horcruxes. One in Gringotts, she had realized, and there was no way to go after that one right now. And one in a village called Little Hangleton.
Surely that one would be easier to find than the one that kept leaping all over London. To find, if not actually to attack, since it seemed to be near Voldemort.
Hermione knew she might not be allowed to go along with whoever was sent to retrieve it; Professor Snape seemed pretty sure that no one except him should do it. But maybe she could come up with a plan to tackle some of the protections, based on her knowledge of the diary Horcrux and the Horcrux in Harry.
Content now that she was doing something useful again, she began to write down her likeliest guesses as to wards and traps.
"I don't see why we need to wait to do this experiment if you really do have her under absolute control, Draco."
Draco glanced at Harry. Harry was waiting near the entrance of the Chamber of Secrets with Dash curled behind him. He seemed a lot less tense than the last time they'd been down here, and Draco had to admit he felt the same way—at least until he looked back at the woman lying motionless on the black of stone in front of him.
"You know that I'm not as confident about that as I was," Draco said sharply, and saw Harry's nod from a corner of his eye. He swallowed. "I can—I can control her, but I don't know everything that I should know about the Dark Mark."
"Dash has a plan for that."
Draco stepped back so that Dash could slither forwards and look at Bellatrix, while keeping his eyes carefully concealed beneath that transparent pair of lids. Dash swayed his head back and forth slowly, now and then flicking his tongue. Then he turned to Harry, and Harry looked at Draco. "Could you move the sleeve up her left arm, please?"
Draco didn't mind, especially because he thought Dash's request had probably been something a lot less polite until Harry translated it. Dash positioned his head carefully, according to some calculation of angles that Draco didn't understand. He even turned as if to look back at the roof or walls of the Chamber more than once.
Then he plunged his head down.
Draco couldn't help jumping back, even though that jolted Conflagration and Ultior and made them hiss as they tried to rearrange themselves on his body. Draco stared as one of Dash's fangs went into Bellatrix's arm.
"You decided to kill her?" he whispered.
Harry touched his shoulder. "No. Watch."
Draco did, and saw the Dark Mark beginning to shift and dance on Bellatrix's arm. Dash moved his head, his fang now free of her skin, and the serpent that made up most of the Dark Mark followed him as if he was a charmer.
Dash was almost dancing, at least from the neck up, as gracefully as a much smaller snake. The Dark Mark unraveled further and further, the skull turning into more coils of a snake, and then reformed. This time, though, Draco could see subtle differences. The snake was bigger and had a glimpse of small marks beside its darting tongue that could be venomous fangs. The skull seemed a little more hollow or a little more tilted to the side than Draco remembered. Of course, it wasn't as though he spent all his time looking at the Dark Mark, either, so he might be misremembering.
"That's done," Harry said. He sounded tired himself, even though Dash had been the one biting and dancing. "Dash can modify his poison when he wants. This time, it's buried in the Dark Mark so that if Voldemort does manage to seize control of her, it'll kill her before she can tell him anything, and if she does start having disloyal thoughts, it'll force her back under control. It can work with Elena's potion or your blood magic."
Draco nodded. "You don't really need me at all, do you?" His voice was less bitter than it would have been a year ago, but he was thinking. Harry had allies who could do amazing things. So far, Draco had managed to use his blood magic to cause problems, and that was really all.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Harry took a step towards him. Draco blinked. Harry swore more often than he used to, but not all that often. "I need you because you're Draco. Not because I have a certain quota of allies and I need them all to act like allies to me."
"But you need them not to be an active danger to you, either."
"Well, yes. But you're not an active danger anymore, either. Draco." Harry spoke his name softly and touched him on the shoulder. "Did you really think that I still blamed you for the mistake you made?"
"Using Dash to control Bellatrix like this—"
"Is just another form of insuring that we'll get what we need out of her and that she won't manage to betray us. It's not a judgment on you."
Draco sighed and let go of his paranoia. He was better at doing that now than he would have been a year ago, too. "Fine. Then what do you want me to do with her first? Are we going to send her back to Voldemort to spy on him, or, I mean, his caretakers? Or are we going to use her to go after a Horcrux?"
"Spying first," Harry said decisively. "We don't have anyone else who can do that well yet, and we don't have any idea what the traps around the Horcruxes are like. She might trip them and die as easily as anyone else." He looked up at Dash and hissed something in Parseltongue. Dash, whose head was still swaying back and forth, answered lazily.
"But we do have to get hold of the Horcrux in Little Hangleton soon," Harry added, more softly. "Dash thinks Voldemort is getting closer to waking up."
Sirius froze when a noise sounded behind him. It was like ash setting into the fireplace from a log shifting, but he hadn't lit a fire in the library of Grimmauld Place. He'd been in here reading for hours, and there was still just enough sun coming through the windows that he hadn't seen the necessity of lighting the hearth.
Given what some of his more paranoid ancestors had installed in the house, there were too many things that sound could be to make Sirius comfortable.
Sirius laid his hand casually on his wand. He'd opened some doors and disturbed some ancient dust in cupboards to find that sword for Harry. Maybe some guardian had come alive and was wandering around the house.
The noise sounded again.
Sirius stood and moved slowly in its direction. He found himself relaxing his breathing and making his steps silent even though he probably shouldn't have to do that and even though he didn't know yet if it was something alive. Perhaps some bit of loose magic was sparking and waving around, the way the wards had been when he first came back to the house. Or perhaps it was something alive, but a bat who had wandered inside or something similar harmless.
Even as he thought about that, he knew it was impossible. The wards didn't allow animals to pass them, harmless or not.
When he heard the sound again, he was close enough to it to make out the muffled cadences of it. Banging, as though the thing was caught inside a container. That eased his fears a little. It wasn't already out, whatever it was.
And some of the Black protective defenses could be incredibly aggressive about keeping inside the objects they were meant to imprison.
He finally eased around a corner, and saw a large black cabinet standing in front of him. Perhaps it had been gilded at one point or otherwise decorated, but now it just looked old and grim and dusty. The banging made the glass door vibrate.
Sirius cast a wordless spell that had been drilled into his head when he was young. It would let him identify the material making up whatever it was targeted at. Flesh, wood, metal, and a dozen other things could be detected that way.
The impression the spell brought back to him was cold hardness against his tongue, studded with facets. Something made of metal and covered with jewels, most likely.
Which didn't really narrow it down any. Sirius had been astonished by how much jewelry, most of it corroded, tarnished, or cursed, his mother had left behind.
He also didn't know what would have made a piece of jewelry move on its own, after presumably being kept in the cabinet for many years. Sirius set up an overlapping series of shields that would defeat most curses and Dark Arts, and then unlocked the cabinet's door with a murmured, "Alohomora."
The minute the door was open, the thing flew out and began rolling over and over in the center of the carpet. Sirius narrowed his eyes. It was a locket, apparently made of gold and covered with emeralds. It didn't seem similar to anything his family would have owned. Too gaudy for his mother's taste. But perhaps an heirloom—
The locket flipped itself over to show the front, and Sirius hissed at the sight of the emerald S, just a short distance away from being a serpent. And the sense of the overwhelming, suffocating darkness that struck him a second later drove him back a step.
The locket began to crawl towards him. Or at least that was the only thing Sirius could think to name the disgusting way that it moved on its chain, as if it was an extra foot, and humped its curved body along on top, like a snail.
Sirius struck it with a Blasting Curse before it got far. He didn't expect it to damage the Horcrux, so he wasn't disappointed when it went skittering back in a circle instead of flying apart. For a second, it lay there, its menace still pouring off it to fill the room like invisible smoke. It seemed to be plotting what to do next.
Sirius took a step towards it.
Sirius cursed and spun in a circle, his wand uplifted, his mind filled with visions of the locket flying at him and strangling him with its chain. But the Dark magic had vanished from the room along with the locket. His wild circles made him do nothing but stumble against the fireplace.
Sirius licked his lips and looked around the room for a few minutes. No, nothing here.
And he thought he would know if the locket came into the house again. But just in case, he started strengthening the wards against that happening again. He didn't want the locket trying to kill him in his sleep.
Then he sat down to write a letter to Harry. And, through him, to Snape.
They deserved to know what exactly one of Voldemort's Horcruxes looked like, and maybe a description would be of use in finding it.