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Chapter One Hundred and Thirty-Three—Dash and the Deathly Hallows

"I have the Cloak," Harry panted, staggering through the door and brandishing the cloak as though he expected to deflect a bull with it.

Severus nodded, not moving. His eyes were fixed on the Resurrection Stone, more than the ring itself. He had wanted to be sure that the ring would have no more power over him, but it was the stone that was truly dangerous. The distance Dash kept from the Horcrux, and the way he averted even his covered eyes from it, was enough to tell Severus that.

"Are you going to tell us what is so strange about the Hallows when it comes to you?" Severus asked as he picked up the Cloak and turned to face the ring Horcrux.

Dash gave him a slow, incredulous glance, conveyed more by the turn of his neck than any expression. Severus actually did not need the translation Harry made for him a second later. "He says that you didn't phrase the question well."

"Excuse me for being a bit overwhelmed by the presence of two of the Deathly Hallows in my quarters," Severus said, and made his voice dry enough that Dash flinched, although oddly enough, Harry did not. "Am I going to learn about their relationship with Salazar Slytherin, or their grudge, or whatever it is, before we attempt to separate the Hallow from the Horcrux?"

Harry flinched this time, and Severus knew it was because of the edge to Dash's hiss. "No," he muttered.

"I am going to find out sooner or later," Severus told Dash as he drew his wand. The ring Horcrux continued to sit idly in the middle of the floor, not exerting any special pull, doing nothing. Then again, that was what Severus had thought it was doing in the middle of the shack where he and Dash had found it. "You might as well tell me now."

Harry coughed a second later. "He said that might impress students who are slacking off on their homework, but it doesn't impress him," he translated dutifully when Severus turned to him with a raised eyebrow.

Severus sighed, and changed the subject. "What do I need to do with the Cloak?"

Harry listened, head cocked in that odd way that Severus was getting more and more used to, and then held out his hands. "Dash says that I'm the one who actually needs to remove the Resurrection Stone, since I'm the owner of the Invisibility Cloak."

Severus yielded the Cloak with a hard stare. Harry shrugged. "He says he doesn't have a choice, and I'm the Cloak's owner."

That much was true, as much as Severus had sometimes wished otherwise in the last few years and when James Potter possessed it. He watched narrowly as Harry turned and stepped towards the Horcrux. Then he stopped at a hiss from Dash. A second later, Severus lifted his wand again.

A grey mist was seeping into the air from the Resurrection Stone.

What is it doing? Is this some way that it's trying to protect itself? Harry asked Dash. He could feel his hands trembling, and did his best to steady them. Just because he did have to do this himself didn't mean it was any more dangerous than some of the things he had already accomplished.

I am not sure. Let me listen.

But Dash didn't listen. Instead, he gave the same kind of sliding hiss that wasn't really Parseltongue that he'd used before with the shadow of the locket Horcrux. The mist danced back and forth, but didn't respond that Harry could hear, instead spreading out to form a rough shape like a shamrock.

Then Dash lunged abruptly forwards.

The smoke met his snout and broke apart. Before it could reform again, Dash coiled his tail and struck at the ring, sending it flying into the wall. Severus followed that with a Blasting Curse a second later, but Harry wasn't surprised when the ring rolled away undamaged. It took something a lot worse than a mere fifth-year spell to hurt a Horcrux.

This time, the ring rose and flew towards Harry. Harry ducked and swept the Cloak above him on instinct, trapping the ring inside like it was a fish inside a net. Immense struggles promptly ensued. Harry staggered back a little, surprised at how fierce even that little bit of resistance was.

Do not let it go! Dash commanded down the bond.

Harry nodded and folded the Cloak in and in on itself, cupping the ring and the Stone. Except it suddenly felt as if he held two separate objects. He resisted the temptation to open the Cloak and check, keeping a wary eye on Dash as he slithered closer.

"Is it separated?" Severus asked hoarsely. He had his wand aimed at the floor now. Harry knew he wouldn't want to do anything that might target Harry.

Yes and no.

Harry rolled his eyes as he translated. "That was less than helpful, Dash."

But at the moment, Dash reminded him far more of a stalking predator than a playful basilisk. He was circling warily towards the Cloak, his tongue dating out. He finally said, Physically, the Stone is separated from the Horcrux. But magical bonds still tie them together. This is—deeper than I thought. Voldemort did not know what the Resurrection Stone was, so I thought that he didn't do anything to make it tied to the ring. But he did something else. Some form of protection that I have never seen before.

Harry swallowed before he translated. It wasn't a good sign when a wizard who had lived over a thousand years before didn't know what he was looking at.

"If he does not know what the protection is, then he does not know how to overcome it, correct?" Severus asked. He had a knife in his left hand now, his wand still in his right. Harry hadn't even seen him draw it, and frowned a little.

You trust him to be in the same room with you without continually trying to defend yourself, of course you didn't notice when he drew it, Dash said briefly down the bond. And I do not know how to overcome it.

"Then what do we do with the stone and the ring?"

For now, keep them in the same place. I'm afraid the Cloak will have to stay wrapped around them. If you held all three, then maybe we could convince the Stone to join its fellows and ignore the call that binds it to the ring.

"But we don't," Harry said, although he noticed the thoughtful frown on Severus's face. "Do you know something, Severus?"

"Rather say that I might know something," Severus murmured. "Give me time to investigate it and see if it's true. In the meantime, you will leave the Cloak with the Stone and the ring in my quarters?"

Harry didn't see that he had any other choice. He let it go with a sigh. It would have been amazing to destroy two of Voldemort's Horcruxes on the same evening, but that would probably have been too much luck.

Besides, he thought as he and Dash left Severus's office, he had things that he needed to talk to his basilisk about.

Severus, meanwhile, had isolated a memory in his Pensieve and was plunging back into it. It was the memory of the last moments when Albus had been alive, and threatening Harry by trying to strip him of his bond to Dash. Severus forced himself to keep his eyes averted from the sight of Harry's pain and distress, and instead studied the wand that was rolling into a corner of the cavern that Albus and Flamel had chosen for their ambush.

The memory ran out before anything happened. Severus sat back, his eyes closed and one hand rising to massage his temple. No one, that he had seen, had picked up the wand. That meant he didn't know who had it now, if the Ministry had confiscated it as evidence or if perhaps someone had taken it away and even buried it with Albus.

But he had come close enough to the wand in the memory to see that the carvings of elderberries on it were real, not something he had imagined.

Albus had the fucking Elder Wand. How could he have had it so long and no one noticed?

But when he thought about it, Severus had to admit that he hadn't ever stared for long at Albus's wand. No one did, really. It wasn't polite among some older wizards, and the younger ones, Severus thought with a touch of despair, too often considered observation an art that someone else should practice for them. It was not so surprising, after all, that Albus had walked around wielding a Deathly Hallow for years and escaped scrutiny.

Severus did pause when he remembered another bit of wand-lore, and some of the lore surrounding the Elder Wand in particular. He dipped his head into the memory and watched the moment when Albus had died, when Harry had told him to duck and Dash's gaze had knifed into Albus.

No. Severus had not blasted the wand out of Albus's grasp, as he had half-hoped he had done. The wand had indeed simply fallen and rolled when Albus died.

Which meant, if Severus understood such matters correctly, that Dash was now the master of the Elder Wand.

Severus stepped out of his quarters and wrapped a Disillusionment Charm around himself to stop students from questioning him impertinently. Then he stalked towards the kitchen.

For the first time in years, he needed a lot of Firewhisky.

"Okay." Harry turned to face Dash. They were most of the way to Gryffindor Tower, but Harry had asked Dash to pause in one of the few corridors that was both bare of other people and large enough for a basilisk to turn around. "Listen. I want to know what kind of links you have with the Deathly Hallows."

Dash said nothing for some time, his head dancing with the small motions that he seemed to use most of the time now, as if he wanted to appear as snake-like as possible. Harry only stared at him. The bond pulsated in the back of his head. Dash had chosen him, he reminded himself. He had bonded with him, had become Harry's basilisk. That meant he loved him. That meant Harry could trust him.

Even if it didn't feel that way at the moment.

"Why are you so reluctant to confess it to me?" he finally asked. "Is it a secret like you having Salazar Slytherin's soul? Because I adjusted to that, you know."

Dash finally lifted his head, and Harry blinked. He thought Dash was feeling—

It's so bloody embarrassing, Dash said down the bond, confirming the emotion Harry had thought he saw hinted at, somehow, in the corners of Dash's mouth and the way he turned his neck.

"Embarrassing," Harry said blankly.

Yes, it is. I was a renowned wizard when I was alive, and some people revere me more now that I'm dead than they ever did when I lived. Not that they know what I was really like. I created a new kind of basilisk as Salazar Slytherin. I founded a school. I have other magical accomplishments that are probably moldering in journals somewhere.

"Where are the journals?"

Not important right now. Can we focus on the embarrassing thing before I lose the will to talk about it?

Harry nodded slowly. "Fine. Then tell me what you mean about the Deathly Hallows, and why it's so embarrassing."

Dash sighed and said, Those artifacts are ancient. I do not know who made them. They ought to have been impossible to make, according to magical theory as I understood it when I had the body of a wizard, and nothing I have learned since has changed my mind.

"What's so remarkable about them? I mean, I know my Cloak is powerful, but it's just kind of an upgrade on a regular Invisibility Cloak, right?"

No. It is a thing of a different kind, which masquerades as an Invisibility Cloak. And the Elder Wand cannot be unbeatable, and the Resurrection Stone should not be able to call back souls—not real souls instead of the mockery that necromancers use to fill the bodies of Inferi. Yet they can both do those things.

Harry found himself swallowing. If he could see his parents—he could use the stone just once, and talk to them—

Do not. That is the kind of thing that leads to people falling under the Stone's spell.

So it's not just to talk to the dead, then? Or it can't really talk to them? Harry leaned on the wall and tried to forget about the sudden surge of joy that had filled him when he thought he might have a way to talk to his mum and dad.

Dash wrapped his tail around Harry and nuzzled close, holding him so that Harry was surrounded by warmth. It can talk to them. But it has killed its owners in the past by making them long to join the dead. They most often commit suicide.

Harry licked his lips while he tried to await the melting of the frozen lump in the center of his chest. That didn't happen to the Gaunts?

They did not understand what they had. The Stone is the most hidden of the three Hallows. The Wand and the Cloak at least have an obvious purpose even if you don't understand their greater power. The Stone…no.

Harry nodded, and then said, "Don't think I haven't noticed that you're deflecting me. What's your link to the Hallows and what's so embarrassing about it?"

Dash sighed and drooped his head as if he would prefer to sprawl across the floor. But he said, Someone brought the Hallows to the castle. No, I honestly don't know who, he added, when Harry sent a pulse of warning down the bond. It may have been that it was a troop of wandering wizards, who were our guests for one evening. It may have been students who found them and didn't realize what they were. The Hallows can move with their own purpose when they want to, and they might have wanted to be gathered together at that particular time. All I know is that they were there, and they spoke to me.

"Did they want you to wield them?"

They wanted me to bear the Wand. They said that the Cloak was destined for someone else, and I shouldn't use the Stone. I already had my own dead to regret, by that point. But I refused them and told them the Wand should have another master. I was more interested in living and continuing my experiments than in having ultimate power.

"They didn't like that."

Of course they didn't. Fucking Hallows, Dash muttered, which made Harry laugh aloud before he cast a Silencing Bubble around himself. No one was supposed to be in this classroom, after all. The Wand hovered in the air and tried to defeat me. It could have forced me to claim it if it had conquered my own wand. I cast a curse that repelled the Elder Wand and would have broken it if it could be broken. But I took a step backwards from the force of the blacklash, and sat down on the Stone.

"So what?" Harry asked, when a long moment had passed and Dash's neck hadn't lost its embarrassed weave.

So sitting down on it and tumbling it over the way I did turned it three times. I suddenly had the spirit of my dead mother watching me with hollow eyes. I panicked. I picked up the nearest thing and flung it over the spirit.

"Which was—the Invisibility Cloak," Harry said, because now he was realizing this story must go a certain way. "You turned the Resurrection Stone with your arse?"

I told you it was embarrassing.

Harry shook his head. "It just sounds bizarre." But he did have to smile at the thought of Salazar Slytherin, as he had been then, summoning a spirit he hadn't even meant to with his arse. "When you threw the Cloak over the spirit, then what happened?"

Dash lowered his head with a sibilant sigh. The Deathly Hallows interacted in a way that was never meant to happen. The Cloak could touch the spirit, which no other Invisibility Cloak could have. The spirit became a living woman again. Her name was Kendra, not my mother at all. She wandered away from the castle, and who knows what tale she told when she was in a village again. The Cloak and the Stone, meanwhile, cursed me.

What did they curse you with?

That I might come into contact with the Hallows, again and again, and always fail to stop them from doing what they wished, until I met at last the true master of the Hallows. I saw them twice more in my life, and each time it was a disaster. The first time…You know that there used to be another tower where Ravenclaw Tower now stands?

"Um. No?" Harry winced at the look Dash gave him. "The history of the school itself isn't really something I studied in any depth, Dash."

After a second, Dash tilted his head in acceptance. I was the one who had the ability to remedy that, and I did not. Very well, then. There was another tower. The second time that I refused to master the Elder Wand, that tower fell. Luckily there was no one in it at the time, but disfiguring the school, the building I loved with all my heart—I didn't take it well.

"And the third time?"

That was when my wife died.

The thick tone at the end of Dash's sentence told Harry that he didn't wish to speak of it. He nodded and put a hand on Dash's neck for a second. Then he murmured, "And you didn't encounter them again after that? That seems like a weird curse."

They thought I would be reborn as someone else, someone who could be tormented by the Hallows and who might not even know why until he died and was a spirit again. They didn't know that I would cast my soul into a basilisk's egg and arrange to be reborn that way.

"I'm sorry." Harry stepped close and leaned against Dash, offering as much warmth and weight as he could. "Do you think they're going to torment you in this life?"

I don't know. That particular cloak you carry hasn't seemed like it wanted to try. But it was never in contact with the Stone before during your lifetime. And the Wand…

"What about the Wand, Dash?"

Dash draped his head over Harry's shoulder. It was Dumbledore's wand. I killed him, which means I mastered it. That fucking Elder Wand tricked me into mastering it at last.

Harry stood there and blinked into the darkness. Then he said, not sure what the response would be, "What if—what if I battled you and you let me win it? Would that take it away from you? Or someone else could, like Severus?"

Dash reared back, his eyes very wide. Then he hissed, but it wasn't Parseltongue, just the cursing of a wild snake. Harry waited with his arms folded and his expression very stern until Dash calmed down and looked at him again.

That might actually lift the curse, Dash whispered. You would be the master of the Hallows.

"What?" Harry thought of the wrapped bundle that contained the ring and the Stone. "No, I wouldn't." A wash of cold traveled down from the scalp of his head to his feet. "I only own the Cloak."

But you would master the Wand if you were able to beat me. Dash's tail stirred excited patterns in the dust on the floor of the classroom. And the Stone—it can be inherited, but it can also obey someone it's given to. Technically, I probably own it right now, since I was the one who took it from its hiding place. Or maybe Severus does. But either way, one of us could give it to you.

"I don't want to be the master of the Deathly Hallows!"

You don't want to help me escape a deadly curse?

Harry sighed loud and long enough that other people would have backed off, but Dash only went on watching him expectantly. "All right," Harry finally said, knowing he was being anything but gracious. "But what happens then? If someone really does master the Hallows and not just one or two of them?"

My curse lifts!

"But what about me? What happens to the person who does it?"

Dash looked at him, and Harry could feel the bond thrum with surprise. Then he coiled around Harry, so close that Harry had impenetrable walls of scales on either side of him. Harry relaxed before he thought of it. Most people wouldn't react that way to almost being smothered by a titanic basilisk, but most people didn't have the experience of the last few years that he did, to know how safe he was right now. He stroked the nearest pattern of small scales in a rhythmic pattern and sighed.

Of course nothing bad would happen to you. I am your basilisk. I would not let anything happen.

Harry held him tighter, and tighter, until Dash actually shifted away a little to get his breath. And then Harry said, "Then let's work to make sure that I can master the Elder Wand and the Resurrection Stone. I don't want them to torment you anymore."

Dash's pulsation of joy down the bond filled the world.