Disclaimer: Not the Rowling, not the Kanzaka.
I'm still here!
After posting the last chapter, I hit an extremely busy period in life and didn't have the time to write for a couple of months. Because of that I lost momentum completely. This chapter has sat, incomplete, for the last 18 months; I tried writing some short pieces to break the block, but they didn't help. (I'll be publishing them in a short while, so check my profile.) It was only a couple of other apparently-abandoned fanfics publishing their first new chapters in years (plus a couple of late-night conversations over cider) that gave me the kick needed to get going again.
Part of the "trying to get writing again" exercise involved going through all the previous chapters and tidying them up a bit, including removing some of the notes. Apologies if your email is spammed with eleven bogus "new chapter" notifications... the only one with any significant changes is Chapter 1: I added a couple of paragraphs to expand on Harry learning magic and 'creating' Lina; you don't have to go back and read it but it will make things a bit easier for new people.
This author's note will self-destruct once the chapter's view count catches up.
Once again, thanks to everyone who is following, has favourited, or has reviewed this story.
"Hello." : voice.
"Hello." : voice over phone, radio, TV... or writing.
‹Hello.› : thought.
"Hello." : spellcasting, or other invocations of power.
LOCKET! Voldemort's secret revealed!
"So are you really going to give the Stone back to Mister Flamel?" asked Hermione, leaning back in her armchair and cradling a cup of tea in her hands.
McGonagall had decided that the best way to deal with the straggler pupils was to Floo them straight to someone responsible, so Susan was hanging around her aunt's office at the Ministry, keeping Hannah and Justin company while their parents were contacted, whereas Hermione and Neville had gone to Inverse House with Harry and Muon. It would be a couple of hours before Hermione's parents could pick her up, so Neville elected to wait with them before Flooing back home himself — much to Mandy's delight; she was always happy for an opportunity to play hostess and show off the fruits of her interior design labour.
"Well..." Harry began, "we though about it for a while, and Lina came to the conclusion that having the good will and cooperation of the Stone's maker would be more likely to get her a body of her own, than owning a Stone that we don't know how to work."
"Good point," said Neville, who was examining some knick-knacks Mandy had selected for display on the drawing-room mantelpiece. "How are you going to contact him?"
"We've already written a letter," said Harry, pulling a roll of parchment out of his satchel and passing it to Hermione. "See what you think."
Dear Mister Flamel,
As you probably have heard by now, I have recently come into possession of a Stone of yours. As I do not feel I have any right to keep it, I would like to return it to you as soon as possible. Please find enclosed a photograph of the object in question, so you can verify it's authenticity. Let me know of how you want me to send it to you safely.
Also, I would be very grateful if I could consult with you on an unrelated matter. I believe that with your vast knowledge and experience you may be able to help me out. The return of your Stone doesn't depend on your answer to this.
"Hmmm..." said Hermione. "There shouldn't be an apostrophe in 'its' in the third sentence, and some of the wording — especially the fourth sentence — limps a bit, and... well, honestly Harry, your writing isn't the best, even when you take care like this." She nibbled her lower lip for a moment, then went on, "Do you want me to rewrite it for you?"
Harry sighed in relief. "I was hoping you would. I'm going to nip out and get one of those instant cameras. There's a shop out on the main road that sells tourist stuff; I'll only be a couple of minutes."
"Want some company?" asked Neville. "I wouldn't mind seeing inside a Muggle shop." He turned to Hermione. "If you're okay staying here with Mandy?"
"I'll be fine," said Hermione distractedly, pulling a fresh sheet of parchment from her bag.
"Just leave your robe here Neville," said Harry. "Your uniform should look fine..."
It took substantially longer than a couple of minutes for them to get back, what with Neville wanting to look at everything, a stop at a sweet shop, and other distractions. By the time they returned, Hermione had long finished the letter, and was nearing the end of a tour of the house given by an obviously-proud Mandy.
"We're back!" called Harry as soon as the door closed behind him. "We brought ice lollies!" Mandy appeared from the kitchen, towing Hermione behind her. "I got your favourite, Mandy. Can you put mine in stasis? I think Lina wants hers right away."
Mandy waved her hand distractedly over Harry's half-eaten multi-coloured treat, then quickly retired to a corner with the viciously sour lemon ice she loved.
"I didn't know what you liked," Harry went on, turning to Hermione, "so I got you the same as Lina." He handed two wrapped treats to Hermione, then let Lina take over. She immediately took one back from Hermione and started unwrapping the chocolate-covered creamy goodness.
"Did you actually remember to get the camera?" asked Hermione. "And thanks for the ice cream, Harry," she added.
"Yep," said Neville, holding out a plastic bag emblazoned with a Union Jack. "I hope you know how to work it..."
"I'll manage," she replied, taking the bag from him, then looked at her ice cream. "Um..."
"I'll hold it for you," said Neville. "Lina would probably eat it." Lina made some sort of denial noise around her mouthful of ice cream.
"All right," said Hermione, passing him the treat and taking the boxed camera out of the bag. "Let's see..."
She read the instructions for a few moments, then opened the box and pulled the parts out. She had to fumble for a couple of minutes before the flash assembly snapped into place, then loaded the free film cartridge that came with it. "All right." She looked around the room. "Mandy, is it all right if we use this table?"
"Of course," said Mandy, looking up from her ice. With a gesture she moved the vase of flowers from the table to a corner of the room, then shifted the table away from the wall. "Will here do?"
"That'll be fine," Hermione said. "Do you have the Stone, Lina?"
"Yup," said Lina. She pulled the Stone out from somewhere in her clothes, and placed it on the table. "All right?"
Hermione nodded. "Let's see then..." She lined the Stone up in the viewfinder, then pressed the shutter button. There was a click, a pop as the flash went off, then a whining noise as the camera's motor extruded the picture. "It'll be ready in a couple of minutes," commented Hermione, rescuing her ice cream from Neville and unwrapping it.
"That's fantastic!" said Neville. "My grand-uncle has to spend half an hour or so getting the pictures ready from his camera. Maybe it's because the pictures don't move?"
"Not really, most non-magical cameras take just as long," said Hermione. "This one's a bit more expensive, and the pictures don't have the same quality as the other kind, but it's handy when you need a quick snap. See?"
She showed the photo to Neville and Lina, who watched in fascination as the picture finished developing. "Hold it by the edges, it's still a bit wet," she said, handing the photo to Lina and her half-eaten ice cream back to Neville. "I'll take another one, just to be sure."
"How many more pictures can it take?" asked Lina.
"Um... eight?" said Hermione, taking the second picture. "Unless you bought another film pack?"
"No, Harry said we wouldn't need it," said Neville. "But we can get more later I suppose."
"That's fine," said Lina. "I just want a few pictures of us all."
"Let's get this letter off to Mister Flamel first," said Hermione. "Would Muon be—" She was cut off by the owl landing on the table in front of her and sticking out her leg. "All right Muon, give me a minute to wrap all this up."
She folded the letter up around the photos, then tied it up with a ribbon Mandy brought for her. Once it was attached to Muon's leg, the owl took off and vanished up the stairs.
"All right, that's out of the way," said Lina, hiding the Stone somewhere about her person again. "Let's take some photos!"
Once everyone was finished their treats, they spent quite some time on their photo shoot. They all had a chance to use the camera, as Lina insisted on getting pictures of as many combinations of the five as possible. By the time the last picture had whined its way out of the pack, they were all worn out from giggling at the different poses Lina insisted on them adopting. Mandy brought out some restorative cakes and cups of tea, and they spent some time chatting about their plans for the holiday — most of which centred around Sirius' Coming Back Party.
Shortly thereafter, a car pulled up outside Inverse House, and moments later the doorbell rang. Harry took over from Lina; Mandy put on her best majordomo manner, went to the door, and ushered in their visitors. "Mister Rupert and Missus Bonnie Granger," she announced.
"Mum! Dad!" said Hermione, leaping into the arms of the couple that came in. The three of them started talking almost non-stop, somehow holding a conversation even though none of them appeared to be listening. Harry and the others only made out a few phrases, but some stood out: "hexapedal vertebrates", "mammal-bird chimeras", "empirical proof of the survival of personality after death", and similar; leading them to understand that a weighty discussion of the hitherto-unknown nature of the world was under way.
After a few moments Mrs Granger held up a hand, halting all conversation. "Perhaps we should suspend discussion until later. Hermione, won't you introduce your friends?"
Hermione blushed. "I'm sorry, I got a little carried away." Harry and Neville just grinned broadly. "Mum, Dad, these are my friends from school, Harry and Neville. You've already met Mandy; she acts as Harry's aide but she's as much a friend as anyone else."
"Pleased to meet you," said Mrs Granger, shaking their hands in turn.
"Hermione's told us a lot about you," added Mr Granger, following suit. "And all your other friends; it's good to see her coming out of her shell finally."
Hermione blushed deeper. "Daaad!"
Harry nodded. "We're all a bit like that; Neville and I didn't have many friends growing up, and I don't think the others did either." He smiled, then remembered his responsibility as host. "Would you like a cup of tea or something?"
"I'm afraid we have to be going," said Mr Granger. "We'll be seeing you all at this Coming Back party, though?" Harry nodded. "The invitation wasn't clear on the dress code... does Hermione know the etiquette for the situation?"
Harry shrugged. "Be yourselves? Sirius — my godfather — doesn't bother with ceremony like that, so don't worry about stiff formal clothes or manners or anything like that. Some of the people there, Neville's gran for instance, will dress and act formally, because that's what she's comfortable with, but Sirius just wants everyone to have fun."
"Smart casual then, I suppose," said Mrs Granger. "I have a cocktail dress that'd do nicely, and you could wear your club blazer, dear. How about you, Hermione?"
"I'm not sure, we may need to go shopping," said Hermione. "Anyway, I'll see you lot at the party then?"
"Of course," said Neville.
"'Til then!" said Mandy with a grin.
Hermione gave quick hugs to Mandy and both the boys, causing blushes all round, then with a cheerful "Bye!" she led her parents out of the house.
"I'd better be going too," said Neville. "See you soon."
"Bye Neville, say hi to your gran for us," said Harry as Neville fired up the Floo. There was a «whoosh», and Harry was alone with his family again.
They didn't stay at House Inverse for very long. Harry unpacked his trunk with Mandy's help, both Harry and Lina changed their clothes and tidied themselves up a bit, then they were on the Floo to the Lord of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black.
"Come on through," said Sirius. "Between Mandy, me, and my mother's weird old House Elf, we've almost got the place finished. You can help us with the last bits!"
Harry gave a good-natured groan at the thought, then said, "Actually, if it's okay with Mandy, I'd rather she popped us over. Flooing doesn't agree with me." At Sirius' questioning look, he explained, "I get dizzy and come out really fast. Last time I even landed on my face. Literally. Luckily Hermione had read ahead and learned that Episkey spell."
"That sucks," said Sirius, "but you'll never get better if you don't practise. Come on, pup. I'll be ready to catch you if you need. Gryffindors Forward!"
Harry grumbled for a bit, but with some more encouragement from Sirius and Lina, he stepped into the flames and called out, "Canis Domum!"
This time, Harry shot out feet first, and caught Sirius right on the ankles, bringing him crashing down on top of his godson.
"Nice catch," groaned Harry. "Gerroff, you weigh a ton."
Mandy popped in. "Do you need a hand, Lord Black?"
"If you don't mind, Mandy," said Sirius, pulling himself off Harry. With Mandy's help he got both his feet under him, then they assisted Harry off the floor.
"I think Master Harry's unusual magic disagrees with the Floo system," said Mandy.
"Understatement," groaned Harry, holding his stomach. "I don't think you're supposed to tumble at random."
"Most people manage to stay vertical," said Sirius. "Okay, I won't pressure you into trying again."
"And I can pop you around until you learn to Apparate," said Mandy.
"Ta," said Harry. "Lina finds the whole thing hilarious, of course, but her amusement isn't enough reason to keep doing it."
Sirius laughed, then said, "And how is Miss Lina?"
"She's fine," said Harry. "Actually, that was one reason we came over today. We wanted to show you something, and we might need your advice."
"Ah!" said Mandy. "That reminds me. Lord Black, do you have any ice to hand?"
"I suppose," said Sirius. "Kreacher!" He went on, "Mandy, can't I convince you to just call me Sirius? Or even Master Sirius, if you insist?"
"Absolutely not, Lord Black," said Mandy. "It wouldn't be appropriate. Especially not in front of—"
A decrepit House Elf shuffled into the room. "Feckless master called?", he said, then muttered, "Oh look, The Apostate is back. And it brought a brat with it too. How nice."
Sirius sighed. "Please stop calling Mandy that. And the 'brat' is Lord Harry James of House Potter, Heir Presumptive of House Black." Harry snapped a look at Sirius, who gestured him to wait. "So you'd better get used to him being around." Kreacher grumbled under his breath; Sirius ignored him and went on, "Anyway, do we have any ice in the house?"
"Yes, Master," said Kreacher.
"What do you need it for?" said Sirius, turning to Mandy.
"The thing Master Harry wants to show you overheats his wand," said Mandy. "So, a plastic bag full of ice should help."
"Don't have any nasty Muggle bags," muttered Kreacher.
"Isn't it lucky I brought one then," said Mandy, pulling a clear freezer bag from somewhere and handing it to Kreacher. "This isn't likely to cause any damage, Lord Black; where do you want to do it?"
Harry took a moment to look around while Sirius was in thought. The room they were in was windowless and completely bare, other than the fireplace and a single glowing ball at the centre of the high ceiling. The walls were unpainted and appeared to have been freshly plastered, and the floor was made of tightly-fitted unvarnished wooden planking. He gave a small smile at the familiar signs of a Mandy Work in Progress.
"The workroom would be best, I think," said Sirius. "Might as well use it for its intended purpose. Kreacher, please fill the bag with ice and bring it to the workroom." The ancient House Elf popped away, and Sirius gestured to the door. "This way, Harry."
The door opened into a wide, well-lit hall. The woodwork — parquet flooring, wainscotting, doors, stairs, and bannisters — were all varnished with a smooth honey brown stain, and the plaster walls painted a delicate blue-white. Harry nodded his head at the obvious signs of Mandy's hand everywhere; a combination of elegance and practicality that made Lina's house so liveable. The only sign of ostentation was a stained-glass representation of the Black coat of arms in the fanlight over the front door.
Sirius led them away down the hall towards the back of the house, pointing out the other rooms as they passed them. "Most of them are furnished; we only have a couple of guest bedrooms and the Floo room still to go, although the kitchen and workroom aren't fully fitted out yet. Also, my brother's old room hasn't been touched; he was always Kreacher's favourite, so I let him use it for his own, and moved all his stuff in there."
"You have a brother?" asked Harry.
"Not any more," said Sirius shortly. "I'd rather not talk about it." He shook himself slightly. "Workroom's in here."
Harry was surprised to find the workroom to be fitted out in Muggle fashion, with a linoleum floor, stark white walls, and heavy melamine-laminated work benches. There were even fluorescent strip lights, and a heavy-duty extractor fan hood was built into the wall beside the windows.
"It's all Mandy's idea," said Sirius when he noticed Harry's reaction. "Apparently these surfaces are a lot easier to keep clean than the traditional ones." He went over to the extractor fan and ran a finger along it. "I'm not exactly an expert at Potions, but I do like to muck about occasionally, and this will be a lot better than doing it on the kitchen stove."
Harry nodded, looking out the window at the back garden. 'Work in progress' was a polite way of putting it; it looked like— no, it was a building site.
"I was thinking of a patio across half the width," said Mandy, coming up beside him and gesturing which side she meant, "with a herb garden beside it. Then a lawn with flower-bed borders most of the way down, and a greenhouse at the end so Lord Black can grow some of his own ingredients."
"Your mother introduced us to the concept of 'barbecue' when we finished school," said Sirius from behind them. "I definitely want one of them set up in time for summer."
Kreacher showed up at that point, dumped the bagful of ice on a bench, and slouched off, muttering something about 'nasty Muggle ideas'.
Harry chuckled. "Sounds fun. Also, you might want to talk to Neville when you're setting up your greenhouse; he's a whiz at Herbology."
Sirius nodded. "I will, thanks. Now, what was it you wanted to show me?"
Harry gestured 'stop' with one hand. "First, what's this 'Heir Presumptive' business about?"
"Ah," said Sirius. "Well, we're... um... second cousins; your grandmother was my grand-aunt — Dorea. As I don't have any family closer than that, the closest male relatives to the Lordship are you and Luscious Malfoy's sprog. No way is any kid of that blond ponce getting it, so... tag, you're It."
"Wow, Sirius," said Harry, somewhat overcome. "I don't know what to say..."
"Of course, if you don't want to be Heir Black, you can always help me find a gorgeous woman to make one of my own with," said Sirius, waggling his eyebrows.
Harry coughed, then laughed. "You're on your own there, Sirius. All right, let's show you this. Mandy, what was your idea with the ice?"
"Once you cast the spell, you don't have to move your wand, so if we fold the bag around it it'll help with the heat," said Mandy. "But you'll still need to watch for it burning out."
"And we can use one of the benches so you don't have to hold the bag the entire time," said Harry. "All right. You ready?" Mandy nodded. Harry allowed himself to be enfolded by the feelings of love and protection Lina was generating. "Expecto Patronum!"
As before, a ghostly version of Lina's body coalesced from Harry's wand. Mandy quickly guided Harry's hand down to the bench top, and wrapped the bag of ice around his wand.
"Merlin's hairy balls!" ejaculated Sirius.
"Language, Lord Black," said Mandy with a grin.
"Sorry Mandy," said Sirius. "But Harry... never mind that no kid of your age should be able to cast that spell; a human Patronus... it's unheard of!"
"I'm not exactly your run-of-the-mill Patronus, Sirius," said Lina, pouting.
"Hang on, is this actually her? You, I mean, Lina?"
Lina batted her eyelashes. "In the— well, not flesh, obviously. But whatever this is, I'm in it."
"Actually, that makes more sense," said Sirius. "One incredibly unlikely thing instead of two impossible ones; I can deal with that." He looked closely at Lina. "Wow..."
Lina preened, giggled, then sobered up a bit. "How's your wand holding up, Harry?"
"Warm, but not hot," Harry replied. "The ice is melting a bit, but it should be okay for a while."
"All right," said Lina. "We know I can cast spells like this; can you?"
"Dunno," said Harry. "Lighting. Apparently I can... I can feel the drain though, so I'd better not try anything too powerful unless it's an emergency. How's the anemone?"
"The what?" asked Sirius, as Lina turned to examine Harry's forehead closely.
"I can see magic while I'm like this," said Lina. "For instance, you have a vague dog-shaped shadow around you, the Muggle lights have blue balls attached to them, and the walls and surfaces are all glowing pink — some sort of shielding?"
"Strengthening charms," said Mandy.
Lina nodded. "Anyway, one thing I can see is this weird black thing attached to Harry's forehead — right on top of his scar. It's black and oily-looking, and has lots of stubby protrusions, like a sea anemone. They're moving around a little, like they're searching for something."
"That doesn't sound too healthy," said Sirius.
"No..." said Lina, reaching out with a finger. "That's interesting."
"What?" asked Harry.
"It pulled away from me. Like it's scared or something." Lina shrugged. "Maybe I can get it to come off altogether..."
She moved her hand closer. Harry pulled back suddenly. "Ow!"
"Sorry," said Lina.
"No, it's all right," said Harry. "It was just a sudden sting. Do you want to try again? I can hold still, now I'm expecting it."
"Are you sure?" asked Sirius.
"Yeah," said Harry. "I'd rather not walk around with strange black things on my head if at all possible."
"Okay," said Lina. "Just shout if it gets too painful."
Harry nodded, and braced himself against the table. Lina moved her hand in again, fingers cupped this time as if trying to scoop something off Harry's forehead. Harry hissed in pain. Lina shifted, changing the angle her hand was at, then tried pinching and cupping with both hands. Finally, as Harry gave a muffled moan, she stopped.
"Sorry Harry, it doesn't want to shift. It's like trying to pick up a jellyfish with chopsticks; it keeps flowing around my fingers. How bad did it hurt?"
"Not too badly," said Harry. "Any ideas? My wand's holding up for now, though we might need more ice soon, so..."
"Not sure," said Lina. "Let's see... you got the scar when Voles-in-de-shorts bounced a spell off your mum's protection. It hurt when Voles looked at you; it hurt worse when he used Stuttering Squirrel's hand to touch it." She turned and sat on the bench beside Harry's wand, facing him. "I sort of am your mum's protection; touching Squirrel burned him, and Voles' spirit form couldn't touch me for the pain it caused. And me poking the anemone hurts you a bit, but judging by how it squirms out of my grip, it hurts it a lot more. So..." She sighed.
Harry groaned. "So, I've got a bit of Mouldywart's soul stuck to my head." He hung his head. "I suppose it was predictable." Lina leaned over and gave him a hug. When she pulled back, Harry had a wide smile on his face.
"You seem to be taking this rather well," said Sirius, looking horrified. "You have part of V-vol— his soul in you!"
"Meh," said Harry, buzzed from close contact with his big-sis-patronus. "We'll manage. Lina's got form for dealing with this sort of situation."
"Yeah, worse comes to worst, I can just blow it off with a Ra Tilt," said Lina with a cocky smirk.
"You're not pointing that anywhere near my head until your aim improves," said Harry. Lina tried to punch him on the arm, which had almost the exact opposite of the intended effect, causing his grin to widen even further.
"But—" began Sirius, only to be cut off by Mandy popping in, holding Kreacher by the scruff of the neck. "What's going on, Mandy?"
"Stupid Apostate dragged Kreacher here," muttered the old House Elf.
"I didn't ask you," said Sirius.
"Sorry, Lord Black," said Mandy. "When Master Harry mentioned that the ice was running out, I went to find Kreacher to get some more. He was holed up in his room, cradling an old locket and muttering to it... and it was whispering back. So I... convinced him to come talk to you about it."
"Kreacher? What's this about?" asked Sirius.
Kreacher gave Sirius a sly grin. "Nice Master Regulus gave Kreacher the locket. Said to destroy it, but Kreacher couldn't. Now Master Regulus speaks to Kreacher from the locket! Kreacher is so happy to have Nice Master Regulus back!"
"When did it start talking to you?" asked Harry.
"Only today," said Kreacher. "Just before the Great Disappointment called for his breakfast—"
"About eleven o'clock," said Sirius with a glare.
"Right about the time you offed Voldy..." murmured Harry to Lina.
She nodded, then stiffened slightly when she glanced at him. "Kreacher, can we see the locket?"
"Shiftless Master can see it," said Kreacher. "Master Regulus so wants to talk to his dear brother..."
Harry looked uneasily between Lina and Sirius as Kreacher held out his hand, presenting a heavy golden locket inlaid with green stones. "Careful Sirius..." said Harry.
"Yeah," said Lina. "Harry's anemone seems to like it a lot."
"It's all right," said Sirius. "Poor Regulus... I never had a chance to say goodbye..."
Kreacher's grin widened as Sirius moved forward and a voice hissed from the locket. "Closer, dear brother, closer..."
Sirius bent over the locket, and with a click, it flicked open.
"Back!" shouted Mandy with a banishing gesture. Sirius flew across the room, narrowly escaping the plume of black vapour that burst from the locket. Eyes wide, Kreacher dropped the locket as if it burned his hand.
"I will not be denied," hissed the black shape as it turned and began to float over to Sirius.
"Oh no you don't!" shouted Harry. "Elmekia Lance!"
"Elmekia Flame!" cast Lina at the same time. Harry's Lance clipped the spirit, causing it to hiss loudly in pain, and spinning it out of the path of Lina's blinding pillar. It recovered, and darted towards Sirius again.
"Elmekia Lance!" Lina tried the faster spell this time, but the spirit dodged, fortunately away from Sirius. "Elmekia Lance! Harry, I'll keep Sirius safe, but you have to hit it with something it can't dodge. Elmekia Lance!"
Harry racked his brains, then began to chant as Lina cast the Lance again and again: "You pitiful twisted creature, not of this world... by the Light of Purity I possess, I bid thee, begone to the nexus of our two worlds! MEGIDO FLARE!" The floor erupted with white light, bathing everyone in the room. Mandy and Sirius relaxed, calm now that everyone was safe. Kreacher stiffened, a look of wonder on his face. Harry bit back a scream as the shadow spirit writhed and howled in pain. And Lina's Patronus form absorbed the holy power and made it her own.
Burning with a dazzling silver-blue flame, Lina held out her cupped hands. "Source of all souls which dwell in eternal and infinite. Everlasting flame of blue, let the power hidden in my soul be called forth from the Infinite... RA-TILT!"
This time, the spirit had no chance to bemoan its fate. At the first touch of the spell, it was consumed utterly.
"Everyone all right?" asked Harry.
"I'm fine, Master Harry," replied Mandy.
"Me too," said Sirius. "Mandy cushioned the floor before I hit it. Though I can't see a bloody thing; could you damp it down a bit Lina?"
"Not sure," said Lina. "Hang on..." The blinding flare at her core died down to a more manageable level. "Is that better? Kreacher, are you all right?"
"Kreacher is..." the old House Elf started, tears falling from his eyes. "Kreacher is well," he went on. "Long ago, the Dark Lord asked Master Regulus for Kreacher's help in hiding his treasure; Kreacher nearly died but Master Regulus needed him so he lived. Then Master Regulus went back to steal the treasure and died there, but he gave it to Kreacher to destroy." He hung his head, tears dripping to the floor. "But Kreacher couldn't, and the evil he drank hurt his head with nasty voices and pictures. Until today, when the sneaky treasure pretended to be Master Regulus, tricked Kreacher into bringing it to the Great Disappointment. Now Kreacher sees it was the Dark Lord's spirit, trapped in the locket!" Kreacher raised his head, his eyes shining. "But now it is gone, and Master Regulus can rest! Great magic burned the voices and pictures away, and Kreacher can rest! Mistress Lina, Master Harry, Apo— Miss Mandy; Kreacher is in your debt."
"Hey, what about me?" asked Sirius.
"Useless Master was present to witness the great deeds," said Kreacher, nodding sagely.
Sirius rolled his eyes, then sighed. "Can't argue with that," he said. "But Kreacher, did Regulus truly defy V-vol—him at the end? Did he turn his back on the Dark?"
Kreacher nodded. "Master Regulus saw that the Dark Lord's evil was too much for the world. He tried to stop him."
"Regulus..." whispered Sirius with a sob. "Thank you Kreacher. You served your master well. I'm sure he's proud of you." He went over to the old House Elf and took his hands. "Is there anything you want? You have Regulus' bedroom for your own, with my mother's portrait to keep you company... would you like to keep the locket?"
"Kreacher doesn't want the thing that killed Master Regulus." He dropped the still-open locket into Sirius' hand.
"Well, I don't want it. Lina? You killed it, you keep it." He tossed it to Lina, who simply let it fly through her ethereal body; Mandy caught it before it hit the floor.
"Ta Mandy," said Lina. "Finally, some profit! Hang on to it for now Mandy, we'll figure out what to do with it later."
Sirius turned back to Kreacher. "Surely there's something you want?"
"No, Master who is not so horrible after all. Kreacher will keep serving the House of Black, as is his duty. Unless... If Master Sirius truly wishes to give Kreacher something to remember Master Regulus by, then the locket that was left in place of the Dark Lord's treasure would be nice. Kreacher will show you where it lies. But it is guarded by legions of the dead, and the green evil that brings nightmares."
Sirius swallowed. "Inferi? All right, I can't promise anything, but I'll do what I can."
"What's Inferi?" asked Lina.
"Animated dead," said Sirius with a shudder. "About the only way to deal with them is fire. Lots of... fire..." He grinned at Lina. "Want to help?"
After declaring that the removal of a horde of Inferi was in the public interest (though it could wait for the moment), Harry and the others decided to move to the drawing room, where the furniture was somewhat more comfortable and snacks could be served. Since the power boost Lina received from the Megido Flare seemed to have reduced the drain on Harry to a trickle, they decided it was safe for her to stay in Patronus form for the moment, though they kept Harry's wand buried in ice for safety's sake.
Lina took a moment to check Harry's forehead again. "It hurt quite a bit when the Flare went off," said Harry. "I think we may have damaged the anemone."
"Well, it's still there," said Lina. "It's not moving as much as it was earlier, but it doesn't look any smaller or weaker."
"Oh well," said Harry. "I was vaguely hoping that might have done for it, but we'll just have to try something stronger. You said it 'liked' that locket thing?"
"Sodding phylactery," spat Lina, her mercurial mood switching to anger. "Now I know why Crumblemore was so sure Voles wasn't dead."
Harry just looked confused. "A soul jar," supplied his godfather, nodding grimly. "He put part of his soul into the locket to ward off death."
"Don't worry though, he's definitely gone," Lina reassured Harry. "But if he's left bits of himself lying around, we could end up having to deal with a rebuilt part of him at some point. That bit in the locket was pretty determined to get itself a body."
"You think there's more of them?" said Sirius. "I've heard of these things; making just one can drive you insane." He cocked his head. "Actually, that explains a lot."
"His soul must have been fractured enough that when he tried to kill Harry back then, a bit of him broke off and stuck in his scar..." said Lina.
"But if the 'anemone' is attracted to these soul jars, can't we use it to find them?" asked Harry.
"Only if they're really close," said Lina.
"But you shouldn't get too close to any of them," said Sirius, "in case they join up and attack you."
"If it helps get rid of Voles completely—" started Harry, but at that point Kreacher returned with the snacks, and he wasn't alone. "Master Harry's excessively snooty owl has arrived," he sighed, holding the door open to allow Muon to fly in.
"Come here girl," said Harry, smiling. Muon pulled up into a graceful stall and perched on the arm of Harry's chair. "You were really quick," he commented, taking the scroll off her leg. "Did you have any trouble finding the Flamels?" Muon gave him a Look. "All right, let's see what they've said..."
Dear Master Potter,
I thank you for your honesty in writing to me. I only wish that your Headmaster exhibited a similar strength of character. Fortunately I did not trust that he would: when he asked for my Stone to keep safe, I sent him a fake. He has never seen the Stone, so I was confident that the rather more gaudy and obviously magical decoy I supplied would pass as the genuine article. You may be interested to know that the Stone depicted in your photographs is neither my true Stone, nor the decoy I sent to Albus, which he claimed was destroyed when Voldemort made his attempt on it. It is, in fact, even more gaudy than that.
I would very much like to hear the details of how you acquired that doubly duplicitous rock. The item itself you may as well keep, as a memento. I am also open to hearing about this issue you wish to consult me on.
"Grumblegore, you sneaky old git," said Lina. "No wonder he gave up so easily. Well, at least Flamel is interested in hearing about our problem. We can write the whole story later."
"Or," said Sirius, "you could send him an invitation to the party? That way he can meet you and hear the story first hand!"
"And you get the coup of several centuries for hosting the Flamels," noted Mandy.
"Oh?" said Sirius disingenuously. "Why... I suppose that's true..." He grinned.
As Muon winged her way back to the Flamels', Harry and the others settled in for an afternoon of chatting and stories from their pasts. By the time Muon returned, Harry's wand was starting to heat up again, so Lina came back 'inside', then the two of them swapped back and forth to enjoy the massive feast created by the much-revitalised Kreacher.
After an evening of card games and tall tales, they parted from Sirius and Kreacher, and headed back to Lina's house. Mandy declared an interest in the locket-phylactery, and went off to do some research in the library, but both Harry and Lina were somewhat worn out by the events of the day, so with Harry in 'front', they went to bed.
About mid-morning the next day, Mandy popped Harry over to Sirius'.
"Morning, pup," said Sirius, giving his godson a hug.
"Morning," said Harry. "Muon came back this morning with a reply from the Flamels. They won't be able to make it to your party, I'm afraid."
"That's a shame," said Sirius. "Will they still help you and Lina out?"
"They'll try," said Harry. "We wrote back telling them everything we know about the situation; with any luck they'll at least have some ideas."
"That's good," Sirius replied. "If nothing else, Muon's getting plenty of exercise."
"She's certainly enjoying herself," said Harry, nodding.
"So," said Sirius, "are you and Lina ready for some fireworks?"
"Always," said Lina, taking over with a grin. "Mandy, if Kreacher pops Sirius to the cavern, will you be able to follow?"
"Easier to do it the other way around, Mistress," said Mandy. "Kreacher already knows where he's going, so he can take you, then you can call me to you." Kreacher nodded his agreement.
"All right then," said Sirius. "Shall we?"
"As you wish, Master," said Kreacher, taking hold of the hand Lina held out to him.
Lina had to check her balance as the carpeted floor beneath her was replaced by rough rock, the morning sunlight of Sirius' drawing room giving way to a sickly green glow emanating from a bowl atop a stone pedestal. She quickly incanted "Lighting," throwing the glowing ball up into the air to reveal the extent of the dank island and the murky waters surrounding it.
"Clear for now," she said to herself, then noticed Kreacher staring at the green glow in sadness. "Hey Kreacher, don't worry. We'll avenge your old master today." Kreacher nodded, not taking his eyes off the bowl. "Mandy!" called Lina, pushing some magic into the summons.
Mandy and Sirius appeared, stumbling a little on the uneven surface.
"Well, this is nice," said Sirius, looking around. "What now, Kreacher?"
Kreacher went over to the pedestal. "Master Regulus' locket is in here, Master. But the green evil will not let us touch it. The Dark Lord made Kreacher drink it, to let him place the locket there." He shuddered.
"Well, no-one's going to be drinking it today," said Sirius. "We'll just have to figure out another way."
"Hang on," said Lina. "Harry has an idea."
Harry took over. "Can't you transfigure something to drink it, Sirius?"
Sirius sighed. "I was never that good at animate transfigurations," he admitted. "Anything I can make wouldn't be big enough to help. I can make a cup though," he went on, then quickly conjured a simple teacup. "I wonder..." Sirius scooped up a cupful of the green potion, then tried to pour it onto the rocky ground. The potion flowed through the air in a thin stream, back into the bowl. "Hah! I didn't think that would work."
Harry thought for a moment. "Well... there's an entire lake full of Inferi here. Couldn't we get one of them to drink it for us?"
Sirius just stared at him for a long moment, then started laughing.
"What's so funny?" asked Harry, a little miffed.
Sirius struggled for a moment to contain himself, then said, "They're mindless corpses. They don't do anything other than attack the living."
"It should work then. Lina?"
Lina took over. "Okay. Sirius, could you get one of those Inferi out of the water for me?" Sirius gave her a Look. Lina sighed. "Don't worry, Mandy and Kreacher can handle one of them, even if I'm preoccupied."
"All right," grumbled Sirius. He twirled his wand and intoned, "Accio Inferius!"
The surface of the lake heaved, then a decayed body burst out in a spray of water. "Levicorpus!" snapped Sirius. The Inferius was quickly yanked into the air by its ankle and hung there, swaying as it clawed at the air.
"Ah... sorry Sirius, that one won't do." Lina gestured to the flailing body, indicating where it had apparently parted company with its lower jaw. "Can you get another one?"
Sirius gave a put-upon sigh. "I suppose. What do you want done with this one?"
Lina grinned. "Pull!" Sirius just looked at her in confusion. "Must be a Muggle-only thing," she went on. "Make it fly away. Loft it a bit."
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Depulso!" The ravening corpse arced into the air across the water.
"Val-Flare!" A large fiery arrow shot from Lina's hands, striking the Inferius as it reached its zenith, then exploding with a massive «BOOM» that smacked into the water below and sent flaming Inferius chunks flying around the cavern.
"Nice!" said Sirius in an awe-struck tone.
"You like that, you should see the bigger version," grinned Lina. "Okay, next please?"
"Accio Inferius with an intact mouth!" said Sirius. Another corpse burst from the lake, and was quickly hoisted into the air.
"Okay, let's start by assuming there's still something in there," said Lina. "Kugutsu!"
The Inferius continued to claw at the air.
"Hmm," said Lina. "All right, if you've ever worried about Inferi's souls being trapped on Earth, you can put your mind at rest. They're just an armature. It makes things a bit trickier, but still doable." She held her arms out before her, bent her elbows so they crossed at the wrists, bowed her head into the pocket thus made, and began a whispering chant. Sirius couldn't make out what she was saying, and was very glad of that, given what little he could hear. Finally she threw her arms wide and hissed, "Necro Vuud."
A chill wind sprang up around the group, forming an icy zephyr that quickly vanished into the Inferius' mouth. The corpse immediately stopped moving, and hung limp in the air.
"You can release it now," said Lina.
Sirius gave Lina a worried glance, then cast "Liberacorpus". The Inferius sank to the ground.
"Get up," commanded Lina. The Inferius slowly pulled itself to its feet. "Move to the pedestal." Shuffling, it slowly made its way over. "Drink." The Inferius bent until its face was inside the bowl. Lina wrinkled her nose as it began draining the potion with a loud slurp.
"What was that?" asked Sirius quietly.
"A quick bit of necromancy," said Lina with a grin. "There are odd bits of spirit wandering around most places; I gathered one up and stuck it into the Inferius so there was something there to command."
"Necromancy?" said Sirius with a shudder.
"Just one of my many talents," said Lina. "I am a fully-qualified sorceress, after all; black magic is part of the package." She eyed Sirius' expression, then added, "You're not going to get all weird about this, are you?"
"Um—" started Sirius, but Mandy spoke over him.
"Sorry to interrupt, Lord Black, but I think blowing that one up has wakened the rest of them."
To be continued...
...yes, another cliffhanger.
It was the most sensible place to stop the chapter. Also, I'll feel much more pressure to get the next part than if (say) I left it at a part that felt like the end of the first book or something. As with the last cliffhanger, the next chapter's already partly-written, so hopefully it'll be out in a couple of weeks' time.
Of necessity, there will be certain parallels between this story and robst's Souls Abound, but both the cause of the Horcruxes' awakening and the results should be different. Souls Abound is well worth a read, by the way.
Dorea Potter as James Potter's mother: I don't consider Pottermore to be canon; it strikes me more as a medium for JKR to vent by contradicting popular fanon, no matter how stupid the contradictions are (see: size of the magical population of the UK, number of magical schools in the world).
Luscious Malfoy: [sic]. I can't remember who came up with it; it certainly wasn't me, but it's such an obvious childish insult that Sirius has to use it.