Fourth year. . .
The next year, Sirius showed up at the Grangers' house unexpectedly, tickets for the Quidditch World Cup clutched in his hand. Upon seeing them, Harry let out a shriek of excitement. Hermione just rolled her eyes at him and continued on with her book.
Of course, Draco also had tickets. The entire Malfoy family did, just as always. But this year, he had invited Ronald Weasley to accompany him. It was a friendship that had surprised both families. The animosity between the Malfoys and the Weasleys was almost legendary, and their first few years at Hogwarts had only served to worsen it. But something had happened between the two young boys the year before. Draco seemed a bit more laid back, and Ron seemed a bit more pompous. Their friendly alliance made Minerva edgy.
High in the stands, someone else wasn't watching the game as the rest of the crowd was. No, he was too interested in the wand sticking up from the back pocket of one Harry Potter, sitting in front of him.
The match was exciting, and everything that Harry had been expecting. And later that night, he and Sirius sat together outside their tent, talking about quidditch. Harry hadn't missed it as much as he thought he would have since leaving Hogwarts. It was never really the game that he enjoyed, but the flying.
Unfortunately, Harry and Sirius' conversation was interrupted by screams.
When everything had been cleared up and Harry's wand had been returned from the house elf that had been found with it, the trio left that night, knowing that Jean and Daniel would be worried when they heard what had happened.
When Harry and Hermione heard about the Triwizard Tournament that would be taking place that year at Hogwarts, they began begging their parents to take them to see the competitions; Hermione because she wanted to meet the students from the other two schools and Harry because he thought it would be awesome, further vindication for Sirius that he had the Potter genes. For Daniel and Jean, it was proof that Harry had moved past his traumatic childhood.
And so they agreed that Sirius could take the two teenagers back to Hogwarts on the days of each task.
In his library office, Lucius Malfoy pored over the parchment in his hand. If he was truly going to go against the Dark Lord, he needed to do more. Despite his demise, Voldemort's followers were still powerful and active; the events from the World Cup were proof of that. And if the Dark Lord ever returned, they would quickly return to his service. Something needed to be done. And soon.
Later that night, Walden Macnair and Stamatis Greengrass were sitting together in Macnair's library and drinking when there was a sharp crack from down the hallway. Macnair hurriedly pulled out his wand. "The wards are down," he muttered. The two exchanged a sharp glance. Greengrass had his wand out now as well. They barely had a chance to do anything before the door blew open and Lucius Malfoy stepped through, swiftly disarming the two wizards.
"I saw your little stunt at the Quidditch World Cup, Macnair. It wasn't very subtle, was it," he said coldly.
"What are you doing, Malfoy?" Macnair glared at him. Greengrass took a step away from his associate.
"Can I not visit my old compatriots? Perhaps I wished to reminisce about our old glory days, serving together under the Dark Lord." He paced closer to them.
"We've heard about you- what you've been going lately, Malfoy," Macnair declared. "You're going against everything you've ever stood for. And now you show up here in the middle of the night, uninvited. What do you want?"
Lucius paused. He had prepared a witty rejoinder for this moment, but now he was realizing that it was somewhat unnecessary. So without any further words, he killed Walden Macnair.
Out of the corner of his eye, Greengrass saw his companion falling limply to the floor. He mentally readied himself for his impending death, gazing stolidly at the floor. He was no Gryffindor, and had no particular wish to stare death in the face, but nothing happened. He glanced up. Lucius Malfoy stood with his wand right between Stamatis Greengrass' eyes. After a moment, he dropped his wand, releasing him. "Your daughter saved my son," he said coldly. "That debt has now been repaid. I suggest you examine your loyalty to our former Dark Lord very carefully, as I will not be so lenient next time." He glanced down at the corpse on the floor. "And perhaps you should tidy this room." He whirled around and apparated out of the room, leaving Macnair's body behind.
Greengrass gasped deeply, letting his hands fall to the floor. If Malfoy had changed allegiance and was actively going against You-Know-Who's former inner circle, then perhaps it was time to change his perspective on the wizarding world. Or move. That was also an option.
Cedric Diggory sat up uncertainly. Was this part of the competition? He glanced down and saw his wand lying on the ground beside him. He was picking it up when he heard a cold voice speak from behind him.
"Prepare the boy."
Cedric barely had enough time to look up into the face of Augustus Rookwood before the knife descended.
In his potions lab, Severus Snape let out a gasp and clutched at his forearm.
In the crowd surrounding the maze, Bartemius Crouch Junior let a small smirk slip past his guise as Professor Alastor Moody.
And in the stands, Harry let out a gasp as Cedric Diggory suddenly appeared in the middle of the clearing in front of the stands. The crowd let out a cry of excitement that quickly turned into dismay once it was apparent that Diggory wasn't moving. Professor Sprout scurried over to where he lay on the ground, his hand still clutching tightly to the cup. She looked up at the headmistress and shook her head silently. At that, a cry seemed to come up from the assembled crowd. People began panicking, and there were a few bursts of light from the ministry wizards. Harry craned his head to try and see what was happening on the ground, but Sirius grabbed his shoulder. "We're getting out of here now," he muttered. "Get your cloak out."
Harry pulled his cloak out of his bag and slung it over his shoulders, pulling Hermione closer so she was also covered. Then, while everyone else was distracted with Amos Diggory crying over the body of his dead son, they snuck out of the crowd, being careful not to brush up against anybody else.
They swiftly made their way of off the castle grounds, and then Sirius reached out for them, pulling their cloak off and grabbing each of their arms and pulling them along on side along apparition.
Daniel Granger jumped as his children and Sirius Black appeared in his living room. "What-" he started to say. Sirius cut him off. "Something's happened. Something big."
"What? What happened?"
"I don't know, but Diggory's dead. Just appeared in the middle of the field. I don't know what-" The door opened with a bang, and now Severus Snape had joined the tableau, his dark cloak flaring out behind him.
"What has happened?" he barked at Sirius.
"How am I supposed to know? What are you even doing here?"
"I felt my mark burn," Snape said stiffly.
"Your what?" Harry asked innocently.
The two men looked over to where Harry was standing beside his sister, unaware of what was happening. "It is not your concern, Potter."
"What do you mean it's not his concern?" Sirius snapped. "Of course it's his concern; he's Harry Potter."
"He is a child!"
"He has been involved in this ever since Voldemort killed his parents!"
"Don't say his name!" Sirius hissed violently, clutching at his arm.
"I'll say whatever I want!"
"Boys," Daniel warned. "If you're going to fight, then please do it elsewhere. But not in here, in front of the children."
"Fine!" Severus growled. He grabbed Sirius' arm and dragged him, still protesting, into the kitchen. "What happened at the final task?"
"I already told you all that I know. Cedric Diggory's dead, that's it. I thought it was best to get the kids out of there before anything else happened."
Severus released his arm. "For once, Black, I think you made the right decision."
There was a loud crack outside. Both wizards drew their wands and spun to face the door. "Get back and guard the children," Severus ordered.
"I don't take orders from you."
"Black, your stubborn idiocy will get you killed someday." Severus turned to face Sirius, getting right up in his face.
"I'd rather die than take orders from a death eater like you," Sirius growled back.
Severus responded with his dark, silken voice "That can be arranged."
"What is this? A fight?" Lucius Malfoy's cold voice asked from the open doorway. His hair was strangely disheveled, and his robe hung crookedly from his shoulders. Severus spun around.
"What happened?" he hissed at Lucius. He took a glance over to the door, where Harry and Hermione could be seen trying to eavesdrop. "Not here, not where curious young ears could overhear." He started to lead Severus outside. Sirius tried to follow. Lucius glared him down until he made a quick retreat. "I'll just stay here with the kids," he muttered.
Outside, Lucius muttered a quick muffliato. "He's back."
Severus blanched. "You are sure?"
Lucius nodded. "I went, when he called, under a strong disillusionment charm. He would likely kill me if I had gone, with the stories that the others told him of the recent events. He used Diggory's blood, and Rookwood's severed hand in a ritual. He had Ravenclaw's diadem, the one that the unspeakables confiscated from Hogwarts. Rookwood must have stolen it. He said something about the tournament, and the excess emotions that were necessary for the ritual. I didn't dare ask details about it. And he-" he broke off. "Is that a dog?"
"What?" Severus frowned, turning. There was a large, shaggy black dog behind them that tried to duck out of sight. "Black! Get out of here!"
Sirius shifted back into his human form. "No! I need to be here for this. Harry's my godson," he declared boldly, crossing his arms.
Severus growled in exasperation, reaching up to run an anxious hand through his dark hair. "Stay out of this, Black. It's too dangerous, and I don't trust you."
"You don't trust me?" repeated Sirius, outraged. "Why, Severus, I'm hurt. You know how much you mean to me, I-" he choked as Severus grabbed his throat. Lucius watched, his hands nervously fingering his cane.
"Sirius?" came a quiet voice from behind the dark trio. Severus quickly let go of Sirius and they both spun around. "Harry!" Sirius cried out raspily. "What are you doing here?"
Harry blinked slowly at him, seeming slightly confused. "It hurts," he said softly. "What hurts?" Sirius frowned.
"My scar. It- it hurts." Harry reached up to touch it with a cautious fingertip. Underneath his hand, Severus could see the bright red of fresh blood. "How do you feel, Harry?" he asked softly. Sirius turned to him with a furious expression, but Severus held up a warning hand. "Harry?" he asked again.
"I feel- I don't know, I feel excited. Like something big just happened that I'm happy about." He frowned. "And I keep seeing things. It looks like there's a graveyard, and there're all these people, but they're dressed weird."
Severus glanced over to Lucius, who met his horrified gaze and nodded.
"I don't like it, Sirius," Harry said weakly.
"You don't like it, Potter?" Lucius asked. "I believe that I could help you with that." He drew his wand swiftly. "Avada ked-" Severus cut him off, ramming into him and knocking him onto the ground. "What are you doing!"
Sirius hurriedly grabbed Lucius' wand from where it had fallen and pulled Harry behind him.
"You know what he is, Severus!" Lucius yelled back. He was still on the ground, his long blond hair sprawling in the dirt. He had a maniacal look on his face, and his eyes were wild. "The Dark Lord's back! He's going to kill us all, we have to stop him!" he pointed at Harry. "He has to die, Severus, and you know it. I have to end it." His voice broke.
"No. There has to be another way." Severus shook his head wildly. "I don't believe it."
Sirius could take it no longer. "What is going on? What are you even talking about!"
Severus and Lucius turned to face him. "Potter must die," Lucius rasped out.
"We think that a portion of the Dark Lord's soul is being shielded within Potter's body. It was a method that he used to prolong his life, and all of the soul shards must be destroyed before the Dark Lord can be killed," Severus explained
"Ok," Sirius said nervously. "And how do you do that?"
"You destroy the vessel," Lucius said, staring eerily at Harry with his cold grey eyes. "You destroy the vessel, and the soul fragment has no protection left."
"No," Sirius said, starting to edge back to the house with Harry. "No, there must be another way."
"There is none."
"But surely there is no harm in looking for another way, Lucius," Severus cajoled.
Lucius stared at what little of Harry that he could see from behind Sirius. "One month," he stated.
"I will give you one month to find another solution. If you haven't removed and destroyed the soul fragment within that time limit, then I will have no choice but to take the matter into my own hands."
Ragnok looked up from his desk. "Messrs. Black and Snape. What a surprise. I seem to have become quite popular among wizards recently."
Sirius looked wild, glancing around as if to make sure that no one was listening in on their conversation. "We need to speak with you about something."
"I assumed that was why you were here."
Severus glared at Sirius. "Just shut up, Black. Let me do the talking." He turned to Ragnok. "We need your help concerning the Dark Lord."
Ragnok raised his eyebrow. "Can I assume that you are referring to his horcruxes?"
The wizard stared at him. "What? You already know about them?"
"Yes," the goblin nodded. Sirius waited. "What?" he whinged. "Are you not going to tell us how you know about them?"
Ragnok shrugged. "No. I don't see a need for you to know."
"Whatever." Severus waved it away. "Is it possible to remove a soul fragment without damaging the container?"
The goblin eyed him curiously. "Why would you want to do that?"
"Because he's a horcrux!" Sirius blurted out. Ragnok froze. "He?"
"Black, shut up! Do you know if it is possible?" Severus bluntly asked Ragnok.
"Interesting," the goblin mused. "A human horcrux. I assume it was unintentional?"
"Yes," Sirius bit out.
"I do not know," he finally said. "I would require examination of the soul container first."
Sirius sputtered in indignation at Harry being described as merely a soul container. Severus ignored him. "We would require an oath from you first."
"Of course," Ragnok said magnanimously, spreading his hands innocently. "I would expect no less."
A few short hours later, the two wizards had made the oath with Ragnok, and Sirius had left and returned with Harry. Now Harry stood nervously in front of the elderly goblin while he closely examined his scar.
"Hm. Interesting," he mused.
"What? What's interesting?" Sirius asked. "What is it?"
"I've never seen anything quite like this before."
"Silence!" the goblin barked. "I am working!" Sirius slumped against the wall in defeat.
After a careful examination and a quick meeting with a few other goblins, Ragnok returned to them. "We believe that it is possible to remove the soul fragment without damaging the vessel."
"You mean without damaging Harry," Sirius growled.
Ragnok glanced at him dismissively. "Same thing."
"What?" Sirius squawked. "No it's not!"
"Black," Severus warned. "If you can not control yourself, then I will silence you, put you in a body bind, shove you into a vault, and forget that you ever existed."
Sirius shut his mouth.
"As I was saying," the goblin continued. "We think it is possible. If you are willing, we can remove it now."
Severus nodded. "Of course."
"The payment first." Ragnok smiled toothily. "Five thousand galleons."
Severus turned to Sirius. "Pay him."
"Oh, now you want me, now that someone needs to throw money around. I see how it is," Sirius grumbled, his arms folded petulantly.
"Or I suppose we could just leave the Dark Lord's soul in your godson."
"Fine. I'll pay," he grumbled.
After the money had been exchanged, the goblins quickly got to work. They laid Harry down on a large, stone table in the middle of the room and one of the goblins began drawing runes around him. Sirius flinched as if he were going to go to Harry, but Severus drew him back. Within a few minutes the runes were almost finished, encircling where Harry lay. As the last rune was completed, Sirius's heart froze when he saw Harry's chest stop moving. "Snape?" he asked, his voice breaking. "He's not breathing."
"What?" Severus looked over. He drew his wand to try and perform a diagnosis spell, only to have it ripped out of his hands by a goblin. Beside him, the same thing was happening to Sirius. "What are you doing?" Severus snarled.
"We are removing the soul fragment."
"He's stopped breathing!"
"It is necessary for the vessel to be destroyed for the fragment to be vulnerable."
"You said that you could remove it without harming Harry!"
"I lied." Ragnok said calmly. "You should have read the contract more carefully."
"I did," Severus said, his voice tight. "You said that you wouldn't harm the boy."
"I said that I wouldn't harm him unless it was necessary. And it is."
At the stone table, one of the other goblins placed a vial to Harry's slack mouth, rubbing at his throat to make him swallow. A few moments later, he took a deep breath that quickly devolved into a coughing fit. The goblins helped him sit up.
"You see?" Ragnok said. "He is fine. We merely stopped his heart for a few short moments so that the fragment could be destroyed and then resuscitated him."
Severus watched, his face cold, as Sirius rushed over to his godson. "Are you sure that the horcrux has been removed?"
Ragnok nodded. "If it had not been removed, then he would not have woken."
"I do not approve of your methods."
"And yet, we were still more successful than you would ever have been on your own."
Sirius helped Harry stand up, keeping an arm around his shoulders to hold him steady. He caught Severus' eye and nodded at the door. Severus nodded back.
"We will take our leave of you now," he said to Ragnok. "And we will not be back."