Description: What if Hermione had accidently Disapparated along with Ron during the hunt? How would Harry have managed to defeat Voldemort alone? Does he still have the power to take on the most powerful Dark Lord in recent history or will he crumble from within? Watch as Harry takes a bold step forward with determination and new allies. This is canon compliant until the scene where Harry and Ron fight in Book 7. Two shot – COMPLETE
DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN HARRY POTTER. IT BELONGS TO JK ROWLING.
Harry and Ron glared from either side of the transparent barrier as though they were seeing each other clearly for the first time. Harry felt a corrosive hatred toward Ron: something had broken between them; permanently.
"Leave the Horcrux," Harry said calmly. He should have known this would happen. This was the reason he had wanted to do this alone, but they didn't listen, did they?
Ron wrenched the chain from over his head and cast the locket into a nearby chair. He turned to Hermione.
"What are you doing?"
"What do you mean?" asked Hermione shakily.
"Are you staying, or what?"
Hermione gaped like a fish out of water. "R-Ron we promised to s-stay, remember? We -"
"I get it," said Ron roughly. "You choose him."
"No!" said Hermione panicking. "No – please listen – Ron, come back!"
Harry stood quite still and silent as he listened to Hermione begging Ron not to leave. He waited for a minute when he heard a crack and Hermione's voice was suddenly gone too. He closed his eyes as a lone tear slipped down his cheek. He slowly went towards the edge of the tent and saw that there was no one outside.
"Homenum Revelio," he whispered softly.
Nothing; both Ron and Hermione had left him. He was alone; just as he had always been his entire life.
Unfortunately for Ron and Hermione, they had Apparated right into a group of snatchers. The group was quite stupid, so they didn't recognise them, but the couple were still questioned until finally Hermione managed to get the upper hand, took back her wand while Ron knocked out the snatcher near him and Disapparated.
"Hermione, I – I," said Ron, looking pale. Only now did he realise the magnitude of what he had done.
"I don't need to hear this right now," said Hermione shakily. "We left Harry all alone knowing the burden he bears on his shoulders. If we don't get back to him, I don't even want to think about what could happen. Professor Dumbledore gave us a job to always be there for him, Ron! And what did we do? We abandoned him!"
Ron swallowed as he remembered the meeting he and Hermione had with Professor Dumbledore in the summer before the sixth year. He had told them about the prophecy and the burden which Harry carried. He also told them that they should stand by Harry's side so that he can fulfil his destiny when the time arrived. But now, they had left Harry all alone . . . his stomach churned as he realised with a start that without him there, there was no one to give Harry the potion. Oh damn, his mother was going to be pissed when she found out.
"We have to get back there immediately," whispered Ron frantically. Taking each other's hand, they Disapparated, only to find nothing at the place where they had set up their camp.
"Where is he?" asked Hermione as she scanned the place with her wand. Her hands shook in fright. Had Harry left already or were the wards really that good? She didn't know, but now she was cursing herself for not learning how to detect the wards she had put up. She had only learnt the protective charms, not how to counter them.
"We'll have to call out to him and maybe search the area," said Ron, hoping it was a good idea. "Maybe he will hear us."
But it was futile; after two days, it was clear that Harry Potter had disappeared.
Harry walked around in a large circle as he muttered under his breath, putting up the standard wards around the tent, his Invisibility Cloak draped on his shoulder. He had left just a couple of hours after Ron and Hermione. He didn't want to be there as it caused him pain just to think about it. He left fist tightened as he remembered Ron's words just a few hours back –
"We thought you knew what you were doing!" shouted Ron, standing up, and his words pierced Harry like scalding knives. "We thought Dumbledore had told you what to do, we thought you had a real plan!"
Harry's eye twitched in anger. What did the ginger idiot know? Dumbledore had told him nothing on what to do. It was just like always; he would set up a test and see if Harry would sink or swim. His opinion of the late Headmaster had dwindled significantly over the past few months. Harry could understand now that he had been completely unprepared for this mission. Did Dumbledore tell him where he suspected the Horcruxes were? Did the old man tell him how to destroy the foul things? Did he even bother to train Harry on what to do? No; as usual, he fucked it up by showing useless memories throughout the year and Harry, being the idiot that he was, had thought the Headmaster was infallible and believed in him. Now thousands were dying or were already dead because Harry didn't know how to proceed. Harry didn't notice that the Horcrux around his neck had gone cold.
What to do? He was alone now, without money or resources. His eyes hardened at that. He didn't even have money! Sure, Hermione had taken a little money before she left but how was he supposed to go to Gringotts when the Order kept making sure he was at the Dursleys like a good little boy? Harry closed his eyes and breathed deeply to reduce his anger. His scar began to prickle again. Well, Voldemort better not be having mood swings again because Harry was quite pissed and didn't really care about Voldemort at the moment.
He needed allies, but who would be willing to help him? The entire wizarding population was terrified of even uttering a single word. Hundreds of families were ripped apart over the past year and a half. He had to do something, but what?
Suddenly, he felt the Horcrux whisper things to him again. White hot anger erupted in his mind. He yanked the locket from neck and threw it to the other side of the tent. He was beyond angry. How dare that stupid locket remind him that he was alone as always? How dare the locket remind him of the blasted Dursleys again? Harry had never felt this angry in his life! He wanted to destroy the locket by any means necessary. He would make Voldemort pay. He didn't realise that his scar was hurting quite badly now. The Horcrux would be destroyed today!
Harry approached the locket which was on the floor. His green eyes were glowing as he slowly approached it. The expression on his face showed cold fury. Ron and Hermione's betrayal was the last straw. He had finally snapped after too many people betraying him. He wasn't the golden boy anymore. He would make Voldemort and his Death Eaters pay!
Harry glared at the locket as he gripped his wand tight in his hand. "Open," he hissed in parseltongue.
The golden doors of the locket swung wide with a little click. Behind both of the glass windows within blinked a living eye, dark and handsome as Tom Riddle's eyes had been before he turned them scarlet and slit-pupiled.
Then a voice hissed from out of the Horcrux. "I have seen your heart, and it is mine."
"Really?" hissed Harry in dark amusement as he smirked at the locket. His green eyes were glowing and he looked slightly mad. The people of Magical Britain had finally pushed him too far. Ron Weasley had finally managed to break the innocent soul of Harry Potter.
"I have seen your dreams, Harry Potter, and I have seen your fears. All you desire is possible, but all that you dread is also possible. . . ."
Harry laughed a loud, maniacal laugh. How predictable of Voldemort. The man really needed more material if he was going to taunt people. He had said similar things in Harry's first, second, fourth and fifth years.
"Oh, my poor naïve Tommy boy," said Harry as he chuckled. "Such a pitiful existence after your mummy didn't want to raise you. Daddy didn't want you because of what you were and that left you with issues. Tsk tsk; what a shame, Riddle. What happened to the noble line of Slytherin?"
In response, Sirius Black, James Potter and Lily Potter emerged from the locket.
"You're the reason I'm dead," hissed Riddle-Sirius angrily. "If your stupid mind could have realised that it was a trap, I would still be alive."
"What about us?" said Riddle-James snidely. "It is this little bastard's fault that we died so young. Why were you even born? I should have killed you the second we found out about the prophecy!"
"You took my husband away from me," spat Riddle-Lily, her eyes red. "You took my life away from me! If you have any remorse for what you did to your parents, you would kill yourself!"
Harry started at them with anger burning in his eyes. How dare he? He pointed his wand at the locket and let all the anger flow through him. His eyes were glowing bright emerald green as he snarled –
The jet of green light flew from the top of Harry's wand and hit the locket perfectly. There was a clang and long, drawn out scream. Harry stood there breathing hard as he collapsed on the ground. He summoned the locket from the other side and saw that the Horcrux was destroyed.
"If I had known this would work, I would have done it sooner," whispered Harry as he fainted on the ground.
Several hours later, Harry woke up hearing the patter of raindrops on the roof of the tent. He groaned as he opened his eyes. He felt like he had run a marathon. He looked at the locket and gasped. It no longer had the oppressive bad aura around it. Memories of what happened came back to his mind and for the first time in a long time, Harry smiled.
"One Horcrux down," he whispered to himself. Just then, his stomach grumbled. Knowing that he was hungry, Harry pondered on what to do. Was it safe? Could he risk it? But the little guy wasn't connected to Harry, so why should they monitor him? He felt like a fool for not doing it before.
"Dobby?" said Harry hesitantly, holding his wand tight in case the elf was being tracked. Much to his relief, the elf popped in front of him and hugged him.
"Harry Potter sir! You be safe! What can Dobby do for the great Harry Potter?" said Dobby excitedly.
"Dobby, I need your help," said Harry quietly. "Will you stay with me?"
Dobby bounced on his feet excitedly. "Dobby will always serve Master Harry Potter. Dobby be Master Harry's elf now!"
"Wait, what?" asked Harry in shock. "You're now bonded to me? How? Why?"
"Master said that he wanted Dobby and Dobby accepted!" said the elf excitedly. "Dobby has wanted to be Harry Potter's elf for a long time and he be finally accepting Dobby!"
"Dobby, I thought you wanted to be free?" asked Harry confused. "Besides, why do House Elves need to bond, anyway?"
Dobby shook his head, his ears flapping. "Dobby needs a master to stay alive, Harry Potter sir. House Elves need wizard magic to stay alive. Dobby be using the magic at Hogwarts, but it be not the same," he said, his head dropping. "But he now have Master Harry!" he said excitedly.
Harry's mind began working at a furious pace. The purebloods were arrogant jerks and most of the dark families under Voldemort treated their elves badly from what he had heard. But this explained why they put up with it.
"Dobby, I'm happy that you're my elf," said Harry slowly. "But I want to know something. Can you Apparate me with you like you do it yourself?"
Dobby fidgeted but nodded hesitantly. "Dobby thinks so, Master Harry. But Dobby never be trying to go to other houses before."
Harry thought furiously. Maybe he could use this to his advantage.
"Is Winky still available? Are there any more free elves you know?"
It had been nearly two weeks since they left Harry. Ron and Hermione were miserable as they sat in the living room of Shell Cottage. Bill and Fleur had been gracious enough to let them stay for a while. Their thoughts still lingered on Harry and what might have happened to him. There were outrageous rumours flying around and the duo didn't know what to do.
Ron was tinkering with the wireless when they finally heard a voice.
". . . apologise for our temporary absence from the airwaves, which was due to a number of house calls in our area by those charming Death Eaters."
"That's Lee Jordan!" gasped Hermione.
"-it is my sad duty to inform you about the deaths of Ted Tonks and Dirk Cresswell, along with a goblin named Griphook. It is believed that Dean Thomas, their travel companion escaped with a second goblin, but there is no proof of that yet. Sadly, I must also report the death of Andromeda Tonks nee Black, the wife of Ted Tonks. It seems she was tortured very badly by her sister Bellatrix Lestrange before she was killed, but sources from the Order of the Phoenix tell me that she put up a brave fight before she died."
The broadcast of Potterwatch continued, but they reported no sightings of Harry Potter.
"But there is some good news, listeners; we have received reports that a dozen snatchers led by Fenrir Greyback were slaughtered near Dover. It is not reported by whom, but we can finally celebrate the death of the notorious werewolf and Death Eater. The snatchers were not spared and many of them were killed quite horribly. The reports we received said that they were the victims of dark cutting curses as well as other dark curses like the Blood Boiling curse and Organ Liquefying curse. Whoever is responsible for this, we thank you from the bottom of our heart."
"Until next time listeners; the password for the next broadcast is Lily. Take care and may Merlin keep you safe."
People all over the country were slack-jawed when they heard that someone had taken a stand and killed Fenrir Greyback, the international criminal and notorious werewolf.
"Who could have done this?" whispered Hermione.
"No idea, but it must be a Death Eater," said Ron darkly. "Can you imagine someone using such curses? Only those bloody Slytherins learn such spells."
Hermione was too distracted to listen to him properly. She swallowed. She hoped that Harry was safe and never encountered the one who killed Greyback.
Harry sighed as Winky tended to the wounds on his body. Calling Dobby had been the best decision of his life. The elf had called several elves who wanted to help and now, Harry was the proud master of twenty very happy House-Elves. Of course, many of the elves that had come to him were horrible looking and very unhealthy. So once bonded, Harry had transferred his magical power to them, making them much better in the process. He had sent many of them outside to gather intelligence. Just a week into his solo mission, he saw a group of snatchers walking around the place Harry had set up the tent. Not wanting to waste such an opportunity, especially after he recognised the voice of Fenrir Greyback, Harry had attacked, using several Sectumsempra curses as well as other curses which he found in a book given to him by Kreacher, which belonged to the Blacks. Of course, Harry had been injured in the process, but it had been worth it. The element of surprise had definitely worked in his favour as the group of a dozen snatchers were all killed. He and the elves had immediately moved away from the place and set up camp elsewhere.
"Master be recovering in no time at all," said Winky with a smile. The bond had done wonders for the elf, so Harry was quite happy about this, though he knew that Hermione would throw a fit if she were to find out. He mentally shrugged. He was at war and he needed every advantage he could get. Besides, he didn't care about what Hermione thought anymore. The rational side of him knew he couldn't blame her because she had obviously Disapparated without knowing about it, but the bitterness from last year still remained. She had spent the entire year hounding him after that stupid potions book, acting as though he was beneath her and not once had she listened to his concerns about Draco. That had resulted in Dumbledore's death.
Harry sighed. There was no point in thinking about that now. He needed to move. Just then, he screamed as his scar exploded in pain.
He was looking at the snivelling coward who had dared to bring him the news. How dare anyone do this?
"What did you say?" he hissed angrily.
"M-My Lord, we don't know who. T-They killed Greyback and -"
With a scream of rage, the familiar flash of green light impacted the unsuspecting man, making him fall to the ground, dead. Who would dare kill Greyback? He thought he had crushed all opposition, but apparently, he was wrong. Greyback was important as he was the leader of the werewolves he had under his command. He would have to talk to those filthy beasts and ensure their cooperation. A few deaths would ensure that the dogs learn who their true master was. If they didn't want to cooperate, he would obliterate them all.
He kicked the useless minion's corpse as he exited the throne room.
Harry gasped for breath as he sat up, sweating.
"Master Harry, what happened?" asked Winky worriedly.
"I'm fine, Winky," said Harry shakily. "Scar"
Winky frowned as she snapped her finger at the scar. She gasped in fright. "There be something very dark in the scar, Master Harry," she said frightfully. "It smells like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!"
Harry frowned. This was the first time someone had actually scanned the scar. His frown deepened. Actually, why had he never consulted anyone about the scar anyway? Couldn't some Healer do something about it? Why hadn't Dumbledore done something? Wasn't it widely accepted that he was the most knowledgeable wizard of the generation?
"Winky, what exactly is my scar? Can you tell me?" asked Harry curiously.
Winky whispered to a few other elves and Kreacher came and snapped his fingers repeatedly. His eyes went wide.
"Master, your scar is having the same bad thing that was in Master Regulus' locket."
Harry's face paled rapidly. No, it couldn't be. That was not possible.
"Kreacher are you absolutely sure?" whispered Harry, his voice shaking.
"Yes, master," said Kreacher, nodding his head. "Kreacher recognises the magic as he spent many years trying to destroy it."
His scar was a Horcrux. Harry gripped his head and pulled his hair. Things finally clicked in place. This was the reason he had never been given any training. This was the reason Dumbledore always gave him tests at the end of every year. This was the reason the prophecy existed.
Neither can live while the other survives
He was never meant to survive. Dumbledore had meant for him to die. It was so simple. Voldemort could not be killed as long as Harry was alive, making him the only person to kill the Dark Lord.
Either must die at the hand of the other
It fit perfectly. After he died, the prophecy would be fulfilled. Once he was dead, anyone could kill Voldemort without interfering with fate. Was that Dumbledore's plan all along? Was that why he had faced so many challenges at Hogwarts and Dumbledore had never helped him?
Harry started into a distance as he took deep breaths. What to do?
"We'll deal with this later," said Harry in a raspy voice. "I need to know more about the next Horcrux."
Harry drew a chart about where the Horcruxes could be. The ring had been in the old house of the Gaunts; the locket had been in the cave where Tom had tormented those orphans, showing his superiority; the diary had been given to his faithful follower Lucius Malfoy . . .
Harry's head snapped up. Why Lucius? Wasn't there someone Voldemort trusted more than Lucius? And even if he had given it, where could she have hidden it?
"Like I said, Yeh'd be mad ter try an' rob it," said Hagrid. "Safest place; 'cept for Hogwarts"
"Kreacher, get me a sheet of parchment and quill."
Director Ragnok was in his office, looking through the investments of his biggest clients. The war had taken a toll for the worse and he had hoped the idiot wizards would get rid of their Dark Lord soon, but that was not to be. The goblins had taken a stand to be neutral so as to not get involved. After all, this was a wizards' war. They had no stake in who won, but that didn't mean that they wouldn't like to get rid of the Dark Lord and let the business go back to normal. After all, the magical British economy was in a state of recession. The idiot Death Eaters didn't realise just how badly their violence could affect their businesses. Most of them had invested in the domestic market and they were seeing a rapid decline in them. Of course, the black market was flourishing, but that could be put to an end only through the Ministry. There was nothing Gringotts could do about that.
At least some of the biggest clients had thought ahead and invested well abroad. Britain was all but closed to the rest of the world. Everyone knew that the Ministry was compromised, but even the ICW wasn't willing to step in. They had all had enough with the British Ministry's arrogance. Fudge had really done a number with Britain's immediate neighbours namely France, Germany, Spain and others, which had resulted in them increasing their Auror force and strengthened their sensor net. That was the reason Death Eaters had not gone abroad yet. They would be slaughtered and they knew it. Besides, he doubted Voldemort would take the war to Europe before he had killed Harry Potter.
Ragnok shook his head in disgust. The only reason Gringotts still stood was because goblins regulated the economy internationally. The goblins were outstanding bankers and he knew that they gained a lot from the business, especially after the implementation of the International Statute of Secrecy. Their oaths made him very good bankers and their wards were such that theft was near impossible. Still, that didn't mean Voldemort hadn't tried to take over the bank. There were several wizards operating as security at the entrance and in the marble hall to ensure that their targets couldn't get in.
Suddenly, Ragnok heard a crack in front of him. Taking his sword in quick speed for someone his age, he took an offensive position, only to frown when he saw that it was a House Elf.
"What do you want, elf?" said Ragnok with a frown. No elf other than those registered under Gringotts could enter the wards. "Who is your master and why is he wasting my time?"
The elf bounced on his feet in fear as he squeaked, "Dobby is sorry, Master Goblin sir, but Dobby was Lucius Malfoy's House-Elf before being free. Now Dobby be serving Master Harry Potter sir. Master has a letter for you, Master Goblin sir."
Rangok's eyes went wide. Harry Potter was writing to him? He had wanted to speak to the boy ever since his godfather's death, but Albus Dumbledore had used his power as magical guardian to ensure Harry Potter wasn't present at the will reading. He had been expecting the boy to come to Gringotts on his seventeenth birthday to claim his inheritance, but considering what had happened the next day, he could understand.
"Give it to me," ordered Ragnok. He opened the envelope and unfolded the letter.
The Director of Gringotts Bank, London.
My name is Harry Potter and I am a client of your bank. I apologise for contacting you as I know that under the new regime I am a wanted criminal. Unfortunately, I have no option but to contact you as I need your help. I understand that Gringotts has chosen to remain neutral, but I beg you to let me speak to you face to face as this is a matter of great importance. Please give me a few minutes of your time so that I can speak to you about this matter. I hope that your neutrality also covers my visit as I don't want the Ministry or Voldemort to know that I want to seek a meeting with you.
Please consider my request.
Harry James Potter
Ragnok frowned again. What could be so important that Harry Potter wanted to speak to him personally? He looked at the elf who was still bouncing in front of him.
"Elf, tell your master to come to the bank tonight," he ordered. "Bring him via elf Apparition and he is to come here directly. I will ensure the wards around my office are down precisely at midnight. He is to come alone and no other wizard is to come with him. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Master Goblin sir," said Dobby as he Disapparated with a crack.
Ragnok sighed as he picked up the thick folders of the Houses of Potter and Black and found the Lordship rings. He had to prepare for the meeting. No one was to know that the most wanted man in the country was coming here, not even the other goblins.
Just a few seconds after midnight, there was a crack and an elf and boy appeared in the middle of the office. The boy looked around frantically, ensuring that it wasn't a trap. He calmed down slightly, but his eyes were still focussed.
"Welcome, Mr Potter," said Ragnok, taking in the teenager in front of him. The boy looked quite haggard. "Prove your identity before we begin our meeting."
Harry looked at the stone in front of him wearily. He took the small knife which was on the table and sliced a thin line on his palm, letting a few drops of blood fall on the stone. The stone glowed gold in colour as Ragnok nodded.
"What can I do for you, Mr Potter?"
"I immensely thank you for letting me come here, Director," said Harry gratefully. "I don't want to waste your time, so I will come directly to the point."
He waited for Ragnok to nod and then took a deep breath. "Director -"
"My name in Ragnok, Mr Potter," said the goblin calmly.
Nodding, Harry continued. "I have not been hiding for the past several months without anything to do. I am searching for things that will ensure Vo – Riddle's destruction. I am here -"
"Who is Riddle, Mr Potter?" asked Ragnok with a frown. He had never heard of that name as there hadn't been a client of the bank with the name of Riddle.
Harry smiled thinly. "Tom Marvolo Riddle, the bastard son of the Gaunt family is the resident Dark Lord who is currently after my blood."
Ragnok's eyes went wide. "Gaunt?" he whispered and threw his head back and laughed loudly; it was quite unnerving. "It's no wonder he changed his name. The Gaunts were the most disgusting and ostracised family in the country. They claimed to be the descendants of Salazar Slytherin, but they used up their fortune centuries ago. Gringotts had to close their account two hundred years ago as they were destitute."
Harry nodded, hoping he was doing the right thing by trusting the goblins. "Anyway, I am here because there are things which Riddle created which made him evade death. I am trying to find such objects so that I can destroy them before Riddle realises what I am doing."
Ragnok's eyes went wide as he trembled with rage. "Objects to secure immortality?" he thundered. "That useless, cowardly wizard! Does he have any idea what he has done?"
Harry swallowed. Taking the goblin's anger as a good sign, he continued. "I hope we are on the same page, Ragnok. Yes, I am talking about Horcruxes."
Ragnok's fist tightened. "How do you know about this?" he asked suspiciously. "I doubt the Dark Lord would have told you."
"No," breathed out Harry. "Albus Dumbledore figured it out and told me. The reason I am here is because I believe one of them might be in your bank."
Ragnok thundered. A Horcrux was something goblins hated on principle. It defied the laws of Mother Nature and also contaminated old, priceless relics.
"Mr Potter," he snarled. "I hope you realise just what a bold statement you have just made. It is highly illegal to bring such a filthy device inside goblin territory much less store it in one of our vaults!"
Harry gulped. He had never interacted with goblins except for the few times in his early Hogwarts years where he had to take money from his vault. History of Magic was quite useless in giving instruction on how to deal with an angry goblin.
"I apologise, Ragnok," said Harry, trying to remain calm. "Isn't Gringotts the safest place to keep a priceless artefact? It makes sense that Riddle would keep it in the vaults of one of his most trusted Death Eaters. I may be wrong, but I believe I am right. If there is one here, please let me destroy it. I do not seek material gain, Ragnok, please believe me. I am here only to destroy the Horcrux. I have no future. He will kill me in the end, but all I am trying to do is destroy him before he destroys me. If I can manage it, when he kills me, it would kill him too."
Ragnok eyed the boy speculatively. Truthfully, the wards should have picked up something like that, but he knew it was possible for a goblin to have been forced or even bribed to keep the Horcrux in the vault during the last war. Harry Potter also seemed unusually determined that he was going to die; there was something strange about his tone.
"Why do you say that you are going to die, Mr Potter?" asked Ragnok, his eyes narrowed.
Harry took a deep breath. "I can only answer that to quench your curiosity, Ragnok because there is no help for me. But please, will you help me retrieve the Horcrux if it is indeed in the vault of Bellatrix Lestrange? I have a strong suspicion it is here. I can't explain it. I just know that it is here."
Ragnok thought about it for a minute. Bellatrix Lestrange never came to Gringotts to check on her vault. If there was something there, they could always replace it Bellatrix would be none the wiser. Was it worth helping the boy?
"Please, Ragnok," begged Harry. "Thousands of people have died because of him. Muggleborns are sent to camps where they are tortured and killed. I know that two of your own employees, Griphook and Gornuk have fled. Please Ragnok. Help me. I will pay compensation for it. My vault does not have too much money as compared to people like Malfoy, but you can have it. I don't need it anymore. I have barely spent any money at all, so Gringotts can take it for services rendered. Please, I beg of you."
"Calm yourself, young one," said Ragnok softly. "I will assist you. But you are wrong in that your vault doesn't have enough money. You are our biggest customer as of this moment."
"Excuse me?" asked Harry in shock. "How can I be your biggest customer? I only have a small vault. Granted, it has a lot of money as compared to the Weasleys, but -"
Ragnok laughed loudly. "The Weasleys?" he said in amusement. "Please, Mr Potter. Do not compare yourself with the Weasleys. The vault you are talking about is the Potter Trust Vault, created by your father when you were born and contains fifty thousand galleons. It is to be used for your school and other purposes until you reach seventeen at which time you would become the Lord of the Potter family and would gain access to the Potter family vault."
"Lord?" asked Harry incredulously. "Family vault?"
Ragnok grimaced. "I have wanted to meet you ever since your godfather, Lord Sirius Black died. Unfortunately, your magical guardian Albus Dumbledore restricted any contact with you, which is why we couldn't meet before. I have a lot of things to go over with you. But first, I will check if Lady Lestrange's vault indeed has a Horcrux.
"It might be Helga Hufflepuff's cup," said Harry helpfully. "Or something to do with Ravenclaw."
Ragnok paused and nodded. He snapped his fingers and food appeared on the table. "Eat, Mr Potter. I'll be back in a few minutes. It won't take long for me to know verify your claim."
With that, Ragnok left, leaving Harry quite nervous.
"Master Harry, you be okay?" asked Dobby.
"I'm fine, Dobby," said Harry as he sighed. "I really hope Ragnok can help me because he is my only hope at the moment. I really wish I could be alive after all this. If there is any way I survive this war, I would do my best to give the goblins the respect they deserve in our society. They have more honour than any witch or wizard I have ever met. The same goes for House Elves."
"Master Harry Potter is greater than any wizard alive!" said Dobby tearfully.
Ragnok smiled as he walked out of the room. He was right. Harry Potter really was an unusual wizard. He hoped that the boy did survive the war.
Fifteen minutes later, Ragnok was seething as he walked back to his office. "You were right, Mr Potter," he spat. "The foul woman has brought that contaminant into our bank. If you really do stop the war, her vault would be confiscated because she broke the rules of Gringotts Bank."
Harry sighed in relief.
"However, all is not good news," said Ragnok, making Harry's head snap up. "As a client to one of our oldest and highly secured vaults, you have to realise that we take our protection seriously. The vaults are protected by blood wards. Goblins cannot take the treasures inside because of our oaths. That is the reason our bank is so highly trusted globally. That being said, you won't be able to enter the vault because you are not a Lestrange by blood."
Harry's head drooped as he closed his eyes. "But there is something else which will help us," said Ragnok.
Harry opened his eyes and saw a grinning Ragnok. "You have to remember that Lady Lestrange is a Black by birth. The House of Black were a paranoid bunch and didn't ever take kindly to someone tarnishing their name. That is the reason they always had sub-clauses inserted in marriage contracts so that they could make their in-laws pay if something happened."
Harry frowned. "And how does that help us?"
Ragnok grinned and said, "And that is where your late godfather comes into the picture," he said. He snapped his fingers and a large cylinder appeared in which Harry guessed, contained blood. It was quite big and Harry was sure it contained at least three litres of blood.
"S-Sirius wanted to adopt me?" asked Harry gobsmacked.
"Yes," said Ragnok. "Since he was never convicted, we saw no reason to bar him access to our bank. He came to us in April 1996 to update his will. He also gave us his blood in case he died before the procedure. You see, while you do have Black blood in you because of your grandmother, the next person the fortune was supposed to go to was Draco Malfoy. But since there is a dispute, the Malfoys are not able to access the vaults, much their annoyance."
"But is it legal?" asked Harry, remembering Hermione telling him blood rituals once when they discussed the blood wards. "I thought blood rituals are illegal."
Ragnok scoffed. "Whoever said that doesn't know the basic system about how the magical world operates. Everything operates through blood. Magic itself flows in blood. Your identification tonight was done through blood; the wards around our high-security vaults are powered through blood. If the Ministry were to ban all blood rituals, the old families would be up in arms. Yes, the darker rituals are illegal, but not the adoption ritual. It has not been done recently but is accepted. Your grandparents themselves considered blood adopting an orphan before your father were born."
"But how will the adoption help me?" asked Harry confused.
Ragnok grinned, showing his pointed teeth. "You can then banish Bellatrix Lestrange from the Black family and brand her a blood traitor. That would make subsection 12, clause b activate in her marriage contract. You can then recover money from her with interest. I'm sure Hufflepuff's cup can be included in that."
Harry sighed in relief. "Thank you very much, Ragnok," said Harry with a smile.
"So now, why do you think you won't survive the war?" asked Ragnok, quite curious. The boy's tone made it very peculiar.
Harry bit his lip as he pondered on how to answer the question. He took a deep breath and said, "I believe the scar on my forehead contains one of Riddle's Horcruxes."
Ragnok's eyes went wide. "That complicates matters," he muttered.
"Since I have to die anyway -"
"Not necessarily," said Ragnok with a frown, taking Harry by surprise. "We have encountered Horcruxes before in Greece and Egypt while recovering treasures. We have an ancient goblin ritual that destroys the Horcrux while leaving the container unharmed, but it has never been performed on a living being."
Harry's heart skipped a beat. Was there a way to do it?
"What does the procedure entail?" asked Harry nervously.
"It is a procedure that identifies the soul component and banishes it," said Ragnok. "But since you have two souls in your body, the initial stages have to be done carefully, but there is no guarantee you will come out alive. I'm also sure it would be painful. Sometimes it can take days for the soul piece to be extracted if it is attached for too long."
Harry bit his lip. Was it worth it? He was no stranger to pain, but should he do it?
"Is it possible to do the ritual before the blood adoption?" asked Harry. "I want to try it, Ragnok. I'm willing to pay any monetary compensation that is required."
Ragnok nodded in approval. The boy had proved himself to be honourable so it would worth the risk in helping him.
"Follow me, Mr Potter," said Ragnok. He led the boy to the large ritual room. He went to the corner and after about thirty minutes, a few very old goblins appeared in a flash of light.
"We don't know how long this would take, Mr Potter," said Ragnok firmly. "This is all based on your determination in overpowering the soul piece. Keep your mind focussed on destroying it and it will happen. We cannot interfere once the ritual has started."
Harry nodded. The other goblins surrounded him and explained what needed to be done. Harry removed all his clothes and glasses too. Trying not to be modest, he stepped inside the ritual circle and lay down on the stone floor.
"Ready," said Harry softly.
The goblins nodded and began chanting, moving around the circle. Harry felt his scar beginning to prickle. The scar became red hot and he was fidgeting as it became uncomfortable. The volume of the chants increased and after fifteen minutes of uncomfortable moaning, Harry screamed.
Voldemort frowned suddenly in the middle of the meeting with his Death Eaters. Something was wrong. He grabbed his head and hissed in pain. White hot anger erupted as he pointed his wand at the nearest Death Eater and said, "Crucio!"
Snape fell to the floor as he screamed like he had never screamed before. With one more curse, Pettigrew screamed, but it wasn't long before Voldemort himself was screaming himself hoarse, clutching his head.
"MASTER!" shouted Bellatrix in concern, but there was nothing he could do as Voldemort was thrashing about, yelling his head off.
"Snape, do something!" yelled Bellatrix, but the Headmaster of Hogwarts was in no position to even get up as he was twitching on the ground from the cruciatus exposure.
The Death Eaters were looking terrified as they watched their Dark Lord thrash about in the middle of his throne room at Malfoy Manor. They didn't know what caused him pain, but all of them were going to pay for it when it stopped.
Harry flinched as he woke up with a groan. He felt as though his entire body was on fire. He opened his eyes and realised where he was. Just as he got up, Ragnok appeared with a flash of light along with three other goblins.
"Good to see that you are awake, Mr Potter," said Ragnok. "How do you feel?"
"F-Fine," said Harry, but his throat burned and his voice came out hoarse. "How long have I been here?"
"Six days," said another goblin as he scanned Harry. "Your vocal chords have taken a lot of strain from the constant screaming, but there is nothing a few potions can't fix. The good news is that the soul piece has been destroyed without killing you in the process."
"I must say this is an amazing discovery," muttered another goblin. "Any lethal curses, if people are infected with it, can be removed this way if the living being can survive the procedure."
But Harry didn't pay attention to the goblins. He blinked his eyes as he realised that his vision was no corrected. He could see perfectly without his glasses. He tentatively got up and looked at himself in front of the shiny granite wall. His scar was completely gone. He could also remember watching Voldemort scream, but somehow he was able to tap into the Dark Lord's thoughts during the process. The information was steadily entering Harry's mind. He closed his eyes. He could feel his memories organised and uncluttered and he was more at peace with himself than he ever had.
"Thank you," he said sincerely, looking at the group of goblins. "I will compensate you in any way possible. What about the blood adoption?"
Ragnok nodded. "I think it is better we do it immediately. The adoption will take about twelve hours as your adopted parent's blood will be merged with yours, essentially making you a Black by birth. Good that you do not want to waste time. Let us begin."
The goblins being the efficient beings that they were had already converted the corner of the room for this once they were sure that Harry would make it out of the Horcrux removal ritual alive. Harry looked at the bathtub on the ground and slowly entered it.
"The merging process will be completed by tonight," said Ragnok as the other goblin filled the tub with Sirius' blood.
Harry tried not to throw up because of the smell of the blood. Instead, he recalled how much Sirius meant to him and how the man had tried his best to take care of Harry. Tears flowed down his cheeks as he remembered some of the memories he had with his godfather.
"Yes...," said Sirius. "But I'm also - I don't know if anyone ever told you - I'm your godfather."
"I'll understand, of course, if you want to stay with your aunt and uncle," said Sirius. "But... well... think about it. Once my name's cleared... if you wanted a... a different home..."
"Of course I want to leave the Dursleys! Have you got a house? When can I move in?" asked Harry excitedly.
Sirius' gaunt face broke into the first true smile Harry had seen upon it. The difference it made was startling, as though a person ten years younger were shining through the starved mask; for a moment, he was recognisable as the man who had laughed at Harry's parents' wedding.
"We'll see each other again," he said. "You are - truly your father's son, Harry..."
"Never mind me, how are you?" said Sirius seriously.
Sirius looked at him, eyes full of concern, eyes that had not yet lost the look that Azkaban had given them — that deadened, haunted look.
"Thanks," said Sirius, opening it, grabbing the food, sitting down on the cave floor, and tearing off a large chunk with his teeth. "I've been living off rats mostly. Can't steal too much food from Hogsmeade; I'd draw attention to myself."
"Sirius what are you doing here?" asked Harry worriedly.
"Fulfilling my duty as godfather," said Sirius, gnawing on the chicken bone in a very doglike way.
"I don't care . . . I'll breathe freely again when this tournament's over, and that's not until June."
"Sirius what if I'm becoming more like Voldemort? What if I'm becoming bad?" said Harry in a panicked voice.
"Hey," said Sirius patiently. "I want you to listen very carefully, Harry. You are not a bad person. You are a very good person to whom bad things have happened to. The world is not split into Light and Dark. What matters is the path you choose to walk on. That's who you really are."
"When all this is over, we'll be a proper family; I promise," said Sirius as he hugged Harry tightly and Harry couldn't help but shed a few tears into his godfather's shoulder.
Thinking about how much he loved Sirius, Harry passed out as the runes around him activated as the merging process began. Slowly, his head disappeared into the pool of blood.
It was past eight in the night when Harry woke up with a groan. He blinked his eyes and felt pain in many of his joints. The blood all around him had disappeared, leaving his naked body unblemished. Tentatively walking out of the tub, he examined himself in front of a mirror that was set on the side of the room.
Harry certainly had changed, but not too much. He had grown several inches taller, standing 6'3" in height and had filled out some as well. But the most noticeable features were his face and hair. No longer did the hair look like an untidy mop, but there were soft waves which fell elegantly to the side of his face. His cheekbones were higher and more pounced and his nose straighter. He still did look like the son of James and Lily Potter, but he had some features on his face which looked very much like his late godfather. No longer did he resemble a clone of James Potter.
Taking his clothes and wearing them after casting a slight enlargement charm on them, he had just finished getting dressed when Ragnok appeared in a flash of light.
"Good to see that you are awake, Mr Potter-Black," said Ragnok. "I see the ritual has worked perfectly. Follow me; I think we still have some unfinished business to deal with."
Harry followed the goblin and sat down in the Director's office again. Ragnok placed two boxes in front of him and said, "These are the family rings of the Potter and Black families. Once you wear them, you become Lord Potter-Black; the Lord of the Most Ancient and Noble Houses of Potter and Black."
Harry nodded and as soon as he reached for the Potter ring, it melted and he saw a large red diamond ring, seamlessly placed on a platinum band. Taking it, he recited the oath that flashed to his mind subconsciously and wore the ring on his right ring finger. There was a flash and it fit him perfectly. He did the same for the Black ring as well, which was a large black diamond ring set on a platinum band.
"Congratulations, Lord Potter-Black," said Ragnok. "You should have received the knowledge of the family properties and members through the rings. I know there are more important things to do right now, so I will say that both the Potter and Black investments are doing quite well. The investments in Britain have dwindled, but that is to be expected because of the current climate, but the investments and landed properties abroad are giving very good returns."
Harry nodded as he tried to clear his mind. The flux of information he had received from the rings had left him a bit dizzy. "What about the Horcrux, Ragnok?"
Ragnok nodded as he removed a file with several sheets of parchment in it. "You will need a reason for casting her out of the family."
Harry took a deep breath as he remembered the Black family's motto. "I, Harry James Potter-Black, the Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, do hereby disown Bellatrix Lestrange nee Black from the Black family for consorting with the half-blood bastard Tom Marvolo Riddle. She has brought shame to the family by killing the previous Head of House Lord Sirius Orion Black and has also killed her sister Andromeda Tonks nee Black. For this, I banish her forever from the Black family, so mote it be!"
The marriage contract glowed briefly and Ragnok barked instructions to another old goblin who nodded and left immediately.
"The cup will be here soon," said Ragnok.
"There is someone else I wish to cast out too," said Harry calmly. "I, Harry James Potter-Black, the Head of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black, do hereby disown Narcissa Malfoy nee Black and her son Draco Malfoy out of the Black family for consorting with the half-blood bastard Tom Marvolo Riddle. They have brought shame to the family for the atrocities they have committed and so they shall be banished from the Black family, so mote it be!"
There was a flash of light and Ragnok nodded. "I'll ensure it is done," he said.
"Ragnok, please don't transfer the vault contents immediately," said Harry. "For all we know, they might come to Gringotts to collect money. I do not want you or any goblins here in any danger. You have helped me tremendously and I promise you, I will do my best to pay back the debt I owe you."
Ragnok observed Harry as he sat on his chair. "You really are unique, young one," he said slowly. "I must say I have never met such a wizard in my life."
The other goblin brought a box into the room and Harry could immediately sense the oppressive darkness from the Horcrux.
"Do you mind if I destroy it?" asked Harry.
"Go ahead," said Ragnok with a frown. "But remember that any attempt to harm us will be taken as an act of war. You have been warned."
Harry nodded as he pointed his wand at the cup and snarled, "Avada Kedavra!"
The pale jet of green light flew from the tip of his wand and impacted the cup which rattled and screamed loudly. The occupants could immediately feel the difference as the oppressive darkness disappeared.
"Thank you, Ragnok," said Harry with a deep bow. "Please return the cup to the vault. I have no use for it now. Please take the entirety of my trust vault as monetary compensation for your services. I take your leave."
With a bow, Dobby grabbed Harry and Disapparated.
"Interesting boy," said Ragnok as he looked at the spot where he disappeared. "Very interesting indeed."
"Overlord?" asked the goblin quietly. "I do not understand. Why did we help the boy?"
Ragnok chuckled. "I think we have gained a very useful ally, Narfok; and I believe the Dark Lord is in for a very nasty surprise indeed. The fact that he survived that ritual is a testament to how powerful and determined he really is. I think I made a good decision in helping him. It would greatly benefit us in the future if he were to survive the war."
"Yes, you're right," said the other goblin softly. "After all, he is our wealthiest customer. We were just doing our duty."
Ragnok laughed loudly.
Harry returned to the tent where he sat down and meditated after finishing a delicious meal prepared by the House-Elves. He saw, much to his astonishment, that he seemed to have developed some sort of Occlumency barriers during the duration of the ritual. The soul piece being extracted had left his memories cluttered, but his inherent magic had responded so that his mind was in one piece. Harry's magic always responded at a time when it was essential in saving him; the numerous broken bones that had healed at the Dursleys during his childhood were a testament to that, not to mention when he fried Quirrell alive at the end of the first year at Hogwarts. The Horcrux was a piece of Voldemort's soul which contained his personality and memories. If Harry's magic had not reacted in protecting his mind, it would have left him insane because of the extraction. The inherent magic of the goblin ritual helped in accelerating the process.
Harry saw brief flashes of Voldemort's memories. Much to his joy, he found the hiding place of the last Horcrux - the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts. He always knew that a Horcrux was at Hogwarts, but that stupid git Ron had never believed him. Well, it was good that Harry knew it now so that he could grab it. There was something else which Voldemort's memories showed. Harry spent several hours viewing the memories and his eyes opened wide.
"The Elder Wand?" asked Harry loudly. "What is that?"
"Master?" asked Winky in confusion. "The Elder Wand be from the Tale of Three Brothers. Winky be reading it to Master Barty when he be a child."
Harry frowned. He could see that Voldemort was quite obsessed with this wand from the few memories he had gathered. "Tell me everything you know about this, Winky."
Voldemort groaned as he woke up. His anger intensified as he saw his Death Eaters scramble for cover knowing that he was awake. He hated that he had lost control in front of them all. What had happened to him?
"Severus?" he asked silkily, trying not to show his obvious pain. "What has happened?"
Snape gulped as he remained still, kneeling down in front of the Dark Lord. He clearly remembered the previous dose of Cruciatus Curse and he didn't want to experience it again.
"I'm not sure, My Lord," said Snape in his usual monotonous voice. "I have prepared several potions which would help."
Voldemort's red eyes glared at the Death Eater, but he didn't say anything. Bellatrix was kneeling down too; she might like being tortured, but she knew where and when it transformed from pleasure to pain.
"Leave me," he said in a high cold voice.
Snape and Bellatrix quickly left the room and Voldemort was left staring at the wall. What in Salazar's name had happened to him? He accessed his memories and saw that he had a blinding pain in his head and that had resulted in him falling unconscious. He spent the next few hours trying to understand what was happening when suddenly, his eye opened wide and he screamed in rage.
The blasted boy was destroying his Horcruxes! There was no other explanation. He would have to go check up on them. The hunt for the Elder Wand would have to wait. He still wasn't closer to finding out who the thief was, but his Horcruxes were more important right now.
He tried to get up, only to fall back in pain. As cold fear tore through his heart, his mind thankfully still remained calm. Dumbledore must have suspected it after he saw the diary. Dumbledore must have realised that he had created Horcruxes. Slughorn was another loose end. He should have taken care of the man sooner, but his respect for him had won out. No longer was he going to be merciful. He would destroy every last man, woman and child if they threatened his life.
But surely the boy must have only destroyed one Horcrux. Yes, that was the reason he felt pain. He, Lord Voldemort would know if one of his precious souls was destroyed. But which was it? But then again, how could the boy know about the Gaunt shack? No, it wasn't the ring.
And how could the boy, or anybody else, know about the cave or penetrate its protection? The idea of the locket being stolen was absurd. . . . And there was no way the boy could have entered Hogwarts or Gringotts without being detected. That was impossible and ludicrous to even think about.
Of course, there was Nagini, but she was safe in Godric's Hollow. So which one? A cold unease flickered in him. Dumbledore had known his middle name. He must have traced his ancestry to the Gaunts. Yes, the one probably destroyed was the ring. But a smile made it to his lipless mouth. Maybe there was a chance that Potter was dead? The curse on the ring was something so deadly that he doubted even he, Lord Voldemort could undo it. The loss of one of his precious soul pieces can be chalked off as collateral damage if it had indeed killed Potter in the process.
Yes, he would go check on the ring once he had recovered. Potter's dead body was sure to be in the Gaunt shack.
Ron and Hermione were fighting again. It had been a month since they had left Harry. They were outside Shell Cottage, trying to see what to do.
"You should never have fought with him!" yelled Hermione. "Then none of this would have happened!"
"It wasn't my fault," said Ron defensively. "It was that bloody locket! Besides, you were disappointed in him too!"
"That's not what I meant!" lied Hermione, though she had to admit she felt that they weren't productive enough during the hunt. "Besides, I wore the locket too, you know."
"It affected me more than you or Harry," said Ron. He sighed as he hugged her. "We'll find a way to him soon, I promise."
Mentally, Ron was panicking. Molly Weasley had decided to dose Harry with love potions during the summer before their sixth year. Since she didn't want it to be too suspicious, she had given him a slow reacting potion. Ginny was to make Harry jealous throughout the year so that Harry would realise his true feelings. Dumbledore was all for it as he believed that Harry should be with Ginny. The Headmaster had ordered one of the House Elves to dose Harry's food with the potion during meals. Since it was so mild, it didn't taste different. But Ron had been dosing the food during the hunt. How could he do that now that he wasn't with Harry anymore? Hermione didn't really need a love potion. He had given her a perfume during Christmas of their fifth year which would give off his essence. That would remind her about him and give her a push that was needed and Hermione was in his hands. Ron had to admit his mother had observed Hermione's behaviour over the years and had promised him that she would indeed fall for him. And she was right; when Harry told them about the prophecy, Hermione lost any feelings she had towards Harry. After all, Ron was much safer to be with while Harry's future was uncertain.
The real reason Molly, Ron and Ginny had done this, with the consent of Dumbledore of course, was because they wanted to get their hands on Harry's huge fortune. The git had never given him expensive presents or money. Ron had stayed by his side for so long and what did the git give him? Nothing!
Well, it was only a matter of time. Harry would come begging for his forgiveness and Ron would forgive him graciously so that he could get his hands on Harry's money once Harry married Ginny. And then, Ron would no longer be in Harry's shadow; he would be equally famous and rich!
He was standing hand in hand in a snowy lane under a dark blue sky, in which the night's first stars were already glimmering feebly. Cottages stood on either side of the narrow road, Christmas decorations twinkling in their windows. A short way ahead of them, a glow of golden streetlights indicated the centre of the village.
"I'm coming, mum, dad," whispered Harry as he removed the cloak and walked quickly towards the graveyard. He didn't sense someone watching him as he hurried down the road.
He entered the graveyard and searched for his parents. He recognised some of the names like Abbott; even Dumbledore's mother and sister seem to have been buried here. Well, at least some of Rita Skeeter's facts were true. He hurried forward and after several minutes of searching, he found it; the grave of James and Lily Potter. It was made of marble, just like Dumbledore's and it gleamed under the moonlight. Harry sank to the ground as tears flowed down his cheeks. He was finally here. After crying silently for a couple of minutes, he waved his wand in the air and conjured a bunch of lilies. He placed them on the grave and got up and walked away quickly. He didn't want to be there anymore. Just as he exited the gate, his senses were on alert. Someone was watching him.
He turned and saw the face of an old woman whom he recognised from the picture on his A History of Magic book; she was Bathilda Bagshot.
"Miss Bagshot?" asked Harry tentatively. Somehow, there were warning signs in place, but if she was Dumbledore's old friend, she might have Gryffindor's sword with her. Granted, he didn't need it to destroy the Horcruxes, but that didn't mean it wasn't useful.
The woman grunted and gestured him to follow her. Harry frowned when he saw that she was acting strange. They walked for a minute until they reached her cottage which stank badly.
Harry gripped his wand as he followed her, though his instincts were telling him to leave. He stopped as he entered the house.
"Miss Bagshot, do you have something for me?" he asked loudly. The woman motioned her to follow her upstairs, but he stayed firm.
"No, I won't be going upstairs; this is your house, not mine," said Harry firmly as he eyed the door. "Again, do you have something for me?"
She nodded and pointed to the other side of the room. Just as Harry moved, she acted. Within a second, her body collapsed and the great snake emerged from where her neck must have been.
Knowing the snake would strike in a second, Harry acted on instinct, pointed his wand at the snake and shouted, "AVADA KEDAVRA!"
The jet of green light hit the snake right in the open mouth as it had been positioned to strike. The snake screamed as the Horcrux was destroyed, but just as he was about to turn, he saw the red eyes of the man.
Voldemort was here and he was angry.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" shouted Voldemort.
"Sectumsempra!" yelled Harry. The two beams of light collided again like last time, but this time, both of them were prepared. Just as the golden thread appeared, Voldemort cut the connection, but Harry flung Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder at the Dark Lord and Disapparated, just as he heard a yell of fury from Voldemort.
Harry appeared with a crack in the middle of the Forest of Dean but Disapparated again so as to throw off his scent. There was only one more Horcrux left, but there were more answers he needed.
Harry took out the snitch and stared at it. The Elder Wand was one of the Deathly Hallows. Well, he could understand now why Voldemort was obsessed with it. He also remembered the ring which Dumbledore wore, which he guessed was in this snitch. According to Winky and Kreacher, it was the symbol of the Deathly Hallows. It was so useful to have elves that grew up in the household of pureblood families. They were a goldmine of information about magical culture.
I open at the close
What could that mean? His eyes went wide as he remembered what Dumbledore must have planned for him. How would he have reacted if he had found out that he had a Horcrux in his head much later? Before the ritual, he probably would have gone to Voldemort and let the man kill him. Suddenly, he realised exactly what the phrase meant. It contained one of the Deathly Hallows. The word close was a metaphor.
"Death," whispered Harry as he held the snitch in his hand, close to his lips.
The snitch opened, revealing a black stone. He took the stone and turned it three times, just as Albus Dumbledore appeared before him in a silvery form.
"Harry my boy -"
"Shut it, Dumbledore," said Harry coldly. "I have questions I need answers for."
Voldemort was burning with rage as he held the corpse of Nagini. Potter would pay for this. He would destroy him and everyone else for killing his familiar. Was Nagini a target because Potter knew that she was a Horcrux or because she was a threat to his life when she attacked the boy? He would have to mobilise the Death Eaters. He wasn't going to stand for this. Several attacks on innocents would make Potter surrender to him. He would also have to warn Snape that the boy might try to enter Hogwarts. But for now, he would have to check on his remaining Horcruxes. He fumed as he got up and his eyes went wide as he saw the picture on the wall. The young blonde haired man was the thief who had stolen the wand. A feeling of euphoria coursed through him as he recognised the young boy immediately from Gregorovitch's memories. Rita Skeeter's book on Dumbledore was on the table. He put the pieces together.
That meant the person who last defeated Grindelwald had the Elder Wand.
The wand was in the grave of Albus Dumbledore.
Harry's feet touched the road of the familiar street. Snow was covering the ground as it was late December. He could see the outlines of Hogwarts castle from here. Hate boiled in him as he realised that he had been here several months ago, carrying Dumbledore. The lying, conniving old bastard!
Just as he took another step, there was a scream throughout the village. Harry stiffened as he tried to Disapparate, but there was no avail. He tried the portkey on his ring, but it didn't work. The air seemed quite solid; anti-Apparition and anti-Portkey wards.
A dozen Death Eaters burst from the door of the Three Broomsticks and pointed their wands at where he was standing.
"Accio Cloak!" yelled a Death Eater.
Harry seized the folds, but there was no need for it. It didn't work.
"Not under your wrapper, then, Potter?" yelled the Death Eater who had tried the charm. The man turned then to his fellows and said, "Spread out. He's here."
Several stunners were cast from the wands of the Death Eaters and Harry barely dodged them as he stumbled to the Hogs Head. He realised with panic that Voldemort must have realised he was hunting Horcruxes. He must have informed them that Harry was coming to Hogwarts!
"Release the Dementors!" yelled the Death Eater. Harry's eyes went wide. Dementors couldn't be fooled by the cloak and he had no way of escape. He could run, but the footprints on the snow would give him away and so would casting magic. The Death Eaters had been prepared for this. The Dementors glided towards him and Harry tried to fight the memories and the cold but it was no use. With no option left, he raised his wand and whispered, "Expecto Patronum!"
The silver stag burst from the tip of his wand and charged at the dementors, giving his position away. Just as he was about to go the other way to escape, the door to his left opened and he heard a voice say, "Potter, get in here, quick! Go upstairs and be quiet!"
Harry obeyed and went inside the Hog's Head just as the barman went outside to deal with the Death Eaters. Harry could hear the commotion outside.
"I still say I saw a stag Patronus!" shouted the first Death Eater.
"Stag?" roared the barman. "It's a goat, idiot!"
"All right, we made a mistake," said the second Death Eater. "Break curfew again and we won't be so lenient!"
Harry waited patiently as the old barman entered the room above the pub.
"You bloody fool," said the man in a gruff voice. "What the hell were you thinking coming up here?"
Harry took in the barman's features and most importantly, the eyes. Harry's eyes widened in recognition, and even the barman's eyes widened as he took in Harry's new features.
"Looks like you've changed your looks over the past few months, Potter," said the barman snidely.
"Thank you for saving me, Mr Dumbledore," said Harry quietly. "But I need to get inside the castle quickly. Can you suggest a way? Elf Apparition won't work, I know, but besides that."
"Don't be stupid, boy," said Aberforth angrily. "Do you have any idea of the number of wards around the castle? It is suicide -"
"It is imperative that I go inside, Mr Dumbledore," said Harry firmly. "I have a job to do and for that, I need to -"
"A job, eh?" asked Aberforth with a smirk. "How nice. Let me guess; it was my brother that set you up, right? Forget it, Potter. My brother -"
"-was the biggest manipulative old bastard of the century, yes, I know," said Harry bitterly. He still hadn't fully come to terms with Dumbledore's betrayal; it stung badly. "I don't fucking give a damn about your brother anymore. I know exactly what kind of game he plays, but I am very close to defeating Riddle. I just escaped him in Godric's Hollow after delivering a crippling blow to him. It could be all over very soon, but for that, I need to get inside the castle before he does!"
Aberforth looked at Harry for a minute and chuckled. "I underestimated you, Potter. You certainly have managed to surprise me. I never thought you would get over your worship of Albus, but you did. Fine, I'll help you."
He looked at the painting and nodded at her. The girl smiled as walked away. "There is only one way for you to get inside," said Aberforth. "The secret passageways are all sealed. But be warned. Just because it is the holidays doesn't mean the students have gone home. It was one of Riddle's ideas to keep them at the school so that the parents would be more afraid of him."
Harry nodded and soon the portrait opened and a heavily scarred Neville Longbottom stepped out of it.
"Harry?" asked Neville in disbelief.
Snape got the message from the Death Eaters outside. He couldn't take the chance anymore. He had to be prepared.
"He's here, Albus," said Snape.
Albus Dumbledore's portrait nodded. "You'll have to tell him soon, Severus, but I think it is too early. The boy has not lived up to my expectations. I thought it would work, but without the sword, how did he manage?" he said with disappointment clear in his voice.
Snape's eye twitched. He still didn't like being kept in the dark about what Potter was up to, but he really didn't care. After all, from the looks of it, Potter wouldn't win anyway. Severus was glad that he was a double agent. Whichever side won, he would be the good guy.
"I told you it was stupid of you to trust the brat, but you never listened," sneered Snape. "I have to warn the others. I was told he would try to sneak into Ravenclaw Tower."
With that, Severus Snape walked out of his office, his robes billowing. He sent a Patronus message to Alecto and Amycus Carrow to be vigilant.
"Damn, Harry, you've changed," said Neville as he took in his friend's features. "But where are Ron and Hermione?"
Harry snorted. "They left me when the going got tough; well, Ron did, and Hermione went along with him while trying to stop him. Really, what a time to think about romance when there are people dying everywhere; idiot," he said quietly.
Neville was shocked as he walked through the passageway. "They left you?" he said in surprise. "But what have you been doing?"
"I needed to get rid of a few things, Neville," said Harry quietly. "I just came back from a confrontation with our resident Dark Lord in Godric's Hollow. He is going to be here soon. It is time we finally took a stand."
Neville gaped at him but nodded with determination. He went on to explain what was happening at Hogwarts and Harry's blood boiled. The tunnel led them to another door from where Harry and Neville exited, only to be surrounded by several screams and yells.
"Hey everyone, Harry's back!" yelled Neville.
"It's Potter, it's POTTER!"
Not knowing where they were, Harry took an offensive stance as he pointed his wand at them, with a paranoid gleam in his eye. When he realised who were there, he lowered his wand.
"Where are we?" asked Harry confused.
"The Room of Requirement of course," said Neville with a grin. "Changed, hasn't it?"
Harry closed his eyes as he thought about it. Even though the Horcrux was removed, he could still feel an echo of Voldemort. He was obviously angry, but he wasn't near Hogwarts yet. Harry didn't see the gaping faces of several girls as they took in his new looks. Ginny and Cho were glaring at each other; Harry really looked very handsome.
"Is it possible for all of you to exit the room for a while?" asked Harry.
"Exit the room?" asked Seamus in shock. "Why? We're here to escape the Carrows. If we leave -"
Harry sighed in frustration. He never expected anyone to use the room but how could he get them out without telling them about the Horcrux?
"Voldemort is on his way here," said Harry firmly as people gasped in fear. "I need to use the room for something, but we have to barricade the castle before he arrives. Where's McGonagall?"
"She's probably in her office," said Neville. "What -"
"Prepare yourselves," said Harry flatly. "If you want to fight, this is the chance. If you want to leave, you can go. Call for reinforcements. We're going to need it soon."
With that, Harry grabbed Neville and asked him to point out the exit. He donned the cloak and went towards McGonagall's office when he stiffened. He should have consulted the map.
Thankfully, it wasn't a Death Eater. Professor McGonagall was walking towards him, her eyes vigilant. Harry knew it was time so he ripped out his cloak, nearly giving her a heart attack in the process. When he explained that Voldemort was on his way, she thankfully listened, but they were soon interrupted by Snape; Harry had been detected. Damn the stupid taboo and the wards around the castle.
"Well, well, I never got the chance to welcome you, Potter. How nice of you to join us," said Snape silkily.
"Oh, hello Snivellus," said Harry with a smirk as he gripped his wand. "How has it been up in the Head's office? Nice chat with Dumbledore's portrait?"
Snape's eyes flashed at the mention of the name given by James Potter, but just then Harry and McGonagall chose to attack. Battling two against one with Flitwick, Sprout and Slughorn coming to their rescue, Snape decided to flee.
"He's coming; get on it!" said Harry as he stopped. What to do? Should he grab the wand first or should he get the diadem?
I'm no match for him. I don't have the skill to beat him.
With that in mind, Harry donned the cloak again and rushed towards the grounds, not listening to McGonagall's discussion about how to strengthen the wards around the school. Several minutes later, Harry appeared near the grave of Albus Dumbledore. With a flick of his wand, the white marble tomb split open, revealing the body of the old Headmaster. With him was the wand, buried with him. Harry took it, just as it gave off multiple sparks, ready to serve a new master at last.
"Who is the true master of the wand?" whispered Harry to himself. From what he had been told by Dumbledore when he summoned his spirit, according to legend, the person who defeats the previous master becomes the master of the wand. Dumbledore had wanted Snape to be the master of the wand, but apparently, that hadn't happened. Damn, Draco Malfoy was the master of the Elder Wand! This was not good!
Ron and Hermione were gobsmacked as they heard Bill say that Harry was at Hogwarts, preparing for battle.
"You-Know-Who is on his way to the school," he said as he saw the rest of the Weasleys. "We need to go and help! He's calling for reinforcements. The rest of the Order will be there soon."
"We're coming," said Hermione as she and Ron followed Arthur, Bill, Fleur, Fred and George out of the Burrow.
"No! I forbid it! You're all children!" screeched Molly, but no one listened to her. Still in her nightgown, Molly threw up her hands in frustration as she watched them leave. Why didn't anybody listen to her?
Meanwhile, the Carrows had been dealt with as Harry entered the Great Hall, where all four House students were assembled. Harry nodded in agreement as he saw members of the Order of the Phoenix present as well. Damn, they had assembled quickly.
"What about our things?" called a girl at the Ravenclaw table. "Our trunks, our owls?"
"We have no time to collect possessions," said Professor McGonagall. "The important thing is to get you out of here safely."
"Where's Professor Snape?" shouted a girl from the Slytherin table.
"He has, to use the common phrase, done a bunk," replied Professor McGonagall, and a great cheer erupted from the Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws.
Just as McGonagall was finishing her sentence, they were interrupted by a loud voice, which echoed throughout the castle, making people scream in fright.
"I know that you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood."
"Give me Harry Potter," said Voldemort's voice, "and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded."
"You have until midnight."
There was pin drop silence as people stared at Harry, many of the taking several seconds just to recognise him. Suddenly, there was movement from the Slytherin table. A figure rose from the Slytherin table and he recognised Pansy Parkinson as she raised a shaking arm and screamed, "But he's there! Potter's there! Someone grab him!"
When there was movement with hundreds of wands pointed at the Slytherins, Harry started at them. He saw the expressions on most of the Slytherin students. The younger years were crying softly while the others looked shaken up. Things had probably not been smooth in the snake pit in the past several months. He wouldn't be surprised if girls had been raped there.
"Thank you, Miss Parkinson," said Professor McGonagall in a clipped voice. "You will leave the Hall first with Mr Filch. If the rest of your House could follow."
"No," said Harry loudly. "This is what is being done to us; can't you see it? We are crumbling from within just because of that mad fool. I will not let everyone in Slytherin be targeted just because some of them are loyal to Voldemort. Those who want to stay and fight, you can do so. This is the time to pick a side. This moment will decide your fate forever. If you want to listen to the propaganda spouted by that monster, you can do so, but remember the hundreds or maybe thousands of people who died just in the past year and a half."
"Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin; what's the big deal about the Houses?" asked Harry to the whole room where everyone was listening. "Aren't we all the same? Why can't you see it? I was nearly sorted into Slytherin myself! So am I evil?" he asked, ignoring the gasps from many of the students. "If you don't believe me, ask the Sorting Hat. Slytherin was the first choice for me. But it is time you all realised something."
"Sonorus," said Harry as he pointed the Elder Wand to his throat. His voice echoed throughout the castle and the whole of Hogsmeade could hear it. "Lord Voldemort. You are nothing but a snivelling coward. I remember what you said to me when I was eleven. You said that there is no good or evil; there is only power and those too weak to seek it. I tell you now that you are wrong. Achieving great power is a worthy objective, but it is the means of acquiring it which define us. You are nothing but the epitome of evil. Do you all want to know who Voldemort really is? His name is Tom Marvolo Riddle. He is a half-blood, sprouting pureblood propaganda to further his goals to achieve power. He graduated from Hogwarts in 1945; Head Boy and the so-called Heir of Salazar Slytherin. He is a bastard son of the Gaunt family. His mother, Merope Gaunt was a squib. She used a love potion on a muggle named Tom Riddle and got herself pregnant. When she stopped using the love potion on her muggle husband, he ran away, leaving her helpless. This is your precious Dark Lord; a child of that union. He opened the Chamber of Secrets both times, trying to kill muggleborns because he had a lousy time with muggles at his orphanage when he was a child. He was bullied in Slytherin House for being a muggleborn when he was sorted but he rose through the ranks by intimidating people with his parseltongue skills. Tell me, if he really is interested in pureblood supremacy, why does he kill so many purebloods? Shall we count the families that have been wiped out because of him? The Gaunt family is extinct; he killed his own uncle. The McKinnon family is extinct. He killed nearly twenty purebloods that night including defenceless children. He killed twenty three members of the Bones family, a family as old as any in our country, not counting Amelia Bones herself, one of the greatest witches of our generation. He killed the Prewetts; he killed Fenwicks; the Dearborns; the Meadows; he is the cause of the near extinction of the Longbottom, Bones, Potter and Black families, all of which are ancient pureblood Houses. If he loves purebloods so much, why does he kill so many?"
"He doesn't even respect his own followers. He called you all his servants. I thought proud purebloods bow down to no one, but your own master is the son of a muggle who loves to torture you. You kiss the robes of a half-blood while you call the rest of us filthy. You have been blinded for so long and you have nearly destroyed our society because of it. You fools; if we are exposed to the muggles we would be destroyed! There is a reason the International Statue of Secrecy was implemented! Muggles have devices used for mass destruction you cannot even imagine! There are billions of muggles out there! What are you going to do? Kill them all? It isn't possible! Think, you idiots!"
"If you still want proof about your master's ancestry, watch this," said Harry. He used the same Flagrate spell Riddle used in the Chamber of Secrets and drew in mid-air.
TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE
With a flick of his wand, the letters rearranged themselves to form –
I AM LORD VOLDEMORT
"Voldemort is a made up name made by a teenager with inadequacy issues," said Harry, his voice still echoing. "Tom Riddle, I speak directly to you now. You have used these people like cattle, branding them with your mark. I am not Albus Dumbledore. I know the crimes you have committed and the crimes your followers have committed. I am not a person to give second chances. If you come with wands blazing to kill innocent children just because they stand in your way, I will kill you like how I killed Fenrir Greyback. You have been warned."
The entire Great Hall was quiet, with people gaping at Harry. Ron and Hermione were wondering what had happened to their best friend over the past month. How could he do this? None of the Horcruxes had been destroyed! There was no point of it all. Innocent blood was going to be shed because Harry had taken a stand when they weren't ready yet. Besides, Harry had killed Greyback and those snatchers? He had used dark magic!
McGonagall cleared her throat. "Thank you for that speech, Mr Potter. Students who are underage, please leave now. All those students who wish to leave, Slytherin or otherwise, you know who you are, leave now before we make you."
With that, she turned to arrange people to leave. Harry saw that few people from Gryffindor, Huflepuff and Ravenclaw too joined a group of Slytherins as they left the hall, still in shock at what Harry had said, though Pansy still threw filthy looks at Harry. Nearly one-quarter of Slytherin House had left, leaving the others behind.
"It is time to put your differences aside here and now," said Harry firmly. "When the fighting starts, don't use stunners; they're useless. Use Reductor curses, cutting curses, anything which is lethal. If you stun people, they will just get back up. These bastards are here to kill you. They are here to kill innocent children. Show no mercy."
"But we can't do that!" said Hermione as he looked at Harry with wide eyes. "Harry, we can't kill people just because they're Death Eaters. Professor Dumbledore -"
"- is dead and it doesn't matter what he wanted because it isn't him fighting here with us tonight," finished Harry flatly. "This is war, people. It is either kill or be killed. If you stun a Death Eater remember that it will haunt you forever that the same Death Eater killed another innocent person because you couldn't take him down. It is on your heads if some else dies. If you don't want to kill, incapacitate them. Cut off their wand arm or use bone-breaking curses. Others who don't want to fight, report to Madam Pomfrey. We can use all the Healers we can get. Kingsley!"
Kingsley nodded to Harry, respect shining in his eyes as he addressed everyone, telling them about battle strategies. Harry quietly exited the Great Hall as he headed to the Room of Requirement. Once he finished destroying the last Horcrux, he would deal with Draco.
Just as he entered the corridor to the Room, he stopped when he saw that there were only three people standing there - Ginny, Tonks and a regal looking woman who Harry recognised as Neville's grandmother.
"Tonks?" asked Harry incredulously. "What are you doing here? I thought you were at home with Teddy?"
Ted Lupin, Remus and Tonks' son had been born just a couple of months back. The two of them had gotten together during the Christmas holidays of Harry's sixth year after he decided to help out Tonks when he found out that she had fallen in love with Lupin. Their surprise pregnancy had speeded up their marriage and Harry had been quite bewildered when they asked him to be the godfather of their unborn child when he had arrived at the Burrow several months back. He didn't know why they had asked him because quite frankly, he didn't know either Remus or Tonks very well, but he had accepted it none the less.
"He's at the Burrow with Molly," said Tonks. "She'll look after him. Where's Remus?"
"You'll have to ask Kingsley; he's the one organising people," said Harry. Tonks and Augusta Longbottom nodded and hurried away.
"Ginny, I'm sorry but you'll have to leave the room," said Harry. His eyes narrowed as she came closer to him, obviously with the intent of kissing him, but he made a noise of frustration. He didn't have time for this!
"Ginny, we are in the middle of a battle!" yelled Harry, making her move away in bewilderment.
"I love you, Harry," said Ginny as she blew him a kiss and walked away, leaving Harry shaking his head. He didn't know why, but he didn't have any feelings for her anymore.
"HARRY!" yelled someone. Harry groaned as he saw Ron and Hermione coming towards him. Why were they all interfering now?
"If you come with wands blazing to kill innocent children just because they stand in your way, I will kill you like how I killed Fenrir Greyback. You have been warned."
Voldemort seethed as he listed to Potter's speech. Since when had the boy grown a backbone? The Harry Potter he knew wasn't this confident in defeating him! Sure, Voldemort had a great deal of respect for Potter for his sheer bravery in standing up to him, but this was the breaking point. Not even Dumbledore had dared to publicly announce Voldemort's ancestry!
"How dare the filthy half-blood lie about our Lord!" screeched Bellatrix, fury clearly visible in her eyes. No one wanted to cross her when she was angry, not even her husband. In fact, it was during her last fit of rage that she had gone and killed her sister Andromeda for 'betraying' her family by marrying a mudblood.
"But -" said a Death Eater uncertainty, but that was the last word he spoke before a jet of green light flew from Bellatrix's wand and impacted his chest as he rolled over, dead.
"Does anyone else have anything to say?" hissed Bellatrix.
Many of the Death Eaters gulped, but they knew better than to say anything to the mad witch. She was the Dark Lord's favourite, not to mention she was bat shit crazy. No one wanted to mess with her.
"Harry Potter is lying, my friends," said Voldemort silkily. "He is nothing but a conniving liar who is trying to destabilise what we have achieved over the past year and a half. We have removed the mudbloods from our society! We are on our way in stopping the filthy muggles. Pretty soon, all of Britain will be free from the contaminant and purebloods alone will rise as the leaders of the new order. Once the international community sees what we have achieved, we can take over the world! We shall show muggles their place and eradicate them, but for that, we need to kill Harry Potter. He is the beacon of light for them all. Once he is dead, the war will be over and we shall have peace! I, Lord Voldemort, Heir of Salazar Slytherin, declare it so!"
Thunderous cheers and applause greeted Voldemort's speech as the Death Eaters bowed down to their Lord.
"ATTACK!" shouted Bellatrix as hundreds of Death Eaters ran to the grounds of the castle.
Voldemort tapped his wand on his head, casting a Disillusionment charm so powerful that no one could see him. He walked towards his destination with a smile on his lipless mouth. Potter's words didn't have the effect the boy thought it would. His army wasn't going to betray him. It was not possible for them to betray him. Bellatrix did a good thing in showing them exactly what would happen to traitors. He wondered if he should join the battle, but he shook his head. No, he would wait. After innocent blood was shed, Potter would come seeking for him. Voldemort knew how Potter worked. The boy wouldn't be able to stand it if his friends died because of him. He would have Potter within his grasp soon. Until then, his Death Eaters would do the killing; besides, these idiots of Hogwarts wouldn't kill anyway. That stupid Dumbledore's Army group, as well as the Order of the Phoenix, would stun people left, right and centre. By the time he entered the battle, the defenders would be weakened while the Death Eaters would still be large in number. He laughed softly. Dumbledore's philosophy of giving second chances was foolish, and whatever Potter might say, he was Dumbledore's man through and through. The boy would only disarm or stun; how pathetic.
When he reached the marble tomb, he frowned. This was a blemish on the beautiful grounds of Hogwarts. He raised his Yew wand. How fitting that this would be its last, great act. The tomb split open and the wrappings fell apart. Voldemort's blood boiled as he saw that there was no wand buried with him.
The Elder Wand wasn't here. Dumbledore must have done something to it before he died!
He screamed in rage. White hot anger coursed through his veins as he found Macnair.
"Call the giants and dementors, now!" said Voldemort in a deadly, high cold voice.
They would all pay for denying him the wand! He would kill them all! Let's see how they would stop the giants and hundreds of dementors!