Chapter 44

The next morning, Harry briefly forgot about Sirius as he stood before the noticeboard in the Slytherin common room and stared thoughtfully at a new notice that'd gone up in the night.

APPARITION LESSONS
If you are seventeen years of age, or will turn seventeen on or before the 31st August next, you are eligible for a twelve-week course of Apparition Lessons from a Ministry of Magic Apparition instructor.
Please sign below if you would like to participate.
Cost: 12 Galleons.

"Not like you need them," Draco said softly as he signed his own name to the list. Harry hummed a quiet agreement, but he couldn't help thinking of how different his teleporting felt to side-along Apparition. He thought of asking Sirius if Apparating oneself felt the same, then remembered they weren't talking. Maybe he could ask James. If he said it did, then Harry would take the lessons.

I think you should take them anyway, the voice said as he set off for breakfast. And I think you should suppress your magic while you do.

Harry stopped short. "What?"

Draco, who hadn't realised Harry stopped, turned and look back at him. "Harry?"

Harry waved at him to shut up, stepping aside as some of their housemates headed up the corridor. He leant against the wall, closing his eyes.

You're as incompetent as everyone else with your magic suppressed, the voice explained. You have to practice a spell to perfect it. You still haven't got those tattoos, despite my insistence—

It had suggested going to a Muggle tattoo parlour during the winter holiday.

which means you're still in danger. Knowing how to Apparate with your magic suppressed could save your life.

"Harry!"

He snapped his eyes open. Draco stood right before him, looking worried.

"What?"

"What are you doing?"

"Thinking."

"About what?"

"Apparition," Harry said, starting down the corridor again, Draco falling into step beside him. "Also things that terrify me."

Draco gave him a worried, questioning look and Harry explained his idea. (My idea, the voice muttered grumpily.) Draco's worried expression eased as he heard it.

"I think it's a good idea," he said afterwards, as they sat down to breakfast. "But how are you going to suppress your magic?"

Harry rubbed his wrists, thinking of metal shackles and leather cuffs. Just imagining them around his wrists made him shudder, but as long as they weren't enchanted, as long as he could take them off at will, then he thought he could handle wearing them for the length of an Apparition lesson. He'd ask Dumbledore if he still had the cuffs when he saw him that evening.

Sirius wasn't at breakfast that morning, nor did he turn up to their Defence class. James taught it himself, snapping at the students, glaring at Harry, and taking points for the slightest little thing.

"What the hell was his problem?" Draco asked Harry as soon as class was out. As the students went their separate ways for break, Harry heard Hannah Abbott saying to Susan Bones, "It was like having Snape back!"

Harry doubted either man would appreciate the comparison.

"I told you Sirius and me argued yesterday," Harry answered Draco.

"What you told me was Sirius was an absolutely wanker."

"Detention, Malfoy."

Harry and Draco spun. James stood behind them, looking at them both with cold hatred. Harry dropped his gaze to the floor.

"An evening with Filch should teach you to speak about your professors with respect."

Draco grit his teeth. "Yes, sir."

"Now move on before I take points for loitering in the halls."

"Tosser," Draco muttered, but waited until James was out of earshot to do so.


Harry only realised at quarter to eight that he couldn't go to Dumbledore's office via the fireplace in Sirius and James' room. He seriously considered flying up to Dumbledore's window from the outside and knocking on it for Dumbledore to let him in, amused by the thought of Dumbledore's reaction, but in the end he simply wandered up to the seventh floor, turned invisible when no one was looking, and Wished the gargoyle to step aside while the corridor was empty. He made himself visible again on the ride up the moving staircase and knocked on the door.

Dumbledore didn't look surprised to see him coming through it. Harry assumed Sirius, or perhaps James, had mentioned something to him, but he was just glad he wouldn't have to explain things himself. Dumbledore didn't ask anything, just brought his Pensieve to the desk.

"I have two memories to share with you tonight," he said as Harry came closer. "Both obtained with enormous difficulty, and the second of them is, I think, the most important I have collected."

Are we actually going to learn something useful now then?

Harry ignored the voice and bent over to enter the Pensieve. They were back at the Gaunt home, which was even more rundown than in the first memory Dumbledore had shared with him, this time in a memory of Morfin. Merope and her father were gone, leaving Morfin slouched miserably in a worn-out armchair with his father's ring on his hand.

When the door crashed open and the teenage Tom Riddle stepped through, Harry had a sudden flashback of lying on a cold hard floor with that face peering down at him, and something in him shivered.

The two spoke in parseltongue—it seemed to be Morfin's favoured language, never speaking in English—and Harry translated for Dumbledore. Riddle had come seeking his grandfather, who was dead, but Morfin mentioned the Muggle family named Riddle that lived across the village. This, Harry gathered, was when Tom Riddle found out his parentage. All he'd had to go on before was the knowledge that he was named for his father and grandfather.

Harry wondered, feeling a cold pit forming in his stomach, what Riddle had felt when he discovered his father was nothing more than a common Muggle, the very thing he'd grown to hate—wondered if he felt that stinging betrayal and anger that Harry had felt when he discovered Snape was his father.

The memory ended abruptly in darkness, startling Harry. As soon as he was out of the Pensieve he turned to Dumbledore and asked, "What happened?"

"Voldemort Stunned him. Morfin could not remember anything from that point forwards. The next thing he recalls is waking up the next morning, Marvolo's ring gone. That same morning, three dead bodies were found in the Riddle house across the way—Tom Riddle senior, and his elderly parents. The Muggle authorities were baffled, but the Ministry knew instantly that this was a magical death. Morfin, who already had a record for attacking one of the dead Muggles, was arrested after making a full confession and spent the rest of his life in Azkaban."

"He killed them?" Harry said, frowning. "Why? I mean, I get that he was a Muggle-hater, but just out of the blue like that?"

Dumbledore smiled. "Morfin Gaunt didn't kill them. Voldemort did."

"He killed his own father?"

"I believe so. We cannot know for certain, but I think it's safe to assume that Voldemort stupefied his uncle, took his wand, and killed his father and grandparents, eliminating the Riddle line he considered unworthy. He then returned to the Gaunt hovel and manipulated Morfin's memory to make him believe himself responsible, and left."

Harry sat down abruptly.

It's not the same.

"It—" He cut himself off, continuing in his mind. 'It doesn't matter. It's enough. He was manipulating people, changing their memories for his own good. I have to be better than that. I am better than that. I didn't kill Snape. He killed his father but I didn't and mine did more than just abandon me. I'm better than him.'

That has nothing to do with Sirius, the voice said, but Harry was thinking of the weeks before his OWLs, when he'd made Remus forget his slip up about going to hell, of the Muggles in Bath and the potions class in second year and the whole school in first year. Of the fact that Sirius and all the rest had seen Harry kill his father only to have their memories altered.

You didn't do that, the voice insisted. Voldemort did. Are you going to act against him?

Harry flinched at the thought. But still… he wanted things to be better between him and Sirius. Yes, he was continually annoyed at Sirius' efforts to protect him, had lashed out and said unkind things and pushed Sirius away, but he didn't like it. Sirius was his godfather, he'd been the first person to offer Harry a real home, had been the first one to say he loved Harry.

Things might be better between Harry and Snape now, but Harry couldn't forget that Snape had fully intended to never reveal their relationship if he hadn't been forced to. Sirius, for all his flaws, had at least tried to be a parental figure to Harry. Whatever problems they had, Harry had to be grateful for that. If he could do something to fix things between them, then shouldn't he? Even if it meant defying Voldemort? It wasn't as if it was the first time; he'd been defying Voldemort from the moment he faked Snape's death.

"Harry?"

He jumped, blinked, looked up. He'd completely forgotten he was sitting in Dumbledore's office. "Sorry. Thinking."

"Anything you'd care to share?"

Harry shook his head. Dumbledore didn't look appeased, so he said, "Just some stuff about my dad. Didn't you have another memory to show me?"

Dumbledore looked at him for another moment, but thankfully didn't ask for Harry to speak his mind. He added another memory to the Pensieve and they dived into it. Remembering Dumbledore's remark about it being the most important, Harry braced himself for something terrible, but they appeared in Slughorn's office, at the end of one of his Slug Club meetings. Harry couldn't imagine what was so important they might find out here, but he watched as Riddle hung back to talk to Slughorn after everyone else was dismissed.

"Sir, I wanted to ask you something."

"Ask away, then, m'boy, ask away…"

"Sir, I wondered what you know about… about Horcruxes?"

The memory went smoky then—not dark like Morfin's had, but an odd fog descended over it and over the top Slughorn's voice said loudly, "I don't know anything about Horcruxes and I wouldn't tell you if I did! Now get out of here at once and don't let me catch you mentioning them again!"

"That memory has been meddled with," Dumbledore told Harry when they left the Pensieve. "Professor Slughorn has tampered with his own memory."

"Why?"

"Shame. He has attempted to show himself in a better light, but has done so poorly. It proves that the real memory is underneath. And now I am giving you homework: I would like you to convince Professor Slughorn to divulge the real memory."

That'll hardly be a challenge.

"Feel free to come to me as soon as you have it," Dumbledore said, and then dismissed him. Harry started to leave, but a reminder from the voice made him stop and turn back, prompting Dumbledore to raise his eyebrows questioningly.

"Professor, I was wondering if you still had those cuffs you put on me during my first year."

Dumbledore's eyebrows dropped, the crease between them deepening as he looked at Harry over his half-moon glasses.

"May I enquire as to why you're asking?"

Harry explained his idea and Dumbledore's expression eased, a smile spreading across his face instead.

"An excellent idea. However, are you certain you'll be comfortable with your magic suppressed?"

"As long as I can take the cuffs off myself, whenever I want," Harry said, hoping it was true. The thought of suppressing his magic did make his pulse pick up uncomfortably, but he thought he could manage.

"Very well. I'll send the cuffs to you in time for the first lesson."

"Thank you, professor," Harry said, and left.

He exited through the door again, turning invisible on the ride down the moving staircase. He lingered at the bottom a while, watching through the gargoyle for Professor Trelawney to pass by so he could leave unnoticed, then headed down through the castle. He made himself visible on the sixth floor, and on the fourth he went to Sirius and James' rooms. He peeked through the door to check they were in and saw them both there, laying side by side on the floor and marking homework. At least, James appeared to be; Sirius was making two quills battle like swords.

Taking a deep breath, Harry knocked on the door. James came to answer it and immediately scowled when he saw Harry.

"What do you want?"

"Can I talk to Sirius, please?"

"He's not here."

Harry swivelled his blue eye pointedly in Sirius' direction, normal eye remaining on James' face. Sirius sat up, sighing.

"James, let him in."

Scowl deepening, James stood aside to let Harry pass. Harry only entered far enough for the door to shut behind him, hands tugging nervously at his sleeves. Sirius wouldn't look at him, staring at the wall somewhere beyond Harry, and James wasn't make things any easier.

"What do you want?" Sirius asked glumly.

"Can we talk? Alone?"

"We can talk, but James stays. If you don't like that, tough."

Harry glanced at James, away again. Sirius still wouldn't look at him, so he stared down at his hands.

"I need to tell you something."

"All I want to hear from you is a promise to stop being so reckless."

"I can't."

Sirius' gaze cut to him finally. "Then get out."

"Sirius—"

"I don't want to hear it! There's no excuse for the way you've been behaving! Just get—"

"I'm a Death Eater!"

Silence.

Then: "Don't be stupid."

"Sirius—"

Sirius surged to his feet and Harry backed up a step. "Do you think this is funny?" he asked furiously. "You think it's amusing to joke about that?"

Harry knew nothing he said would convince Sirius, so he just made a Wish. He backed up another step as he did, felt the wall against his shoulders, and braced himself to run in an instant.

Sirius and James both staggered as if he'd physically struck them. James cried out and clutched at his head. Sirius dropped onto the sofa, hands clenching against the cushions, staring at Harry, who fixed his gaze on the floor.

"You…" Sirius began, and Harry braced himself for insults and vicious hatred about 'killing' Snape, but then James yelled—a wordless noise of pure fury, and Harry jumped as he threw a Blasting Hex so powerful it completely destroyed the essays he'd been marking earlier, as well as the quill and inkpot with them, and scorched the carpet beneath.

"James!" Sirius leapt up, reaching for James, but stopped when James whirled on him, wand pointed shakily at Sirius' throat. His teeth were grit, lips drawn back in a snarl, and for a moment it really looked like he might throw a Blasting Hex at Sirius, too.

Then he jerked his arm down. "I'm not," he snarled.

"Not what?" Sirius asked, sounding as baffled as Harry felt.

"Not his." He grabbed at the collar of his robes, tearing them as he pulled it down, and lifted the tip of his wand to his collarbone. "I'm not his fucking property!"

"Don't you dare!"

James froze. The hand holding his wand twitched.

"Put it down," Sirius ordered, and James twitched again then dropped his wand. Sirius crouched slowly to pick it up, tucking it in his pocket. He drew his own and cast a quick reparo on James' robes, then pulled him into a hug. James clutched at him, burying his face in Sirius' shoulder.

"I'm not his," he said, voice muffled, then said something else too quiet for Harry to catch, but it made Sirius stiffen momentarily. He patted James' back a couple of times then drew back.

"Don't ever hurt yourself, Prongs. Not because of that man; he's not worth it."

James nodded. Sirius reached a hand towards his collar but stopped short of touching him, jaw clenching briefly.

"We'll figure out something to do about it, alright?"

James nodded again and Sirius turned to Harry.

"As for you," he said, and Harry tensed, but Sirius stopped. He didn't seem to know what to say and eventually he just sighed heavily and dropped down to the sofa. "I don't know what the fuck to do with you."

That was a better reaction than Harry might have hoped for. "Do you hate me?"

Sirius didn't answer. James sat by him.

"Sirius, you don't know what he went through," he said softly.

"Do you?"

James glanced at Harry, expression thick with pity, and Harry realised that he knew exactly what Frederick Nott had done to him. Harry looked away, wrapping his arms around himself.

"I heard it," James said to Sirius. "I never saw him, but I heard him screaming. He suffered that for a week, Sirius. He could have made it stop at any time by agreeing to join them, but he didn't until…"

"Until Remus was dead."

Harry flinched as if struck. He'd expected anger at his being a Death Eater, hatred for being a killer, but he hadn't expected to be blamed for that. He might have spent six months blaming himself, but to actually hear it from someone else was more painful that he'd imagined.

"Shit. Harry, I—I didn't mean it like that."

"Yeah, you did," Harry said quietly, not looking at him. "It's okay. Someone had to say it eventually. It's not like I didn't know it was my fault."

"It's not!"

From the corner of his eyes, Harry saw Sirius stand up and rapidly take several steps towards him, but Harry flinched and Sirius stopped. Harry hadn't meant to, wasn't even sure why he did, but when he glanced up, Sirius' expression was guilt-ridden.

"I fucked up, didn't I?" he said brokenly, and then collapsed. It was like his legs just couldn't hold him up anymore. He dropped to a sitting position, bending over, hands planting on the floor, head dropping and hair falling to hide his face.

On the sofa, James sat like a coiled spring, as if he wanted to throw himself down by Sirius and wrap him in a bear hug, but was restraining himself. Harry just stood and watched.

"I don't," Sirius said still in that broken voice. "I don't hate you and I don't blame you for Remus' death. It wasn't your fault. You tried to get in the way and the curse wasn't even aimed for him. Voldemort's the only one to blame for what happened."

Harry hadn't believed that before. He certainly didn't now.

Sirius lifted his head and Harry looked away.

"I'm sorry, kid. Harry. What I said yesterday—throwing you out—it was out of line. I shouldn't have yelled at you and I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry, and I'm sorry for just now, making it seem like I blamed you, because I don't, I really don't."

"He doesn't," James said. "He doesn't hate you either, I can feel it."

"What does he feel?" Harry asked, wondering if James was more honest about it.

"Sad, hurt, guilty." He looked from Harry to Sirius, who didn't look around but gave a tiny nod, and James went on. "He's frustrated and confused because he hates Death Eaters, but he loves you and he wants to be angry that you're one of them now but he saw—we saw—what happened to cause that and he knows you can't be any happier about it than he is, but there's nothing he can do about it, and he wants to say that you don't have to obey Voldemort, that you can betray him and Sirius will gladly pay the price, but he knows that he can't because it's not just his life on the line. You killed Snape for us, to protect us, even after Snape got himself caught trying to help you. He wants to be happy that you protected us, that you chose us over Snape, but he knows he can't say that because Snape was your father." He paused for breath, then continued, voice lowering slightly. "And he loves you. Even now, he loves you."

Both Harry and Sirius were staring at him by then. James just sat there, jaw set, saying nothing more. Eventually Sirius looked back around at Harry and shrugged.

"What he said."

Both men looked at Harry now and Harry looked away, trying to figure out how to respond to all that. It'd been easier when he only had to deal with Sirius' anger. More unpleasant, certainly, but easier. When he had to face the fact that Sirius felt just as many jumbled emotions as Harry did, that he was flawed and prone to misjudgement and really was probably just trying to do his best, even if his best wasn't always what Harry wanted… it made Harry want to forgive him, and forgiveness was hard.

But Sirius deserved it. His emotions had made him act badly and Harry couldn't fault someone for that. His emotions made him destroy windows and rot carpets and kill plantlife; that made poor decision making look a bit better in comparison. Sirius was trying his best under a tidal wave of emotions, and Harry knew exactly how that felt.

Even so, Harry couldn't do it, not yet, not until he'd heard one more thing from Sirius.

"What are you going to do?" he asked, still hugging himself, hands clenching on his arms.

"About what?" Sirius asked.

"Me. I'm a Death Eater. What are you going to do about it?"

Sirius straightened up, sitting back on his heels. He didn't answer immediately, considering the question with all the severity it warranted, and Harry didn't know whether to be glad for it or hate him for the apprehension that it made coil in his stomach and the goosebumps it sent over his flesh.

"Nothing," Sirius said eventually, sounding none too happy about it. "It's done, and it's been six months. There's nothing I can do now. There was never anything I could do."

"Are you going to tell Professor Dumbledore? Or anyone else?"

"I want to."

"Please don't," Harry begged, already knowing he'd take the voice's instant suggestion of erasing their memories again. He knew it would come out eventually, but not now. Not yet.

"Why?"

"What good will it do?"

"Dumbledore's head of the Order. He should know you're working against us."

Harry winced at that. Sirius looked away, clenched his hands on this thighs.

"I won't," he said, sounding bitter and guilty. "But I don't want to know what you're doing, I don't want to know what Voldemort asks you to do, I don't want to know when he calls you. I know what you are, but I can't know anything more."

Harry nodded. He'd never have told him anyway, but it still hurt a little. It made Sirius' love conditional, dependant on Harry's actions. Which was only fair, wasn't it? He couldn't expect Sirius to love someone who tortured and murdered people, even if that someone was his godson.

Sirius got to his feet, grimacing slightly as something popped. He shook out a leg and looked at Harry. "If I come give you a hug, will you flinch from me again?"

"No," Harry said, and hoped Sirius didn't notice how tense he was as he approached. But he did refrain from flinching and even returned the hug, relaxing slightly as Sirius pressed his cheek to the top of Harry's head.

"I am sorry," Sirius said again, quietly. Harry wasn't sure what he was apologising for exactly, but he didn't ask.

Sirius drew back with a sigh. "It's almost curfew. You should get going. I'll walk you down."

James leapt up from the sofa as if blasted off it. "I'll come too."

Sirius turned to him, opening his mouth to speak, then stopped when he saw James' face. He smiled softly and brushed his hand against James'. All the tension in James eased then, draining out of him, and he smiled back.


"How was it?" Draco asked when Harry got back to the common room, eying Harry worriedly as he came up to the chair Draco was sat in.

"I talked to Sirius."

"You did? I thought you were having a lesson."

"I did, but then I talked to Sirius. We're all good again."

Draco nodded. "Good. What about the lesson?"

"Nothing that interesting. I'll tell you tomorrow. I'm shattered."

Draco nodded and grabbed his wrist to tug him down enough to kiss him, then murmured a goodnight and Harry headed back to the dorm. Between the poor night's sleep, the emotional turmoil of the day, and the simple fact that Mondays were his busiest day schedule-wise, he was about ready to collapse. Not even the five chapters he had to read about Cyrus the Great was enough to keep him from changing into his pyjamas, crawling into bed, and falling straight to sleep.


Harry forgot about Dumbledore's assignment for him until Potions class on Wednesday. They were supposed to figure out antidotes to poisons Slughorn handed out, but that wasn't something Snape's notes in Advanced Potion Making could help with. All he wrote on the matter was Just shove a bezoar down their throat, which was terribly unhelpful as far as brewing was concerned, but when Harry showed one at the end of class, his boldness impressed Slughorn. Hermione was furious that he managed to come out top of the class yet again; knowing who the Half-Blood Prince was didn't make her any more amicable about what he did for Harry's marks in Potions.

There was a third year class after their lesson so he didn't approach Slughorn about the memory until classes were finished, going up to Slughorn's office after Charms.

"Ah, Harry, always a pleasure! What can I do for you, m'boy?"

Harry silently put up Silencing and Locking Charms and moved to sit in the chair opposite Slughorn's desk.

"I wanted to ask you about Horcruxes."

Slughorn's reaction was instant. The blood drained from his face, a sweat broke out on his brow, and when he spoke his voice was suddenly hoarse.

"Dumbledore put you up to this. Dumbledore's shown you that—that memory. Well? Hasn't he?"

"Yes. I need the undoctored version."

"I don't know what you're talking about. I gave Dumbledore the memory. I don't know anything—anything—about Horcruxes. Now I'm very busy and I think you should go."

"I will, but first: Give me the real memory, then forget doing so and forget I ever asked for it."

Without any further complaint, Slughorn fished a small vial from his desk drawer, lifted his wand to his temple, and pulled it away with a shining strand of memory. He deposited it in the vial and handed it over, and then shook his head and blinked at Harry.

"Terribly sorry, I think I drifted off for a moment. What was it you wanted?"

Harry smiled disarmingly. "I wanted to confess that figuring out antidotes seems a bit beyond me, sir. I was hoping you'd give me a little extra help with them."

"Of course, of course. I'm glad you came to me. Now…"

Half an hour later, he left with Slughorn's memory and a slightly better understanding of how to create antidotes. As Dumbledore had said to come to him as soon as Harry had the memory, Harry went up to the seventh floor, but as soon as he was in sight range of Dumbledore's office he looked through and found it empty. He still had his school bag with him, so he dug out a bit of parchment, wrote a quick note that he Wished up to the office, and then he headed down again.

Due to his lesson with Dumbledore on Monday, and then his talk with Sirius afterwards, Harry hadn't got any work done that evening. Somehow, that single day led to a boatload of work piling up. After a quick dinner, he gave Draco a kiss and an apology for abandoning him for another evening, collected up his books, and went to Sirius and James' rooms. Neither were there when he arrived, but Harry figured they wouldn't mind him doing some work in their sitting room while he waited to hear from Dumbledore.

He actually enjoyed the quiet privacy. He'd had a break from the school during the holiday, of course, but he'd still had Draco around for most of that time. It was nice to get an hour completely to himself, shut away in the quiet with just his books. Even the voice stayed quiet, letting him work in peace.

He was halfway through his Ancient Runes homework when the fireplace flared suddenly and Dumbledore's head appeared. Even through the flames Harry could see an eager gleam in his eye.

"Please come through, Mr Evans."

Harry quickly scribbled out a few words as Dumbledore vanished, then left his stuff and went through the fireplace. Dumbledore was already setting his Pensieve on the desk and Harry passed over the vial of memory from Slughorn. Dumbledore eagerly poured it into the Pensieve and they both bent over and fell into the memory.

Shortly later they came back out and Harry dropped into a chair. He clutched at the arms, the wood digging into his fingers.

Horcruxes, the voice whispers in awe. That's what we need to do. This is how we get out of the deal. They can't take your soul if it's split in half. This is it!

Harry swallowed, forced himself not to respond, not to think about it. He couldn't think about that now, not here, not with Dumbledore in the room.

"He did it, didn't he?" he said, glad to hear his voice come out steadily. "He made a Horcrux. That's why he didn't die the night he tried to kill me and the spell backfired. A bit of his soul was somewhere else, safe."

"A bit… and more. You heard him: Voldemort wanted to know what would happen to someone with more than one Horcrux. As far as I know, as far as Voldemort knew, it has never been done before." Dumbledore paused, settled in the chair behind his desk, expression solemn and yet also pleased. "Four years ago, I received what I believed to be certain proof that Voldemort had split his soul."

He opened his desk draw and pulled out a book that made Harry's breath catch—Tom Riddle's old diary, still with a wicked hole through the centre.

"That was one?" Harry said a little weakly. "That actually had a bit of his soul in it?"

"I'm afraid so."

"But it's not a Horcrux anymore, right?" Harry said. "I mean, Dad stabbed it with a basilisk fang. That's pretty destructive."

Dumbledore watched him over his glasses. "It certainly is, and destroying a Horcrux is a difficult task as the piece of soul inside fortifies the object, making it impervious to many spells. The basilisk's venom is one of the things potent enough to destroy it."

"But there's still six more Horcruxes out there?"

Dumbledore's gaze flicked briefly down to the diary and then back up to Harry. "Five. Voldemort split his soul seven times. That is, he made six Horcruxes whilst the seventh piece of his soul, however maimed, continues to reside within his body."

"How are we meant to find five more Horcruxes?" Harry asked. "They could be…"

Trophies, the voice interrupted. Remember? He liked to collect trophies. A proper little hoarder.

"They're not just anything," Harry corrected himself thoughtfully. "They're important things. Important to him, like the diary."

"Yes. I have my suspicions as to what he used for a few, which we will explore at a later date, but I am sure of at least one—do you recall Marvolo Gaunt's ring? The one Morfin inherited?"

Harry nodded, recalling the big ugly thing Marvolo had waved at Bob Ogden. Riddle had been wearing it in the most recent memory when he asked Slughorn about Horcruxes.

"The night the Riddle family were murdered, Morfin lost that ring. It was the one thing he was concerned about when he was arrested, and it was never found. As we just saw, Voldemort took it for himself."

"You think he made it into a Horcrux?"

Dumbledore gazed at him over his glasses. "I think," he said sombrely, "that when we saw him just now, he already had."

"His father's death. He used it to make the Horcrux," Harry guessed, and Dumbledore nodded.

Harry's gaze dropped, falling on the mutilated diary on the desk. He wondered if Voldemort felt it when a Horcrux was destroyed, and wondered more what it would feel like if he could. He wanted to know when Dumbledore would show him more about this, but didn't ask, afraid of sounding too interested in such dark magic.

Instead, feeling the impatience of the voice in his head, he just asked, "Is that all for tonight?"

Dumbledore looked at him for a moment, blue eyes dark and thoughtful behind his glasses, and then nodded. "Yes. You may go."


Sirius and James still weren't in their rooms when Harry went back through. He quickly collected the homework he left on their sofa, shoved it into his bag, and then went to the window. It was just big enough for him to climb out and he did, turning invisible as he went and making sure to push it shut behind him before he flew straight towards the school perimeter. As soon as he was past the anti-Apparition protections, he teleported away, reappearing over Lake Windermere.

The lake was his refuge from everything and everyone. Certainly he could find a quiet spot at Hogwarts, or go home if he really wanted to get away, but those places had too much association with other people. The lake was his. It might be a massive tourist spot, but it was the one place he associated with no one else in his personal life.

He flew to one of the smaller islands, dropped down between the trees, and threw off his bag as he began pacing.

"That's dark magic. Really, really dark."

Who cares? This is your SOUL we're talking about.

"Exactly. I mean, what happens to me if I split it? Am I going to become an ugly snake-man like the Dark Lord?"

I think we can sacrifice our looks for the sake of not going to hell, but we probably won't. He split his seven times; we only need to do it once.

"The hellhounds might still be able to find it. They might be able to track down the Horcrux and destroy it."

No, we read about this. Goofer dust—it repels hellhounds. Put the Horcrux somewhere safe and trap it in a circle of goofer dust and some demon repelling sigils. Wish it all to stay in place, keep it safe, we'll be fine.

"Except when the hounds kill me—kill this body—I'll end up that weird spirit thing the Dark Lord was when he tried to kill me the first time. I don't want to become that."

You don't want to go to hell, either. This is it, this is what we've been looking for. The Assistant might have said there's no breaking the deal, but this isn't breaking it, it's just exploiting a loophole.

"I don't know. I really don't like the idea of living as a weird spirit thing."

So get someone to remake you like the Dark Lord did. He came back, we could too.

"Yeah, sure, I'll just steal some of Dad's bone and get one of my many, many servants to cut off their hand for me and steal some of the Dark Lord's blood for a… a… whatever the hell that potion's called. That'll be piss easy, I'm sure. Not to mention who the hell would do that? We can't tell anyone about splitting my soul. Sirius would throw a fit. I doubt even Draco or Dad could handle me doing that."

I'm sure we can find someone to help you out, but you're worrying unnecessarily. We're only talking about avoiding hell for now.

"This is big. It's dangerous, it's risky. We don't even know how to do it, not really. If it was just a matter of killing someone then my soul would be split half a dozen times already—and that's only if it's humans only. If it includes vampires…"

It wouldn't. You heard Slughorn—it's about murder. Wilful, cold-blooded murder, I'd bet. The vampires were self-defence, and everyone else was forced really. They probably don't count either. It'd have to be someone you chose, someone you want to kill.

"Why do I get the feeling you've already figured out who that would be?"

Haven't you?

Harry didn't answer that. He didn't want to think about any willingness he might have to commit murder under his own volition. "We can't. Not without researching it first at least."

Somehow I doubt you'll find anything on Horcruxes in the library. Not even Hogwarts would stock books on this kind of dark magic. But I'd wager Dumbledore's got something. What's the bet he found books on Horcruxes the moment he heard about them?

"You want me to steal from Dumbledore?"

Don't be an idiot. Just Wish for them.

"Okay, one, I've never Wished for something I didn't know for certain existed unless I was creating it, and two, he'd still notice they're gone."

Stop being so close-minded! Wish for a duplicate. If the books exist, you can get them. If they don't, the Wish will fail and we'll have to figure something else out. The Room of Requirement might give us something, actually.

"Fine, I'll get the books but that doesn't mean I'm doing this. I'm trying to be less like the Dark Lord, not more like him."

He split his soul to avoid death; you're splitting your soul to save yourself.

"I'm still trying to avoid death."

You're trying to postpone death; there's a difference. Stop splitting hairs and start researching.

"It can wait. I have homework to do. A lot of homework."

This is more important than homework! Your soul is at stake!

"No. Homework first, evil dark magic second."


It occurred to Harry, when he was telling Draco about the latest lesson with Dumbledore, that if Draco ever came face to face with Voldemort, they were screwed. Given that Draco had been in Voldemort's presence once before, and that his father was one of the top Death Eaters, it seemed uncomfortably plausible that Draco would.

Draco would have to learn Occlumency. Harry didn't mention it right then, unsure what to do about it. He wasn't sure he could teach it himself, partly because he wasn't sure he did it normally, what with his magic being so unusual, and partly because he didn't know Legilimency. Draco would need a normal teacher for this, but who was he supposed to go to? The only possibilities Harry knew were Dumbledore and Snape. Snape was out for obvious reasons, and Harry couldn't have Dumbledore rooting around in Draco's head, discovering that Harry was a Death Eater and had told Draco all about what he was learning with Dumbledore.

Draco was clearly unnerved by the information about the Horcruxes. Harry told him about it that night, after his lesson with Dumbledore and his trip to Lake Windermere, creeping into Draco's bed once the other boys were shut behind their curtains. He ignored the voice, which had kept quiet while Harry did his homework earlier but insisted that if he had time to cuddle his boyfriend then he had time to research Horcruxes.

"He's really immortal then," Draco said, "unless you can find the Horcruxes."

"Hopefully next time Dumbledore will show me what they are." He squirmed closer, head tucked under Draco's chin and arms wrapped around him. "Hey, Draco?" he said quietly.

"Hm?"

"We've never actually talked about me killing him."

"What do you mean?" Harry could hear the frown in his voice.

"I mean… well, you grew up believing his ideals and you even said you'll probably become a Death Eater and your father's one of his favourites and I just… do you even want me to kill him?"

"Yes," Draco answered without hesitation. Harry said nothing and perhaps Draco read his scepticism because he insisted, "I do. I'm not saying I'm going to start vying for Muggleborn rights and…" He paused, clearly nervous about his words, but admitted, "I do still think purebloods are better than Muggleborns no matter how intelligent Granger proves herself to be, but I want the Dark Lord dead."

"Why?"

"Because I don't like him."

"Why?" Harry pushed. "You agree with his ideals still."

Draco squirmed, unhappy about having his beliefs so thoroughly examined. "Yes, but not his methods. I don't like what he's done to you and I realise now he's not the great lord my father always made him out to be. I want him dead."

Harry said nothing to that, but he tilted his head to kiss at Draco's throat, and they slept.